University of Alabama Returns Biggest Donation in the School’s History

Erin Evans

Last fall, Hugh Culverhouse Jr. pledged to donate $26.5 million to the University of Alabama, the largest donation in the school’s history.  In recognition of his donation, the University of Alabama School of Law was renamed the Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law at the University of Alabama.

On Friday, the University returned the $21.5 million Culverhouse had donated to date and stripped his name from the law school.

Why?

The school says there was an ongoing dispute with Culverhouse about how the money should be spent and that Culverhouse was trying to interfere with the law school’s operations.

Culverhouse disagrees. He thinks the decision was based on his outspoken criticism of Alabama’s new abortion law.

But months after the donation was announced, Culverhouse joined those calling for a boycott of Alabama after the governor signed a restrictive abortion law, which outlaws nearly all abortions and does not include exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

Culverhouse’s attorney, Lawrence Kellogg, was quoted last month by Florida Politics as saying, “Sixty-six percent of the students at Alabama pay out-of-state tuition.  A boycott by them could certainly be effective.”

Culverhouse also mentioned his family’s connection to Planned Parenthood:

“My father was an officer of Planned Parenthood in Jacksonville, Florida, during the 1950s,” Culverhouse said in May . . . . Referring to the abortion law, he added, “This is a civil rights issue that has been important to my family for many years.”

The University of Alabama denies that Culverhouse’s abortion remarks had anything to do with the refund. The University’s business school, the Culverhouse College of Business, remains named after Culverhouse’s father.

Personally, if I was one of the decision makers at Alabama, I wouldn’t want the law school (or any part of the school) named after someone advocating a boycott of the school and state. That just seems silly.

Whether the decision was based on the abortion remarks or other disagreements between the school and Culverhouse, it’s nice to see a university place its values over money.