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Club donor’s family upset with ND

Davis Rhorer, Jr. | Tuesday, January 22, 2008

CHICAGO – Decades after their grandfather funded the construction of the University Club at Notre Dame, members of one family of University alumni have said they felt snubbed when the University did not notify them at once about the Club’s planned destruction.

Robert Hayes Gore, Sr. never attended Notre Dame, but he donated the $350,000 in 1967 to construct the Club, along with a prized collection of beer steins and tankards that was housed in the building. Six of Gore’s nine children attended the University.

The collection of steins and tankards was auctioned at a local auction house Sunday to raise $300,000 for scholarships for economically underprivileged children to attend Catholic schools.

“The university showed a lack of respect for its donors” Andrew Gore, a grandson of the late Robert Gore, Sr. and Notre Dame alumnus, said.

“The family was not advised until very late,” he said of the demolition planning process.

Gore called for the University to enact better regulations about the time-frame for donations.

“[The University] should consider family akin to the donor,” he said

University spokesman Dennis Brown acknowledged the family was not notified immediately when plans were made for the Club’s demolition.

“We made the mistake and didn’t consult with the family in 2001,” Brown said Monday.

However, representatives of the University met with the Gore family on numerous occasions before the club was demolished this fall, he said.

Prior to the demolition, the University also sent a letter of apology to the family for not consulting them before finalizing plans, he said.

“We take very seriously our obligation to be good stewards” Brown said. “I think we are.”

In addition to his monetary donations, Robert Hayes Gore, Sr. donated the extensive collection of beer steins and tankards that were housed in the University Club for nearly forty years. That collection, which had gained significant prominence over the years, was auctioned off piece by piece by the family Sunday at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago.

“Rather than collecting dust in some cellar at Notre Dame, these assets can be spread across the country,” said Charles Gore, another grandson and Notre Dame alumnus, immediately following the auction.

The family plans to donate $300,000 from the auction to the Gore Family Memorial Trust, which provides financial aid to economically underprivileged children to enroll in Catholic primary and secondary schools across the United States.

“With that [money], we’ll be able to provide 25 scholarships a year, and that’s forever” Charles said.

The collection, which auctioneers estimate brought in nearly $302,000, was considered an incredible success, said Leslie Hindman, operator of the auction house.

“We’re thrilled,” Hindman said.

She cited the “significant provenance” of the Notre Dame history behind the collection as a “major factor contributing to the success of the auction.”

Members of the Gore family also won the bids for a few pieces.

“They really are a great collection and a rare and valuable asset,” Jesse Leighton, the husband of one of Gore’s granddaughters, said immediately after the auction.

Due to the very high volume of phone and internet bids that poured in from around the globe, it is impossible to know how many different parties bid on the pieces, Hindman said.

One piece, a 26 inch tall ivory silver-gilt tankard made by Tiffany & Co. sold for $216,000 to a private bidder.

Despite his complaints about the timing of his family’s notification of the demolition, Andrew said the University would be right to prioritize academics over all other endeavors.

“Assuming the site [of the club] was the only available spot for an engineering building, no one would debate that [the demolition] was the right thing to do” Andrew said.

But, he said, the University showed a lack of courtesy when it failed to offer an explanation as to why the site of the club was so integral.

Andrew concluded asking the University to revise its Donor Bill of Rights by inserting a timeline of commitments the University must make to donors.

Andrew said the events surrounding the Club’s demolition have not really altered his relationship with the University, though he said he could not speak for his entire family.

The decision to donate the proceeds of the auction to the family’s trust were based solely on “who needs the money the most.”

The University has no plans to rebuild the independent University Club, Brown said.