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Friday, Aug. 01, 2014

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Letter to the editor of the Miami Herald

A slightly altered version of this letter to the editor was published in the May 31, 2007, Miami Herald:

Donor's son wants to seize funds

William Robertson's recent column continues what is now a five-year disinformation campaign in connection with a lawsuit against Princeton University that he is funding from a family foundation that is supposed to be supporting charitable purposes.

The goal of his campaign is to seize control of funds that his mother gave to Princeton in 1961. To administer the gift, she and her husband collaborated with Princeton to create what is known as a "supporting organization" whose sole purpose is to support the graduate program at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. To obtain tax benefits and for other reasons they vested control of this organization in Princeton.

In the 46 years since Marie Robertson made her gift, Princeton's excellent stewardship of the gift has increased its value from $35 million to more than $840 million. As intended, the gift has been used to help create one of the world's leading graduate programs in the field of public and international affairs where students prepare for positions of leadership in government and related fields.

Mr. Robertson's lawsuit is an attempt to seize control of his mother's gift, overturn the mechanism she and her husband put in place to administer it, and use it for other purposes. The real lesson of this lawsuit is that if you make a gift to a university or other charitable organization, at some point in the future your children may try to undo what you have done so they can use your gift for their purposes, not yours.

Robert K. Durkee is vice president and secretary, Princeton University.

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