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8.18.06 Paying it forward through gift planning

by Rebecca Lynch

Three alumni have individual reasons for including Tufts School of Dental Medicine in their estate plans, yet they all agree on one thing: The institution was instrumental in helping them achieve their life goals, and they wanted to return the favor.

David Stahl, D51; Martin Sachs, A54, D56; and Barbara Kay, D71, have included the dental school in their estate plans, and they encourage other alumni to follow their lead.

A few years back, Stahl and his late wife discussed their estate-planning options at length. They considered an array of choices and decided to support organizations that reflect their values. "My wife was a college professor," says Stahl, a New Hampshire dentist who practiced for nearly 50 years. "She taught many students who went on to dental school." After making arrangements in their wills for their children and grandchildren, the couple decided to take a little extra to support organizations that reflected their commitment to higher education. "My wife left money to schools and places where she was active. I did the same."

Sustaining philanthropy

Stahl, who is retired, set up a bequest to Tufts in his estate. Bequests are among the easiest gifts to make because donors don't part with funds during their lifetime. His gift, which supports the school's endowment fund, will help to sustain the dental school in perpetuity. As a result, Stahl's commitment to education-and his gratitude to the dental school-will live on forever.

Like Stahl, Sachs, a general dentist, is deeply appreciative of the life he's enjoyed-a success he attributes to his Tufts experience. The Westport, Conn., resident set up a charitable gift annuity, making an irrevocable donation that provides him with income for life. Eventually, the income will benefit the dental school and deserving students who struggle to get their start in the profession. "Every dental student who graduates is in debt for more than $170,000," Sachs says. "Setting up an office is difficult! I grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and I want to support deserving students from the New York City area." Sachs, who co-chaired his 50th reunion this year, is confident in his decision and hopes others will follow his lead. As reunion co-chair, "I would go out and ask for money," says Sachs, who encountered some resistance from potential donors. "But if they're retired, how did they get that way? The school allows you to play golf five days a week in retirement!" "Tufts has allowed me to live a wonderful life," says Sachs, who has been practicing for more than 48 years. "Dentistry is a wonderful profession, and Tufts gave me my start. Everyone should feel indebtedness to the school and give back if they can afford to."

As one of two women graduates of the dental school in 1971, Barbara Kay had the unique perspective of starting her practice at a time when only 1 percent of dentists were women. "Today, 10 to 12 percent are women," says Kay. "Almost 50 percent of [current] students are women." Like Stahl and Sachs, Kay says she is grateful to the school that not only allowed her to pursue a profession she loves, but gave her flexibility in her personal life. "It is a fabulous career for a woman," she says. "I had my own practice and made my own hours. When my child was born, I worked five-hour days. I could have my summers. It was great for me."

Scholarships for women

To help other women enjoy the benefits of the profession, Kay included a bequest in her estate to set up scholarships for women in their third or fourth year of dental school. As a volunteer teacher at the dental school, Kay understands her students are worried about the high amount of debt they must shoulder. "I want to give funds to deserving women students who are really feeling the pinch," she says. "My gift is there because I've had a career I've loved. I want money to be there for other women to have a career they love." Still practicing dentistry part-time, Kay continues to enjoy her active lifestyle. "I'm 60 years old. Today I was on the golf course, and I visited my mom in her nursing home. I volunteer teach once a week." Busy and active, Kay reminds us that estate planning isn't only for the elderly: "You don't have to be old to set up your estate plan. None of us knows about tomorrow. Put Tufts in your estate plan now."

Rebecca Lynch is a free-lance writer in Wayland, Mass.