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Spring 2010 Texas Leader

Giving News

Spring 2010 Texas Leader cover

2010 Texas Leadership Society luncheon

Texas Leadership Society luncheon

Neuroscience graduate student Andre Haessly discusses her research with TLS members Gary and Lucy Knight.

The appetizer was a close-up look at the endeavors of outstanding graduate students, and the dessert was a performance by a world-class violinist. In between, members of the Texas Leadership Society were treated to lunch, thank-yous, time with close friends, and an insider’s look at The University of Texas at Austin.

The 2010 Texas Leadership Society Luncheon, held in April, gave students and faculty the chance to thank people who have made future gifts to the University through wills, trusts, retirement plans, and other assets. The luncheon is also an opportunity to update TLS members on University research, priorities, and challenges.

Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers

UT faculty member Anne Akiko Meyers performs on her 1730 Stradivarius.

This year TLS members were joined by members of the Class of 1960, who were on campus to celebrate their 50th reunion. More than 300 people attended the luncheon, which culminated with Butler School of Music faculty member Anne Akiko Meyers performing on a 1730 Stradivarius once owned by the king of Spain.

The luncheon was preceded by an Idea Fair, where top graduate students set up displays and discussed their research one-on-one with luncheongoers. Topics included:

  • Depression in teenage girls.
  • Teaching youth about sustainable agriculture.
  • Sleep problems in caregivers of people with
  • Using adult stem cells to repair muscle injuries.
  • The use of social media by Iraq conflict veterans.
  • How high-altitude studies of microbes can help us explore life on other planets.

President Bill Powers described graduate students as part of tomorrow’s research infrastructure and told TLS members: “Any giving to the University is betting on the future.”


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Final estate planning often falls to women

For many centuries a woman’s only legal possession was her dowry, the money and property that she brought to her husband in marriage. Today women control more than half the private wealth in the United States. Women are entrepreneurs, successful professionals, and savvy investors.

Ninety percent of women will make their own financial decisions during some part of their life. And because women outlive their male partners, on average, by five to seven years, many women will make the final decisions about how and when a family’s or partner’s assets are distributed to survivors. Women need to be aware of what they have and what they want to do with it. Women are in control of their bodies and their minds, and need to be in control of their pocketbooks and what to do with them at the end of their lives.

Studies show that fewer than 30 percent of Americans have estate planning documents in place. As an aging population, we need to think about these things and think about them today. Estate planning is not only for you. It’s for your loved ones. You’re working hard to be sure that they’re taken care of. For some of you, your beneficiaries aren’t people but charitable institutions that you wish to support after your death. Regardless of whom or what you want to provide for, you need an estate plan that includes them. Why leave your intentions open to misinterpretations when you can record exactly what you want in an estate plan?

When you don’t have a will or trust that spells out who should inherit your house, your family memorabilia, and all your other precious belongings, or when you have assets that don’t pass by beneficiary designation or to a joint tenant, the laws of the state where you live decide who receives your most prized possessions. Each state is different, with different determinations as to who receives what. If you have your own ideas in mind, you need to document them in a will or trust.

Take note: Estate planning is not a one-time task. The federal and state laws that govern estate administration and death taxes change frequently. Your financial status along with your personal priorities and desires change over time, and so your plans should change to reflect these changes.

It is essential for every woman to take a proactive approach to her special financial requirements and estate planning to ensure her needs are met and her legacy to loved ones and any charity is fulfilled.

The UT Gift and Estate Planning team hosted Smart Planning for Smart Women: An Estate Planning Workshop to engage, educate, and inform women about the importance of estate planning. If you would like more information regarding effective estate planning, please call 866-4UTEXAS (866-488-3927).


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Class act: Shelley Trathen

Shelley TrathenMoney shouldn’t stand in the way of an education, Shelley Trathen believes.

But she knows it happens. Her parents had to drop out of The University of Texas  when the Depression hit.

Trathen was luckier. With the support of her parents she was able to complete her degree at UT Austin in 1956. And now, with a scholarship Trathen has created in her parents’ names, future UT students will have the opportunity her parents didn’t have.

“I love my parents very much, and I wanted to do something to honor them,” says Trathen, a retired teacher of children with special needs. “I think they’d be pleased with it.”

Trathen hopes the Audrey and Sheldon Davis Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Education will make the path toward a UT degree a little easier than it was for her parents.

“I wanted to help others with their education,” she says. “I know it’s expensive to go to school now.”

Trathen has also created a scholarship in her own name. Like the scholarship in her parents’ names, Trathen’s will benefit students in the College of Education.

The Davis scholarship has already been created; the scholarship in Trathen’s name will be created through a bequest in her will. She has also given several outright gifts to the University and created two charitable gift annuities. The Georgetown, Texas, resident likes the twofold benefit of her charitable gift annuities — she receives an income now while knowing that her gift will be used for good later.

Through her parents’ scholarship, Trathen is helping people now, too. She gets to learn exactly how she is making a difference through the annual thank-you notes she receives from scholarship recipients.

One of those students is Kimberly Fish, who is the first in her family to attend college. She is studying for a bachelor’s degree in applied learning and development and hopes to teach younger children in underprivileged schools in central Texas.

“Inspired by teachers who went above and beyond their peers, I have chosen to dedicate my life to inspiring the same drive for learning in young children,” Fish writes in a 2008 letter to Trathen. “Thank you so much for bestowing me with this scholarship. Its use will aid a future educator in achieving her dreams and attaining her goals.”

Trathen’s own path toward becoming a teacher started at home with parents who emphasized the value of education and revered The University of Texas.

“The University was always an important part of our lives — watching football games, seeing the Tower,” Trathen says.

When it came time for her to go to college her mother suggested that she become a teacher. She followed that advice, majoring in elementary education at UT and living at home to save money. She remembers her years at the University as ones where she learned independence and built confidence.

“It opened up my eyes to all these new things,” she says. “It gave me the ability to educate and help others, the kids I had in class.”

By the time she retired in 1994 Trathen had taught in all types of settings — in a two-room schoolhouse, at the Texas School for the Blind, in a Houston classroom, and as an itinerant special-needs teacher in Copperas Cove and Belton, near Killeen, Texas. She became certified in teaching children with visual impairments, and she learned to read and write Braille.

During her time as an itinerant teacher she visited children with multiple disabilities, some as young as 6 months old. Trathen did whatever she could to get through to her students, whether it was crawling on the floor with them, grabbing their attention with a mirror and a flashlight, or making them laugh. Sometimes a hug or a touch worked for students who couldn’t see her facial expressions.

With her gifts Trathen is honoring not only her parents but also her profession.

“You’re giving a gift to the future,” Trathen says. “That’s what you’re doing with teaching.”

Her advice to future teachers?

  • Have patience. “Never say that a kid can’t do something.”
  • Don’t treat all children alike. “You can’t go at every kid the same way. You want to give up sometimes, but keep trying a different way.”
  • “If you don’t enjoy it, don’t teach. The kids know it.”


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UT students to learn French firsthand: Julia Walther

Julia Walther and UT French club in the 1940s

Julia Walther, front row, far right, was a member of UT’s French club, Le Cercle Francais, during her years at the University in the 1940s.

When Julia Walther decided where to leave her legacy, she considered her two great loves: all things French and all things Longhorn.

Walther, a University of Texas at Austin alum who died in 2008 at age 84, bequeathed money in her will to create the Julia Walther/Julia Scarbrough Fisher Endowed Fund for French Graduate Programs. (The scholarship is named for herself and her mother.) Among other things, her gift will be used to provide international travel opportunities for UT students studying French.

“She really wanted students to travel and go use their language skills,” says Alice Scarbrough, Walther’s cousin-in-law and friend.

Walther had no children and no siblings, so The University of Texas at Austin was a natural choice when deciding where to leave her estate, Scarbrough says. In addition to her bequest, Walther gave to the University during her lifetime, something that Scarbrough had encouraged so Walther could see firsthand the good she was doing.

Walther, who earned a French degree from UT in 1946, gave in honor of her mother. Walther’s mother — also named Julia — was the family’s original Francophile. It was her love for French authors that led the family to spend two years in France during Walther’s early childhood. Baltimore-born, Walther ended up speaking French as naturally as her native English.

Walther was also fluent in Longhorn, raised by a mother who grew up across the street from Kinsolving Dormitory and a father who was a UT hall-of-famer in football and baseball.

“She loved the University, and I think that stemmed from her upbringing,” Scarbrough says.

Walther’s father, Walter Woolridge Fisher, received his undergraduate degree and his law degree from UT and was captain of the baseball team during his years here in the late 19th century. His family helped develop the Pemberton Heights area. Her mother’s family owned Scarbrough’s department stores, the last of which closed in 2009.

Walther was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority during her years at UT. She married William Charles Walther, and the couple lived in Houston until his death in 1966. She then returned to Austin, where she was active in several community organizations, including the Junior League Sustainers and Daughters of the American Revolution.


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Champion of the people, champion of the University

Barbara Jordan statue

A bronze statue of Barbara Jordan was unveiled April 24, 2009, on the UT Austin campus near the Battle Oaks. She was the first female public figure to be honored in this way.

Barbara Jordan changed people, and she changed the world.

As a member of Congress and later a professor at UT Austin, Jordan was a champion of the people. And she served the people in ways that were less obvious, too. She was a regular donor during her years here.

Jordan was born in 1936 in Houston. She was elected to the state Senate in 1966, re-elected in 1968, and elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972. She served in the House until 1979, winning national prominence in 1974 when she spoke out in favor of impeaching President Richard Nixon. During her years in office Jordan became known for championing minorities, the poor, and the disadvantaged. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.

Upon leaving Congress she began teaching at UT Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, serving as an adjunct professor until her death in 1996. Her seminars on intergovernmental relations, political values, and ethics became some of the most sought-after graduate courses on campus.

During her years at UT she became a regular donor, giving to Nursing, Athletics, and the LBJ School, where she taught. Others have given in honor of her as well, creating the Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics, the Barbara Jordan Foundation, the Barbara Jordan Scholarship in Women’s Athletics, and the Barbara Jordan Scholars Program.


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Unique giving opportunities end Dec. 31

This is an unusual tax year. For 2010, there is no upper income limit for taking itemized deductions, including charitable deductions — unlike in previous years and what may again be the case in 2011.* As of this year, there also are no income limits for those converting a traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to a Roth IRA. If you expect your 2010 taxable income to be higher than in previous years, or if you’re considering converting an IRA, supporting what you love at UT in 2010 can save a significant portion of the increased income from taxation.

Many retirement-planning experts suggest that now is a good time to convert to a Roth IRA, even if it means paying income taxes to do so. Individual income tax rates are likely to rise, not fall, in coming years, while the top income tax rate is set to increase in 2011. By reporting all the converted income in 2010, you could pay a smaller amount in taxes; meanwhile, as the economy recovers, your investment can grow in a tax-free rather than a tax-deferred account. For 2010 only, you can choose to pay tax on the conversion now or you can defer, paying half in 2011 and half in 2012. If you change your mind later you can revert to a traditional IRA until Oct. 15 of the year of the conversion with no penalty.

For many taxpayers, giving to UT with funds outside the IRA could completely offset the converted income and result in tax-free income in retirement, no required minimum distributions, the ability of heirs to enjoy tax-free growth and income, and the possible reduction of estate taxes. Only you and your tax adviser can help decide what is best for you. The UT Austin Gift Planning team is ready to work with you and your advisers in confidence and without obligation.

* Charitable gifts are still subject to the 30 percent and 50 percent of adjusted gross income itemized deduction ceilings.

For more information about gift planning, please call 866-4UTEXAS (866-488-3927), e-mail or write to:

The University of Texas at Austin
University Development Office
Gift Planning
P.O. Box 7458
Austin, Texas 78713


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