When a longtime University of New Hampshire library cataloguer died last year at the age of 77, he left his entire estate to his alma mater, turning heads in New Hampshire and beyond.
After Robert Morin’s bequest cleared probate court, university officials this month said his estate, saved over nearly 50 years of frugal living, totaled $4 million.
“His whole life was the library,” Edward Mullen, Morin’s longtime financial adviser, told The Boston Globe.
But the university’s plans for part of Morin’s gift are rankling a few students, alumni and other observers, who say a proposed $1 million video scoreboard at a new, $25 million UNH football stadium, announced earlier this month, isn’t how the bookish Morin would have wanted his money spent.
One alumna named Claire Cortese called the scoreboard an “inconsequential trinket for the athletic department” that was “a complete disgrace to the spirit and memory of Robert Morin," Inside Higher Ed reported.
In a blog post this week, Cortese wrote, “I feel deeply saddened and honestly completely ashamed of my alma mater for this.”
An additional $100,000 will go to the university’s Dimond Library, the only gift specified by the will, university officials said. They’ll also spend $2.5 million to expand a career center.
Mullen told The Globe he spoke with Morin about using some of the money to fund a scholarship related to library science, but that his client wanted UNH to spend most of the gift as it pleased.
Morin was “a very unusual gentleman” who lived frugally, Mullen said, eating Fritos and soda for breakfast and driving a 1992 Plymouth. He spent most of his spare time reading.
The university created the hashtag #ThankYouBob, and on UNH's Facebook page, President Mark Huddleston said Morin’s gift “allows us to address a number of university priorities.”
Erika Mantz, a university spokeswoman, told The Globe that the scoreboard is actually linked to Morin’s interests: After he moved to an assisted-living center, Morin became a football fan.
On Twitter, one commenter, Bryan Giardinelli, wrote, "Do you want people to stop donating to your school? Because this is EXACTLY how you stop donations."
Deborah Dutton, UNH’s vice president for advancement, acknowledged the negative reaction, but told Inside Higher Ed that the university expected it. “We anticipated that there would be people who might not agree with the choices we made, but we felt like it was important to be transparent and to celebrate what Bob has done and to celebrate his life.”
She also said the football stadium will host high school playoff games, cultural programs and other events. “It is first and foremost for the university community, students, faculty, the local town and for the state,” she said.
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