Re: $3.8 million golf donation sparks legal battle (May 4, 2023)
I write as the executor of the estate of Robert T. Keeler ’36, the president of the Robert T. Keeler Foundation and as his stepson.
The intent of Bob’s gift as stated in the Statement of Understanding was exclusively to support the Hanover Country Club golf course for future generations “at the course which he so loved.” A rejected statement of understanding gave the Dartmouth Board of Trustees the right to reallocate the money if it so deemed. This provision was eliminated, leaving only the language: “Income (and/or principal if needed) is restricted to support upgrades and maintenance of the golf course.” It should be clear that the money is for the golf course and not, as the Dartmouth spokesperson said, ancillary golf activities. Additionally, the New Hampshire attorney general failed its obligation to represent the donor by disregarding this provision.
Bob, in no uncertain terms, instructed that the money was to go to the Hanover Country Club golf course and not scholarships or academics. With no golf course, the bequest can no longer “serve future generations of the Dartmouth golf community.”
The donor left the bulk of his estate for the maintenance of the golf course and to his foundation. Money not needed to maintain the golf course was to go to the foundation. Without the golf course, Robert Keeler’s estate and foundation are asking Dartmouth to honor the donor’s unambiguous intent and return the money.
It is clear that Dartmouth wants the golf course land to build dormitories and other buildings. President Hanlon and Dartmouth are making a Faustian bargain with the use of a suspect interpretation of a legal argument that flies in the face of the agreement it made with the donor.
Letters to the Editor represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.