Letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal

Aug. 11, 2006, 10:45 a.m.

This letter to the editor was published in the Aug. 11, 2006, Wall Street Journal:

Foundations Do Not Betray Benefactors

Professor Arthur C. Brooks failed to do his homework before writing his column, “Caveat Benefactor,” that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on July 28.

In his column, Brooks understates the value of the Robertson Foundation endowment by $100 million; since Princeton University’s investment managers became involved in day-to-day management, the endowment has increased to $750 million.

Brooks also misstates the purpose of the endowment. Contrary to his description, it was not established to fund a “training” program for federal government service. The endowment’s purpose, stated in a written Certificate of Incorporation developed by the donor’s representatives and the University, is and always has been much broader than that and for 45 years the endowment’s contributions to the graduate program of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs have been used solely to support and advance the Foundation’s mission. These contributions have been regularly disclosed to and reviewed by Robertson family representatives on the Foundation’s board.

Finally, Brooks describes the members of the Robertson family who have sued Princeton University as “heirs to the A&P supermarket fortune.” They might have been heirs to more of the fortune if their mother had not chosen to donate a substantial portion of her fortune to Princeton in 1961, with the encouragement of their father, a member of the Princeton Class of 1926. Sadly, it has become increasingly apparent that one of the goals of the lawsuit, which is being financed with funds from a private foundation controlled by the Robertson family, is to reverse this history so that certain members of this generation of the family can seize control of funds that their parents chose not to bequeath to them.

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