Letter to the editor of Shreveport Times

Jan. 4, 2008, 10:33 a.m.

This letter to the editor was published in the Jan. 4, 2008, Shreveport Times:

Princeton upholding commitment to donor

In his opinion piece about "donor intent" (Dec. 26), Frederic Fransen mistakenly identifies the Robertson family members who are suing Princeton University as the party in the case that is seeking to carry out the intent of the donor. In fact, the opposite is true.

When Marie Robertson made her gift of $35 million to Princeton in 1961, she made two key decisions: 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 46 years it has been used solely for its intended purpose. As a result, the Princeton program is a world leader in its field.

Some of Mrs. Robertson's children already have spent more than $20 million from a private family foundation on a five-year legal and public relations campaign. They seek to overturn both of Mrs. Robertson's key decisions so they can seize control of the funds and use them for other purposes.

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, including decisions about how the funds should be used and how they should be administered.

Cass Cliatt is director of media relations for Princeton University.