Letter to the editor of the Washington Times

Oct. 1, 2008 11:30 a.m.

This letter to the editor was published in the Oct. 1, 2008, Washington Times:

Princeton’s stewardship

In his Sunday Commentary column, "Donor intent revisited," about a recent lawsuit filed against a New York hospital, William Robertson revives his misrepresentations about the donor-intent issues raised by his own six-year-old lawsuit against Princeton University.

Contrary to what he claims, Mr. Robertson's lawsuit seeks not to honor donor intent but to violate it. It seeks to overturn arrangements put in place by his parents and to seize control of funds that his mother, Marie Robertson, gave to Princeton in 1961.

These funds were given for the sole purpose of maintaining and expanding the graduate program of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. For 47 years, that is exactly how the funds have been used, and Princeton's program has become a world leader in its field. Marie Robertson's $35 million gift has grown to almost $900 million under Princeton's stewardship.

The Washington Times describes Mr. Robertson as a philanthropist, but he played no role in making the gift to Princeton. The designation is also questionable given that he has used a family foundation led by him to pay the costs of his lawsuit and a related public relations campaign and to pay himself an excessive salary rather than to support charitable purposes. In doing so, he has depleted the resources of the foundation from almost $50 million to well under $20 million since the lawsuit began.

Princeton has an excellent record of meeting its commitments and sustaining strong relationships with donors over more than two centuries.

Cass Cliatt is Director of Media Relations, Princeton University