by Joan Brasher
When Gisela Mosig succumbed to cancer on Jan. 12 at the age of 72, colleagues knew the world had lost a great scientist, a committed teacher and a loyal friend. What many did not know is that she left behind an extraordinary gift a $1.7 million bequest to the University. She knew that leaving her financial resources to Vanderbilt would ensure the institution to which she dedicated almost half her life would benefit after her death, and for many years to come. She is not alone in this belief. Over the past five years, more than $60 million in bequests have been added to the funds in the endowment.
A pioneer in genetic research and a Vanderbilt faculty member for 38 years, she escaped Nazi Germany on bicycle at 18 with nothing but the clothes on her back. Before her death, her retirement funds and other portions of her estate had grown significantly. She made the decision to leave $1.7 million to the University, divided between the Department of Biological Sciences and the Germanic and Slavic Languages Department.
This gift will enhance the national and international visibility of an already strong program in significant and enduring ways, said Dieter Sevin, professor of Germanic languages and literatures, chair of the department, and friend of Mosig. She was a truly remarkable person, a great scientist with an intense interest in German literature and a dear friend of the department. Hers will be a living memory.
The gift will enhance the departments ability to offer more competitive stipends and financial support for graduate students study and research abroad, as well as foster long range cooperative research and service-related projects, he said. A similar impact will be made on the Department of Biological Sciences.
Obviously we think its a great thing and we feel very honored, said Charles Singleton, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. We view it as a way to attract a higher quality of students we might not get otherwise by adding some prestige to a named position, as well as the added funds. We are very honored by it and we think it will be a meaningful honor for the students selected.
Vanderbilt is currently in the midst of its $1.25 billion Shape the Future giving campaign, which has a separate $100 million goal for future bequests. The campaign launched publicly in April.
This is a generous gift, and we were not only surprised but also very moved, when we received it, said Robert Early, executive associate vice chancellor of development and alumni relations. Whats wonderful is that its from someone who obviously was devoted to the University, and then demonstrated that devotion in a very tangible way.
Giving a portion of ones estate to Vanderbilt in the form of a retirement plan, as Mosig did, is not only a way to create an ongoing legacy, but makes good financial sense as well, said Eva Daneker, director of planned giving.
With a retirement plan, if you leave it to your children, they might get as little as 30 percent after taxes, Daneker said. When you leave it to charity, the charity gets dollar for dollar. The other obvious advantage of giving through bequests is it provides a giving opportunity for people who really want to do something, for example, create a scholarship, but arent sure they can afford to do so during their lifetime.
Since bequests are placed in the endowment, the principal is not touched, so in effect, the funds will continue to benefit the University indefinitely.
When a gift goes into an endowment, it lasts in perpetuity, said John S. Beasley II, vice chancellor, emeritus, and counselor to the Chancellor. Because Professor Mosig was someone whose life was one with students and faculty, who walked this campus for so many years, its enormously fitting that her gift will continue to benefit the University and, really, mankind for as long as Vanderbilt is here.
For more information, visit http://www.vanderbilt.edu/alumni/plannedgiving.
Posted 10/10/03 at 10:00 a.m.