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The Back Story on the Geisel Gift

Geisel0.jpgThe generous gift to the College from Ted and Audrey Geisel was agreed to many years ago. In essence, when Audrey Geisel passes away (Ted died in 1991), the College will become the owner of most, if not all, of the Geisel empire: a large business that manages the rights to the Dr. Seuss books and other products. The Geisels have no children (Ted famously said, “You have ‘em; I’ll entertain ‘em.”) and the value of their estate is estimated to be many hundreds of millions of dollars.

Audrey Geisel received an honorary degree at Commencement in 2000. Since at least 2004, the Geisel family donation has been reflected in oblique terms in the College’s annual reports. In that year, Dartmouth’s accounts began to be audited by KPMG; they replaced the College’s previous auditors PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Whether the Geisels’ gift was agreed upon in 2004, or that was just the year in which the new auditors first insisted upon its reflection in the College’s accounts, is unclear. KPMG has, however, included the following language in its opinions on the College’s financial statements every year since then.

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For example, in Note K to the College’s 2004 financial statements, the uncertain, but undoubtedly substantial, value of the College’s interest in certain trusts is described by KPMG. There has been an equivalent note every year since then.

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It is not evident whether the Geisels’ gift was initially agreed upon during Jim Wright’s Presidency, or before that under Jim Freedman, or even when Ted Geisel was alive and David McLaughlin was President. In any event, Ted and Audrey Geisel’s donation is an extraordinary one that the College has long expected.

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