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When Strings Are Attached, Quirky Gifts Can Limit Universities

Princeton University Numismatic CollectionBy KAREN W. ARENSON for the NY Times

When Stanley J. Seeger gave Princeton $2 million for Hellenic studies nearly three decades ago, the gift’s income paid for two courses in modern Greek and trips to Greece for five.

But the Seeger money, which must be spent only on matters Greek, is now worth $33 million, multiplying through aggressive investing like the rest of Princeton’s endowment. So the university offers Greek, Greek and more Greek — 13 courses this semester, including “The Image of Greece in European Cinema” and “Problems in Greek History: Greek Democracy,” as well as trips to Greece and nearby areas for more than 90 students and faculty members last year. The history department recently hired its second Byzantine specialist. And the fund paid half the cost of a collection of 800 rare coins from medieval Greece.

“Institutions do get shaped by the interests of donors,” said Robert K. Durkee, vice president and secretary of Princeton.

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