Corridor, a newsletter from MIT’s Office of Gift Planning, provides insights into planned giving strategies that can help you meet your financial goals while supporting the mission of MIT.

Fall 2019: Featured Stories

A Climate of Transformative Change

Jeffrey Steinfeld ’62, Professor Emeritus

When graduate students in the MIT Department of Chemistry become Ann and Paul Steinfeld Memorial Fellowship recipients, they receive a letter from the fund’s founder, MIT professor emeritus Jeffrey Steinfeld. The letter contains information about the fund’s namesakes, Steinfeld’s parents—the children of Eastern European immigrants who settled in New York City in the early 1900s—as well as a 2,000-year-old quotation by Rabbi Tarfon: “You will not be able to finish the job, but that does not mean you should stop trying.” That saying continues to guide Steinfeld’s thinking when he considers his philanthropic goals. “How is it possible to keep trying when you know that you won’t be able to complete what you set out to do?” he asks. “By helping the next generation who will use their skills, training, and networks to seek a better world. That is what the fellowship is intended to achieve.”

The benefits of planned giving. 
Over the years, Steinfeld has given back to the Institute in a variety of ways, including outright gifts to the Ann and Paul Steinfeld Memorial Fellowship Fund and numerous other programs. The Steinfeld Memorial Fellowship Fund is also partially supported through a charitable gift annuity (CGA) Steinfeld made with assistance from the MIT Office of Gift Planning and will be further supported through a bequest. The CGA provides income to Steinfeld in his retirement—“a welcome addition to my pension, with a better return on capital than other cash investments anywhere,” he says. “Experiences have been good with the Office of Gift Planning. Their active encouragement and leverage helped get the fellowship started and put the pieces together in a coherent way.”

A challenge for our time—and the future. 
Steinfeld spent his career as a professor in the MIT Department of Chemistry from 1966 to 2008. His philanthropic support of MIT not only honors his parents but also supports students who are working to address global environmental issues. “The reality of climate change, aggravated by human activity, and its devastating environmental, economic, and social effects are thoroughly documented,” Steinfeld says. “It is essential for institutions such as MIT to take on leadership roles on these issues. The Institute has been doing so in research, education, outreach, communication, and mobilization for action, all of which are important.”

“Education is probably the most effective measure toward achieving long-lasting advancements.”

Leading through education. 
The scope of Steinfeld’s research at the Institute evolved during his career, building on questions surrounding basic chemistry and physics. Starting in the late 1980s, partially propelled by the work of his former students, his lab began addressing ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect. In 1997, he was a founding member of the Alliance for Global Sustainability, a partnership of four universities. MIT is now a leader in interdisciplinary, collective action against climate change, and the Alliance for Global Sustainability was one of the first organizations to explicitly pursue that mission at the Institute and beyond.

“Education is probably the most effective measure toward achieving long-lasting advancements,” Steinfeld says. “Because of MIT and other educational institutions, we do have a chance of repairing the damage we have caused and are still causing to the Earth system. And hopefully, we will not just help show the way but effect transformative change.” 

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A Home, a Gift, and a Legacy

Benita Cooper SM ’85

Benita Cooper’s MIT connection extends beyond her time as a fellow at the MIT Sloan School of Management: Her late husband, Robert Cooper ScD ’63, was an MIT professor before becoming an influential US government official, including serving as director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. To honor his memory, Cooper has continued to support MIT by founding the Robert S. (1963) and Benita A. (1985) Cooper Scholarship Fund, which was created with a preference for Native American students. Her most significant gift is one of real estate: the home that she and her husband renovated and shared.

Building a life together.
Cooper, whose undergraduate and graduate studies focused on political science, met her husband while they both worked at NASA’s Washington, DC headquarters. Cooper worked there for about 30 years, retiring as associate administrator for management systems and facilities. She currently manages numerous residential properties—some of which she and Robert renovated together. “It was an avocation—we worked together on houses on weekends,” she recalls. “He brought his technical expertise to the planning and design of the project. He also loved the construction and hands-on aspect. Since my family background is largely artistic, I enjoyed the design process and the detail work involved in the restoration of a house. I love seeing the potential in an old house and bringing it back to its former beauty.”

The benefits of a real estate gift.
To Cooper, the benefits of giving this way are not only financial but also philosophical. “Through my giving, I wanted to recognize the academic institutions that had contributed so much to my life and to my husband’s life, as well as the contribution he had made to the space program, to the country, and to MIT,” Cooper says. Her gift of real estate had mutual benefits: Cooper made her gift as a retained life estate, which means that she can still live in her beloved home while supporting MIT. “The gift takes the worry about capital gains tax off my hands, too, and lets me stay in the house as long as I can, which is important to me,” she says.

Shared values for a better world.
Nominated by NASA to apply to the Sloan Fellows MBA program, Cooper has fond memories of her time at MIT. “I loved it—it was a great experience,” she says. “As I’ve grown older, I’ve found myself looking at my educational experiences as the most important things that happened in my life. I wanted to make sure that my giving, to MIT and other institutions, would be a legacy of the values that I cared for and that I knew Bob shared.” Those experiences include her high school and undergraduate education, both of which took place at Quaker institutions. “One of the things that I liked about my MIT program was that it was so diverse, with participants from many countries,” Cooper says. “I continue to admire the percentage of international students that participate in MIT programs. When you consider the problems that we are facing as a planet, the only way they’re going to get solved is if we all work together."

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The Benefits of a Gift of Real Estate

A gift of real estate could be "a win-win" for your family

A few years ago, brothers Jen-King Jao ’71, SM ’71, PhD ’75 and Zen-Kay Jao SM ’71 found themselves faced with the question of whether to sell their father’s house. They ultimately decided to turn it into a gift of real estate through a charitable remainder trust at MIT. “The gift was a way for us to express our gratitude for the superb learning experience we received at MIT,” says Zen-Kay. Jen-King agrees: “It was a win-win situation, especially from a money management point of view. We benefit from the charitable remainder trust income, and, at the same time, the gift benefits MIT.”

Making a gift of real estate allows you to support MIT while avoiding capital gains tax on the sale of the property and—depending on the type of gift—can provide you or your loved ones with an income stream for life. There are many facets to making a gift of real estate, but the MIT Office of Gift Planning (OGP) will work extensively with you and your advisors to ensure that the gift reflects your values and supports the areas at MIT that are important to you.

What follows is a general overview of how to make a gift of real estate to MIT, focused on residential properties—although most other types of real estate will follow a similar process. Consider this list a starting point. For more detailed information, contact the gift planning team in OGP.

How to Initiate a Gift of Real Estate

Step 1: Identify the property.
MIT will consider residential properties, vacation homes, rental and commercial properties, and undeveloped land, among other types of real estate.

Step 2: Consult your financial and legal advisors.
Though OGP works closely with you to navigate the gift process, we are restricted from giving financial and legal advice. When first considering a gift of real estate, you should contact your financial and legal advisors to see if a gift of this nature is best for your financial and tax situation.

Step 3: Contact OGP if you have not already done so.
During your initial conversations with OGP, we will want to learn more about the property, including its location, size, purchase date, and condition, as well as whether there is a mortgage or other liabilities. We will also discuss various methods for making a gift of real estate to learn what is best suited to your goals.

Step 4: Complete the real estate questionnaire and an independent property appraisal.
After the initial conversation, MIT will request that you fill out a questionnaire and provide pertinent documents to begin the gift review process. You are also required to obtain an independent, qualified appraisal of the property for tax purposes. The appraisal will help determine the fair market value of the property at the time of the gift, which is the amount that will be used when recording the gift at MIT.

Step 5: MIT conducts due diligence and finalizes the gift.
The due diligence process for gifts of real estate typically takes four to six weeks after the questionnaire and other pertinent documents are received by MIT. In some cases, it can take longer if additional information is required. Once MIT has completed the due diligence process and if MIT’s Office of the Executive Vice President and Treasurer has approved the gift of real estate, we will work with you and your advisors to finalize the documents necessary to complete the type of gift that you wish to make.

In all situations, OGP works closely with donors to communicate the status of the gift and answer any questions that may arise, working to ensure that the gift reflects your philanthropic values and supports your financial goals.

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