Princeton Mourns “Tragic” Loss of Glorious Moneybags

Princeton President Shirley Tilghman announced this morning that her glorious university will relinquish one-half of one percent of its endowment ($100 million) to settle a six-year-old lawsuit with a clan of grocery store magnates. In 1961, the Robertson family gave $35 million to found the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs; as of June 2008, the Robertsons’ endowment had expanded to $900 million (score one for the i-bankers!) and the students at the prestigious Woody Woo were using their fancy educations to get jobs in lucrative areas like finance (score two for the i-bankers!) instead of piddling work in the public sector (sad pandas for the Robertsons). So the Robertsons sued Princeton for blowing their wad on a bunch of greedy little prigs, and Princeton was all, “Not our fault if President Bush sucks and government jobs are thankless and painful,” and both sides spent tens of millions repeating those two messages for 76 months.

Tilghman outlined the specifics of the settlement in an extraordinarily long email (which we provide in full after the jump) but all that really matters is this part:

It is tragic that this lawsuit required the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars in legal fees that could have and should have been spent on educational and charitable purposes.

Lady, “tragic” is when someone dies. Spending a few million dollars to safeguard your hoard of billions is by definition the passionless pursuit of institutional self-interest. Note that “charitable purposes” refers to a charity the Robertsons fund, which is where the contested money will now go; as in, if Princeton had its way, none of the money would be going to charity, but to the upwardly mobile neophytes of the Woodrow Wilson School. Basically, this entire story is about i-banking, which is also why June’s $900 million is only worth $600 million now, and why future WWS students may actually end up in public sector jobs. Not because the Robertsons sued, not because Shirley is feeling charitable, but because all the awesome money-filled jobs have disappeared into thin air. Also, this.

Moral of the story: Losing money makes people more charitable.

After the jump: Shirley Tilghman’s email bidding adieu to some money, but keeping a lot more, and some gently menacing words from the Robertsons.

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