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UConn donor demands return of $3M donation
Question of the Day
HARTFORD, CONN. (AP) - A major benefactor to the University of Connecticut wants the school to return $3 million in donations and remove his family name from its football complex because he says he was shut out of discussions about the selection of a new football coach.
Robert Burton, chief executive officer of Greenwich, Conn.-based Burton Capital Management, said in a Jan. 19 letter to UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway that his opinions were ignored and he did not support the way Paul Pasqualoni was selected as coach.
Burton called the situation “a slap in the face and embarrassment to my family,” and said he planned “to let the correct people know that you did not listen to your number one football donor. He called the search process flawed.
Burton, who played college football at Murray State, said although he was not seeking veto power in the hiring, he “earned my voice on this subject” as the program’s top donor. He said he has hired lawyers to enforce his demand to get his donations back.
The Day newspaper of New London first reported news of the letter Tuesday and the response from UConn, which has not said whether it will return the donations or remove the name from the Burton Family Football Complex.
In a written statement on behalf of UConn and Hathaway, the athletic department said that Burton was among many interested people who offered input, and that Hathaway “did receive and acknowledge” Burton’s advice before Pasqualoni was hired.
“The Burton family has been exceptionally supportive of the University of Connecticut for many years. The university is grateful to the family, especially for the benefits they have provided to many of our students.”
Burton and UConn trustees chairman Lawrence McHugh did not immediately return messages Tuesday.
Burton had marked his Jan. 19 letter as “personal and confidential,” but the newspaper obtained it Monday and the university released it Tuesday under state Freedom of Information open-records laws after media requests.
UConn granted Burton an honorary doctorate degree in 2000. He didn’t say in his letter whether he plans to relinquish it.
Burton, a printing industry executive, and his family have given more than $7 million in donations for scholarships and other programs, including $2.5 million in 2002 to kick off construction of the football complex.
Burton says his family and friends will no longer donate for scholarships and coaching clinics, will pull their advertising from the football program and will transfer current scholarships away from football and into the business school.
By Michael Widlanski
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