Katharine E. Stewart ’85, PhD, MPH, fell in love with great teaching at NCSSM, and now she’s Professor and Senior Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs at NC State University. Dr. Stewart gives back to ensure that future Unicorns have as many, if not many more, opportunities as she did at NCSSM.
Tell us about why NCSSM is so special to you.
I know many alumni say it, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that NCSSM changed the course of my life. I explored more about science, literature, social science, the humanities, mathematics — I got better at all of those. I fell in love with teaching, especially great teaching. I saw examples of what really great teaching could be at NCSSM and eventually became a professor myself. Science and Math provided a place for me to grow intellectually, socially, and emotionally, and all of that was incredibly positive and life-changing. Really, what it comes down to is: I want to be sure that the students who are selected for NCSSM now and in the future have as many — and hopefully lots more — opportunities than I did when I was there.
Why did you decide to make a planned gift to NCSSM?
I’ve been donating to the school all along. I try to donate every year, but at this point in my career the amounts that I can afford on an annual basis aren’t maybe as big as I would personally like. In my career in higher education, I’ve been involved in a lot of activities related to fundraising, so I have learned more about planned giving options. When I learned how easy it was to name the NCSSM Foundation as a beneficiary to my retirement account, I thought that would be really cool — so that’s what I did. They’re named as a percentage beneficiary. As the retirement account gets bigger, my gift to NCSSM gets bigger; so it’s really easy for me to grow that support for NCSSM in that way.
What was the process like for setting up the gift?
It was surprisingly easy. When I log in to my retirement account’s website (the financial institution’s website), there’s a page for setting up the beneficiaries of the retirement account. All I needed was the address of the NCSSM Foundation and their tax ID, which I got from the Development office, and I just typed that in along with the percentage I wanted to go to the school, and that was it. It probably took me five minutes.
What would you tell someone who is unfamiliar with planned giving at NCSSM or just beginning to think about it?
For me, it’s really about intention. We hope we all live a very long and healthy life, but we don’t know when our last day will be. If your intention is to support NCSSM, and this would be a way that you could do it, it’s better to just go ahead and set it up to reflect your intentions right now. Even when you anticipate that it may be decades before that gift becomes reality, it just seems to me to be a very clear statement of support. And it also ensures that your family understands what your intentions are so there’s no confusion when you do get to the end of your life.
I think that it’s never too soon to think about, “What is the impact I want to have beyond the scope of my life?” There’s something that is absolutely not morbid to think about, how you can have a meaningful effect on things that had a meaningful effect on you. To me that’s not morbid, that’s hopeful. And that’s really why I encourage people to do this.
I think it’s great that NCSSM is helping their alumni, friends, parents, everybody think about that. The effect could be huge. I hope more people choose to include NCSSM in their planned giving strategy going forward.