Through a Charitable Remainder Unitrust, Croom will create a legacy of support for students in the biosciences who participate in transformative research experiences.

As a professor of biology at Sewanee, Henrietta Croom found that one of the most compelling experiences was having the opportunity to work one-on-one with students on directed and collaborative research. “We never had money to pay summer interns until we got those Howard Hughes grants,” Croom says. “With the grant, we could pay about 10 students per summer. The interns would report on their research. It was an amazing experience. And I really think that for those students, it was the most important educational experience they had at Sewanee.”

Remembering that experience and the birth of what has become an impactful program of undergraduate research, Croom has set up a planned gift that will eventually establish the Croom Fund for Experimental Molecular Biosciences. It will, first and foremost, have the purpose of directly supporting students, and it will also provide financial support for the equipment and other costs associated with the research.

Croom has set up her planned gift as a Charitable Remainder Unitrust. At her death, the Unitrust will pay 5% per year in earnings to her heirs, a son and a daughter, and then after 20 years, the remainder will establish the Croom Fund. Depending on the performance of the financial markets, the Fund will be one of the largest endowments supporting student research at Sewanee, and it will especially benefit students in Croom’s field of molecular biology. 

“I really wanted those students to have the research experiences,” says Croom, “but I was also motivated by the tax implications of the SECURE Act.” Previous to January 1, 2020, individuals who inherited IRAs were able to combine the inheritance with their own savings. The SECURE Act requires beneficiaries to withdraw the assets from the IRA within ten years and pay the taxes on those withdrawals. Croom quickly realized that the tax implications for her heirs would be significant and worked with Allison Cardwell, director of gift planning, and her tax advisors to set up the Charitable Remainder Unitrust.

“Sewanee was wonderful to me,” says Croom. “As a young person, I would never have put a significant amount of money into a retirement account, but Sewanee supplied a retirement benefit in addition to my salary. I worked there for 37 years, so I am grateful for the generosity of that benefit, and I am happy to return it to the University to benefit those students.”

Croom, who lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, hopes that others will consider the impact of the SECURE Act on their own estate plans and will see the opportunity to benefit both their heirs and Sewanee. “The only reason I am sharing this with you today is to encourage others to consider this option for giving to the university.”

To learn more about options for making a planned gift, contact Allison Cardwell, director of gift planning.