Princeton Answers Allegations of Misuse of Robertson Gift
Princeton Briefs Answer Allegations of Misuse of Robertson Gift
Princeton University has filed briefs in New Jersey Superior Court to counter accusations that it misspent a gift from the late Charles and Marie Robertson to its Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
In 2002, the Robertson family, heirs to the A&P supermarket fortune, sued the university, alleging the school had failed to use the gift originally $35 million when it was made in 1961 but, with investment gains, now $650 million, representing 6 percent of Princeton's $11 billion endowment for its intended purpose: training graduate students at the Woodrow Wilson School to serve in the federal government, particularly foreign relations. The family claims that Princeton spent $207 million of the gift for purposes other than those designated by the original gift and wants to sever the family foundation's ties to the university so that the money can be used for government-service programs elsewhere. It also is seeking the return of the allegedly misspent funds and damages.
Briefs recently filed by Princeton argue, however, that over the past forty-five years, the university and designated trustees of the Robertson Foundation have effectively carried out the foundation's mission, met their fiduciary obligations in overseeing the foundation's assets and expenditures, and contributed to a substantial strengthening of the graduate program of the Woodrow Wilson School. In addition, the briefs argue that the trustees have significantly enhanced the governance practices of the foundation, despite continuing efforts by the Robertson family trustees "to block every initiative" for reform. Princeton also rejected the $207 million figure, saying that despite a small number of cases in which it acknowledges error, its use of the gift has been proper.
According to Douglas S. Eakeley, Princeton's lead outside counsel on the case, "as the university's briefs make clear, the motions by the Robertson family trustees have distorted the history of the foundation and have cited materials selectively and out of context to forward their efforts to gain control of the funds that Marie and Charles Robertson committed to the support of the graduate program of the Woodrow Wilson School."