WASHINGTON — Wheaton College on Sunday renamed the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy, dropping the reference to the former House Speaker in the wake of a federal indictment that alleges he paid hush money to cover up sexual misconduct with a male decades ago.
A source told the Sun-Times that Hastert asked Wheaton to drop his name from the center he helped create “out of deference and respect to his alma mater.”
Along with Billy Graham, Hastert, who received his undergraduate degree from Wheaton in 1964, is one of the most famous graduates of the evangelical Christian school, known for its conservative values. Undergrads are not permitted to use tobacco or alcohol.
Hastert helped raised $10 million for the public policy center at Wheaton, a college spokesman said. The Center was dedicated in September, 2008, a year after Hastert left Congress.
Wheaton officially made the name change on Sunday; Hastert requested his name be dropped on Thursday, the day he was indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago.
Until last week, Hastert was fundraising and helping determine the “priorities of the Center,” the spokesman said. He at times would teach and speak to classes.
“We commit ourselves to pray for all involved, including Speaker Hastert, his family, and those who may have been harmed by any inappropriate behavior, and to continue the work and mission of the Wheaton College Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy,” the school said in a statement.
Hastert donated his papers from his legislative and congressional career to the school and as recently as a few weeks ago was on campus advising students, a source said.
Sex scandals made Denny Hastert — now one could break him
Source: Two sexual misconduct victims interviewed in case against ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert
Carol Marin: Hastert scandal drags state down
Hastert was charged with lying to the FBI and with trying to circumvent federal banking laws relating to large cash withdrawals from several banks in connection to the payoffs. The payoffs were allegedly made to a man who knew Hastert from his time as a high school teacher and wrestling coach in Yorkville. Hastert was a member of Wheaton’s wrestling team.
On Friday, Wheaton announced that Hastert had resigned from the Board of Advisors at its J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy.
By Sunday, Wheaton decided to go ahead and distance the school from Hastert, noting in a statement, ”The college has not been implicated in or associated with any of the allegations in this matter.”
“In light of the charges and allegations that have emerged, the college has re-designated the center as the Wheaton College Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy at this time,” the school said.