Keeping WSU in their future faculty, staff provide for WSU through estate gifts

2:16:10 PM CDT - Wednesday, May 03, 2006

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

As a former student and now a faculty member, Julie Scherz feels WSU has been "very good" to her.

Julie Scherz

File photo by Melissa Lacey
A former student and now a faculty member, Julie Scherz decided to name WSU as the beneficiary of her estate because the university has been "very good," to her, she said.

After working in the Ulrich Museum and College of Fine Arts dean's office for most of the past decade, Caren Miller wants to have a hand in fostering future creativity between the visual arts and dance.

And although he's leaving after only five years at WSU, David Butler wants to ensure he provides a lasting impact.

While their motivations are each different, all three recently decided to make gifts to WSU through their estates.

They are among the 35 current, retired and former WSU faculty and staff members who have advised the WSU Foundation of gifts that will be made from their estates, according to Mike Lamb, associate vice president for planned giving.

"Wichita State has provided so many opportunities for me as a learner and a teacher so I'm glad to give back," said Scherz, a communication sciences and disorders professor. So last fall, she named WSU the beneficiary of her estate.

A Wichita resident for most of her life, Scherz said she came to WSU as an undergraduate because the university was able to offer her scholarships. She earned her master's and doctoral degrees from WSU, thanks to a faculty member's grant-funded project.

The importance of determining where her estate would go she has no siblings or children hit home when Scherz helped care for colleague Hal Edwards a couple of years ago. After being diagnosed with a brain tumor, Edwards had to make his financial arrangements rather quickly.

Because of both her former student and faculty status, Scherz decided to designate that half her estate fund scholarships and the remainder fund faculty development projects, such as travel.

For Miller, an administrative aid to the College of Fine Arts dean, making an estate gift will allow her to help areas she has taken an interest in as a WSU staffer and community member, she said.

Miller, who started her WSU career at the Ulrich Museum in 1994 and will end it with the College of Fine Arts when she retires next year, has enjoyed the activities of the School of Art and Design, the Ulrich Museum and the dance program.

"There's so much beauty when you combine the graphics of art and the movement of dance," she said, on why she has designated that her gift help those three entities work together.

It was her impending retirement that caused Miller to start planning for how she could help WSU. Miller decided to donate a fixed dollar amount from her TIAA-CREF retirement fund.

Butler, the Ulrich Museum director, has become an advocate of planned giving after discovering that it was easy to provide a gift and that any amount was welcome.

"If a bunch of us do this, it will be a good thing," said Butler, who's arranged for a percentage of his estate to be given to WSU. "It never occurred to me that I could do this and I think a lot of people don't realize they can give to the university this way. Most people don't think they're in a position to be a philanthropist, but if you've paid off a house or have a 401K, you can have a sizable estate."

Butler had high praise for the Foundation's respectful manner in helping make a planned gift.

Butler, who along with Scherz joked that they hope WSU doesn't collect on their gifts anytime soon, said he thinks one reason people hesitate to do estate planning is because it involves an uncomfortable subject.

"Death is something we're not comfortable in acknowledging, particularly our own," he said.

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