A prominent Utah family has promised a large cash donation plus 50 mounted African game heads to the University of Utah.
While the gifts were welcomed, the trophies did turn a few heads Friday at the U. board of trustees meeting, with at least one trustee wondering whether some people might not find them objectionable.But Jon Michael Mattsson, U. vice president for development, responded that the exhibition of the mounted heads in the Utah Museum of Natural History would serve an educational purpose.
Since the game was taken legally and the trophies were mounted for display, exhibiting them in a museum some day may be "the best possible use," Mattsson said.
He also noted that unusual gifts are not altogether unusual in higher education. Most gifts-in-kind are works of art, but the U. has received things like cars, speedboats and even a set of china.
A few years ago, Snow College in Ephraim accepted two mules and a buggy. The mules later died and the buggy was sold. More recently, someone donated 48 vibrating exercise benches to Snow.
Utah State University was once given some batches of bull semen. And a friend of Weber State University donated money to feed the ducks on a campus pond. Dixie College lists a silver dollar collection among its unusual gifts.
At the U., the hunting trophies are part of an intended bequest from Lee And Fred Auerbach that includes a $500,000 cash gift. Also, the Auerbachs recently established the Fred F. and Frieda Lee Auerbach Charitable Remainder Uni-trust at the U. as a tribute to the family name.
Members of the Auerbach family were among the first Jewish settlers in Utah, establishing a retail business in the Salt Lake Valley in the 1860s. Best known for the old Auerbach Department Store that once stood at the corner of 300 S. State in Salt Lake City, the Auerbachs have contributed generously over the years to civic and educational causes.
The family has supported both the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts in New York City and donated some of the furniture in the historic Lion and Beehive Houses.
In recognition of the Auerbachs' contributions, U. trustees voted Friday to rename the vascular surgery center in the University Hospital the Auerbach Vascular Surgery Center.
With the Aurbachs' contribution, the U. has now topped $26.8 million in gifts so far this year.