"An Intellectual With a Heart"
Dr. Merlene Ogden Inspires Young Scholars Toward Excellence
Dr. Merlene Ogden '50 found a way to use her life savings to support her life's work. Rather than taking the required minimum distributions from her individual retirement account, she has distributed them directly to Union College in support of the Union Scholars program.
For more than 50 years, Merlene worked with honors students at Andrews University. She created a program that encouraged top students on campus to appreciate art and literature, to explore and discuss new ideas, and to have an intellectual curiosity. After a lifetime of working in this field, she decided that her retirement nest egg should be used to carry on this same work at Union College.
Dr. Malcolm Russell, vice president for academic administration at Union College and member of the Union Scholars guidance committee, worked closely with Merlene and her honors program during his 26 years as a faculty member at Andrews University. Malcolm describes Merlene as an intellectual with a heart, someone who has a passion for students. "She combines her love of learning with her love of people," Malcolm says.
Merlene explains that she is inspired to work with the honors program because "I want to be able to help the good students and the highly motivated students, to get them committed to excellence in new ways and to get them prepared for life."
When Malcolm came to Union College, he helped instill in the honors program the same values that Merlene championed at Andrews University. A major component of the Union Scholars program is to write a senior thesis, which requires students to learn and employ traditional techniques of data gathering and analysis.
"Merlene was always a strong advocate of student research, long before it was popular," Malcolm says. The concept is to give the honors students experience in research and writing that will prepare them for graduate school, in whatever field they choose to study.
The fund Merlene created in support of Union Scholars grants financial awards to help students cover a portion of their research expenses. One student traveled to Africa to conduct studies in a refugee camp. Another student studied philanthropy and how different approaches to writing a case for support will yield different results in people's giving.
When asked why she decided to use her retirement savings in this way, Merlene explains the gifts allow her to continue helping student scholars even after retiring from active participation in an honors program. She says that Union College has always held a special place in her heart, as both her parents taught at Union; she grew up in Lincoln, Neb.; and she graduated from Union with highest distinction.
A Win-Win-Win Gift
Merlene is dedicated to supporting Union Scholars and, financially speaking, the best way to structure her gifts has been to have them come from her IRA. "You have to take it out of your IRA anyway," Merlene says of the required minimum distribution, "but then you have to pay income tax on it." Even if she made a gift to Union College for the exact amount of her required minimum distribution, the charitable gift's tax deduction would not offset all the taxes she would have to pay on the additional income.
Congress allowed the IRA charitable distribution to expire at the end of 2013, so sadly this philanthropic option is not currently available. However, a bill has been presented to Congress that would reinstate this type of gift and it is likely to be passed in 2014.
For Merlene, making gifts from her IRA is a win-win-win situation. The students in Union College's honors program win by receiving grants to carry out their research, and Merlene wins twice: first by receiving additional tax benefits, but more importantly, she is able to use her savings to continue her lifelong dedication to inspiring young scholars to strive toward excellence.
"Union allows me to designate the use of the funds, which is really appealing to me," Merlene says. She is determined to give purpose to the money she is being forced to take from her IRA. Merlene chose to have her savings do what she had always done in the past, to enrich the lives of students and to pass on her love for learning.
So that begs the question, what is the purpose of your savings?
Will You Collaborate With Union College?
If you would like to discuss ways you can give purpose to your savings through a planned gift, please contact Ken Farrow at 402-486-2600, Ext. 2200 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Ken Farrow is full of ideas and is eager to help you carry on your life's work as well.
Information contained herein was accurate at the time of posting. The information on this website is not intended as legal or tax advice. For such advice, please consult an attorney or tax advisor. Figures cited in any examples are for illustrative purposes only. References to tax rates include federal taxes only and are subject to change. State law may further impact your individual results. Annuities are subject to regulation by the State of California. Payments under such agreements, however, are not protected or otherwise guaranteed by any government agency or the California Life and Health Insurance Guarantee Association. A charitable gift annuity is not regulated by the Oklahoma Insurance Department and is not protected by a guaranty association affiliated with the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Charitable gift annuities are not regulated by and are not under the jurisdiction of the South Dakota Division of Insurance.