Letter to the editor of Indiana Gazette

This letter to the editor was published in the March 27, 2008, Indiana Gazette:

Princeton adheres to donor's wishes

In his March 24 opinion piece about the six-year-old Robertson vs. Princeton litigation, Dan K. Thomasson mischaracterizes the purpose of the Robertson gift 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 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.

Contrary to Mr. Thomasson's assertion, she did not say that the purpose was to "train diplomats." Under Princeton's stewardship, Mrs. Robertson's gift is now worth almost $900 million. For 47 years it has been used solely for its intended purpose and Princeton's program has become a world leader in its field.

Some of Mrs. Robertson's children 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.

The "real education" provided by this lawsuit is that decades after a gift is made, the recipient of the gift may find the descendants of the donor attempting to redirect the gift for purposes other than the one the donor intended.

Cass Cliatt is director of media relations for Princeton University.