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Philanthropist sues hunger center director for naming rights

PROVIDENCE, R.I. --A legal battle continues over the naming rights and funding for the Center on Hunger and Poverty at Brandeis University.

Rhode Island philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein filed a lawsuit in 2003 in the U.S. District Court alleging the center's director, J. Larry Brown, breached a contract by denying him the right to put his name on the center.

U.S. District Court judge William Smith allowed Feinstein to pursue the suit in a decision this month, while at the same time throwing out a defamation claim Feinstein filed against Brown.

Brown also has filed his own lawsuit accusing Feinstein of reneging on a promise to provide $3 million -- in three grants of $1 million -- for anti-hunger initiatives. The center advocates for policies to improve the lives of low-income families. Brown's lawyers said Feinstein paid at most $7,000.

Feinstein said he delayed his first $1 million payment in June 2000 at Brown's request because Brown was moving the center from Tufts University to Brandeis in Waltham, Mass.

Feinstein also said Brown did not fulfill his obligation under the contract to get celebrities to donate money that Feinstein would match. Brown said he has worked with the End Hunger Network, a group that includes Hollywood stars, to secure a $3-million corporate pledge.

Feinstein told The Providence Journal it was important to have his name on the facility because anonymous donations encourage no one to follow suit.

"If you make a donation and a name is not connected with it, people are not going to be moved to give a donation, but if it's someone they know and like who gave money, then they may be moved to give money, too," Feinstein said. "So modesty does not always work well when it comes to charity."

Feinstein also pointed out that he has named things for people other than himself: a Bristol food pantry for actress Audrey Hepburn and a Pawtucket theater for his late sister, Sandra Feinstein-Gamm.

Feinstein's name is on the IMAX theater in Providence and on many colleges and schools throughout Rhode Island.

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