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Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

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Letter to the editor of the Washington Times

A slightly altered version of this letter to the editor was published in the April 18, 2008, Washington Times:

Princeton fulfills commitments

The April 15 Washington Times editorial ("The old college try – in court") incorrectly identifies the donor of the Robertson gift to Princeton and erroneously claims that the Robertson v. Princeton litigation represents "donor activism in cases where colleges fail their donors' standards." This case was not brought by any donor. It was brought by the descendants of a donor who are trying to seize control of funds that the donor entrusted to Princeton, not to them.

This is not a case where a college has failed to carry out an agreement with a donor. When Marie Robertson made her gift of $35 million to Princeton in 1961, she made two key decisions and put them in writing: that the University should control the gift, and that it should be used to support the graduate program of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Under Princeton’s stewardship, the gift is now worth almost $900 million and for 47 years it has been used solely for its intended purpose.

It is Mrs. Robertson's descendants who have now spent well over $20 million, not from their own funds but from a family foundation, in an attempt to overturn both the purpose and the governing mechanism for her gift.

Princeton has built a well-deserved reputation over more than 250 years for fulfilling the commitments it makes in accepting gifts. Unlike the plaintiffs in this case, Princeton believes the decisions of the donor should continue to be respected.

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

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