In the News


Part of the Plan

Recent major gifts to UWSP highlight the importance of legacy giving

Jeanne Nagle | In the News | August 2023

Sally (Emmel) Fiddler ’61 was able to continue her studies and complete her education degree thanks in large part to the efforts of Warren Jenkins, a history professor at Point from 1934 to 1972. Years later, Fiddler and her husband, Jeffrey, were able to show their continued appreciation for this act of kindness by making an estate gift of more than $2 million to UWSP in Jenkins’ honor.

Before he passed away in August 2022, Father James Patrick McNamee ’68 lived a life of service—to God, the Church and his community. The last took shape through the generous support of causes and organizations that were close to his heart. Among these were the Marshfield Clinic Health System Foundation, the Knights of Columbus and—thanks to a foresightful and thoughtful bit of planned giving—the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Once a Pointer, always a Pointer. Being an alumnus or friend of UWSP is a lifelong proposition. And sometimes, as in the case of McNamee, Sally Fiddler and other generous souls who have included the university in their estate planning, it can even extend beyond a lifetime.

According to UWSP Foundation Interim Director Peter Crawford, “Some of the most transformational gifts the university has received have been bequests, gifts whose impact will last for generations.” 

The stories behind such lasting gifts are heartwarming and enlightening. “Making a planned gift is incredibly personal,” says Crawford, “and each circumstance is unique to the donor.” 

Take, for instance, the legacy gift made by the Fiddlers. Sally was a Central State College Life and Sciences graduate who majored in English and minored in history and German. She went on to teach in the Chicago educational system for many years, making a difference in the lives of countless students. Jeffrey had a successful career in computer technology.

The Fiddlers’ donation is among the 10 largest gifts to UWSP, and the largest endowment for student scholarships. Scholarships established through the couple’s generosity will benefit students undertaking degrees in STEM and business programs.

Through legacy giving, the Fiddlers have picked up Jenkins’ legacy of kindness by helping current and future UWSP students as they traverse along their educational journeys. 

In a press release announcing the Fiddlers’ gift, Chancellor Thomas Gibson was quoted as saying, “While most of us did not know the Fiddlers, their generous gift is a remarkable example of the impact one person’s kindness and support has on another, and the ripple effect it inspired decades later.”

Then there is the gift from Father McNamee that seemed—pardon the ecumenical pun—preordained. 

As a student at Wisconsin State University in the 1960s, McNamee served on the Iris yearbook staff, sat on the Smith Hall Council and was an active member of the French and German clubs, as well as the Newman Student Association. Later, he studied at a conservatory and wrote music. 

Among several parochial posts McNamee held in his official capacity as a Roman Catholic priest, he also served as the eyes and ears of the bishop as dean of a group of consolidated parishes in an around Sparta, Wisconsin. Ministering to inmates at the Oxford Federal Correction Institution was an assignment he dedicated himself to for many years, retiring from the post shortly before his death.

Fr. McNamee’s $300,000 legacy gift was part of a family inheritance that he never spent. Instead, “he chose to invest in a cause he believed in, namely UWSP,” says Crawford.

Choice is a key element in legacy giving at the university. Planned gifts allow individuals to dictate how and where the funds are used. The Fiddlers’ bequest was focused on student scholarships, while McNamee’s gift is being administered by the UWSP Foundation to ensure that financial needs across campus are met. Other gifts have been earmarked for specific departments or programs.

 “When it comes to talking about what they want their gift to accomplish, we encourage them to think about what is meaningful to them and to think about ways they want to be remembered at UWSP,” says Advancement Manager Cindy Weber. “We find that those who make an estate gift while living find an immense joy in being able to craft and shape their legacy while they are still able to witness the impact.”

One common myth is that legacy giving is only for those who can make sizable bequests, such as Fr. McNamee and the Fiddlers. Not necessarily, asserts Weber.

“We are grateful for gifts of all sizes,” she says. “In many cases, even smaller bequests can have a large impact on a program, depending on the costs of said program. Oftentimes, by setting up your gift in a way that lessens or eliminates the taxes that may be placed on your bequest, you may be able to make a gift that is even more significant than you may have first thought.”

Weber emphasizes that making a legacy gift comes with additional, personal tax benefits to the donor as well. 

Another avenue donors take is to name the university as the beneficiary on a life insurance policy. Regardless of the method used, Weber emphasizes that legacy giving should be merely an extension of a person’s overall estate plan.

“We encourage all donors to talk with their financial planners to ensure they are taking care of themselves and their loved ones first and foremost,” she says.

When you think of it, planned giving in support of UWSP constitutes something of a meta moment. By ensuring their own legacy as Pointers, alumni and friends of the university make it possible for future generations to create their own legacies as well.

“The greatest gift an individual can give to their alma mater is one that ties their legacy to UW-Stevens Point,” says vice chancellor of University Advancement and UWSP Foundation CEO William Broussard. “Including UWSP in your estate plan is the ultimate commitment to an institution that has changed lives for 130 years, to ensure that it continues to do so long into the future.”