Princeton University has announced that it has returned $782,375 to the Robertson Foundation, reimbursing the foundation for the costs associated with the Graduate Funding Agreement, a defunct three-year program that provided funding for graduate students in academic departments closely affiliated with the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
In 2002, the Robertson family, heirs to the A&P supermarket fortune, filed a lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court alleging that the university was using portions of the $35 million gift that established the foundation for purposes other than the training of foreign affairs specialists, as specified in the terms of the gift. In the years since, Princeton has argued that the objective of the agreement was fully compliant with the purposes of the foundation — which today has more than $800 million in assets — and was authorized by its charter.
Douglas S. Eakeley, Princeton's lead counsel in the suit, noted that the university returned the funds not because of any reservations about the appropriateness of the agreement, but solely because of the inadequate disclosure of the agreement to the foundation's board. The decision by the university, said Eakeley, "to reimburse the foundation for the Graduate Funding Agreement because notification was not provided represents a further affirmation by the university of its commitment to sound governance practices for the foundation and its willingness to take corrective action when it finds that such practices have not been followed."