Ray Charles Foundation recovers unspent money

The Ray Charles Foundation in November reclaimed $1.2 million of $3 million in donations to Albany State University because the school did not use the money to build a new performing arts center.

The tussle over the cash has been ongoing for nearly a year, but a spate of recent news reports made the financial return public.

Charles, a beloved icon in American music, spent his childhood in Georgia and made gifts totaling $3 million to the university in 2001 and 2002 to build a performing arts center named in honor of his mother. The building has not been built.

The singer and pianist died in 2004.

Foundation President Valerie Ervin said: “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.”

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Albany State gave $2 million from the gift to 125 students chosen to be Ray Charles Presidential Scholars, the university told an Associated Press reporter last year.

There was disagreement between the foundation and the university about how the money could be used.

The foundation asked that the money be returned and got Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens involved.

“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,” Ervin said.

Albany State President Everette J. Freeman said that returning the money “brings to a close negotiations with the Ray Charles Foundation.”

But the university has not given up hopes to build a performing arts center, which an estimate had priced at more than $20 million.

Said Freeman, “A new fine arts building remains one of the university’s greatest needs, which we hope will be completed as soon as possible.”

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