Hillsdale College Receives $4.6M After It Sues Mizzou For Ignoring Donor’s Wishes

Hibbs’ success in finance had introduced him to the Austrian economists — and as his legacy, he hoped to leave new generations with the knowledge that had influenced him.

Hibbs, realizing that the University of Missouri may not follow through with his wishes, had stipulated the university check in with Hillsdale every four years as to how the money was being spent. If Mizzou wasn’t honoring the terms, the funding would revert to Hillsdale … When it became obvious to Hillsdale that Mizzou was neglecting Hibbs’ intent, the college sued. Administrators, including a university provost who said he didn’t want the university being “held hostage by a particular ideology,” were called out in the lawsuit.

 

Months before Sherlock Hibbs died in 2002 at the age of 98, he drafted his will, laying out his wish to invest in the economic principles that had shaped his life.

Hibbs’ success in finance had introduced him to the Austrian economists — and as his legacy, he hoped to leave new generations with the knowledge that had influenced him.

Prior to embarking on a business career in New York City, Hibbs graduated from the University of Missouri in 1926. He then joined the Navy in early 1942, and during World War II, he fought in North Africa, Italy, France and the Pacific. He was awarded the Bronze Star.

Hibbs didn’t have children, so in his will, he left millions to three Midwest colleges, including his alma mater, the University of Missouri, and Michigan’s Hillsdale College — a small liberal arts school that has achieved renown in part for eschewing government funding (Hillsdale is my alma mater).

Many years after Hibbs’ death, those two schools became entwined in a legal battle that found resolution this week. The case raises many questions about how a university — or any institution for that matter — honors (or doesn’t) the intent of a donor’s gift.

In Hibbs’ case, Mizzou accepted the $5 million gift from him, and then never honored the terms.

Here’s the background: In Hibbs’ will, he wanted his alma mater to create six endowed chairs and professorships in its business school with the express purpose of promoting a specific ideology.

According to the lawsuit, “The Will also required that each appointee to a Chair and Distinguished Professorship be a dedicated and articulate disciple of the Ludwig von Mises Austrian School of Economics.”

There’s not much room for misunderstanding there.

Mises, who died in 1973, advocated for free markets and the central role of the entrepreneur — and he warned against socialism and government intervention. His message is more important today than ever. Friedrich Hayek was another famous proponent of the Austrian school.

But administrators at the university resented having to adhere to this “school of conservative economic thought” and while they filled the positions, the professors were by no means the disciples Hibbs’ envisioned.

This is where Hillsdale College comes in. Hibbs intended to give money to Hillsdale, and knew the college was a proponent of Austrian economics (Ludwig von Mises gifted his personal library to Hillsdale, and it’s located in a beautiful room in the campus library).

Hibbs, realizing that the University of Missouri may not follow through with his wishes, had stipulated the university check in with Hillsdale every four years as to how the money was being spent. If Mizzou wasn’t honoring the terms, the funding would revert to Hillsdale. Hillsdale didn’t really want to play watchdog, but President Larry Arnn respected Hibbs’ request and agreed.

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