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Can we throw you a party?

Can we throw you a party?

The wife of a longtime Southwest Florida Community Foundation volunteer contacted me and told me the following story.
Her husband will turn 80 soon. When she asked him what he would like to do for his birthday (“family cruise” “big party”?), he said, “Nothing, thanks, we don’t need to do all that. Maybe just a can of new tennis balls.”

But then he came up with an idea of what he would like to do to mark the occasion.

A bit of background: In his college years, he was a sports broadcaster. After a graduate degree in communications, he helped put public television on the air. He rose quickly to executive positions, and then was a professor at Boston University for many years, teaching broadcast communications to undergraduates and graduates, many of whom still keep in touch with him.

When he moved to SW Florida, he volunteered as a scholarship reader for the Foundation. In a 2009 guest column about the experience for this newspaper, he wrote, “Although I was one of many judges and had only 30 applications to assess, I found myself facing one of the most difficult assignments I’ve ever undertaken.” But he loved doing it, and getting to know the students through their heartfelt essays.

We told him we could host a small 80th birthday party at the Foundation for him, with champagne and a photographer to take a portrait of his immediate family. Then he could happily announce his birthday present: the establishment of an endowed scholarship fund, to benefit motivated students with financial need. His family is making a current donation to open the fund, but it will later be supplemented by the assets in his IRA, which he has left to his scholarship fund.

“That was advice from Investors Security Trust,” his wife explained. “Our advisor said it was about the most perfect tax-free structure the government has given us – you put money into an IRA tax-free, it grows tax-free, and then if you give it to charity, it comes out tax-free.”
Her husband didn’t really care about the tax benefits – he is just looking forward to meeting the first recipient of his scholarship this spring, and following the student’s progress.

So, can we throw you a party too?

If you would like to learn more about honoring a family member with an endowed fund or how philanthropic gifts can be used to mark a special moment, email me at [email protected] We would love to celebrate with you!

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation has been supporting the communities of Lee, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry, and Collier counties since 1976. With assets over $72 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $57 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. For more information, please call 274-5900, or visit our web site at

Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More