Donor Intent

Robertson vs. Princeton

Donor intent. What does that mean? Well, what if, some time ago, you made a decision to donate your fortune to a home for unwed mothers?  But  the world changed, and young women started keeping their babies. And then the home closed. 
There’s been a legal case in the news this week. Robertson vs. Princeton. It has to do with the  issue of donor intent–though not regarding a home for unwed mothers.
The Robertson family has been battling for control over the Robertson Foundation. It  was created to prepare students for careers in government service through Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs. The family claims Princeton has misused the donation. The problem is that times have changed. The government now outsources this type of work. So the Princeton program has turned into a business degree factory. Not, as the family intended, a training ground for diplomats.


Donors never know what the future will hold.
NPR, in their reporting on this case, cited the example of the 1950s donor and the homes for unwed mothers. When was the last time you heard of one of those places? Social change has rendered that particular donor’s wishes obsolete.

Me vs. myself

I thought I would end up in a home for unwed mothers. But I kept my pregnancy a secret until six weeks before my son was born. So I had to be hustled out of town to the most readily available place. That turned out to be a foster family who had a farm out in the countryside about 60 miles from my hometown. 
Speaking of homes for unwed mothers, I learned an interesting fact about the adoption agency that handled my son’s adoption. It actually began in 1896 as a “home for wayward girls” (so described by the current director of the agency.)  It seems that the mothers and children were housed there together. The “girls” were counseled and attended an industrial training school. The term industrial training school, by the way, was code for reform school. These girls had to be reformed or trained in the eyes of society. The babies were eventually placed for adoption. I would love to know if the mothers were allowed to be with their babies or if they were kept apart. In 1970, when my son was born, babies were whisked away in the delivery room and the mothers were not allowed to see them.
But. I saw my son anyway. That’s a story for another day. Or you can read about it here.

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