The internet abounds in airy content, and aftermost abatement one of its best airy belief started like this: In a columnist release, the University of New Hampshire arise that an aged librarian had died—and larboard the academy a abominable donation of $4 million.
The librarian’s name was Robert Morin, and admitting he’d formed at UNH for decades no one knew he’d adored that affectionate of money. The capacity bound went viral. “This admirable allowance is one for the books,” the Huffington Post gushed. “Living a frugal activity pays off,” Bodies opined. “He was a librarian with a multi-million dollar secret,” an ballast intoned on ABC’s World Anniversary Tonight, “and he larboard it all to the abode he admired the most.”
That’s area best bodies larboard Robert Morin. A second, abate beachcomber of advantage focused on UNH’s adverse accommodation to carry abandoned $100,000 of his money to the library, alike as it committed $1 actor of it to a video scoreboard for its football stadium. But the abounding adventure is added adverse still. Through a alternation of interviews and accessible annal requests, Deadspin has baldheaded the 17-month backstory to Morin’s bequest. Like so abounding schools, big and small, UNH spent berserk on its able-bodied department. The university went a footfall added in aggravating to architect a accessible relations victory, deceptively abutting a fragment of Morin’s activity to its football splurge. The media agilely repackaged the adventure as an adorning fable.
What got absent in this circus, though, was the man who acquired it in the aboriginal place—a aberrant and affable animal actuality whose activity was far too aberrant to fit in a columnist absolution or allotment of agenda flotsam.
The basal facts abaft Morin’s viral acclaim are true. He absolutely did appointment as a librarian for 49 years, he absolutely did aggregate a affluence of $4 million, and he absolutely did accumulate that affluence a secret. Afterwards Morin begin out in 2014 that he had colon cancer, he spent his final months in an assisted-living center. Aback his adolescent librarians came to visit, they ashen he wouldn’t be able to allow the facility.
“I assured them,” says Ed Mullen, Morin’s banking adviser, “that they didn’t charge to anguish about that.”
Morin’s adventure didn’t about-face adumbral until the university got involved. UNH administrators abstruse of the bequeathal anon afterwards his afterlife on March 31, 2015, and they ashen no time in chief how to absorb it. The academy had acceptable absolutely a acceptability for spending beneath Admiral Mark Huddleston. There had been baby extravagances, including $65,000 for a redesigned logo and $17,570 for a 16-seat table. There had been ample ones, including $1.9 actor for a student-athlete centermost and $6.5 actor for an alfresco pool. But one of the bigger projects—and a acute basic in the campus’s adept plan—was renovating the football stadium. The UNH Wildcats, an FCS team, had played in their 6,500-seat home for decades. In 2014, however, Huddleston arise affairs for a $25 actor upgrade, financed by $5 actor in fundraising and $20 actor in loans, that would about bifold the cardinal of seats, about quadruple the cardinal of bathrooms, and acquaint accidental fan-friendly options like an air-conditioned achievement club and all-you-can-eat buffet.
One affection the administrators discussed in 2014 was a high-definition video scoreboard, but they absitively to nix it aback the anniversary got tight. That afflicted already they heard about Morin’s donation. It was an astronomic sum, of course, but added important, it was an complete sum. Best academy ed alms comes with strings. (I was an actor; accord my money to the amphitheater department.) In a afresh completed five-year fundraising campaign, UNH calm abandoned $9 actor in complete funds, and about bisected of that absolute came from Robert Morin.
Morin’s bequest, in added words, provided a attenuate and unencumbered adventitious for Huddleston and UNH to accurate their priorities. And what they capital was that ahead advised scoreboard. Things confused bound to ensure it would be accessible alongside the added amphitheater upgrades, aloof in time for the 2016 season. On September 1, 2015, Mark Geuther of UNH’s Facilities Activity Management summed up the latest developments in an email. “President Huddleston accustomed a bearding allowance to the University,” Geuther wrote, “which is actuality appointed for the design, acquirement and accession of a video board. . . . The accepted anniversary for the video lath ambit of appointment is $1 million.”
The scoreboard advance proceeded on two fronts. The aboriginal was construction. By January 2016, UNH had retained a cher consulting close that specialized in amphitheater audio and video; by February, they were reviewing assorted bids. While the bids included at atomic one cheaper option, the academy chose a 30-foot-by-50-foot LED affectation from Mitsubishi.
The added advanced complex the publicity operation. Inside UNH’s media relations office, staffers were buzzing—not aloof about Morin’s allowance but about its anecdotal possibilities. On March 29, Erika Mantz, UNH’s ambassador of media relations, broadcast a sample media campaign, an intricate plan of advance that complex at atomic 12 university advisers and mapped their appointment bottomward to the minute: a columnist absolution and accommodating media pitches; abstracted emails to -to-be acceptance and to alumni and parents; and the binding amusing media push.
That plan accustomed an agog response, admitting at atomic one ambassador afraid about the optics. By this point, Huddleston had accomplished the breakdown of Morin’s money: $1 actor to the scoreboard, $2.5 actor to UNH’s career center, and $100,000 to the library, with the blow to bulk out later. “[T]he allowance is so large,” Debbie Dutton, admiral of the UNH Foundation, wrote in an email, “and he formed in the library and abandoned a almost baby bulk is activity to the library.”
A band-aid would anon present itself. In that aforementioned March email, Mantz wrote, “I accept two bodies to acquaintance tomorrow (per Theresa) who can acquaint me added about Mr. Morin.” (The advertence was to Theresa Curry, addition UNH administrator.) One of those bodies was Ed Mullen, and one of the things he told Mantz was that Morin had taken to watching football at the assisted-living center.
Mantz aggregate added capacity about the media campaign’s star, and they abreast the UNH columnist absolution that assuredly bankrupt the anniversary on August 30, 2016. The absolution provided an alarming glimpse of Morin: a simple man, a committed employee, an alum. It additionally affiliated his adventures to the anew adjourned projects. That was accessible abundant with the library. But the scoreboard appropriate some finesse. “Another $1 actor will abutment a video scoreboard for the new football stadium,” the absolution said. “In the aftermost 15 months of his life, Morin lived in an assisted active centermost area he started watching football amateur on television, arrive the rules and names of the players and teams.”
This was a appreciably contemptuous bit of marketing. Afterwards all, Mantz had said in March that she still bare to dig into Morin’s life—and that was abounding months afterwards the scoreboard had already been revived. The librarian’s fandom had absolutely annihilation to do with the scoreboard, but through a accurate and abandoned juxtaposition, UNH adumbrated that it had. It fabricated for a tidy, affecting story. It additionally gave the university some awning from any criticism that ability appear.
The anniversary of Morin’s bequeathal catholic further and faster than anyone could accept hoped. In interviews, Mantz volunteered the football affiliation aback the scoreboard came up; the media, alike acceptable newspapers that put acceptable reporters on the assignment, nodded along. “The $1 actor for a video scoreboard additionally is affiliated to Morin’s interests,” the Boston Globe noted. “After he entered the assisted-living center, Mantz said, Morin became a football aficionado—learning the rules and abstraction the names of the players he saw on television.” The aforementioned bulletin alike in the New Hampshire Union-Leader: “UNH abettor Erika Mantz said that, in the aftermost 15 months of his life, Morin lived in a Durham assisted-living centermost area he started watching football amateur on television. He baffled the rules and names of the players and teams.”
Throughout the aboriginal allotment of September, the anniversary of Morin’s pigskin attraction connected to spread, with the sloppiest aggregators axis him into a fan of the Wildcats themselves. But in truth, Morin’s late-life about-face to football didn’t explain the scoreboard or, really, annihilation else. In fact, the added you apperceive about Robert Morin, the added baneful UNH’s business action becomes.
One backing morning, while Morin was still alive, a UNH apprentice called Sky Gidge visited him at his library cubicle. Morin was an odd but accustomed bulk on campus—just over bristles anxiety tall, aloof over 100 pounds, addition who was accepted for his exhausted sports coats and his ambit of chiffon hair, whom acceptance would generally see smoker a aqueduct alfresco the library. Gidge absitively to contour Morin for a apprentice magazine, and during their anniversary he asked the librarian if he admired people.
“I get forth with people,” Morin replied. “Aristotle begin that one of the appurtenances was friendship. He begin accord to be actual important. I don’t.”
That barter was authentic Robert Morin—generous, funny, erudite, and stubbornly independent.
Morin was built-in in Nashua, New Hampshire, in 1938. He was additionally built-in with a arced aback and a clubfoot, and he absolved with a astringent bending his absolute life. His parents were alive class. (They never endemic a abode together, or alike a car.) His adolescent brothers were, too. But Morin accomplished from an aboriginal age that he was different. “He was an amazingly ablaze person,” says Maurice Arel, who acclimated to airing with Morin every day to school. The boys additionally sat together, and Arel marveled at how his acquaintance could accomplishment a analysis afore anybody abroad yet still acquire the accomplished grade. Already they got to Nashua High School, however, Arel started block girls and arena football, eventually acceptable a amateur on the varsity squad. Morin didn’t assume absorbed in either pursuit; he adopted anniversary or belief alone. The two saw anniversary added beneath and less, until their accord was artlessly adage hi in the halls at school. “He affectionate of disappeared,” Arel says.
In 1955, Morin accelerating from Nashua High as an anniversary student. The bounded cardboard ran his picture, which captured a arch abounding of thick, slicked-back hair, forth with the candied and aerial smile he’d beam for the blow of his life. That abatement Morin enrolled at the University of New Hampshire, the aboriginal and abandoned actuality from his ancestors to appear college. It took him eight years to finish, mostly because he had to accumulate bottomward out to work. Money had become alike scarcer aback his parents divorced, and afterwards their breach Morin abdicate speaking to any ancestors affiliate except his mother. Yet article blessed did appear from this period: one of his jobs was a part-time position at the UNH library, and Morin admired it so abundant he got a master’s in library science, again abutting the agents abounding time in 1965.
Morin’s assignment was cataloging the new media that swept into the library, which initially meant accounting their advice assimilate baby cards, until aggregate switched to computers. His ample ability abject and automatic ability fabricated him an abundantly acceptable cataloguer. The toughest items—foreign titles, area music—always landed in his cubicle. Anybody who knew Morin says the aforementioned thing: the library was his life. But they beggarly the job added than the people. He was affectionate to his colleagues; he was blessed to accomplish baby talk, to tease, to access into a asinine song. But he rarely went above that, alike if that appropriate him to skip agents affairs or to avoid out of added conversations about ancestors or politics. He capital to accumulate his activity simple and free.
This isn’t to say his activity was empty. Morin approached his hobbies like he approached his cataloguing, admitting conceivably it was the added way around. While he’d abhorred activity to cine theaters for added than a decade, in 1979 he invested in an agitative new technology: the VCR. At home he started watching three or four movies a night and kept it up until he’d apparent 21,000 films. (At some point he went aback and counted.) His television abdicate alive in 1997, but instead of acclimation it Morin addled to a new pursuit: anniversary every American barter book that had been appear in the 1930s, in archival order.
Morin was able to convenance these hobbies cheaply acknowledgment to his access in the interlibrary accommodation department. He did aggregate cheaply. He didn’t accept a acclaim card. He didn’t travel, preferring to absorb vacations at his baby agronomical home a few afar from campus. While he’d enjoyed routines alike as a teenager, the admiration agitated as he grew older. Anniversary day, breakfast came from one of the library’s automat machines; cafeteria was a sandwich stored in the abridged of his sports coat; supper was a arctic dinner.
One byproduct of this adamant and frugal activity was that money started axle up. In 1971, Ed Mullen became Morin’s banking adviser and, alfresco of the library, the abutting activity he had to an developed friend. Their accord began aback Mullen, an allowance agent, was application a baby activity allowance action of Morin’s. (His mother was the beneficiary.) Mullen noticed his applicant kept his balance in a blockage anniversary and a few CDs. “He wasn’t actual adeptness with money,” Mullen says.
Mullen offered to help, and the two began activity regularly—every year or two at first, again added frequently as they alloyed some affable lunches with their banking dealings. Morin started maxing out his retirement contributions (and UNH’s analogous funds); he began diversifying his investments; he connected affairs activity insurance. Through all of this, Morin kept his mother as the beneficiary. But there was one important exception, Mullen says: an older, $100,000 activity allowance action that Morin took out in the backward 1980s and appointed to account the library.
Morin didn’t acquaint anyone he was acceptable a multi-millionaire, and his affairs absolutely didn’t action any hints. He collection the array of car you’d accessory with a academy student, not a academy staffer. He wore the aforementioned clothes for decades, until a apprentice artisan took him to the capital for a arcade trip. (That aforementioned apprentice abiding him to appear a few of her ancestors holidays.) The abandoned above change came afterwards his mother died in 2004. Morin absitively to accomplish UNH the almsman of his estate. Mullen asked his applicant several times if he capital to active the university to what was advancing or to specify any uses for his donation—some scholarships for the library’s apprentice workers, say. Morin would go home and anticipate about it, but in the end he consistently declined. “I anticipate I’ll aloof leave it as it is,” he told Mullen.
One day, in January 2014, Morin’s adolescent librarians begin him burst in his cubicle. The analysis was colon cancer, and while anybody was afraid by his animation during anaplasty and again chemo, he never bigger abundant to acknowledgment to work. Morin confused to Brookdale-Spruce Wood, an assisted-living ability abreast campus. The nurses fell for him bound and noticed how abundant he admired to read. He was up to 1938 in his archival quest.
Morin’s allowance at Brookdale included a alive TV, amid added amenities, and aback football division kicked off in the abatement of 2014 he started watching amateur for the aboriginal time. Mullen was abashed aback he heard this—sports had never appear up during their lunches. “I bethink activity to appointment him and he’d be watching some abstruse basin game,” Mullen says, “Eastern Washington or Southern Illinois or whatever.” Morin never talked to his nurses about football. He didn’t chase any accurate team. Instead, he absorbed himself in the game’s components, in its systems and rules—and, yes, as UNH kept chanting afterwards his death, in the names of its players and teams.
None of this fabricated him a football fan. That was never how Morin’s passions worked. Aback Sky Gidge, the apprentice journalist, asked Morin why he chose his anniversary regimen, he could action abandoned this answer: “Because I like the 1930s.” Morin couldn’t do abundant bigger aback asked why he admired watching movies or alike alive at the library. In anniversary case, it seemed mostly about absorption on a sprawling and complicated topic, about fixating on one activity and one activity abandoned until he absitively it was time to move on.
The University of New Hampshire fabricated a aberration aback it spent $1 actor on a video scoreboard, and you’ll acquisition echoes of that aberration on campuses all about the country. Let’s stick to scoreboards: In 2015, Auburn University debuted a high-definition video scoreboard of its own, a 190-foot-by-57-foot LED leviathan whose agenda afterglow could be apparent from 25 afar away. The activity amount $13.9 million, but that wasn’t alike the crazy part. Auburn’s new scoreboard was replacing addition high-definition video scoreboard the academy had installed abandoned eight years before.
It’s not anniversary that power-conference schools are authoritative batty investments, abnormally in football, the action with the fattest costs and fattest rewards, but the aforementioned activity is accident at abate schools, area it’s arguably worse. At atomic Auburn brings big money in. Abate schools don’t, which agency they charge agilely blackmail their students. A brace years back, the Huffington Post and the Chronicle of Academy Apprenticeship teamed up to assay the “student athletic” fees answerable by so abounding universities. They begin that abandoned 21 of the 201 Division I able-bodied departments they advised bankrupt alike or affronted a profit. The added 180 depended on a amazing $10 billion in apprentice fees and added subsidies to awning their ever-expanding able-bodied budgets.
UNH is a decidedly arrant example. Jeff Smith, who teaches at the University of South Carolina-Upstate, crunches the numbers on able-bodied administering subsidies. “[UNH] is calmly in the accomplished 15 percent for subsidizing,” he says. The academy exists in a accompaniment of abiding anniversary crunch. (One acumen is, well, its state: New Hampshire ranks asleep aftermost in spending per academy student.) It accuse one of the accomplished in-state charge ante of any accessible four-year college. To accumulate its sports teams afloat, though, the academy slaps one of those added “student athletics” fees on every full-time undergrad. Multiply the fee—$1,075 for the accepted bookish year—by the school’s 12,000 or so acceptance and you’ve got a $13 actor anniversary subsidy. And it’s not bright the acceptance appetite big-time academy sports; aftermost year, alike with the upgraded amphitheater and a acceptable team, UNH couldn’t able the FCS’s top 30 in attendance.
But none of this seems to matter. UNH’s administering has fetishized football, aloof like appealing abundant every added administering has fetishized football, and now alike the meekest programs assume atrocious to spend. Aback UNH was aboriginal because a video scoreboard, aback in 2014, the school’s architects dug up the amount and architecture capacity on a agnate one from the University at Albany, one of the Wildcats’ Colonial Able-bodied Association appointment mates. It amount $1 million. Never apperception Auburn—UNH is aggravating to accumulate up with Albany, and that’s bad enough.
The University of New Hampshire additionally fabricated a aberration in its administration of Robert Morin’s memory. The best abode to see this isn’t the money; afterwards all, Morin didn’t assume to affliction how the academy spent it, mostly because he didn’t affliction about money at all. (More than one actuality can acquaint a adventure about advertent a drawer abounding of his uncashed checks.) Besides, UNH’s scoreboard—and its stadium, and so abundant else—was impaired no amount how it got funded, whether by complete donations or clammy apprentice fees. Money was never a acceptable basis of Robert Morin’s values, alike if it seems to be an clumsily acceptable one of the ethics of university administrators.
Morin’s activity suggests he cared far added about article else: apropos added people. While he formed adamantine at advancement his privacy, he still acted abundantly and attentive against co-workers, students, and strangers. Alike those who knew him abandoned briefly saw this. “We absolutely enjoyed him while he was here,” says an abettor at Brookdale, the assisted-living facility. “He was a actual candied man.”
It was on measures like this that UNH cheated Morin by alleviative him beneath like a animal actuality than a business prop. This analysis had started early, of course, during those antecedent PR huddles, and it abandoned got worse already a absolute backfire to the scoreboard emerged. The abuse ailing about September 10, 2016, the date of UNH’s aboriginal bold at the new stadium. Instead of whistling at the scoreboard, alumni were autograph affronted blog posts. New Hampshire’s Speaker of the Abode was casting zingers—“UNH is spending $1 actor to acquaint us what the account is”—though he ability accept had a stronger case if he and his colleagues did added to abutment academy education.
At first, UNH responded with its antecedent routine. Huddleston, the university president, invoked Morin’s fandom in an email to the trustees: “Mr. Morin was an ardent football fan. . . . [T]his use was absolutely constant with one of his above approved interests.” Dutton, the UNH Foundation president, again the fan articulation in an interview—and then, in what was absolutely the low point in the accomplished affair, appropriate that Morin’s old allowance policy, the $100,000 outlier that had defined the library, was absolutely affirmation that he wouldn’t accept capital his colleagues to accept any added cash. “We acquainted like he was clear,” Dutton said. “$100,000 for the library.”
It was one aftermost attack to angle Morin’s quirks until they akin the university’s preexisting priorities, to jam a acceptable man’s activity into a campus adept plan. But afore continued article shifted. The university seemed to apprehend that their feel-good adventure had soured, and on September 20 UNH media relations beatific out a new set of talking points. They encouraged staffers to agenda that the scoreboard was an “important investment,” that the amphitheater would host the Special Olympics, that UNH absolutely had its own history of frugality. What the talking credibility didn’t acknowledgment was Morin’s absorption in football. In fact, they almost mentioned him. The librarian had accustomed his university a fortune, again bootless to accord it some acceptable news. Now that both affairs were complete, he didn’t assume to amount at all.
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