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University of Alabama Returns Hugh Culverhouse’s $21.5 Million Gift

After months of controversy, the University of Alabama has announced that it is returning a $21.5 million gift given by real estate executive Hugh Culverhouse Jr., for interfering in how his donation should be spent and for calling on students to boycott the state’s university system over Alabama’s new abortion law.

The Board of Trustees, who met on Friday, also voted to strip its law school of Culverhouse’s name.

“The action taken by the Board today was a direct result of Mr. Culverhouse’s ongoing attempts to interfere in the operations of the Law School,” Kellee Reinhar, the university’s vice chancellor for communication, said in a statement. “That was the only reason the Board voted to remove his name and return his money.”

Culverhouse pledged $26.5 million in September 2018 to the School of Law, the largest donation in the University’s 188-year history, to develop innovative programming, expand its physical presence, increase scholarship support for students, provide additional educational and career opportunities for students, and support a modern law library.

Over the following months, Culverhouse and the school reportedly disagreed over the number of students that should be admitted in the law school, according to The New York Times.

Culverhouse further alleged the school of not using the gift for some of his intended purposes. Tensions further heightened after he publicly criticized the near-total abortion ban law signed by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey in May.

“I expected this response from UA,” he said in a statement. “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.”

Meanwhile, new details suggest that university administrators discussed returning the gift even before Culverhouse’s comments on the abortion law came out, according to emails accessed by AL.com.

The first call for returning the gift was made by Finnis St. John, chancellor of the UA System, on May 25, four days before Culverhouse made his comments on the abortion law. The officials were aghast at the repeated interference of Culverhouse on matters related to student enrollment, faculty hiring and firing, scholarship and others.

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