Ray Charles Foundation Demands Gift Back as Arts Center Never Built

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February 14, 2012; Source: Washington Post | Between 2001 and 2002, Ray Charles gave Albany State University in Georgia $3 million to build a performing arts center named after him. The celebrated artist never lived to see the center built, dying in 2004 at age 73. In fact, were Charles still alive today, he would still not see the center because it has never been built; and now the Ray Charles Foundation wants its money back.

The school insists that the gift was unrestricted while also saying that they are working on raising additional funds for the center—which they say will cost at least $23 million—and a theater to be named after Charles’s mother. However, only $1 million remains in the bank because the other $2 million was given to 125 students chosen as Ray Charles Presidential Scholars. A letter sent by the university’s legal counsel states, “When Mr. Charles made the two separate gifts to the University, he did so without restrictions…The University does believe that a Fine Arts Building named after Mr. Charles, with a theater named in honor of Mr. Charles’s mother, Mrs. Aretha Robinson, is one of the ways to do ‘the right thing.’ The University has been working tirelessly towards that goal.”

This incident has shades of the recent case involving a donation made by Garth Brooks to a hospital that had committed to build a women’s center in his mother’s name. –Ruth McCambridge