Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and incoming University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst talked for about 30 minutes Wednesday about economic development issues and spent about one minute on the controversy regarding the peeved football donor.
Malloy, who has spoken to Robert Burton, the Greenwich hedge fund manager who would like a refund on his $3 million donation after being left out of discussions regarding the selection of the university’s newest football coach, said he would like to see communication improved.
“I think what we can expect from our donors, as well as the university, is that we don’t allow communications to breakdown like that in the future,” said Malloy.
Asked if the university should give Burton his money back, Malloy said he would like to see that issue resolved. Burton blames UConn Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway for not keeping him informed regarding the football coach selection. Malloy said he has not spoken to Hathaway.
“I know Mr. Burton. I happen to think he’s made a lot of wise investments. His investment in UConn was a wise one….so I’d like to get him back in the fold,” Malloy said.
Asked if it would be awkward now to fire Hathaway, Herbst said “No, that’s not the way we think about employees at a university.”
“I mean we are all accountable to the state. All the vice presidents, people who work for me are accountable to me, I’m accountable to the board and to the governor, so nobody in public education I know of, public or private, is bulletproof,” Herbst said. “I think Jeff has done an excellent job.”
Herbst echoed Malloy’s comments regarding communication, but said the situation also illustrates how important philanthropy is to the future of the university.
“We need to build our endowments and we need to get more private money headed to higher education because we‘re going to be facing struggling state budgets for a very long time,” Herbst said.
Herbst, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer of Georgia’s University System, who will take over the presidency at UConn in the spring, said she doesn’t think Uconn’s endowment is where it should be when compared to other universities.
“Our endowment is not where it should be for a public university that is as great as UConn,” Herbst said.
Malloy and Herbst did not discuss the status of the University of Connecticut Health Center and the John Dempsey Hospital, which failed to receive the $100 million in federal funds provided as a competitive grant under the national health care reform legislation. Ohio State received the money instead.