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In Re Robert T. Keeler Maintenance Fund for the Hanover Country Club at Dartmouth College, Sup. Ct. New Hampshire

Laura L. Brownfield
General Counsel

The New Hampshire Supreme Court recently ruled that Dartmouth College can repurpose money a deceased alumnus left for the sole purpose of maintaining the school’s golf course to support other golf-related purposes, such as the study and design of golf practice areas or golf team expenses. Several years before his death in 2002, Keeler had included a provision in his will that if Dartmouth opted not to use the money to maintain the course, it must return any unspent money to the Robert T. Keeler Foundation, a nonprofit that supports children in need.

In 2020, Dartmouth made the decision to close its golf course, citing financial concerns, and sought to use the $3.8 million bequest to support the varsity golf team and other golf-related activities at the college. The New Hampshire Attorney General found that Dartmouth met its legal burden to modify the restriction as it became impracticable for Dartmouth to continue operating the golf course.

In a unanimous ruling, the Court held that Keeler’s estate did not have legal standing to challenge Dartmouth’s request to modify the restriction Keeler had established and affirmed the trial court’s order granting Dartmouth’s application to modify the charitable purpose of the Keeler bequest.

Note: This material was developed by Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. It is published with the understanding that neither the publisher nor the author is engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a professional advisor should be sought.