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Leaving a legacy

UM Columns Society to honor planned giving donors

News Reporter

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 22:11


Brian Wilson

History department chair Janann Sherman, a member of The University of Memphis Columns Society, is “leaving it all” to the U of M when she dies.

The University of Memphis Columns Society will honor donors who plan to give to The University in their estate plans.

Janann Sherman, history department chair and professor, plans to leave her entire estate to The U of M. She will speak to a University Center River Room, full of charitable givers at the third annual Columns Society Luncheon, set to take place Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“I’m leaving it all — whatever is left that I haven’t managed to spend before I die,” Sherman said. “My home, money and life insurance policy will all go to The University.”

Dan Murrell, director of planned giving, said estate giving is “vital” for the stability and growth of a metropolitan research university.

“Those who include The University in their estate plans are placing The U of M on a very high pedestal, perhaps on the same level as their children or houses of worship or other valued organizations,” Murrell said. “It is not a decision made lightly and we should honor them.”

Sherman said the decision to donate her estate was purely logical.

“I have no obvious heirs, I have no kids, and my husband is deceased. What better way to leave behind a legacy than with a perpetuity?” she said.

Murrell said it takes true dedication to pledge one’s estate to The U of M.

“The members of the Columns Society are making an investment in the continuing efforts of future generations of students who will become dreamers, thinkers and doers,” he said. “They are making an investment in caring faculty who educate and inspire those students, and supporting the infrastructure that makes all of this possible.”

Anyone could become a member of the Columns Society, including alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of The University.

Membership is open to anyone who has made provisions for The U of M Foundation through a variety of estate planning options. There are more than 150 individuals and couples currently in the Columns Society but the group honors their deceased members as well.  

Robert Sharpe, president of the Sharpe Group, has more than 25 years of nonprofit fund development experience and has helped hundreds of leading nonprofit organizations and institutions in implementing their major gift and endowment efforts.

“Planned giving is any gift of any amount, given for any purpose which requires the assistance of various advisors and may include estate and financial planning issues,” Sharpe said.

Murrell said for someone wants to become a member of the Columns Society, he or she needs to tell his department that The U of M is in his or her estate plans.

“If there is a dollar value, that gift may be something we can count in our campaign totals,” Murrell said. “All of these gifts are very important and very meaningful, and this is why we hold an annual luncheon in honor of the Columns Society.”

The University depends on donations from planned giving to reach a $250 million goal, set last September. To date the “Empowering the Dream” campaign has raised more 78 percent of that goal – $194 million.

Donors can choose to what and to where their money is applied. Gifts can be made in memory or in honor of someone. Sherman plans for her estate to go toward a scholarship for a history department graduate student.

“I want to give back,” she said. “I found a lot of inspiration when I came here. Students struggle against pretty large odds — two jobs or a family. I find that inspiring. I’ve seen what a little money can do. Or even without money, just the award can inspire students to overcome and do better. I don’t think you can set a price on that.”

Murrell said The U of M couldn’t survive if not for donors like Sherman.

“These people were here and left their mark in some way – they have already left a legacy with their presence, their time, their involvement and their relationships. Each successive generation that follows will be touched by their legacy,” Murrell said.


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