Gift Planning

Alumnus Includes Kettering In His Estate Plan to Fund Student Research

Dr. Don Chaffin (‘61, IE) can’t settle on his favorite Kettering memory.

“I had a lot of things going on in my life at Kettering, and it allowed me to really experience the full academic and social life and leadership life,” he said. “I think singling out one would be very difficult. We were doing so many things.”

Those things included being a member of the Robot Honor Society, belonging to a fraternity and serving as student body president. The experiential learning model at Kettering ultimately set Chaffin up for—and it’s why he and his wife Barbara made an estate gift that will be used for research scholarships in the Interdisciplinary Design and Manufacturing (IME) department.

Don Chaffin, '61, ME
Dr. Don Chaffin, '61, IE

“I’ve always had great respect for that model, and Kettering really is the unique model for experiential learning and co-op learning, and it’s not just about the dollars,” Chaffin said. “A lot of people look at it and say that’s a unique aspect, and it was very important to have the dollars, but it’s more about the ability to learn from other people in a work environment and the breadth of knowledge that exists within any company.”

Chaffin said his co-op began at General Motors, where he spent his first two years on the assembly line. He eventually worked up through the engineering office before moving on to have a successful career as a faculty member in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan.

To make his gift, Chaffin is using money from his Simplified Employee Pension Plan (SEP), which he said was quick and easy to set up. 

“The only real paperwork is to discuss with the receiving organization that you’re going to do this and make sure they understand what you’re doing and how you want the money to be used,” he said. “As far as the financial arrangement, you’re simply naming the organization as a beneficiary, so Kettering is named as a beneficiary of the SEP fund.”

This gift will go into a fund Chaffin and his wife started with a charitable gift annuity for the research scholarships.

“We designated the money to help students with field-oriented projects to work with a faculty member,” he said, noting it could be a thesis project for undergraduate or graduate students. “Being a research-oriented faculty member at U. of M., I’ve always respected the benefit of hands-on, supervised project work where you form a team. That hands-on learning in my life has always been very important.”

Dr. Scott Grasman, Interim Dean of the College of Engineering, said this resource would give undergraduates the opportunity to conduct research they may not have otherwise considered. The money could be used to provide a stipend to students or buy materials for the project. 

“It may open their eyes to graduate school by exposing them to things outside the standard curriculum and the broad perspective on engineering as a field or STEM as a field,” he said. 

Gift Planning

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