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Honor the past, reach for the future

Memories continue through thoughtful planned giving

By Drew Vass

The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Allied Health Professions marks the starting point for purposeful living. Naturally, those who dedicate their lives to a health care profession want to help perpetuate their field and mission by donating to their alma maters. Financial gifts often arrive at the urging of campaigns (soliciting our help); but pledging ongoing support allows for more purposeful use of donated funds.

Whether it be a pledge for annual support or a bequest through an estate or life insurance policy, planned giving not only makes good financial sense, but it is a vehicle by which charitable donations become philanthropic missions.

“All it takes is a documented statement of intent,” says Brian Thomas, senior executive director of development for the MCV Foundation. “We work with donors to ensure that the planned gifts make good sense for them and align with fundraising priorities on the MCV Campus for its schools, departments or units.” Following are a few of the personal stories behind recent planned gifts.

“These stories honor the past and provide hope for the future,” says Jessica F. Gurganus, assistant dean for development for the School of Allied Health Professions. “Planned gifts provide alternatives for retirement planning, creative financial vehicles and peace of mind that philanthropic missions will be achieved. These MCV Society members are a part of something bigger. This is where visions, names and memories live forever.”

The journey continues

James Hood II

James Hood II

James Hood II (M.S. '78/RC; Cert. '85/PC) says he has had plenty of opportunities to contemplate death.

“Last year I nearly drowned,” he says. “I came within 30 seconds. And that’s happened to me a number of times over the years.”

During his 25-year career as a rehabilitation counselor, Hood spent his evenings and weekends navigating some of the world’s toughest whitewater, competing as a slalom canoeist. After an early retirement, he spent five years traveling the U.S., mountain biking in various regions. Though he’s planning for many more years of adventure, along the way, he’s had time to ponder his life and what he will leave behind.

“All of the things that I am and the many friends that I’ve made, as well as the amount of respect that I’ve received in this profession — it all came from VCU and the School of Allied Health Professions,” Hood notes.

As a student, Hood says he barely scraped by on the G.I. Bill and a work-study program that paid him $2.50 an hour (then the minimum wage). When it came time to decide what he would do with a life insurance policy he earned through the state of Virginia, he decided to meet with the MCV Foundation to discuss how he might bequeath the money to help students in similar need. The resulting James M. Hood II Memorial Scholarship will go to graduate students studying rehabilitation counseling.

“I can touch a lot of lives in a positive way,” Hood says. “And they can say, ‘Who is this guy Hood?’ and then look into it.“

No doubt, they will find stories of high adventure and neardeath experiences, coupled with a lifetime (and thereafter) spent helping others.

No better time than now

Jay White

Jay White

As the director of professional and community development for the Department of Gerontology, Jay White (M.S. '11/G) understands the importance of getting a jump on planned giving.

“One of the things we see in gerontology is that people could be a lot more proactive in their planning when it comes to aging, which includes philanthropy and legacy gifts,” he says. “Better to begin a conversation about how you might like to be remembered ahead of time than to have to pay lawyers to figure it out at the last minute.”

When it comes to planned giving, White says the sooner the better. As a student in the gerontology department, he decided to explore ways for making a contribution to his field of study. White’s financial adviser suggested that he establish a planned gift through the MCV Foundation, with the stipulation that the money be used to support the mission of gerontology.

“We’re not talking about a huge amount of money, but as far as the proliferation of the department and the university, I can’t think of a better cause to give to than improving eldercare through education,” White says. “Let’s face it, we’re all aging every day. We have 77 million baby boomers who just began to turn 65 this year. Society is woefully unprepared for that.”

White points out that not only did the move meet his philanthropic goals, but it also made financial sense.

“Because of the way my funds are set up, if I pass before those funds are exhausted, the federal government gets the current taxable rate, which is probably 25 to 30 percent,” he says. “If I leave that behind to a 501(3)c, they don’t get any of it.”

He views the arrangement as a win-win.

A spirit of giving

Eleanor and Winston Gouldin in Egypt

Eleanor and Winston Gouldin in Egypt

When a loved one passes, there are many ways to preserve memories, but few ways to preserve their spirit and character. Cindy Gouldin’s (B.S. '87/PT) was a spirit of giving and compassion. She was a physical therapist and a prolific volunteer who was passionate about her work. With her untimely death at the age of 39 from complications associated with a brain tumor, her parents, T. Winston Gouldin, M.D. (M.D. '54), and Eleanor Gouldin ('53/N), began searching for a means to preserve her spirit of public service. Ultimately, they found a way through donations and planned giving.

“When you lose a loved one, it leaves a hole in your heart,” Winston Gouldin says. “I think that’s especially true when it comes to children. We were searching, ever since she died, for ways to honor her.”

The Gouldins created a children’s program in Cindy’s honor at their church, but they wanted to establish something more permanent, something aimed at two of Cindy’s greatest passions — physical therapy and public service. Through two initial donations, they created a scholarship that will benefit two physical therapy students who exhibit a drive for public service. Nominees are self-selected and provide a list of service-related activities, and then students vote on candidates within their class. The couple found the act so gratifying that they later made a planned gift, which will be fulfilled through their estate. The donation will establish two additional scholarships — one in physical therapy, the other in nursing.

Winston Gouldin wrote a book, “Cindy: A Story of Love,” commemorating his daughter’s life and memory. Each scholarship recipient receives a copy, allowing them to “know” the spirit they help preserve through their work. The book is also available on, with proceeds benefiting brain tumor research.

Replanting seeds for success

Roger and Donna Robertson

Roger and Donna Robertson

Roger Robertson (B.S. '77/PT; M.S. '87/PT) and his wife, Donna (B.S. '77/OT), years ago sat down to do a little soul searching. The two decided it was time to re-evaluate their goals for what they would “leave behind in this life,” he says. While pondering a list of possible benefactors, VCU was top of mind.

“We sat down and said, ‘OK, we’re going to do this. Now, which organizations or charities do we feel connected with?’” Roger Robertson says.

It comes as no surprise that the two feel connected with VCU. They met on the university’s West Campus in 1974, while he was working toward applying for the physical therapy program and she was doing the same for occupational therapy. More than 30 years later, both work for Vidant Health, a 10-hospital health care system that’s headquartered in Greenville, N.C., where they currently live. He serves as president for the company’s network of community hospitals. She continues to work as an occupational therapist.

“In essence, VCU provided us with the education, skills and professional orientation that we needed to be successful in our careers,” Robertson says. “We feel obligated to give back to an organization that made that much of an impact on our lives.”

The two sat down with their financial adviser to establish how they might use a life insurance policy for philanthropic purposes. The MCV Foundation is one of several organizations listed as benefactors, with no stipulation for how the donation will be used. Instead, the couple decided to allow the foundation to direct the money toward its best use. Their intention is to help perpetuate the system that paved the way for two prosperous careers.

“We’re well aware of the challenges that public institutions go through in this day and age,” Robertson says. “We’re happy to do our part to help alleviate some of those struggles.”

Drew Vass (B.A. '02) is a contributing writer for VCU Allied Health.

Types of planned giving

Planned giving refers to any charitable gift that requires a plan for execution (as opposed to, for instance, an immediate cash donation). The most typical types of planned gifts that the MCV Foundation receives include the following:

Simple bequests – Donors retain full control of the property, but include bequest wording that designates the foundation as a beneficiary of property in their will(s). This method often results in a tax savings for individual estates. Donations can include cash, securities, real estate, personal property or virtually any owned asset.

Charitable remainder trusts – Created when donors irrevocably transfer cash, securities or property to a trust for the foundation’s benefit. In exchange, donors or designated beneficiaries receive a fixed dollar amount on an annual (or more frequent) basis for life, or for a fixed term of up to 20 years. At the death of the donor and/or beneficiaries, or at the end of a designated term, the trust terminates and the assets transfer to the foundation.

Charitable gift annuities – An annuity contract that allows for the transfer of assets to the foundation with the stipulation that the foundation make regular, fixed payments to the donor over the course of the donor’s life.

Charitable lead trusts – A common means for supporting the university’s programs while transferring assets to beneficiaries (typically surviving family members) at a reduced amount of gift and estate taxes. The use of the word "lead" reflects the fact that the foundation manages the trust and related investments. In this way, the foundation receives immediate income while heirs may ultimately receive a larger inheritance than they would otherwise through an outright bequest or accumulation trust by means of reduced tax rates.