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 2017: Featured Stories

A Better World Through Education

Mark ’69 and Rowena Braunstein

Mark Braunstein ’69, a long-time member of the MIT Educational Council, and his spouse, Rowena, believe in the power of education and how it can change the world. This conviction helped motivate them to support undergraduate education at MIT.

Mark came to MIT hoping to study the field of computing but was ahead of his time because a major in that field did not yet exist in the Institute’s curriculum. “Instead, I majored in physics and humanities, which taught me how to think and work hard,” explains Mark. Still interested in computing, Mark spent much of his free time on a PDP-1 computer in the MIT Radio Astronomy Laboratory. As Mark considered his future, his cousin, a research-oriented physician, suggested that he combine computing and medicine, so Mark decided to go to medical school.

While at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), Mark met his wife, Rowena, who was in his class. Mark led the development of one of the first electronic medical record systems for an experimental clinic in the department of family medicine. Rowena, whose father had worked at the MIT Radiation Laboratory, went on to become a family medicine physician.

After medical school, Mark joined the faculties of family medicine and pharmacy at MUSC for a few years before continuing into the business world based on the work he did at MUSC. Mark started and eventually sold health care software companies, which led him to Atlanta, Georgia, where he is currently a professor of the practice, teaching health informatics at the School of Interactive Computing in the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Mark and Rowena stay connected to MIT by giving back, with both their time and by giving annually. “I was a founder of the Atlanta Chapter of the MIT Enterprise Forum, so that further cemented my relationship with the Institute,” states Mark. “We’ve always donated because I felt it was a wonderful place, and it has helped me a lot over the years.”

“The motivation for our gift was education. It’s the key to the future and the road to a better world.”

For the past decade, Mark has also been part of the MIT Educational Council, a network of alumni members and an on-campus staff, who work with the MIT Admissions Office to recruit the best and brightest students for MIT’s freshman class.

As Mark and Rowena began to think about retirement, they turned back to MIT to look at planned giving options, eventually settling on a gift annuity. Their work on the Educational Council helped identify their gift’s purpose: undergraduate scholarships. “I think the thing that had the biggest influence on me was seeing some of the kids that I interviewed, whose families could not afford MIT, accepted and able to go because of need-blind admission,” says Mark. Rowena adds, “The motivation for our gift was education. It’s the key to the future and the road to a better world.”

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Magnifying Impact With Planned Gifts

Brad ’72 and Susan Billetdeaux

Brad Billetdeaux has had many careers in his lifetime, all on a path that started at MIT. “MIT was so instrumental in forming my life,” Brad explains. “It was a stepping stone for my careers.” Brad and his wife, Susan, have stayed connected to MIT by giving back to the Institute’s Annual Fund for 46 years.

As a chemical engineering major with a minor in electrical engineering, Brad secured a job in the oil industry directly after graduating. Over time, the position eventually evolved into including mostly computer work. “This gave me the tools, the curiosity, and the introduction to the IT field that I just loved,” says Brad. Now semi-retired, Brad helps the Houston Audubon Society with its IT.

Brad and Susan met through the MIT-Wellesley College exchange program. Brad took advantage of the new way to meet the humanities requirement and went to Wellesley for a Chinese history course, which Susan was also taking. Early in their relationship, Brad won her over by using a program he wrote on an interactive computer he learned about in one of his MIT courses. The two married shortly after graduation.

In addition to their annual gifts, the Billetdeauxes decided to establish both a bequest intention and a charitable remainder trust to benefit MIT. The bequest intention not only counts toward MIT’s Campaign for a Better World, but both gifts count toward Brad’s reunion year. The gifts are designated as unrestricted, which allows MIT to be flexible, to act quickly, and to funnel funds to areas most in need. “There are so many great areas to support at MIT,” says Brad, “we couldn’t pick just one. We trust that MIT knows best what areas need funding.” Brad also explains, “I get to be a partner with MIT. I feel like I’m involved and making an impact. Also, a charitable remainder trust is a good investment.”

Brad and Susan have given back to MIT, the place where they met, for decades. “MIT brings together so many people from all over the world to do amazing things, and we wanted to help,” says Susan.

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