Gift Planning Bulletin

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Please save this website with your favorites and come back to visit us often. Here’s where you will find news about recent developments at Cooper Union, members of the Society of 1859 and the plans they have put in place, gift planning tips and strategies, and updates on legislative initiatives that could have a bearing on the plans you have made (or would like to make) for Cooper.


Tax Reform 2017—Challenges and Opportunities for Cooper


We will all soon be hearing a great deal surrounding the tax reform debate.  While the fate of this legislation remains uncertain, that lack of certainty—combined with the steady approach of the holidays and the end of the tax year— should prompt many of The Cooper Union’s loyal supporters to seek counsel from their various wealth managers, financial planners, and professional tax advisors.  By the time the final legislative outcome is determined, there may be precious little time for us to make key end-of-year giving and estate planning decisions.   Of course there are always tactics, plans, and strategies that may offer at least some form of certainty, but time will be of the essence to implement them.


For those of us who believe in The Cooper Union’s charitable and educational mission, the tax consequences of charitable giving should not be the largest factor in our gift planning considerations.  Even with a possible repeal of the estate or “death” tax, there are still many good reasons to include Cooper in your will, revocable trust, and retirement plan designations. Taking advantage of the current law while it is still in effect, mitigating possibly adverse consequences under any anticipated future law, and supporting The Cooper Union in the process, simply makes good common sense!


Below is a summary of how our charitable giving may be affected by this debate:

  • Republican leaders released a “Unified Framework” for tax reform in late September 2017.  Although the framework would retain the current-law charitable income tax deduction, the vast majority of taxpayers –95 percent – would no longer itemize their deductions under the plan. 
  • The GOP’s “Unified Framework” would roughly double the standard deduction from $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples filing jointly and from $6,350 to $12,000 for single taxpayers.  It would consolidate the current 7 tax brackets into just 3, lowering the top tax rate from 39.6% to 35%.
  • While the proposal maintains home mortgage interest and charitable income tax deductions, at the same time it significantly reduces their value—especially for residents of states with high state income and local property taxes, where those taxes would no longer be deductible on the federal return. The proposal also repeals the estate tax and the generation-skipping transfer tax.
  • A study by Indiana University has found that if the provisions in the framework were enacted into law, charitable giving could decrease by as much as $13 billion—affecting nearly every facet of life in our communities: education, research, health services, housing and shelter, job training, arts, culture, environmental protection, historic preservation, civil rights, civic engagement, and so much more. 


Given these stark realities, a proposed solution to this potential loss of revenue has already been introduced in the House: Universal Charitable Giving Act of 2017 (HR 3988), which would seek to enact a universal charitable deduction that would be available to all taxpayers. This proposal would allow non-itemizers to claim the charitable deduction (over and above the standard deduction), but deduction-eligible contributions from those taxpayers would be capped at a value equal to one third of the standard deduction (roughly $2,100 for individuals/$4,200 for couples under current law; $4,000 for individuals/$8,000 for couples under “unified framework”). The cap may create a substantial range where the donor would receive no tax benefit and could depress giving overall.




The Cooper Union does not provide legal, tax, or financial advice, please be encouraged to discuss all charitable gift planning decisions with your legal, financial, or tax advisor before entering into any commitment to make a gift to The Cooper Union.



Breaking News !!!   

One of the Largest Bequests in Cooper’s History

Launches Challenge to Alumni


At the Lifetime Giving Society Dinner last night (September 14, 2017), President Laura Sparks announced the launch of a fundraising initiative created as a result of one of the largest bequests ever received by The Cooper Union.


Intended to foster an even stronger culture of philanthropy at The Cooper Union, the challenge will recognize and credit alumni with new or increased gifts relative to last year’s giving. The Irma Giustino Weiss ’45 Challenge is designed to incentivize alumni who have been watching from the sidelines to return to our donor rolls, and to encourage our most loyal supporters to enhance their generosity if at all possible.


A Message from the Director of Gift Planning at The Cooper Union

Every year we receive unexpected support from donors who quietly chose to include Cooper in their financial plans, never receiving the recognition they deserved for their thoughtfulness and generosity during their lifetime. While we are deeply grateful for their gifts, and understand why some individuals may not wish for recognition, we would like to identify and honor each donor who has decided to keep Cooper in mind for the future.


 In the past year, fifty-one individuals have confirmed their plans for The Cooper Union and qualified for induction into the Society of 1859 - several of them have been featured in our Donor Stories. Their gift plans can have a significant, perhaps even transformative impact on Cooper’s future, and speak volumes for a continued and renewed confidence in this institution and its mission.


 If you envision a gift to The Cooper Union as an essential part of your legacy, please inform us of your plans by contacting our Director of Gift Planning. We would be thrilled to honor your commitment to this exceptional institution through membership in The Society of 1859. Your name will be added to the roster of individuals whose present thoughtfulness will sustain Cooper for years to come. The nature of your plans will remain confidential, but your presence on our list is a vote of confidence in the future of this institution that will inspire others to follow your good example.  


Of course, if you would like to remain anonymous, we will honor your wishes. However, we would love the opportunity to say “thank you” on behalf of future generations of Cooper students who will benefit from your generosity. 


We look forward to hearing from you.


Preet Bharara Speaks at The Cooper Union's Great Hall

Headlines across the nation today (April 7, 2017) included the speech made by recently-fired US Attorney Preet Bharara in The Cooper Union’s Great Hall.


After President Trump asked for the resignation of 46 US Attorneys on March 10, 2017, and Mr. Bharara refused, the Office of Alumni Affairs and Development received over 1,400 RSVPs, forcing Cooper to create a standby pool for people eager to hear now-private-citizen Preet Bharara speak from Peter Cooper’s stage of public discourse.


This event was sponsored under the auspices of the John Jay Iselin Memorial Lecture series, an endowed fund established by former Cooper Union president John Jay Iselin during his lifetime, and supplemented by gifts from his family and friends as a memorial tribute following his death in May of 2008.


You can watch the entirety of Preet Bharara’s lecture on The Cooper Union’s YouTube channel.


Cooper Together

We are celebrating the anniversary of Peter Cooper’s birth (February 12, 1791) with a week-long series of events and gatherings across the country.  The theme this year is Cooper Together and President Laura Sparks will be meeting with alumni, introducing herself and sharing her vision for The Cooper Union’s future.

Look for your Cooper Together invitation in your email account or contact the Office of Alumni Affairs by sending an email to or calling (212) 353-4164.


Charitable Legislative Update

The National Association of Gift Planners recently posted the following update on bills in Congress that may be of interest to our Cooper Union supporters:


"Congress is presently in recess until after the November election, at which point lawmakers will return to DC for a lame-duck session that should pick up steam in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  During these waning days of the 114thCongressional session, CGP is monitoring a number of bills that would directly affect charitable giving incentives.  These bills include:


  •     Legacy IRA Rollover Act (H.R. 5171), which would amend the current-law IRA Charitable Rollover to permit life-income gifts. Under the bill, qualified life-income plans include charitable remainder trusts and charitable gift annuities.  There would be a $400,000 cap for life-income gifts beginning at age 65, and for individuals 70½ or older, the combined ceiling for direct and life-income transfers is $400,000 (with a $100,000 cap for direct transfers).
  •     Grow Philanthropy Act (H.R. 4907), which would amend the IRA Charitable Rollover to allow donor-advised funds (DAFs) to receive otherwise qualified charitable distributions under the current law.
  •     Charities Helping Americans Regularly Throughout the Year Act (S. 2750), which contains a number of provisions relating to charitable giving, including the DAF provision described above as well as language that would require DAF sponsors to disclose policies on inactive or dormant funds and average aggregate contributions to and grants made from the funds during the most recent three-year period, as well as a couple of provisions specifically helpful to private foundations.


Although we do not expect any of these bills to pass this year as stand-alone measures, it remains possible they are included, in one form or another, in a larger tax bill that moves before the end of the year."  


Arnold Schindel ME ‘43

We sadly report the passing of Arnold "Arnie" Schindel, Mechanical Engineering 1943, who died in his sleep Monday, November 14, 2016 at the age of ninety-three. Like so many other Cooper Union alumni of his era, Cooper gave Arnie his best chance to go to college and fulfill his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer.


And like so many others of his era, Arnie answered the call to serve his country during World War II. As a master sergeant in General Patton's Third Army Division, he fought through the desperate siege of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, was wounded twice, and soon after returned to duty. As the tide of the War turned and the Allied Forces fought their way into the heart of Nazi Germany, Arnie was captured as a Prisoner of War and was a witness to the horrors of the Holocaust.  


After the war Arnie pursued his engineering career, first with the Bendix Company, then with Singer and later as a consultant for General Precision Aerospace. Over the course of his career, Arnie registered over twenty patents in his name.  He bought his home in Fairlawn, New Jersey in 1947, where he and Beulah, his wife of sixty years raised their two children. Ever grateful for the opportunities afforded by his Cooper Union education, Arnie participated in at least thirty-six annual funds over his lifetime and included a generous bequest for The Cooper Union in his will.


We were honored by his presence at our reunion festivities this past June, as we celebrated the 73rd anniversary of his graduation.  We are especially grateful for his life and the full measure of his devotion to Cooper. 


The Cooper Union is proud to honor the service of our alumni veterans!



Presidential Transition Announced:

The official plan has been published for President-Elect, Laura Sparks’ transition to leadership of The Cooper Union.  For details and information, you can find the timeline and agenda for her engagement with alumni, trustees, faculty, administration, staff, and community at



Society of 1859 New Members as of October 2016:

The Cooper Union is blessed to have so many alumni who are not only grateful for the gift of the free education that Cooper gave them or a family member, but who are also passionately dedicated to making that same full-tuition scholarship and rigorous education both possible and sustainable for generations of Cooper students to come.


When people notify us of the plans they have put in place, we invite them to become members of our Society of 1859.  Once they have confirmed and accepted the offer of membership, The Cooper Union seeks appropriate ways to honor them with the recognition and stewardship they so rightfully deserve for their thoughtfulness and generosity.


We are proud to welcome the following new members to the Society of 1859 (confirmed since July 1, 2015):


Mr. Enio F. Minervini
Jacob D. Schiller, M.E
Mr. Martin B. Langer
Dr. Robert Mihalo
Ira Serkes, CRS, ABR, GRI
Mr. James Spool
Dr. Anne M. Appel
Mark H. Jay, P.A.
Dr. Allan D. Wallis
Mr. Daniel Francis Sullivan, Jr.
Mrs. Marcia Bell Grace
Mr. David R. Fialkoff


We are grateful to each of our new members, and we encourage you to follow their excellent example to us all.  Please contact us soon to discuss how a gift to Cooper Union might fit into your current or long-range charitable plans.



The Charitable IRA Rollover Keeps Rolling Along at The Cooper Union

For those fortunate enough to have passed the age of 70-1/2 with a significant retirement savings nest egg, Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) decisions should already have been made or under immediate consideration. In other words, your ability to satisfy RMD amounts and not have to face stiff tax penalties for Calendar Year 2016 may be rapidly drawing to a close. 


Thus far in 2016, Cooper Union alumni have made 19 Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCD’s), also known as "Charitable IRA Rollovers," to The Cooper Union. These gifts, totalling $216,830.56, and averaging $11,412.13 have benefited the annual fund, created and bolstered endowment funds, and supported current projects that are vital to Cooper.


Although these generous donors would have otherwise been eligible for an offsetting charitable income tax deduction for such a gift—transferred directly from their retirement account to a qualified tax exempt organization such as The Cooper Union—the election to make a QCD eliminates their taxable income on the withdrawal altogether.


Visit this link to learn more about Charitable IRA Rollovers, or QCD’s, and please put The Cooper Union in your list of designated charitable beneficiaries on your retirement account.



The Cooper Union’s 13th President: Laura Sparks

Laura Sparks, executive director of the William Penn Foundation in Philadelphia, has been elected president of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, effective January 4, 2017. Sparks will be the first woman to lead the institution. [Read her letter to the Cooper community.]


Sparks is a leader in the field of community-focused philanthropy. At the William Penn Foundation, a leading philanthropy with an endowment greater than $2 billion, she was responsible for numerous initiatives addressing social and environmental challenges in America’s fifth largest city and for designing programs in education, public space, the arts and the environment.


Sparks expressed her eagerness to work with students, faculty, staff, alumni and the greater New York City community to chart a strong future for The Cooper Union. "I have been impressed with the passion, commitment and determination of Cooper’s board and search committee to ‘look forward’ while also acknowledging and respecting dissenting views and the voices of many throughout the wider school community,” she said. “I am eager to meet more of the college’s passionate, thoughtful and accomplished students, and to engage with its extraordinary faculty as we move the institution forward while holding true to its founding principles. I am confident that together we can reaffirm our sense of mission, stabilize Cooper’s finances and rebuild the trust of our constituents. All of these steps will be essential as we work to identify a route to restoring full-tuition scholarships for all undergraduates.”



Nearly a century ago...

"Nearly a century ago, The Cooper Union's Annual Reports gave evidence of the significant benefit that bequests and gifts to endowment were already making for The Cooper Union in its seventh decade of existence.

The "Report of the Director" in the 1920 Annual Report would be just as relevant today as it was back then.




JULY 11, 2016


For the third consecutive year, Cooper Union was named to Money magazine’s Best Colleges for delivering value and preparing students for graduation. To make the cut, colleges are ranked on quality of education, affordability and alumni success (which includes both expected early- and mid-career income). Since the list first began in 2014, Cooper has been included in the top ten. 


Cooper also ranked fourth for Money’s list of best private colleges.


From “Facts About Cooper Union”:



The rigor of The Cooper Union’s academic programs has made it one of the top-ranked institutions of higher education in the nation in all categories.

  • Ranked first in a national list of "Colleges That Pay You Back" released by The Princeton Review in 2015; listed in “The Best American Colleges” and “The Top 10 Best Value Private Colleges”;
  • Ranked the #1 Best Value for its region and the second best overall undergraduate school in its region (north) in U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges 2016 guide book;
  • Ranked eighth in the nation among undergraduate Engineering colleges; eighth in undergraduate colleges in electrical engineering and ninth in mechanical engineering by U.S. News and World Report;
  • Listed among the Most Selective Colleges by the New York Times
  • Listed among the Best Design Schools for Creative Talent by Business Week
  • Listed among the Nation’s 25 Hottest Universities by the Newsweek-Kaplan College Guide
  • Ranked third in research culture among architecture schools worldwide in a survey by the Key Centre for Architectural Sociology