MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Northern Michigan University has removed a plaque from its campus that honored the former Head of the NMU Board of Control John McGoff. The removal comes after more than 1,200 people signed a Change.org petition based on his alleged ties to apartheid.
NMU’s Carillon Towers were dedicated to McGoff in the 1970s when he donated $300,000 to the university in 1978. The NMU Board of Control voted to return the money in 1988.
“His donations were returned in April of 1988 so that’s 32 years ago. The fact that a plaque existed and we didn’t know about it; that happens,” said Derek Hall, NMU Chief Marketing Officer. “It’s a big campus and it was a very small plague. It came to light, we made the decision to remove it. That controversy played out in the 80s and there is no reason for that to be part of the controversy now.”
In 1978, McGoff allegedly accepted $11 million from the South African government that was used in a failed attempt to purchase several large newspapers to report in favor of apartheid.
In 1985, the U.S. government charged McGoff for being an unregistered agent of the South African government. The following year he was acquitted by a district court judge who ruled that the statute of limitation had already expired.
A post published on the petition’s page says in part, “Though we would have preferred a re-dedication that could serve a higher purpose in educating others about apartheid, we feel this is sufficient and appreciate the university’s quick response.”