BLACKSBURG, Va., July 6, 2007 – Virginia Tech President Charles Steger has asked Kenneth R. Feinberg, who served as "Special Master of the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001," to administer distributions of the university Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund (HSMF).
Says Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, “It is very important for us to seek input from families of victims and the surviving victims about distribution of the funds. While we are very concerned about future and ongoing needs of the university community in Blacksburg, we believe it is best to focus the funds on the current needs and desires of families of the deceased and the injured students and faculty. They have experienced extraordinary loss and emotional trauma and deserve the most support.
“There is no script for a tragedy of this magnitude and depth of pain. I am very pleased to have someone of Ken Feinberg’s caliber, experience, and long career to help guide us.”
Feinberg, who will work pro bono for Virginia Tech, is an attorney and one of the nation’s leading experts in mediation and alternative dispute resolution. While in his role as “special master” of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, he developed and promulgated regulations and administered distributions of federal monies to families of the deceased and injured in the terrorist attacks on New York, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Penn.
“The Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund was established through generous contributions from Southwest Virginians and thoughtful citizens from across the country. I applaud the selection of Ken Feinberg as Administrator of the Fund. He will draw on his extensive experience to ensure that the assets of the fund are applied in the most effective manner to assist the victims of this tragedy and their families in their time of greatest need,” said U.S. Representative Rick Boucher.
Steger says, “Following the April 16 tragedy, there was tremendous outpouring of support for the university community, the victims, and their families. Some of this support was manifested in spontaneous contributions to what was later to become the Hokie Spirit Memorial Funds. During those early hours, we identified possible uses of the funds, for the short term and the long term.
“Later it became apparent that the Virginia Tech Foundation, because of its mission and incorporation as an educational foundation and not a benevolent foundation, was limited in how the monies could be used. Moreover, we now realize that we are not in a position to pre-suppose what is best for victims or their families. With no experience in dealing with crime victims, we felt it best to seek expert advice in disbursements of these monies.”
Feinberg and the university plan to disseminate a set of proposals for comment about distributions to the families in mid-July. The victims or families will have options on the ultimate uses of the funds. Payments would be completed sometime during the fall.
Donors have contributed more than $7 million across 34 funds including 32 named funds, one for each victim; a general scholarship fund; and the memorial fund. Approximately $1 million of the total donations have been designated by donors toward specific uses, leaving the balance for general use including distributions. Payouts would come from undesignated funds.
The Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund will be closed for future donations August 1. The university has not and will not actively solicit funds. Any monies given after the closing date will be directed to the Hokie Spirit Scholarship Fund, a general scholarship fund for Virginia Tech students and could be used for others involved in the tragedy.
The university is aware that fundraising continues. Pledges received during August will be counted toward payout figures. The university is asking that any person or groups planning fundraisers provide the university with estimates, should this be possible.
Feinberg served as Special Master of the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 at the request of the Attorney General of the United States. He served without compensation for 33 months and distributed over $7 billion in public funds to over 5,300 claimants who lost a loved one on 9/11 or were physically injured. Feinberg is an attorney and one of the nation's leading experts in mediation, arbitration and alternative dispute resolution. He has had a distinguished teaching career at the University of Virginia Law School, Columbia Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Georgetown University Law Center. He is 61 years old and resides in Bethesda, Md.
Hear Kenneth Feinberg's comments about the work he will be doing with the university and the families of victims of the April 16th tragedy.