Students, Gov. Maggie Hassan Criticize UNH for Spending Donation on New Scoreboard | NECN

Students, Gov. Maggie Hassan Criticize UNH for Spending Donation on New Scoreboard

The generous donation was left to the university by former librarian Robert Morin, who worked for decades at the university

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    The University of New Hampshire is being criticized for deciding to spend one fourth of a $4 million gift from a longtime library employee on a video scoreboard at its football stadium. (Published Friday, Sept. 16, 2016)

    A longtime librarian donated his life's savings to the University of New Hampshire, but what the school has decided to do with it is drawing criticism from students, as well as the governor.

    For the better part of the last half century, you could find Robert Morin in the Dimond Library at UNH.

    "He loved talking to people," said senior Sarah Gontarski, who works at the library.

    The 1963 UNH grad spent most of his life cataloging the school's archives.

    "I know personally that is a lot of stuff to go through," Gontarski said. "The fact that he was one of the people that did that is amazing."

    When he died at 77 last year, Morin donated his life's savings — $4 million — to his alma mater.

    "It is mind-blowing, that amount of money," Gontarski said.

    The school will use $2.5 million for a new career center, but to spend $1 million on a new video scoreboard inside the Wildcats' brand new football stadium is a decision critics are calling frivolous.

    "It's just a waste," said sophomore Brandon Mustafarha. "It's just frustrating."

    Gov. Maggie Hassan issued a statement Friday saying there were more appropriate uses for the funds.

    "I strongly encourage the university's leadership to be more thoughtful when determining how to use donations such as this," Hassan said in the statement.

    Hassan, now running against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte for her seat, suggested a new science building or keeping tuition costs down would be preferable.

    "I definitely feel like the money could be placed into other things, maybe redoing a couple of the labs in the Spaulding Building," said senior Richie Jacob.

    Morin specifically designated $100,000 of his estate to the library, but the rest he left to the school to decide how best to use it.

    According to his financial advisor and friend, this controversy is not what Morin intended.

    "He would be disappointed that some of this has become that way," said Ed Mullen.

    Mullen says his friend of 40 years lived a simple, frugal life.

    "He would come to work and have Coke and Fritos for breakfast," Mullen recalled. "And dinners, he'd eat frozen dinners."

    He saved more than most, knowing exactly who would benefit after he died.

    "He specifically wanted to leave it to the University, to the exclusion of anyone else," Mullen said.

    The pricey scoreboard is drawing hundreds of negative comments on the university's Facebook page — negativity that Morin tried his life to avoid.

    "That's not who he was, he was just not that way," Mullen said.

    Mullen wants to see the controversy end, for the sake of his friend — who, he says, really enjoyed a good football game.

    "He did watch a lot of football during the end of his life," Mullen said. "I don't think, knowing him, he'd be disappointed at all."

    A UNH spokesperson says the school "acknowledges and respects" the feedback, but that it won't change the decision about the scoreboard.

    Republicans in New Hampshire fired back at Hassan accusing her of opportunism.

    "Governor Hassan's sudden interest in how UNH is allocating funds is ironic, given that she has skipped almost every single university system board of trustees meeting over the course of her entire time in office," NHGOP Chairman Jennifer Horn said in a statement. "Just like a typical Washington politician, Hassan issues indignant statements when it's politically convenient, but doesn't bother to show up when it actually matters."

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