Dr. Benjamin F. Plummer spent the bulk of his 34-year career as a Chemistry professor at Trinity University before retiring in 2001. Although he has stepped away from the classroom, his interest and support for the chemistry program remains as strong as ever.
In 2021, Ben and his wife Gail created The Plummer Family Endowed Fund to support undergraduate summer research for motivated students to work in collaboration with faculty members. In addition to providing outright gifts for the endowment, they have set up a charitable gift annuity whose corpus will eventually be deposited into the fund.
A charitable gift annuity is an agreement between a donor(s) and Trinity University. In exchange for a gift of $20,000 or more, Trinity promises to pay an income for life to one or two persons, such as a married couple. The payout rate is based on current age(s) when the annuity is set up.
The Plummers believe in the benefits of a gift annuity. In addition to the one established at Trinity University, they have established a gift annuity at Iowa State University, Ben’s alma mater, the University of Maine, Gail’s alma mater.
“They make perfect sense,” Plummer said. “You get a tax deduction based on the amount of the gift annuity. You also get the satisfaction of leaving behind some or all of it to the university.” In addition, a portion of the annual income paid to the donor(s) is generally tax-free.
The Plummer’s gift annuity donation will provide additional support to The Plummer Endowed Fund for summer research. The summer research program was an initiative started by Plummer and Chemistry Professor Emeritus Dr. John A. Burke in 1968. The summers average 35-40 student researchers, one of the highest in the nation for an undergraduate institution.
Students are “expected to become a junior primary investigator,” Plummer explained. This fosters a maturity that they don’t get in lab work during the regular school year. “In the summer, their hands are not held,” he said. “They are directed.”
The students conduct cutting edge research in collaboration with faculty members and publish refereed articles. Plummer himself published 48 peer-reviewed journal articles while at Trinity and 80 percent had one or more undergraduate students as co-authors.
Even the Plummer’s two grandsons participated in the summer research program at Trinity.
Working with students also can bring professional recognition to the faculty member. Plummer’s collaboration with students caught the eye of the National Science Foundation, which engaged him as a grant officer in Chemistry from August 1994 to August 1995.
He said an advantage of a charitable gift annuity over a commercial annuity is that “when you die, the balance doesn’t go to an insurance company. It goes to the institution you want it to go to.”
Younger donors may wish to follow the advice Plummer gave to his oldest son when he retired and consider a deferred gift annuity. Plummer encouraged his son to take some funds and obtain a deferred gift annuity at his alma mater, Texas A&M University. Due to his age, he set up the annuity but deferred the income until a future date when he would receive a higher payout rate than if he had started taking payments immediately.
Plummer said he and Gail can enjoy the benefits of their gift annuity for the rest of their lives. “The upside for the university is at the end,” he said. “The institution will end up with the corpus and that will be a big benefit as a donation.”
He said annuities are a “win-win” gift. The donor wins and the organization wins.