When Bernard Platte thought about honoring places that made a significant impact on his life, Kettering University came to mind.
Platte, who earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering from General Motors Institute (GMI) in 1965, made a gift through his Individual Retirement Account (IRA). This recent gift has moved him into the President’s Circle, which recognizes donors who have made cumulative gifts of $10,000 or more, pledged a gift over five years to reach this level, or documented a planned gift of $25,000 or more.
Platte recently learned making a gift through his IRA helps to avoid paying income taxes and meet required minimum distributions (RMDs) when it’s due.
“If you’re taking the standard deduction when you’re filing taxes, that precludes you from taking deductions from charities because you’re taking the standard deduction,” Platte said. “But, if you’re donating part of your required minimum distribution from your IRA, you get that deduction in addition to the standard deduction. It’s win-win.”
However, he said the tax benefits are just a bonus because he would have made a gift regardless.
He allocated his gift to the Women Helping Women Scholarship and African American Scholarship to help increase diversity in engineering.
Oldsmobile in Lansing sponsored Platte and hired him after graduation. He moved around but ultimately spent his career on the factory floor developing processes for new parts and running support and production for new equipment. Platte also spent some time on the Saturn project before moving to a tool and die shop in Mansfield, Ohio, where he was the plant manager.
It wasn’t until he learned about GMI from an alumnus that he thought attending college was possible. The other boys often dropped out of school after the eighth grade to turn their attention to full-time work on the family farm. As one of 12 children whose parents didn’t support his desire to go to college, Platte had to pay his own way.
“I knew nothing about scholarships and didn’t know how I could go to college until I heard about GMI,” he said.
His time at GMI was difficult. He struggled with academics and making ends meet. During his Co-op term, he once worked the 12-hour midnight shift for seven days a week for six weeks to earn overtime pay. Car parts were stressed, bent and fatigued in various ways. Platte’s job was to monitor them and record the temperature, revolutions per minute (rpm) and readings.
“It was an experimental lab for product engineering, and the testing equipment ran for 24 hours a day,” Platte said. “They needed someone to watch it during the night.”
Platte also worked with his carpenter brother-in-law when he didn't have overtime. During school terms, he took shifts at the gas station near his place and studied between pumping gas for customers.
“I had to work so hard, not only to keep up with the money but academically,” Platte said. “I was almost not allowed to take the entrance exam because my high school curriculum was not tailored to a technical education. I had to really work at it. … I was so happy when I finished GMI. By the time I got out of there, I didn’t want to see the place for a long time.”
Ultimately, he realized it was all worth it.
“Gradually, I came to realize that I had a pretty good life because of what I had achieved at GMI,” Platte said.