This is an archived article that was published on in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A career Iranian diplomat and reputed playboy is one of Utah State University's biggest foreign benefactors.

Ardeshir Zahedi, now in his 80s, graduated from Utah State in 1950 with a degree in agriculture, according to the university.

And he has been generous to his alma mater. In 1999, he established two undisclosed USU endowments. In the 2013-2014 school year, he donated $70,000.

A former Iranian ambassador to the U.S., Zahedi was once rumored to date actress Liz Taylor. He now lives in Switzerland. Attempts to reach him this week were unsuccessful.

Utah's public universities have to disclose their foreign donors after state lawmakers, worried about terrorists influencing higher education, required it.

A 2010 statute requires public colleges and universities to report each year foreign gifts over $50,000. The measure passed despite concerns it would gall potential donors by probing their citizenship status.

Former Utah Rep. Carl Wimmer sponsored the measure.

"We need to know who's attempting to influence curricula and possibly buy favors from our institutions," the Herriman Republican said at the time.

This week, university managers reported the foreign donations to a legislative education committee. They sparked no discussion.

Decades earlier, Zahedi was attending New York City's Columbia University when family friend and former USU President Franklin Harris convinced him to venture to Logan.

He joined a fraternity and washed dishes in the student center to help pay tuition, according to USU.

Zahedi went on to become a key player in global politics.

In 1968, he signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty while serving as Iran's foreign minister and head of the country's delegation to the U.N. General Assembly. He also is credited as one of three diplomats who orchestrated the 1977 rescue of about 150 hostages being held by Hanafi Muslims in three buildings in Washington, D.C.

Zahedi also was known as a socialite who frequented parties in Washington and Paris.

In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, only USU and the U. logged gifts of more than $50,000 from non-U.S. sources.

While Zahedi may be the most colorful of USU's donors, his was not the biggest gift. That came from Fethi Simsek, a Turk, who donated $109,875 for research over two years.

The U.'s top foreign bankroller last year was a former Norwegian high-tech firm serving the oil and gas industry. Gravitude AS provided Utah's flagship university with a $63,900 grant for electromagnetics research.

A university spokesman said Thursday the grant went to the geology and geophysics department in the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, but had no further details.

Since its donation, Gravitude has been purchased by another company, Octio AS, according to Octio's website. The Norway-based operation did not respond to an email request for comment.

Donation records for the 2014-2015 fiscal year are not yet available.

Twitter: @anniebknox