Planned Giving as a Vehicle for Change

Emerson Yearwood ’80

“I remember attending an MIT event where President Reif said that ‘MIT is a gift to the world,’” says Emerson Yearwood, who studied urban planning at MIT and has spent most of his career as an attorney in the communications sector. “I, too, believe that is the case. And I think it’s important that, as MIT stares down the problems that affect the entire world, communities of color share in that gift. These students and communities have something important to contribute.”

Yearwood, whose family emigrated to the United States from Barbados when he was five years old, has put that belief into action through his MIT giving and volunteerism in recent years. Now, his primary focus at the Institute is the Black Alumni of MIT Community Advancement Program and Fund (BCAP), which supports student proposals for public service projects that address the needs of underserved communities of color on and beyond campus. In 2020, Yearwood created a charitable gift annuity (CGA) funded with stock through the MIT Office of Gift Planning to bolster the BCAP fund. He encourages others to look into the unique benefits of this type of gift.

“A win-win situation.”

A CGA provides a fixed annual income for one or two people for the duration of their lives and is then allocated to a donor-designated area at MIT. After consulting with his financial planner and analyzing how the gift might impact his heirs, Yearwood saw that it was a good fit for him as he approaches retirement. 

“The income stream, along with the tax deduction, will minimize the out-of-pocket cost of this gift,” he says. “Conversely, the BCAP fund will realize a healthy gift, which should be multiplied by the savvy investing of MIT’s money managers.” He adds that a gift annuity provides some immediate tax savings and that there were no up-front capital gains consequences when he established the gift with appreciated assets. “Working with the MIT Office of Gift Planning made the actual process of making the gift easy and painless,” he says. “All in all, it seems to be a win-win situation.” 

Paving the road to MIT. 

Coincidentally, one of the first BCAP grants supports the “Talented Ten” program proposed by Danielle Geathers ’22—who has since been elected president of the MIT Undergraduate Association—which draws a parallel to Yearwood’s own experience: the power of a campus visit. The program allows 10 high school juniors who identify as Black/African American and female—an underrepresented demographic in MIT’s applicant pool—to travel to campus and receive mentorship from a current student, free of charge. Yearwood himself hadn’t considered MIT until participating in an MIT Black Student Union-sponsored bus trip to campus as a high school student. 

“I was so impressed by the student presenters that I knew that MIT was where I wanted to go,” he says, noting that even as he sees changes on campus whenever he visits, the vitality of MIT remains the same. “Walking down the Infinite Corridor, you feel how MIT has an energy all its own and how you have to rise to match it.” 

To Yearwood, part of rising to match that energy includes supporting current and future MIT students, particularly those from underrepresented communities. “I think every MIT graduate immediately recognizes the value of the education they received,” he says. “Because of my MIT education, I have never felt that I have been faced with a problem that was insurmountable. I consider it an obligation to make sure the door remains open for others, and a planned gift is one way to do that.” 

To learn more about gifts that provide income, visit

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