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A Conversation With Dr. Donald Smith, B.A. '56, M.A. '69, Ph.D. '72

Dr. Donald Smith

Dr. Donald Smith

In January 1999, Dr. Donald Smith established two charitable remainder unitrusts with the FSU Foundation. He continues to add to these trusts whenever he is able. In addition to receiving income from these trusts for life, Dr. Smith is entitled to a charitable income tax deduction every time he makes a cash addition to one of these trusts. The remaining principal in each of these unitrusts at the time of his passing will be used to establish The Sarah May Cummings and Ann Clemons Memorial Scholarship Fund for students studying history at FSU.

Dr. Smith has been kind enough to share a few of the reasons he supports FSU. He has also given us insight into why he chose to use a charitable remainder trust as his primary vehicle for giving. We have asked him questions that many people ask us about our donors, and have printed his responses with his permission.

Q. Why give so generously to Florida State University?

A. I never thought of it as overly generous. I am certain there have been many others that have given more. Are you familiar with what Andrew Carnegie said about wealthy people? "The man that dies rich dies shamed." I agree with that, and I don't believe in leaving sums to children. I believe in providing them with a good secondary school education and matching any amount they earn with money they can spend on an undergraduate education. I believe that graduate school should be something the student subsidizes from his or her own funds. My goal is to take whatever I have and leave it to a place like FSU in a manner that may do good.

I tried to set up a scholarship fund in 1993 after I had started playing with the stock market. At the start, I thought I might be able, over the years, to accumulate about $50,000 in the trusts. The trusts would then be used to set up a scholarship fund that would only be able to provide assistance to students every few years. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be leaving as much as is currently in my trusts. If I died tomorrow, there would be about $300,000 to $400,000 available to endow the fund described above. Surely there will be enough income earned to enable deserving students to receive meaningful assistance every single year—in perpetuity.

Q. What area(s) of the University have you chosen to support and why?

A. I chose the History Department because I was an undergraduate history major, and the subject was always my favorite—it still is, but a doctorate in history isn't that good in the job market. I have often wondered how our involvement in Vietnam would have been different if more people had specific knowledge of Vietnamese history. It might have really changed things. That is why I left my money to be used to provide financial assistance to history students.

Q. What made you choose the charitable remainder trust as a vehicle for making a deferred gift?

A. It seemed to be an ideal way to set things up. Once opened, the donor can add to it with no restrictions as to when or how much. It also generates a tax deduction. And, although I did not have this option at the time, it will allow me to distribute the income from the trust to another person when I die. That distribution will continue until he or she dies, at which time the funds will go to the scholarship funds.

Q. We know that you make additions to your unitrusts almost every year. What made you decide to do so?

A. Of late, I have been making contributions every second year. The reason is simple: income tax. I have no debt and no deductions. So, I use the standard deduction in the years when I don't make a contribution. Forty thousand dollars seems to be an optimal figure for tax deduction purposes, and now I may be able to make such a contribution for two out of every three years.

Q. What advice would you give to other donors who are considering some type of deferred gift to FSU?

A. It would depend on what use they wished to have their contribution put to. If it was a scholarship fund, then I don't think that what I did could be beat. If the contributions are to be used for unspecified things, then I would still recommend the charitable remainder trust.

As Dr. Smith's story demonstrates, a charitable remainder trust can be a flexible tool for making a gift to FSU while retaining some income for you and/or your spouse. If you would like to discuss the benefit of establishing a charitable remainder trust with FSU, please contact us at (850) 644-0753. We look forward to hearing from you!


A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Florida State University a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I give to Florida State University, a nonprofit corporation currently located at Tallahassee, Florida, or its successor thereto, ______________* [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to the FSU Foundation or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to the FSU Foundation as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to the FSU Foundation as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and the FSU Foundation where you agree to make a gift to the FSU Foundation and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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