ALBANY, Ga. — Albany State University officials have released a statement reiterating their position on a $3 million gift music icon Ray Charles gave the school following critical statements made by the Ray Charles Foundation in a newspaper story Sunday.
Valerie Ervin, president of the foundation, was quoted in a story in Sunday’s edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution criticizing ASU’s use of Charles’ $3 million gift, $1.2 million of which was returned by the university after the foundation enlisted the help of Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens to bolster its claims that the money was not spent as Charles had wished.
“Ray Charles, Joe Adams, who was Ray’s longtime manager, and I were clear and specific about how this gift was to be spent. It is incomprehensible that ASU failed to use the money in the manner Mr. Charles specified,” Ervin said Saturday evening during Morehouse College’s 25th annual “A Candle in the Dark” gala.
Ervin announced that the foundation would be giving an additional $3 million to the university to name an academic wing of Morehouse’s Fine Arts building after Charles’ mother, Aretha Robinson.
The statement triggered a response from Albany State University President Everette Freeman.
“The Ray Charles Foundation has offered a version of what happened to the gifts that Mr. Charles contributed to Albany State University in an article by Fran Jeffries in Sunday’s February 17th edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution,” Freeman wrote. “However, facts that are pertinent to this matter were carefully reviewed by the University System of Georgia’s Office of Internal Audit and Compliance (OIAC). The OIAC’s report, dated December 4, 2012, meticulously accounts for how the funds were expended, and concluded that none of the $3 million contribution made in 2001 and 2002 to Albany State by Mr. Charles was inappropriately spent. ...
“According to the OIAC’s review, ‘the two checks totaling $3 million donated by the foundation established by Ray Charles were not accompanied by documents providing restrictions, covenants, or specific instructions.’ While there is some disagreement by the Ray Charles Foundation about the interpretation of Mr. Charles’ intent, we believe that ASU did not violate his trust and acted according to his wishes. The OIAC document includes a quote from an article by staff writer Brannon Stewart of The Albany Herald who interviewed Mr. Charles after announcing the gift at a commencement ceremony. Published Tuesday, May 7, 2002, it states: ‘Charles said he did not specify how the money should be spent. “They’ll do the right thing. That’s why I gave it to them.”’ Today, our efforts remain focused on constructing a state of the art Fine Arts facility for the students of Albany State University and the citizens of Southwest Georgia.”
The Herald asked the Charles’ Foundation for additional comments, but did not receive an immediate response.