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Freeman: ASU fine arts center still needed

ALBANY, Ga. -- Albany State University officials confirmed late Thursday that the university has refunded $1.25 million of the original $3 million in donations from the Ray Charles Foundation for a performing arts facility at the school

In 2001 and 2002, the Charles Foundation gave ASU checks totaling $3 million to help build an on-campus performing arts center.

In February 2012, the school said that nearly $2 million went to fund 125 Ray Charles Presidential Scholarships while just over $1 million was still in the bank.

ASU communications Director Vickie Oldham said Thursday that the university had returned $1,253,089 to the foundation and added the reason the center was never built was because the school could not secure additional funding from the state.

Albany State University President Everette Freeman said Wednesday night that negotiations with the Ray Foundation over $3 million in donations from the late entertainer have been resolved and that a fine arts center is still needed on the ASU campus.

"The return of funds donated by the late Ray Charles brings to a close negotiations with the Ray Charles Foundation," Freeman said in an emailed statement. "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."

Foundation officials said they sought the return of the money because the fine arts center was not realized.

"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," Charles Foundation spokesman 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 Sam Olens to seek his office's assistance. Graciously, Attorney General Owens agreed to listen to their grievance."

The General Assembly in 2010 approved $1.8 million for design work on a fine arts center for ASU. State Rep. Carol Fullerton, D-Albany, whose district includes Albany State, stated then that she was optimistic construction money for the facility can be obtained in this year's session of the state Legislature.

Charles, who was born in Albany, died in 2004.

Comments

Ihope4albany 1 year, 11 months ago

I am so unclear on this sage with the Ray Charles Foundation. Never in any of the articles have I heard a date for the building to be built. It is so ludicrous for a black foundation to be so insensitive to the plight of the public HBCU that is so often put on the back burners of funding from states.

I am going to contact someone so that I can get all the documents involved to understand this situation. To say that no effort was made to build the building is not true.

Where is President Shields now and why isn't she being asked to speak up on this matter?

My prayer is that the late Mr. Charles will forgive his foundation officials for calling in money.

The saying is still true, "Rome was not built in a day." And certainly, for public HBCUs and public universities in general, you will not build any buildings as quickly as a private institution can.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 11 months ago

$1.8 million for design? Hell, I'll bet W. D. Farmer would give 'em a better deal. Or just pull one off the shelf from another school.

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Cartman 1 year, 11 months ago

"A new fine arts building remains one of the university's greatest needs..."

lol

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waltspecht 1 year, 11 months ago

Were this to occur in the real world, someone would be charged with theft by disception. For the funds were directed to a cause they were never meant to be used for. It did allow the College to increase it's bottom line to the tune of two million dollars from the Foundation Funds to the College general fund in the form of actually illegal schlorships. Were I a voting member of the Foundation, I would have demanded the return of all recoverable funds, and the prosecution of all the College Officials involved in the diversion of those funds. By not persueing the hard line on this, the Foundation is saying the action was OK in part, and probably can expect another entity to pull the same thing. After all, they stole almost two thirds of the grant and got away with it.

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wino3800 1 year, 11 months ago

Simple. Conversion and corruption. Good ol boys giving away someone else's money. No sense of responsibility to the donating foundation. Theft. Hold the people responsible.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

It's the same thing a little different day in and day out around here.

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Amazed2 1 year, 11 months ago

The scholarship thing was just the method ASU used to take the building donation funds and siphon them off for other budgets. Basically unauthorized use of funds. Probably not quite criminal but certainly unethical and deceptive. Also give ASU a real black eye to any others that might consider donating in the future.

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