Robert Morin, a longtime UNH librarian and a member of the 1963 graduating class, amassed an enormous fortune of $4 million before he passed away on March 31, 2015. He left the entirety of his estate as a donation to UNH. Morin’s gift to the university was made known to the public via a press release that was published by UNH Today on August 30, 2016.
The university was notified of Morin’s bequeathment approximately a year and a half ago. According to Deborah Dutton, UNH’s vice president of university advancement development and president of the UNH Foundation, the lag time between when they found out about the gift and when UNH announced it publicly was due to the possibility of the donation’s value changing before they received it in full. Dutton noted that the usual “practice is to wait until you have either all of the money in hand or the bulk of it, just to make sure you’re announcing an accurate number.” Morin’s financial advisor, Edward Mullen, was able to give the university an estimate last year of how much they would receive; his estimate was “very accurate,” according to Dutton. The donation was officially cleared between June and July 2016.
According to the UNH Today article, it was at the request of Morin that $100,000 was to be allocated to Dimond Library, where it would “provide scholarships for work-study students, support staff members…and fund the renovation of one of the library’s multimedia rooms.” The other $3.9 million was an unrestricted gift that allows the university’s Leadership to use it as they see fit. UNH Leadership allocated most of Morin’s unrestricted donation in the following manner: $2.5 million went toward a career center for students and alumni, and $1 million to pay for the video scoreboard at Wildcat Stadium.
According to Dutton, there is no formal guideline or procedure for how the decisions to use unrestricted funds are made. Restricted donations, the most popular type of gift that UNH receives, must be used how the donor specifies. Dutton said that receiving an unrestricted gift such as Morin’s is a “rare occurrence.”
June 30 marked the ending of a five-year fundraising campaign in which roughly $221 million had been collected by the university. Of that total, 96 percent of the money raised fell under restricted donations, while the other four percent, approximately $9 million, is unrestricted. Of that $9 million, $3.9 million is Morin’s gift.
Though there is no written policy on how decisions are made regarding the spending of unrestricted funds, Dutton noted that there is a large amount of discussion before anything is decided. “The president and the Leadership of the university are constantly talking about priorities and re-prioritizing, and we have a strategic plan and we have a limited amount of funds we can invest in a variety of strategic initiatives: facility improvements,” she said. “The list of facility improvements that are required is astounding. To determine where to spend the money (unrestricted funds) is not a one conversation thing. It’s many months. Probably years of deliberation in some instances.”
In regard to how the decision was made to spend the majority of Morin’s gift, Dutton said the following: “This particular one just happened to develop over time. There were many discussions and thoughts and inquiries and gathering of data. And ultimately, the president with the support of the senior staff made the allocation of where to put the two primary gifts.”
Before Morin’s money officially came in, the $1 million scoreboard was not included in the budget.
“I don’t believe it was in the budget, which is the reason why [Huddleston] made the allocation,” Dutton said. “It was something that they had wanted to do, but were not able to fit into the budget. The budget was pretty tight, as you know, $25 million to build that stadium. Other schools are spending $100 to $200 million for football stadiums. So, we were really squeaking out every dime. So, no, it was not in the budget.”
On the question of whether or not President Huddleston and the rest of the university’s Leadership anticipated a backlash to the decision of how the $4 million would be allocated, Dutton said, “Yes, I believe the President and I had that conversation. We felt it important that if we were going to announce the amount we had to be transparent on how we were going to spend it. And we did anticipate that there would be people who would express concern and that their values would not align with the allocation that we outlined.”
This week, the media reported on the negative reactions by some alumni and students on how Morin’s donation was spent. The story gained enough traction to garner an opinion from New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan.
In a press release on Friday, Hassan said, “There were much more appropriate uses for these funds – such as the library and career center that received part of the donation, the new science building that the university wants or holding down the cost of tuition.”
Hassan also said she would “strongly encourage the university’s Leadership to be more thoughtful when determining how to use donations such as this.”
In response to these concerns, the university also released a statement on Friday regarding the decision to fund the scoreboard. Written by Erika Mantz, the director of Media Relations, the statement said the following on the topic: “Yes, we have heard from people who disagree with how the gift was used. We respect and acknowledge that feedback but it does not change our decision. Matching infrastructure to UNH’s aspirations and investing in student career success are two of our highest strategic priorities that we have communicated with our board and our campus community.”