Planned Giving

Gift Supports Experiential Learning
Endowment Leads to Opportunities for Students

Photo of Susan Marks
Susan Marks believes in the power of hands-on learning. An endowment she’s funding will ensure that more students have access to experiential learning opportunities.

Susan Marks has always been a “hands-on” person. To her, nothing can replace the experience of learning by doing. That is why when Susan began thinking about her philanthropic legacy, experiential learning opportunities for students at the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources topped her list.

“When I was a student, so many of my classmates had grown up on farms or participated in 4-H,” she says. “Today that is not always the case. Many CASNR students have never been on a farm, worked with cattle, or planted a crop.”

To meet that need, she has created the Susan L. Marks Experiential Learning Endowment, which provides hands-on learning support for CASNR students. In addition to undergraduate scholarships and internships, the endowment’s earnings may be used for supplies, equipment, and operating devices that promote experiential learning initiatives. Susan’s hope is to provide real-world experience for students before they reach the workplace.

“I felt that experiential learning opportunities would greatly enhance our students’ understanding of agriculture by working hands-on with animals and plants, much like I was able to do growing up,” Susan says. “It adds an entirely new dimension to what they can learn in the traditional classroom.”

Susan remembers her own immersive experiences as a child, despite not growing up on a farm. For her, 4-H was an opportunity to see agriculture firsthand. Even her father, a lawyer with a passion for farming, encouraged her interest in agriculture.

“Daddy took me to cattle sales and purchased Jersey calves for my brother and me,” she recalls. “Even though we lived in town, there was a small field behind our house where we raised the calves. I grew up showing cattle in 4-H. It was such an important part of my life and prepared me for college at the University of Tennessee.”

Recently, Susan retired to Robertson County to live on her great-grandparents’ farm, which has been in her family for more than 100 years.

“It means so much for me to be here,” she says. “The farm is a special place and is also close to my grandparents’ farm where I spent so much time as a child. I love that I can feel connected to my family’s roots, and I love that I can see and benefit from Tennessee agriculture every day.” When it came time to plan her estate, Susan says the decision to support UT Institute of Agriculture was easy.

“UTIA does a fantastic job of training students and preparing them to make real and meaningful contributions to their communities, to their state, and to the world,” she says.

To make her gift, Susan used cash, appreciated stock to fund a gift annuity that will eventually be added to the endowment, and a gift in her will. She likes the flexibility of using different assets and tax-planning strategies to make her philanthropic goals a reality.

“I am able to fund the endowment to see the impact on our students now, receive a charitable deduction for my cash gifts, and eliminate capital gain with my stock gift to fund the charitable gift annuity—which provides me quarterly payments for life,” says Susan. “I also know that the bequest that I have made in my estate plan will be added to the endowment so that it will have an even greater impact after I am gone.”

Susan also encourages others to give to UTIA.

“I benefit in so many ways—seeing what the endowment does now for students, receiving an income stream from my charitable gift annuity, and knowing that I am securing the future with my bequest,” she says.

To discover ways that you can enhance learning experiences for UTIA students like Susan did, contact Angelia M. Nystrom, JD, LLM, at 865-974-7423 or anystrom@tennessee.edu with questions.

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Together We Grow is a historic campaign for the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. It will take all of us to grow. Together, we can impact tomorrow.