Letter to the editor of the Investor’s Business Daily
This letter to the editor was submitted on March 14, 2008, to the Investor's Business Daily:
In writing its March 12 editorial about the six-year-old Robertson v. Princeton litigation without talking with anyone at Princeton, Investor’s Business Daily simply rehashed the unsubstantiated allegations that some members of the Robertson family have made in their attempt to gain control of funds that their parents explicitly chose to entrust not to them, but to Princeton. The family members are also trying to dismantle the governance structure that their parents put in place to ensure that Princeton would continue to control the use of these funds.
For 47 years Princeton has provided exceptional stewardship for these funds as their value has grown from $35 million to almost $900 million and it has used them solely for the purpose for which they were given: to support the exceptional graduate program of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
This lawsuit is an important “donor intent” case, but not for the reason your editorial suggested. It is important because it poses the question of whether a donor’s descendants, many decades after a gift has been given, can regain control of the gift to divert it to purposes other than the one the donor specified.
The goal of the plaintiffs in this case is not to honor donor intent but to violate it; not to protect arrangements put in place by the donor and the University, but to overturn them. Unlike the plaintiffs, the University believes the decisions that were made by the donor and written down more than 47 years ago 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