The University of Queensland has mistakenly thanked 72,000 alumni pledging money in their wills.The University of Queensland has been forced into an embarrassing backdown after it mistakenly thanked 72,000 alumni for their intention to bequeath part of their estates to the university in their wills.
“Thank you for indicating that you intend to think of UQ in your will,” read 72,000 letters, signed by Vice Chancellor Deborah Terry, which was sent to past students of Brisbane’s prestigious university late last month extolling the alumni’s philanthropic virtue and inviting further support of their alma mater.
But a subsequent note, this time coming from Professor Terry’s deputy Ian Zimmer, seemed to take it all back.
“That letter was sent to you in error,” wrote Professor Zimmer of Professor Terry’s correspondence.
“[And] we apologise most sincerely for the mistake and for any distress it may have caused you.”
While the invitation to donate remained, the retraction revealed an embarrassing administrative error which left thousands of alumni and university community members across the state confused, and concerned.
In his apology, Professor Zimmer was keen to assuage fears personal records had been breached, writing that unless recipients had personally sent UQ copies of their will or bequest intentions, the university had “no record or knowledge” of estates on their database.
“UQ is immensely grateful to the many people who support it every year,” Professor Zimmer said in a statement.
“[Donations enable] so many important initiatives including funding for scholarships for students, and funds for research to benefit society.”
The original letter, signed by Professor Terry, had urged recipients to join “growing numbers of alumni” who give money to the University of Queensland’s Annual Fund as part of arrangements in their wills confused.
They also included a link to the donations website and an emotional anecdote from a past student and fund beneficiary.
The fund helps support student scholarships, research and philanthropic activities, and contributed to the $33.41 million worth of donations and bequest revenue reported in the university’s 2011 annual report.
And while the blunder comes at the end of a financial year overshadowed by an admissions scandal which claimed the scalps of professors Terry and Zimmer’s predecessors, a spokeswoman for the university said it was not all bad news.
“While UQ regrets the mail-out error, we have had a number of positive conversations with alumni as a result of it; including some people advising us that they have put bequests in their will for UQ,” she said.
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