Thursday, January 17, 2008

Donor Intent Collides with the Passage of Time at Notre Dame

The Chicago Tribune reports that the family of a long-time donor to the University of Notre Dame has reclaimed two donated collections after the University decided to destroy the building housing one of the collections.  Approximately forty years ago, Robert Hayes Gore Sr. donated a collection of historical beer steins and tankards and a collection of orchid books and prints to the University, along with $350,000 to build a dining club to house the steins and tankards.  He also sent six of his nine students to the University before he died in 1972.  But a few years ago the University decided to demolish the building, which housed the University Club, to make way for a new engineering building.  Efforts by Club supporters to save the building failed, and discussions to move the Club to another location "are at a standstill" according to a University spokesperson.  The descendants of Mr. Gore demanded the return of the two collections, stating that the University betrayed Mr. Gore's intent by demolishing the building.   The University returned both collections, and the descendants have already donated the orchid books and prints to another charity and plan to sell the steins and tankards at auction this weekend, with the proceeds to go to a family foundation.  The University defends its decision to demolish the building, with the spokesperson stating "We feel that, with a $350,000 gift for the facility, we met our obligation. The gift was used and used very well by the community for 40 years. When it comes to obligation, we feel we met it in terms of use of the building."  The University acknowledges, however, that it should have involved the Gore family earlier in its plans to demolish the building.

On a personal note, I ate lunch numerous times at the University Club before it was demolished late last year.  At least us younger faculty were always somewhat perplexed by the presence of the beer steins and tankards, some quite elaborate, on display in the Club.  Now we know the story behind them.


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