The Surprising Source of a $4 Million Campus Gift

It's an exciting day on campus when a big gift arrives, especially from an expected source. At Inside Philanthropy, we get jazzed about these gifts too, and the lessons contained within. Over the past few years, we've looked at the phenomenon of university faculty who've made major splashes on campus. Sure, most campus donors don't have this profile, but more faculty can afford to give in an era when lots of inherited wealth is being passed down and when some professors are able to turn their research breakthroughs into major fortunes. 

Besides professors, also consider university presidents. In one case, Arizona State University President Michael Crow and his wife gave $1.2 million to ASU to fund an endowed directorship for the new ASU Public Service Academy. Crow himself is a top-earning university president. 

OK. So we have professors and school administrators. But I'm betting most haven't considered this next university figure. 

RelatedSay What? A University President Becomes a Major Donor To His Own School 

The University of New Hampshire recently received a $4 million estate gift from alumnus Robert Morin, who graduated from the school in 1961. Morin went on to obtain his master’s degree in library science from Simmons College in Boston and returned to UNH in 1965. Morin passed away last year at the age of 77, after working as a cataloguer in UNH's Dimond Library for some five decades.

Move over JDs and MDs, MLS degrees are where the real money's at.

Well, not actually. As it turns out, Morin was especially careful with his finances, and lived a modest lifestyle. His financial adviser explains that there was almost $1 million in his retirement account alone. Despite being a millionaire, Morin drove an older vehicle and ate frozen dinners. As another example of the kind of character Morin was, he read, in chronological order, every book published in the U.S. from 1930 to 1940 – excluding children’s books, textbooks and books about cooking and technology. At the time of his death he had reached 1938, the year incidentally that he was born.

More than half of Morin's money, will help to launch an expanded and centrally located career center at UNH. Another $1 million will support a video scoreboard for the new football stadium. Morin, in addition to his other interests, was also a football fan. The sole dedicated gift in Morin’s bequest was $100,000 to Dimond Library, to provide scholarships for work-study students, support staff members who continue their studies in library science, and to renovate and upgrade one of the library’s multimedia rooms.

Deborah Dutton, vice president for advancement and president of the UNH Foundation, noted the value of Morin's funds being unrestricted, “Unrestricted gifts give the university the ability to use the funds for our highest priorities and emerging opportunities. This is an extraordinary gift that comes at a critical time for launching a number of initiatives that are only able to move forward because of his generosity.”