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Jim '63 & Cathy Tilling

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Paying It Forward
April 2012

Born and raised in Rochester, NY, Jim Tilling ’63 graduated from high school in 1958 in the midst of the Cold War and the accompanying “Space Race” with the Soviet Union.  After winning a New York State Regents scholarship, which could be used at any university in the State, he decided to major in Physics and chose to attend Clarkson because of its excellent reputation in science and engineering.

But physics (and especially math) were far more complex and challenging in college than in high school. Although his grades were above average, he realized that was simply not good enough to qualify for financial aid to pursue post-graduate education.  Continued financial aid was very important to Jim and his family, since he had a sister and brother who were now just ready to enter college.

As he considered his options – a different major or perhaps even a different college – Clarkson introduced a new degree program with a major in Liberal Studies.  “It was the perfect option for me,” Jim said “I had always been interested in government, history and the social sciences and this program gave me the chance to tailor my own curriculum and remain at Clarkson.  I could keep my friends, the advantages of small class-sizes and dedicated professors and still keep playing varsity and intramural sports.”

With the help and encouragement of several outstanding professors – H. W. Mott, Melvin Bachman and Brad Broughton, just to name a few, he made the Dean’s List his last two years, got his degree and qualified for an All-University Fellowship, which carried him through graduate school at the University of Illinois. In the meantime, his sister and brother both got teaching degrees from Oswego State and remain career teachers to this day.

Leaving the University of Illinois in 1969 with an MA and “ABD” in political science, Jim joined the faculty at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where he taught for six years, specializing in Soviet government and foreign policy as well as American state and local government. Partly through contacts made there, Jim was offered and accepted the top staff job in the Ohio Senate, where he served for 17 years.  It was in this position, part of which involved drawing legislative and congressional district boundary lines every 10 years after each Census, that he met Cathy. 

Apparently advanced mathematics is correct when it suggests that in some circumstances parallel lines sometimes do intersect.  While Jim’s career was unfolding from upstate New York to Illinois to Ohio, Cathy, who was born and raised in Washington, DC, was forging her own path there.  After leaving college in Virginia to marry and start a family, she became a career federal employee at the U.S. Census Bureau, where she worked for over 20 years.  As the 1990 Census neared, one major responsibility of her job was to assist state officials in receiving and utilizing geographic and population data to redraw their congressional and legislative district boundaries, as required by law. As Jim said, “as luck would have it (for me, anyway) our paths began to cross at several conferences across the country sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures, NAACP and other involved groups.  A casual dinner with about a dozen other participants at a conference in California provided the impetus for a long-distance courtship, which culminated in our marriage (the second for both) in 1991."

After six months of long-distance commuting between the Washington area and Columbus, Cathy resigned her job and moved to Ohio.  Being by far the more social and outgoing one (according to Jim), Cathy quickly made many new and lasting friends in Ohio.  Although she misses her mother, daughter (and now grandchildren) very much, they have been able to accommodate each other’s mostly little idiosyncrasies very well – and, now that they have both retired she can visit her family much more often.

Cathy and Jim both have always highly prized education for its crucial role in improving people as individuals and giving all of us the tools to better the human condition.  Cathy started to put aside money several years ago for her grandchildren’s college education and since Jim has no children of his own, he began to consider setting aside some of his assets to endow a scholarship at Clarkson to provide similar assistance to future generations to pursue success much as he was able to do there.  He said “the education I received at Clarkson was a fundamental building block in my successful career and I hope this endowment will allow many future Clarkson students to do even more.”

This year Jim turned 70½, which requires him to begin withdrawing funds from his IRA.  He said, “creating a charitable trust at Clarkson gave me the opportunity to generate a stream of additional income, receive a charitable deduction and plan for the creation of the scholarship endowment all at the same time.  For Cathy and me, it was an ideal situation.”

They knew about Charitable Trusts from their financial advisor and from mailings from Clarkson, other higher education institutions and several other charitable groups.  They are establishing a similar scholarship at Ohio University and plan to continue making contributions to several birding and conservation groups such as the American Bird Conservancy and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, whose efforts to protect our planet’s biodiversity and natural landscapes they both strongly support.

Woody Hayes, the legendary Ohio State football coach often said “you can’t pay back, but you can pay forward.”  That’s the philosophy Jim and Cathy embrace with their gifts.  They said, “we know we have been very fortunate and blessed in our lives together and we want to do what we can to give those yet to come a chance to do likewise. Our country’s and our planet’s survival hinges on their success.”

The Process to Create the Tilling Charitable Trust

  • After gathering information on gift-with-income plans, Jim contacted the Annie Clarkson Society to explore options.
  • Jim and Cathy decided they wanted income for only a term of years, so Clarkson recommended a charitable trust.
  • Clarkson sent Jim and Cathy financial projections to compare several trust options.
  • Jim and Cathy made decisions on the payout percentage, the number of years to receive payments, and naming Clarkson as trustee.
  • Clarkson prepared a draft trust document for Jim and Cathy to review.
  • Clarkson then finalized the trust document for Jim and Cathy to sign.
  • Jim and Cathy transferred stock to fund the trust.
  • As trustee, Clarkson will manage the trust and make income payments to Jim and Cathy.
  • At the end of the trust term, the remainder will create an endowed scholarship at the School of Arts and Sciences.

Benefits of the Tilling Trust

  • Jim and Cathy could choose between income for life or income for a term of years.
  • As trustee, Clarkson provided a draft trust document for their review.
  • Jim and Cathy received an income tax deduction for a portion of their gift.
  • They did not need to declare any capital gain on the stock they donated.
  • They do not need to worry about the administration of their trust.
  • They may add future gifts to the trust which would generate increased income and additional income tax deductions.