Don’t Say No To The Dough: Gift Lessons

Last month The Washington Post reported that 50 leading Roman Catholics in higher education signed a letter protesting a $1-million gift that will enable the Catholic University of America’s School of Business and Economics to hire four visiting scholars to do research on “principled entrepreneurship.”

They argued that the gift sends “a confusing message” because the donor, the Koch Foundation, is known for its support of conservative and libertarian causes in “stark contrast” with the church’s “traditional social justice teachings.”


A confusing message would have been for the university not to accept the gift since philanthropy is clearly one of its core values and essential to the achievement of its mission. 

There is no hint of any impropriety such as the Koch Foundation having a role in selecting the scholars. And it’s hard to imagine that this half a hundred is protesting “principled entrepreneurship” research.

Thus, it appears that their only angst is a disagreement with the views of Charles and David Koch.

While I certainly respect the right of these 50 to argue with the Kochs’ thinking, I believe they are way off base in their protest.

Now, if the gift were from Bernie Madoff using ill-gotten gains, it would be another matter entirely. Indeed, one of our clients received a $1 million+ gift that it returned a few years later when the donor was charged with running a Ponzi scheme.

The university’s response was sharp and to the point suggesting the writers were “presumptuous on two counts”—first by asserting a role as “arbiters of political correctness” and second by redefining Catholic teachings “to suit their own political preferences.”

I applaud the clarity and directness of the university’s statement.

For those who think a gift is tainted in some way by the views of the donor, our matriarch, Be Haas, had this observation:  “The only problem with tainted money is there t’aint enough of it.”