Alabama Law and its well-heeled donor split

It was less than a year ago that The University of Alabama School of Law announced it was to receive a $26.5 million donation — the largest in school history — from developer Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr.

The school promptly changed the name of the venerable institution in Culverhouse’s honor.

But even Hollywood marriages seemingly last longer. Culverhouse’s name is off the building, the school’s web site and wherever else it may have been plastered. 

The University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees voted on Friday to give back the record donation — $21.5 million of which it had received so far — after Culverhouse asked students to boycott the University of Alabama because of the state’s recently passed abortion law, the strictest in the nation.

Culverhouse maintains his position on that issue is what triggered the split. The board says it was not. It was the result of an ongoing dispute over how the funds were to be used for the law school, according to the Associated Press.

Culverhouse, who lives in Coral Gables, Florida, was not happy with the outcome, the AP reported. “You probably shouldn’t put a living person’s name on a building, because at some point they might get fed up and start talking.”

Talk about a turnaround. Last year, at the time of the donation, Mark Brandon, dean of the law school, was nothing short of ecstatic.

“Quite honestly, it’s a gift that leaves me in awe,” Brandon said, according to the school newspaper, The Crimson White. “Awe of Hugh’s capacity for generosity, awe for the good fortune that he has become a friend of the law school, awe of the impact that his generosity can have on the future of the law school. It is fit and right that the law school bear his name.”

It is, it appears, no longer fit or right.

Culverhouse noted to media outlets that his late father — a graduate of the University of Alabama and the former owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers— was an officer of Planned Parenthood in Jacksonville, Florida, and that this was a personal issue to him.

A number of law schools have received large donations and re-named their schools in honor of the donors. Most live happily ever after. Not this time.