Donors Support Civic Engagement—Now and Into the Future

November 30, 2016

Bill and Carol Titus with Jim Peterman2016 was a very good year for Carol Shepherd Titus, C’81, and her husband, Bill (pictured at left with Jim Peterman, director of the Office of Civic Engagement). The purchase of the bank for which they worked by another bank gave them a windfall that left them thinking about how they could make a positive change in the lives of others and see to their own futures at the same time. “I volunteered at a free medical clinic in Grundy County, and I ran into so many Sewanee students and faculty who were also volunteering,” says Carol. “I knew that Sewanee was working a lot in the community, but I wanted to learn more.”

Carol and Bill learned as much as they could about Sewanee’s new Office of Civic Engagement, a big tent that now encompasses outreach, in which Carol had participated as a student, (among other things, she volunteered for  Big People for Little People at Sewanee Elementary), and new initiatives: course-based service-learning, a Bonner Leaders program, the Canale Fellows, and a VISTA corps. 

Carol and Bill  are driven by their own life experiences to give back to Sewanee's civic engagement effort. Bill is drawn to the practicality of the OCE's work, seeking solutions with the partnership of the community and not impractical home run shots. Carol is drawn to the work from a lifetime of service to others, beginning when she was a child helping her grandfather take food to people in need. 

"My grandfather had a double lot in Nashville, and he planted a huge garden," says Carol. "Our family ate some of the food, but he gave much of it away. I remember riding with him as he made deliveries, and that made a huge impression on me. 

Carol, who specialized in health care lending as a banker, takes time to volunteer when St. Thomas hospital is working on a free medical clinic, and she learned more about Sewanee's OCE during one of those events, when she met Sewanee students and VISTA members helping the clinic serve people with poor access to health care. 

“We were really impressed with what is happening,” says Bill. “The work the office is doing is grounded in reality and at the same time accomplishing so much in partnership with the community.”

After Carol and Bill looked closely at the program, they decided that they really wanted to make a two-part gift: to establish an endowment now with an outright gift and match that with a planned gift, made through a charitable gift annuity (CGA). Their gifts are the first major contributions to a challenge posed by a Sewanee family who is covering the cost of running this program while a sustaining endowment is raised.

A charitable gift annuity is just one planned giving instrument that donors use to include Sewanee in their estate plans. The donor gives a tax-deductible lump sum to Sewanee, which is placed into an annuity that at first works like any other annuity by paying out life income. The amount the CGA pays is dependent on the age of the donor. An older donor earns more income than a younger one, because the payout will likely take place over more years for a younger donor. 

“The importance of planned giving in the campaign cannot be overstated,” says Jay Fisher, vice president for advancement. “About 40 percent of the total we have raised in the Stronger Truer Sewanee campaign has been in planned gifts, and other significant gifts have come from realized bequests—essentially money the University has inherited during the course of the campaign.”

For the Tituses, making an outright gift to establish an endowment allows them to make an impact now while the CGA is a way of planning for how they will continue to support Sewanee and the community long after their passing and also a way of planning for their retirement. “Our gifts are really bringing us joy,” says Carol. “And they are also quite practical. That appeals to the head and the heart.”

For more information on gift planning, contact Allison Cardwell, Director of Gift Planning at 931.598.1761 or at strongertruergifts@sewanee.edu.