Image of Business Instructional Facility

Jan 27, 2020 2020-01 Access Giving Stories

Alumnus Creates a Scholarship at Gies While Providing Income to His Wife and Himself

Gary Lichtenwalter

Gary Lichtenwalter (FIN ’63) still remembers a quotation from Joliet Township High School’s auditorium wall 60 years ago: “The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.”

Those words forever changed the legacy Gary and his wife Daylene want to leave. “I knew if I were ever going to be in a position to give back, doing something for the education of our youth was the path I wanted to follow,” said Gary.

Following through, the couple has funded 11 separate scholarships at several nonprofits, including the University of Illinois and Maryville University, Daylene’s alma mater. Gary’s most recent gift directs money to benefit Gies College of Business via the Gary R. Lichtenwalter Scholarship, a fund that ensures students are able to enjoy the same world-class business education he did.

“What sticks with me the most about my time at Illinois is the quality of the professors and the instruction I received,” he recalls. “Three of my business professors actually wrote the textbook that we used in class. They knew their material inside and out.”

After graduating from Gies with a degree in finance, Gary worked for his father’s insurance agency before eventually forming Gary R. Lichtenwalter & Co., his own insurance agency in his hometown of Joliet. He ran that business for 30 years before turning to investing and developing real estate properties – a move that eventually became the impetus for his generosity benefitting Gies.

Gary used an office building he no longer wanted to set up a charitable remainder trust (CRT) with the University of Illinois Foundation. With a CRT, a donor transfers an asset into an irrevocable trust, removing the asset from the donor's estate and giving the donor an immediate charitable income tax deduction. The Foundation, acting as trustee, sells the asset, re-invests the proceeds, and pays income to the donor or up to two beneficiaries the donor chooses. After the passing of all the CRT’s individual beneficiaries, the trust’s remainder goes to benefit the University of Illinois for purposes chosen by the donor – in this case, scholarships across the University of Illinois System.

“It has worked out extremely well for me and my wife,” he said. “I have received a check from the Foundation every quarter since 2004. They’ve paid me for 15 years, and the value of the trust is still about equal to the original check from the sale of that building. For someone who is considering a charitable remainder trust, I’d tell them they’re not giving everything away now; they’ll earn income off the trust for a lifetime. I can’t stress enough how happy I am with my decision.”

Motivated, in part, by the Gies family’s naming of the College in 2017, the Lichtenwalters transferred a portion of Gary’s life income interest in the CRT and its overall remainder to set up Gary’s scholarship fund at Gies. “Hearing about the naming really got me enthused about the direction of the College,” said Gary. “There’s something great about having a name associated with your school. I realized my wife has a scholarship at her alma mater, but I didn’t have anything directly benefiting Gies. After giving it thought, I decided to transfer some money from the trust for a scholarship at the College.”

For the Lichtenwalters, the decisions to create the trust and the scholarship were no-brainers. They are able to earn income for the rest of their lives while also putting the wheels in motion to change the lives of hundreds of students. “The thank you letters we receive from our scholarship recipients are amazing,” Gary said. “Had we waited until after we died to give the money, we wouldn’t have the pleasure of reading these letters. It’s extremely rewarding to get a heartfelt letter from a student who couldn’t afford to go to college without the scholarship.”

Learn about more ways to give to Gies College of Business.