University of Alabama Returns $21.5 Million, Renames Law School After Donor Urged Boycott over Abortion Law

University of Alabama employees remove the name of Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. off the School of Law sign in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Friday, June 7, 2019. The University of Alabama board of trustees voted Friday to give back a $26.5 million donation to a philanthropist Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr., who recently …
AP Photo/Blake Paterson

The University of Alabama has decided to return $21.5 million to a donor who suggested students should boycott the school and the state over Alabama’s new abortion ban, which had nothing to do with the university.

In a Friday morning vote by the University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees, it was announced that the university would return the multi-million dollar donation to Hugh Culverhouse Jr., the school’s largest donor, and remove his name from the law school.

In a statement released Friday, the school said the transaction to return the funds was processed Friday morning and that any accrued interest would also be returned.

“The action taken by the Board today was a direct result of Mr. Culverhouse’s ongoing attempts to interfere in the operations of the Law School,” said Kellee Reinhart, the university’s vice chancellor for communication. “That was the only reason the Board voted to remove his name and return his money.”

Culverhouse released a statement Friday, saying he “expected” this type of action from the university.

“I expected this response from UA,” Culverhouse said. “I will not allow my family’s name to be associated with an educational system that advocates a state law which discriminates against women, disregards established Federal law and violates our Constitution.”

Stuart Bell, President of the University of Alabama, released a statement Friday evening further explaining the university’s decision to return the money to Culverhouse:

President Email
Today, the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama voted unanimously to return a donation of $21.5 million and restore the name of The University of Alabama School of Law. I wanted to make you aware of this decision and the reasons for it.This decision was made for reasons of academic and institutional integrity. I appreciate the actions of the Chancellor and our Board of Trustees and their unwavering support of these intrinsic values. You can view additional statements from the University of Alabama System here.

We value each and every donor, and it is unfortunate that an ongoing dispute led to this action. With your support, we will continue to raise the Capstone to even greater heights.

Stuart R. Bell

Culverhouse denied asking for the money back and also said he will “not be silenced” as he continues to protest Alabama’s abortion ban.

“I want to make clear that I never demanded that $21.5 million be refunded and wonder if the University is attempting to silence my opinions by their quick response,” Culverhouse added in his statement. “I will not be silenced.”

Culverhouse, whose parents both attended the University of Alabama, pledged the largest donation in the school’s history last September when he committed to donating $26.5 million. The university had not yet received the other $5 million.

“We will learn from this – and always remember that we cannot and will not compromise the values of academic integrity and independent administration at any price,” said university Chancellor Finis E. St. John.

Immediately after the board’s decision, Culverhouse’s name was removed from the signage outside of the law school, which has restored its name to The Univerisity of Alabama School of Law.

According to reports, Culverhouse’s portrait, which was displayed inside of the law school, was removed shortly after the board’s decision.

A university official also stated that Culverhouse had attempted to “dictate” some of the decisions made by the University of Alabama.

“While we are grateful to all of our donors and supporters, and very grateful to this donor and his family, donors do not dictate our administration of the University,” St. John said.

According to Alabama’s Yellowhammer News, “Culverhouse earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Florida in 1971, an MBA in corporate finance from New York University in 1972,and a law degree from the University of Florida law school in 1974 – the same year he became a CPA in Florida.”

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