The value of a bequest may be measured in terms of the restrictions put upon its application. In certain cases, a gift may be as much of a nuisance as a benefit. Money given outright to a University is usually much more useful to it than money given for any one particular purpose. The gifts of Sterling and Harkness, although given for specific causes of construction and professorships, have been unrestricted in the sense that the Yale administration has an ample hand in distributing the funds as it sees fit.
In all too many cases, however, the situation is quite otherwise. Benefactors have peculiar notions of the uses to which they want their money put. Some of them like to give rewards to students who show proficiency in strange lines of scholarly research, as any one can see who takes the trouble to study the list of prizes open for competition. Many of the subjects involved fall annually to interest even as many as one competitor, with the result that the prize money is annually turned back into the principal account to rot some more.
But money tied up in strange prizes is not the worst of the bequest situation. With the Library sorely in need of funds which are capable of general application, there are still those who insist on giving it money for specific purposes. This results in certain branches of the Library being literally over-endowed, while the students continue to clamor for more books to be used in reading periods.
Again, well-meaning benefactors establish scholarships to which are attached all manner of strings. The $600 Leavenworth Scholarship has gone begging since 1919 for want of a student with that name. Other funds exist for the use of the sons of retired Naval officers. In many cases, the scholarship exists where no candidate can be found who complies with the terms of the bequest. At a time when every scholarship could easily be put to immediate use, this situation is nothing short of a calamity. The University is powerless to use any of this money that is tied up for any purposes other than those specified. Yale's only hope is that her benefactors will understand the true meaning of generosity. Yale News