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Librarian surprised UNH with $4 million—now critics blast UNH for how it's spending the money

Robert Morin
Source: University of New Hampshire
Robert Morin

Unbeknownst to everyone around him until he died at age 77 in 2015, New Hampshire resident Robert Morin was a multimillionaire.

The librarian — who graduated from the University of New Hampshire before working in the school's library for nearly 50 years — quietly amassed a $4 million estate, thanks to a simple lifestyle and smart saving habits.

Morin bequeathed the entire fortune to his alma mater and earmarked just a fraction of it: He requested that $100,000 go toward the Dimond Library, where he spent the majority of his career.

As for the remaining $3.9 million, Morin told his financial advisor that he trusted the school to "figure out what to do with it."

Critics raised eyebrows at how the school decided to spend the gift: $100,000 to the library, as Morin requested, and $1 million to a video scoreboard for the newly renovated football stadium, which has already set UNH back $25 million.

Not surprisingly, the decision to funnel a quarter of Morin's generous gift toward a new scoreboard — and just the bare minimum toward the library — has sparked a backlash.

"Apparently, $25 million just wasn't enough," wrote New Hampshire graduate Claire Cortese, who called the administrative decision "a complete disgrace to the spirit and memory of Robert Morin."

Another UNH grad, Kristine Newhall, chimed in: "I am not inherently opposed to some of the money going to the football program. I am opposed to it going to a scoreboard which, in the age of planned obsolescence, will be out of date in 5? 10? Years.

"Use it to endow a scholarship for a player who wants to go to grad school maybe. … Pay it forward; make it meaningful."

According to UNH, Morin became a football buff toward the end of his life. "In the last 15 months of his life Morin lived in an assisted living center where he started watching football games on television, mastering the rules and names of the players and teams," the school wrote in a 2016 press release.

As a new investigative piece by Deadspin shows, many aren't convinced.

The article's writer, Craig Ferhman, questions the university's motives, claiming that UNH treated Morin as a "marketing prop" and tried to "engineer a public relations victory, deceptively connecting a fragment of Morin's life to its football splurge."

"The librarian's fandom had absolutely nothing to do with the scoreboard," writes Fehrman, "but through a careful and shameless juxtaposition, UNH implied that it had."

The controversial decision plays into a larger topic of debate: students footing the bill for their school's athletic department.

Mandatory student fees to support athletic programs are common around the country. Take the University of Virginia, where student fees for athletics ($657 annually) generate $13.2 million a year, The Washington Post reports.

"These students are being forced to pay for something that they may or may not take advantage of, and then they have to bundle this into student loans they'll be repaying for 10 or 20 years," Natalia Abrams, executive director of Student Debt Crisis, told the Post.

As for the rest of Morin's generous gift, $2.5 million will go toward launching a career center for UNH students and alumni. The remainder has yet to be allocated.

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