Parents speak out after winning nearly $3 million settlement in son’s hazing death

(NEW YORK) — The parents of a 20-year-old Bowling Green State University student who died from alcohol poisoning while pledging a fraternity say they are on a mission to end hazing in colleges across the country.

Cory and Shari Foltz, the parents of Stone Foltz, who died in 2021, were awarded nearly $3 million from Bowling Green State University on Monday.

The settlement — announced by the university and the Foltzes at a news conference Monday — stems from a lawsuit the Foltzes brought against the university last year, alleging their 20-year-old son was subjected to heinous acts of hazing by the Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity, known as PIKE, during his sophomore year of college, when he was a pledge.

The Foltzes said they plan to use the settlement money to support their ongoing efforts to end hazing.

After their son’s death, the couple launched the iamstonefoltz Foundation, which is “dedicated to keeping the memory of Stone Foltz alive and to bring acts of kindness to others,” according to the foundation’s website.

“When we walked into the hospital and Stone was on a bed with all the tubes and the ventilator and everything hooked up on it, Shari whispered to him that she would not let this happen to another family or another student,” Cory Foltz said in an interview that aired Tuesday on ABC News’ Good Morning America. “And it was that point that we dedicated everything we can to help other families from seeing one of their loved ones go through this tragedy.”

Cory Foltz added it makes him “proud” to see their son’s legacy take shape in the form of putting an end to hazing.

“As his dad it makes me proud to hear how many lives that he was able to save and help,” he said. “Stone is my hero.”

The family’s lawsuit alleged that Stone Foltz and other pledges were taken to the basement of a Bowling Green, Ohio, home after a Pi Kappa Alpha initiation event off-campus in March 2021. At the home, according to the lawsuit, he was forced to drink an entire liter of bourbon during a hazing ritual.

Stone Foltz was allegedly told to finish the bottle and that members of the frat would take care of him, according to the lawsuit.

Due to the forced binge drinking, Stone Foltz spent almost three days in a coma and died on March 7, 2021, from alcohol poisoning, the lawsuit alleged.

Bowling Green State, a public university, permanently expelled the fraternity in April 2021, saying it will never again be recognized by the university due to hazing, which the university said in a statement “is absolutely intolerable.”

A university investigation found the “fraternity to be reckless with a disregard for the health and safety” of the community, according to the statement.

Eight of Stone’s former fraternity members ultimately pled guilty or were found guilty on charges ranging from reckless homicide to hazing and giving alcohol to a minor.

In the wake of the newly announced settlement, Bowling Green State and the Foltz family, through the iamstonefoltz Foundation, issued a joint statement saying they share a commitment to “eradicating hazing in Ohio and across the nation.”

“The Foltz family and Bowling Green State University are forever impacted by the tragic death of Stone Foltz,” the statement said. “This resolution keeps the Foltz family and BGSU community from reliving the tragedy for years to come in the courtroom and allows us to focus on furthering our shared mission of eradicating hazing in Ohio and across the nation. Leading these efforts in our communities is the real work that honors Stone.”

The settlement includes no admission of wrongdoing by Bowling Green State.

Rex Elliot, the Foltz family’s attorney, told GMA of the nearly $3 million settlement, “As far as we know, this is the largest settlement for a public university, certainly in the state of Ohio, and what it signifies is we have a university that is willing to come together and work with us to put an end to hazing once and for all — and for that reason, Bowling Green should be commended.”

Shari Foltz, who with her husband is also a parent to Stone Foltz’s two younger siblings, told GMA that she and her family are ready to move forward with fulfilling her promise to her son to not let another family suffer.

“Nothing is going to bring back Stone, no amount of money,” she said. “So, honestly, it’s just a matter of putting things behind us and moving forward, doing what we promised him.”

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.