WATCH: University of Alabama Returns $21.5 Million Gift After School’s Biggest Donor Urged Students to Boycott State Over Its New Anti-Abortion Law

University of Alabama employees remove the name of Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. from its law school’s sign in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Friday, after the board of trustees voted to return $21.5 million to longtime donor Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr.
Blake Paterson/AP

The University of Alabama’s board of trustees has voted to return a $21.5 million gift from Hugh Culverhouse Jr. — the school’s biggest donor — and take his name off its law school. The move comes after Culverhouse urged businesses and prospective students to boycott the university and the state over Alabama’s new abortion law.

The school says the transaction to return the funds was processed Friday morning and that it will also return any accrued interest. Last fall, Culverhouse pledged to donate a total of $26.5 million over four years.

“The action taken by the Board today was a direct result of Mr. Culverhouse’s ongoing attempts to interfere in the operations of the Law School,” the university’s vice chancellor for communication, Kellee Reinhart, said Friday. “That was the only reason the Board voted to remove his name and return his money.”

Culverhouse issued a statement Friday in which he renewed his call for students “to protest and reconsider their educational options in Alabama.”

“I expected this response from UA,” he said. “I will not allow my family’s name to be associated with an educational system that advocates a state law which discriminates against women, disregards established Federal law and violates our Constitution.

“I want to make clear that I never demanded that $21.5 million be refunded and wonder if the University is attempting to silence my opinions by their quick response. I will not be silenced.”

The president of the university, Stuart Bell, said in a statement, “This decision was made for reasons of academic and institutional integrity. I appreciate the actions of the Chancellor and our Board of Trustees and their unwavering support of these intrinsic values.”

Culverhouse, a Florida lawyer and investor whose father was a longtime owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, made the largest donation in the school’s 187-year history last September when he committed to give $26.5 million. The school had not yet received the remaining $5 million.

But months after the donation was announced, Culverhouse joined those calling for a boycott of Alabama after the governor signed a restrictive abortion law, which outlaws nearly all abortions and does not include exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

Culverhouse’s attorney, Lawrence Kellogg, was quoted last month by Florida Politics as saying, “Sixty-six percent of the students at Alabama pay out-of-state tuition. A boycott by them could certainly be effective.”

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SOURCE: NPR, Bill Chappell