Charles’ Contribution Clash

A dispute between the estate of Ray Charles and Albany State University has left some wondering exactly what was on the singer’s mind when he gave $3 million to the Georgia school.

While representatives for the estate claim the money was donated to build a performing arts center and a theatre, officials at the school claim the gift came with no instructions.

School officials have deposited $1 million in a bank account to be used when the school receives additional state funding for the $23 million PAC’s construction, a statement said, and have awarded $2 million in scholarships.

But using the gift for scholarship money has violated the terms of the deal, according to the estate.

Ivan Hoffman, general counsel for Charles’ estate, reportedly maintains that "Mr. Charles always expressed, and the university always acknowledged, that Ray Charles was going to make a gift for the construction of the performing arts center and the theatre in his late mother’s name."

The estate isn’t asking for the money back, Hoffman said, unless of course that money isn’t going to be used to fulfill Charles’ wishes.

University president Dr. Everette Freeman said it was a big misunderstanding. School officials did promise to build a PAC and children’s theatre in Charles’ honor, Freeman said in a statement, but they also alerted Charles’ foundation that the money would be used for other things.

"It has always been our understanding that the Ray Charles donation was an unrestricted gift to the university," he said. "And it was publicized at the time of the gift that we would use his donation for scholarships and to help build a fine arts building."

While the school has reportedly selected a site and architectural renderings have been drawn, it is unclear exactly when construction could begin on the PAC.

The project was not awarded funding for the 2007 fiscal year, and "we will likely not see funding appropriated for the building until at least fiscal year beginning in July 2008 if we are lucky," Freeman said.