ALBANY, Ga. — Albany State University has refunded the money donated by famed singer and Albany native Ray Charles after the Charles Foundation went to the Georgia Attorney General’s Office for assistance in reclaiming the funds, officials say.
The foundation gave ASU two checks in 2001 and 2002 totaling $3 million to help build a fine arts building. It’s unclear how much money was refunded.
"The return of funds donated by the late Ray Charles brings to a close negotiations with the Ray Charles Foundation," said Albany State President Everette J. Freeman. "We thank Chancellor Hank Huckaby, the University System of Georgia, the Board of Regents and the Attorney General's office for assisting us in resolving this issue. A new fine arts building remains one of the university's greatest needs which we hope will be completed as soon as possible. ASU will continue with plans to build the educational facility and remains focused on increasing student scholarships and development."
In February 2012, the school said that $2 million went to fund 125 Ray Charles Presidential Scholarships while $1 million was still in the bank.
“The funds were granted solely to help build a performing arts center, The Ray Charles Fine Arts Building, housing a theater to be named in honor of the singer’s mother, Retha Robinson,” Foundation spokesperson David Brokaw said. “Since no effort was made to build the facility and years of promises produced no outcome, the Foundation contacted Georgia Attorney General Samuel Owens (sic) to seek his office’s assistance. Graciously, Attorney General Owens (sic) agreed to listen to their grievance.”
ASU has contended there was a “misconception” of the Ray Charles gift “as being restricted.”
“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. We are grateful to Attorney General Owens (sic) and his office for holding ASU accountable and thereby making it possible that future donations are used as stipulated by donors,” Foundation President Valerie Ervin said.
“I hold dearly and take seriously the memory of Ray Charles, who taught me over two decades ago never to give up on what is right. Mr. Charles’ instructions to honor his late mother will be realized at Morehouse College. Unfortunately, it will not be on the campus of ASU,” Ervin said.
Charles, who died in 2004, also gave more than $1 million to Morehouse, which has built a performing arts center.