TUSCALOOSA — Hugh F. Culverhouse, Jr.‘s $21.5 million donation to the University of Alabama has been returned and his name has been permanently removed from the university’s law school.
The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees on Friday morning unanimously approved a resolution at the recommendation of Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John, IV to restore the school’s name to “The University of Alabama School of Law.”
The portion of Culverhouse’s total $26.5 million law school gift he had already paid, $21.5 million, will be returned to the Floridian. His was the largest donation in university history, but Lockheed Martin CEO and UA alumna Marillyn Hewson and her husband will now reclaim that distinction.
The university moved swiftly to remove Culverhouse’s name from the law school, sending a facilities crew within minutes of the board meeting ending to chisel “Hugh F. Culverhouse, Jr.” off of an exterior sign and taking down his portrait inside the law school.
In adopting the resolution, Board of Trustees President Pro Tem Ronald Gray of Huntsville said the board routinely deals with complicated matters that require a lot of debate.
However, “This decision was not difficult or complex,” he emphasized to the meeting attendees.
The resolution stated that it became “apparent in recent months that the parties (Culverhouse and the university) do not share the same vision and expectation for the use of the funds.”
In a prior press release, the System had advised Culverhouse was making operational and structural demands of university and law school administration. This came after he attempted to disguise the rift between the parties as being related to his pro-abortion stance, effectively trying to publicly martyr himself to cover the real reason he was at odds with the university.
It should also be noted that Culverhouse first claimed he was not asking for the return of any of his money when he came out against Alabama’s new abortion law, but it was soon revealed he had demanded $10 million be returned by the university over unmet demands having nothing to do with abortion. Despite that, in a statement Friday, he once again asserted he had not asked for the return of his donation.
The resolution approved Friday said that St. John recommended returning the donation after “numerous conversations and communications” with University of Alabama President Stuart Bell and law school Dean Mark Brandon.
According to the resolution, the law school foundation board of governors on May 30 approved the return of Culverhouse’s gift and all related accumulated earnings.
During the meeting, St. John said since Culverhouse made his record donation last year, it became increasingly clear that Culverhouse’s expectations related to his gift were “inconsistent with the essential values of academic integrity.”
St. John said despite “good faith efforts” by university and law school administration, the disconnect between Culverhouse’s expectations and how the university operates based on “those values” ultimately meant there was “no path forward.”
One of the reported demands Culverhouse made was increasing the number of students admitted to the law school, which is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best.
“Donors do not dictate to administration at the University of Alabama,” St. John stressed.
Gray concluded, “This decision is clearly the right one and is in the best interest of the University of Alabama, this system and this board of trustees. It is one of our top priorities as a board to protect the integrity of these great institutions, and we will continue to do so with every decision we make now and in the future.”
Friday’s action does not affect the Culverhouse family’s other, non-law school contributions to the university.
However, after the board’s vote on Friday, he released a statement, asserting, “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.”
To be clear, neither the University of Alabama System or the University of Alabama has advocated in any way for the abortion law Culverhouse continues to refer to.
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.
His parents were his only ties to the University of Alabama.
An observer at the removal of Culverhouse’s name from the law school signage joked that the former namesake will now be dismissively known as, “Who F. Culverhouse, Jr.”
Update 12:40 p.m:
The University of Alabama System issued the following statement:
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn