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.