Gift Planning

Real Estate Donor Stories

Real estate is a valuable asset, and if you have more than you need -- an unused second home, an investment property, a house too big now that the kids are grown -- making a gift of that real estate can be advantageous for both you and Princeton.

Ray Close '51 *64

Some years ago Ray Close purchased a plot of unimproved farmland. Later a major highway interchange was planned nearby. Because of the resulting capital gain it made excellent tax sense to donate the property to Princeton and create a trust, “something I had always wanted to do,” Close said.

Close was an Arab affairs specialist with the CIA for 26 years and then an independent consultant on the region. He and his wife, Martha (Marty), spent 37 years in Arab or Muslim countries, including Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

International understanding is an important priority for Close, whose family has been involved in global initiatives as teachers, businessmen, and diplomats in Arab countries for four generations. He and Marty designated their trust to support the Woodrow Wilson School’s Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative and policy conferences, and for athletics, especially international travel by the women’s varsity teams.

A former vice president of his class, Close currently serves on its executive committee and is an active Annual Giving special gifts volunteer.

"My father, Harold Close '1910 [*22], and my two late brothers, Ralph '44 [*53] and Art '46 [*50], demonstrated to me that nurturing our University can be an enduring source of gratification," Close said. "I believe that this is the most important legacy we as graduates can pass on to future generations of Princetonians."

R. Gordon Douglas Jr. '55

Gordon Douglas gave Princeton a house in Connecticut, near where he lives with his wife, Sheila Mahoney. "When I did the math," he said, "this came out well for me. It ensured income for us, as well as allowing us to make a substantial gift to Princeton -- a classic win-win situation."

A doctor, Douglas specialized in infectious diseases during a distinguished career that included teaching, research, and administrative positions, as well as clinical medicine. He was founding president of Merck's Vaccine Division before his retirement.

Douglas currently works with biotech companies and the Gates Foundation on vaccines for both the developed world and developing countries. A longtime member of his class's Project 55, in the 1990s he was a leader of its Tuberculosis Initiative to mobilize concern about the worldwide ravages of TB.

Now he and his wife co-direct Project 55's Food Project to promote sustainable agriculture. They are also active members of his class, which he served as president from its 50th to 55th reunion, and Douglas loyally contributes to Annual Giving.

"I give to Princeton because it stands for quality," he said. "I know that when I make a contribution it will be well managed and support what I believe in."

Though his trust is not yet allocated, Douglas says it will be directed toward some aspect of health.

L. Desaix Anderson Jr. '58

L. Desaix Anderson Jr. '58 has also been able to transform real estate -- in this case, three condominiums in Washington, D.C. -- into a gift that is particularly meaningful to him. "I welcome the opportunity to thank Princeton for an extraordinary, life-long engagement with ideas and history," he says.

Anderson, a 35-year career diplomat who spent most of his career working on Asian issues, is now devoting his time to painting and teaching. He has lectured at Princeton on East Asian political economies and on Asian security issues. In the summer of 2007 he taught the first Princeton Global Seminar, "America and Vietnam at War: Origins, Implications, and Consequences," in Hanoi, sponsored by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies and the Study Abroad Program.

His gift of real estate through a charitable trust will create a professorship in Contemporary East Asian Political Economies.

Howard A. Prior '28

When President Shirley M. Tilghman came to Princeton in 1986, she arrived as the Howard A. Prior Professor of Life Sciences.  Two years earlier, Howard A. Prior '28 had created six trusts funded with farmland in Maryland that were structured to benefit members of his family during their lifetimes, with the principal ultimately coming to Princeton. The University created the professorship in Prior's honor when he died in 1985.

Prior was interested in the sciences -- molecular biology in particular -- and wanted to create a meaningful legacy on campus in this area. In addition to the professorship, his gift also provided funds for the Lewis Thomas Laboratory, which was dedicated in 1986.

Thomas J. Nelson *68

There are many reasons Princetonians choose to make a gift of real estate through a trust, and some of them are driven by financial prudence. Thomas J. Nelson *68 considered selling some of his real estate investments to make a gift, but the size of the resultant potential capital gains tax bill was a deterrent.

By donating real estate to the University through a charitable trust, Nelson effectively bypassed the immediate capital gains issue and gained tax-efficient payments for the rest of his life.  Princeton's ability to sell the real estate and reinvest the proceeds was an important motivating factor for him.

Beyond purely financial reasons however, donors are motivated by their desire to make a personally meaningful gift to Princeton. Nelson credits attaining his PhD at Princeton with paving the way to a career in academia, which ultimately led to his position as Dean of the Engineering School at the University of Portland.

His gift will provide fellowships for future generations of graduate engineering students: "I made this gift out of the firm conviction that the greatest good in society is produced by a few exceptional, talented leaders -- and no place is better at nurturing the development of an exceptional individual’s talents than Princeton University."

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