The Emmis

By Morgan Yuvienco

Chapman University creates strong bonds and personal connections with its donors. Many of the extremely dedicated serve on the Chapman Board of Trustees, further immersing themselves in the values, mission, and overall expansion of the school.

For some donors, it’s the joy of philanthropy and giving back that keeps them connected to Chapman, their names forever on the buildings around campus.

A lawsuit filed Feb. 4 by James and Catherine Emmi against Chapman University, claiming undue influence in soliciting a $12 million donation from the pair, was recently resolved March 2. The whirlwind of events, though very swift, still sparked students’ interest about the donors of Chapman, and where some relationships stand with the school.

“I really wondered if James and Catherine Emmi truly wanted to donate to Chapman, or if they were being pressured into donating,” said Ronnie Kaufman, a sophomore public relations and advertising major. “Sometimes I think donors don’t really know what they’re donating towards – they’re just rich people, signing the check, throwing it off.”   

James Emmi’s connection to Chapman University began in 2008 with a $50,000 donation. His history as a philanthropist is seen throughout Orange County, but largely focuses on Chapman.

James and Catherine Emmi


James Emmi is the retired president of Kimberly Development Company, as well as a longtime manaher of the apartment properties in Orange County. Catherine Emmi spent her entire life as an educator, receiving a B.A. and B.Ed. from University of Saskatchewan and her M.Ed. from Pepperdine University.

Connection to Chapman:

James Emmi currently serves on the Chapman University Board of Trustees. Catherine Emmi is a member of the Women of Chapman.

About their beneficiary:
In 2008, the Emmis donated $50,000 to Chapman University. In the spring of 2012, they donated an additional $500,000, and were later named Chapman’s Citizen of the Year award at Chapman’s annual American Celebration. It was a few weeks after AmCel that the Emmis were once again solicited for a pledge of either $5 million or $10 million. By Oct. 2013, the Emmis had agreed to donating a total of over $3 million. An additional $12 million was donated that year, with the promise of a new science building to their name to be built by Dec. 2016. The lawsuit regarding the $12 million was resolved on March 4, with the conclusion that their donations would be restructured into a scholarship program.  

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