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Heritage Society marks 30 years

March 23, 2011

Heritage Society marks 30 years of aiding PLU’s long-term future

Thirty years ago Gerry Evanson ’63, Lori (Hefty ’58) Steen, Jim Sparks ’61, Director of Planned Giving Ed Larson ’57, PLU President William O. Rieke and a few others got together to solve a problem. At the time, PLU did not have much of an endowment. And they knew that, for the university to prosper, that needed to change.

So the group initiated PLU’s Heritage Society, which honors people who have made estate-planning provisions on behalf of the university. These deferred plans include planning vehicles such as bequests, charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts.

“We really wanted to focus on the ‘heritage’ of the school,” Evanson said. “The people I’ve met here have been life-long friends; my time here was a life-changing event. It made sense to make plans to give to the university [through our will].”

Ed Larson, executive director of charitable estate planning, thinks back on those days, and the need for a long-term strategy. “We knew we were late bloomers in terms of endowment,” he said. “This was a big step in solving that problem.”

Now, 30 years later, people like Evanson, Larson and others have been an integral part of PLU’s long-term financial success. The Heritage Society now includes more than 400 families with documented deferred gifts totaling approximately $100 million.

Larson also notes that many who have named PLU as a beneficiary in their will have not notified the university. He encourages those people to contact the university, if for no other reason than so PLU can “express our gratitude” to them.

And it isn’t simply the older generation that is getting involved. Jillian Foss ’10 thinks the same way. Jillian knows she’s unusual – most 2010 graduates aren’t thinking about making a will, let alone a deferred gift to their university. But after she finished PLU, she had a little money left over from what was given to her by her grandfather, and decided to make a deferred gift to PLU through her will. She knew she could help PLU continue to have long-term financial stability, not only after she graduated, but into perpetuity.

“It just made sense to me,” Foss said. “I don’t want my degree at PLU to lose its value.”

Members of the Heritage Society include those who have committed to one or more of the following deferred gifts: bequest, charitable remainder trust, charitable gift annuity, life insurance, gift of residence or farm with a retained life estate, or making PLU a beneficiary of a retirement account.

Larson said there is the obvious benefit to those who have joined the Heritage Society – the $100 million in expected gifts. But there is another benefit, too. When people see that others are participating in the long-term financial health of the university, it builds confidence. And others are more inclined to take part.

“It is a testimony to other people,” Larson said. “It lets them know that there is other money in the pipeline. And that is great for the university.”

There are many ways to make a gift to PLU through the Heritage Society. Contributions can be made through planned giving vehicles, such as a bequest provision, trust, gift annuity or gift of life insurance. To learn more, please contact Ed Larson or Doug Page at or 800-826-0035. Or visit and click on “Make a Gift.”