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Ray Charles Foundation Wants Donated Money Back

In 2001, soul music legend Ray Charles donated $1 million to Albany State University (ASU) for the construction of a performing arts center to be built in his name; he gave an additional $2 million the next year after receiving an honorary doctorate from the Georgia-based college. Fast-forward to the present day. The project still hasn't begun, and the Charles Foundation wants the money back. Valerie Erwin, the foundation’s president, claims the money was solely donated to start the center and that ASU has failed to appropriately use the funds. "It is incomprehensible that Albany State University failed to use the money in the manner Mr. Charles wanted,” said Erwin. “Mr. Charles would find ASU's behavior unacceptable.”

The university claims the money was given as a gift with no conditions applied, noting that the $2 million was used to give 125 Ray Charles Presidential Scholars’ scholarships. ASU also lamented that additional funding is needed for the $23 million center. In an attempt to make amends, the university’s legal counsel sent a letter to the foundation in October 2011 reiterating their desire to start the process and inform them that they received additional funding from the state to start the design phase. Explanation aside, the foundation still wants its money back. According to school officials, the Albany-born musician’s gift was the largest the university has ever received.

Is the Charles Foundation being too tough on the university, especially in light of their circumstances? Should any of the money have been touched, even to give out scholarships?

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