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University’s $2.6M Gift Is|Unconditional, Court Says

(CN) - Tulane University is not required to use a bequeathed gift of $2.6 million solely for female students, even if that was the benefactor's wish, a Louisiana appeals court ruled.

In 1886, Josephine Newcomb donated $100,000 to Tulane University to establish the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College in honor of her daughter. She continued to contribute to the female-only college until she died in 1901.

Tulane inherited $2.6 million from Newcomb's estate.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans university consolidated its undergraduate colleges into Newcomb-Tulane College.

Susan Henderson Montgomery cited Newcomb's will in challenging Newcomb-Tulane's status as a co-educational school. Montgomery insisted the gift was meant for a separate women's college, as Newcomb's will stated that she had "implicit confidence" that Tulane administrators would use her gift "for the present and future development of ... the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College."

The trial court saw the gift as unconditional, however, and the New Orleans-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

"We agree with the trial court's interpretation of the language in the [will], and specifically find that the phrase 'I have implicit confidence' is used to advise not direct," Judge Roland Belsome wrote for the appeals court.

"Tulane has vested title in the property; and phrases made declaring Mrs. Newcomb's mere wishes or desires for the use of the money do not create a condition on the actual bequest," Belsome added.

"There is clearly no condition within the will nor are there any ambiguities to allow extrinsic evidence to enter the lawful parameter of our review," he wrote. "This Court cannot take it upon itself to rewrite Mrs. Newcomb's will in order to achieve a desired result."


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