Charles & Marie

Marie & Charles Robertson

History of the Foundation

The Robertson Foundation for Government was established in 2010 by the children of the late Charles and Marie Robertson, (William S. Robertson, Katherine Ernst and Anne Meier), from the proceeds of a legal settlement with Princeton University, which had benefited from a restricted gift from Mr. and Mrs. Robertson.

In 1961, at the height of the Cold War and just after President John F. Kennedy’s inspiring call to service, Mr. and Mrs. Robertson donated 700,000 shares of A&P stock, valued at $35 million, to create a Foundation whose mission was to “strengthen the Government of the United States and increase its ability and determination to defend and extend freedom throughout the world by improving the facilities for the training and education of men and women for government service.” In pursuit of this, the Foundation’s money was to be used to “establish or maintain and support [at Princeton University, as part of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs] a Graduate School, where men and women dedicated to public service may prepare themselves for careers in government service, with particular emphasis on the education of such persons for careers in those areas of the Federal Government that are concerned with international relations and affairs.”

Over the ensuing several decades, the value of the Foundation’s endowment grew exponentially to several hundred million dollars and exceeding three-quarters of a billion dollars at one time. Meanwhile, Mr. Robertson and after his death his children, serving as Family-Designated Trustees of the Foundation, became increasingly concerned with Princeton’s commitment to the mission of the Robertson Foundation.

After repeated requests that the university increase its efforts to prepare and encourage Wilson School graduate students to pursue government careers, on July 17, 2002, the descendants of Charles and Marie Robertson and all of the Family-Designated Trustees of the Robertson Foundation filed a lawsuit against Princeton University and the University-Designated Trustees of the Robertson Foundation, charging that Princeton had ignored the donative intent of Charles and Marie Robertson by failing to honor the Foundation’s mission, using Foundation money for unrelated projects and commingling the Foundation’s assets with those of the university.

Just months before the trial in the case was to begin, after six-and-a-half years of litigation, Princeton University settled the lawsuit with the Robertson family for $110 million. The Robertson Foundation for Government (RFFG) was established from the proceeds of that settlement. The programs and initiatives the Foundation will adhere closely to the original vision of Charles and Marie Robertson.