It is a four and a half hour drive northeast of Queens to the tidy University of New Hampshire campus. If you make the trek, you might pause for at least a moment to gaze at the new scoreboard at the school’s football stadium. The school has come under fire from critics unhappy with the decision to use $1 million of a surprisingly large estate gift from a frugal New Hampshire librarian.
Robert Morin dedicated much of his life to UNH, graduating there in 1963 and working in the school’s library as a cataloger for nearly 5 decades. By the end of his life, he had amassed a fortune of $4 million, which he bequeathed to his beloved alma mater. It is very possible that if he had spent time on a more detailed estate plan , the controversy surrounding his generosity might have been avoided.
UNH allocated only $100,000 of the $4 million from Morin to the library. The school celebrating its 150th anniversary this year is spending $2.5 million on a career center and $1 million on a video scoreboard, according to Business Insider .
Morin was a nearly obsessively frugal man. He lived alone, ate cheese sandwiches for lunch and frozen dinners he heated with a microwave for dinner.
He also had an ability to focus like few others. For instance, he read in chronological order every book published in the United States from 1930 to 1940, excluding textbooks, children’s books, cookbooks and books on technology. He also spent nearly two decades watching movies: 22,000 of them in the years 1979 to 1997.
Morin’s financial advisor says he asked the librarian many times if he would like to designate his funds for specific uses at the university. Morin always wanted to give the school discretion over the spending.
The school acknowledges the scathing criticism it has received from alumni and others over the decision to spend so little on the library and so much on a scoreboard, but says the “feedback . . . does not change our decision.”
About $400,000 is yet to be designated.
We will never know if Morin would choose differently if he had a second chance to be so generous. Perhaps he would have made his wishes more detailed, and spared the institution he loved so much some heated criticism.