The Norman Transcript


December 17, 2013

The charitable Scrooge



As a news story at the time put it: “Her profound love of the land led to great concern over its eventual fate. Wooed over the years by numerous interested parties, she found none that met her strict requirements until Johns Hopkins approached her with a plan that was not only acceptable but pleasing. The plan calls for preserving as much open space as possible in a campus-like setting ...”

Fast forward two decades. My aunt, sadly, passed away in 2005. Once she was gone, despite a Contract and Deed spelling out the plans for the property, Johns Hopkins announced its intention to build a nearly 5-million-square-foot commercial development with 23 buildings and three parking garages on the property. The university has no plans, to date, to occupy even a single square foot of the property.

Despite having limited funds, my family and I have been pursuing the matter in court since 2011. We are currently asking Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, to review the case and force JHU to live up to the promises it made.

If my family’s gift to JHU was the only one that had gone awry, it might easily be dismissed as an isolated incident.

But it’s part of a pattern; abuses of donor intent are all too common. In just the past couple of decades, numerous nonprofit institutions, including the Barnes Foundation (Philadelphia), Boston University, Columbia University, Fisk University, Harvard University, the Metropolitan Opera, N.C. State, Princeton University, Randolph College, St. Luke’s Hospital, St. Olaf College, Tulane University, UCLA, the University of New Mexico, the University of South Dakota, the University of Southern California and Yale University, have been accused of violating donor intent. And this is just a partial list.

The Maryland Court of Appeals needs to take our case and signal that it will stand up for donors. This will allow donors to maintain the confidence they have in giving to worthy nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits, like Johns Hopkins, should not be allowed to benefit from contributions where the donors’ intentions have been ignored.

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