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Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014

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Letter to the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer

This letter to the editor was submitted on April 9, 2008, to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

As their six-year-old lawsuit against Princeton University finally moves toward trial, the Robertson children and their public relations team are heating up their rhetoric, but the facts don’t support their baseless allegations. In his April 9 column about the litigation ("Use of charitable funds is at heart of Princeton case"), Frederic Fransen rehashes several erroneous claims and fails to point out that it is the descendants of the donor, not Princeton University, who are trying to overturn the intent of the donor.

When Marie Robertson made her gift of $35 million to Princeton in 1961, she explicitly chose to entrust her funds not to her descendants, but to Princeton. At the heart of the case are two key decisions that she put in writing: that the University should control the gift and it should be used to support the graduate program at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Under Princeton's stewardship, Mrs. Robertson's gift is now worth almost $900 million, and for 47 years it has been used solely for its intended purpose. As a result, the Princeton program is a world leader in its field.

Mrs. Robertson’s descendants have spent well over $20 million, not from their own funds but from a family foundation, in an attempt to overturn both of these decisions so they can seize control of the funds and redirect them to other purposes.

For more than 250 years, Princeton has fulfilled the commitments it makes in accepting gifts and has adhered to the highest standards in all its fundraising. Unlike the plaintiffs in this case, Princeton believes the decisions of the donor should continue to be respected, including decisions about how the funds should be used and how they should be administered.

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

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