Remembering "the People Who Propelled Me"

Ralph Serpe smilingRalph Serpe, '85, a philanthropic advisor, maintains a strong emotional connection to the people of Fredonia after following his sister Carole- Lynn, '82, to western New York from their family's North Babylon home on Long Island.

While he studied economics and political science, it was his introduction to music and community service at Fredonia that set the course for his life. "My undergraduate experience was anything but focused," Ralph says. "I played the baritone in wind ensemble, appeared in Fredonia's TV soap opera Heartaches in Life, worked in the dining halls, played volleyball, volunteered for the local March of Dimes, and along with Jennifer Bird Chapin, '85, won the annual dance marathon to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

"I've come to understand the transformative power of a liberal arts education. It provides the tools to overcome challenges, take advantage of opportunity, and think critically in any situation."

Ralph began a career in banking fresh out of school, and 10 years later he took advantage of a nonprofit opportunity to become the first executive director of the lesbian and gay community center in San Jose, Calif., where he was a volunteer. A few years later he joined the development staff of Community Foundation Silicon Valley.

Ralph was 25 when he drafted his first will, which included a bequest to Fredonia. "I wasn't sure what I wanted to accomplish with the bequest," he says, "but I knew I wanted to give back in a meaningful way." He picked up the phone and called the Fredonia College Foundation for some guidance; together they were able to shape his legacy gift.

Now vice president of the Princeton Area Community Foundation and chair of the Gift Planning Council of New Jersey, Ralph says clients regularly seek his advice as they look for ways to pursue charitable objectives that will make sense today and remain relevant in the future. In his spare time he still plays the baritone, is an avid native gardener, and remains active in the drum corps and color guard activities.

Over the years, Ralph says he has updated his estate plan significantly, but his original bequest to Fredonia remains. He recently named Fredonia as a beneficiary of his retirement plan, requesting that his combined legacy gifts support the work of the college foundation.

Ralph says, "My planned gifts to Fredonia honor my sister Carole-Lynn, '82, my Fredonia friends that are still very much part of my life-Jennifer Bird Chapin, Ann Kovach, Michele Lepine and Robert Reader-and the faculty and staff that still guide, encourage and inspire me-Dr. Marwan El Nasser, Jim Hurtgen and Patty Feraldi.

"We all move forward in life. I wanted to be sure I remembered the people who propelled me in the right direction."

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Fredonia College Foundation a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to Fredonia College Foundation [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to Fredonia or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate, or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the gift tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Fredonia as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Fredonia as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and Fredonia where you agree to make a gift to Fredonia and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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