Alumnus Tom Curtis: Giving Back, Looking Forward
IRA Bequest Will Help GW Students with Financial Need
In the fall of 1964, the George Washington University looked quite different from the school that sits at Foggy Bottom today. Thurston Hall (then Superdorm) was a brand new residence, GW boasted a football team in the Southern Conference, and tuition was $14 per credit hour. This is the GW that Tom Curtis remembers.
"The university was a massively different institution back then," Tom recalls. "Our student union was a small row house on G Street, and there were only three or four residence halls. It was a commuter school."
GW has certainly grown since 1964. It now stretches seven city blocks and hosts approximately 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students from every state and more than 130 countries. But despite the contrasting campuses and the decades that separate them, the heart of the university remains unchanged: students and faculty who want to make a difference in the world.
This is why Tom decided to create a charitable bequest to the GW Power & Promise Fund, so that student aid will be available to deserving students. "When I first started at GW, I was on scholarship and I couldn't have attended without it," he says. "Now that I have the means, I want to see GW achieve world-class status and make it possible for students like me to go here."
Tom's generosity has been influenced by GW in more ways than one. Not only is he inspired by the potential of the university and its students, he also earned a GW degree in economics and accounting that has fostered smart charitable decisions. A financial planner by profession, Tom took advantage of the tax benefits that accompany an IRA bequest while achieving his philanthropic goals.
"Under ordinary circumstances, when you take money out of an IRA, it becomes taxable," Tom explains. "Upon death, the money is first taxed for estate tax purposes and then the beneficiary is taxed for income tax purposes. That means that as much as 80 cents of every dollar gets eaten up in taxes."
Through his bequest, however, Tom was able to control his charitable and personal objectives in tandem. By making a tax-exempt organization like GW the beneficiary of his IRA, Tom's estate will receive a significant tax deduction and the university will receive 100 percent of the value of the IRA that remains after Tom's lifetime. But his smart estate planning didn't stop there. With the expiration of the estate tax laws this year and the reset starting next year, Tom encouraged his son to take out a life insurance policy on Tom's life equal to the amount of the IRA. "So when the time comes, my son gets the life insurance proceeds tax-free," he says. "It's a triple win."
While the financial benefits are clear, Tom maintains that he just hopes to make a difference. "It's incredible to think that you can transform someone's life by providing them with opportunities to excel," he says. And while GW has certainly changed in the last 50 years, it continues to educate and empower students who want to make a difference in the world—much like the students of 1964.