Letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

This letter to the editor was published in the March 22, 2007, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Princeton vs. the Robertsons

The Trib's editorial was wrong when it asserted that the Robertson Foundation has sought the return of funds from Princeton University ("Shameful Princeton," March 19 and PghTrib.com).

It is not the foundation that is seeking funds from Princeton; it is some of the heirs of Marie Robertson, the donor who provided the original funding for the foundation in 1961.

The Robertson Foundation was created for the sole purpose of supporting a graduate program in public and international affairs at Princeton, and that is exactly how the foundation's funds have been used since it was created. The university recently chose to reimburse the foundation for a three-year pilot program that served this purpose, solely because the board of the foundation was not adequately informed when the program was introduced seven years ago.

As your editorial correctly pointed out, under Princeton's stewardship the assets of the foundation have grown from $35 million to more than $800 million. Given this growth, it is perhaps not surprising that some of the donor's children are now pursuing a protracted and expensive lawsuit in an attempt to seize control of these funds that their parents chose to entrust not to them, but to Princeton.

The question posed by the lawsuit is whether these funds should continue to support the purpose for which they were given, or whether the heirs of the donor should be allowed 46 years later to divert them to other purposes.

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