Biochemist Enjoys Opportunity to Support Penn State Researchers

Sarah Kalser smiling

"I'm not wealthy, but I like to give what I can...I think Penn State did a lot for me, and if I can do a little, that's my pleasure." -- Sarah Kalser '51

As a biochemist who spent 25 years of her 40-year career working in research administration, Sarah Kalser ('51 AGR) knows the value of funding to a scientist. When she made her estate plans in the late 1980s, she decided that $100,000 from her retirement funds would ultimately support researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences through the Sarah Chinn Kalser Faculty Research Assistance Endowment.

"I had worked at the National Institutes of Health for a long time and saw people who were good researchers but whose grant funding did not come through. I wanted to help people who had an interruption in their research funding," Sarah says.

A few years later, Sarah decided she wanted to see the yield on her philanthropic commitment during her lifetime, so she began making annual gifts to jump-start her endowment.

"Even though $5,000 a year didn't seem like that much, it helped, and Penn State would send me letters letting me know who used the money and the research work it supported."

Then, last year, Congress passed the Pension Protection Act of 2006. This legislation allows eligible donors to make gifts directly from their individual retirement accounts (IRA), without any taxes on the distributions, until December 31, 2007.

Sarah learned about the legislation from the development officers in the College and received more details from representatives of Penn State's Office of Gift Planning.

"I checked with my financial adviser who agreed that this was a reasonable thing to do since I had committed to the gift as part of my estate. It was a good way to write it off the books, and the people who lost research support could use the money now. Why wait 20 years?" she says.

A native of Connellsville, Pa., Sarah has lived in Bethesda, Md., for 39 years. She received her master's and doctorate degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Pittsburgh, respectively, but she still considers Penn State her favorite institution.

"My loyalty is to Penn State, so that's where I wanted my gift to go," Sarah says.

While she admits she is not a sports fan, Sarah said she and her late husband, Ben Kalser, enjoyed going to the football games when Penn State played Pitt during the years they lived in the Pittsburgh area.

"My husband was a Pitt graduate, so he cheered for Pitt, and I, of course, cheered for Penn State."

During her retirement, Sarah enjoys traveling with her many nieces and nephews and volunteering in her community. The opportunity to support the scientists at her alma mater has added to her life as well.

"I'm not wealthy, but I like to give what I can where I can. I want to save something for my nieces and nephews, but I wanted to do this for Penn State. I think Penn State did a lot for me, and if I can do a little, that's my pleasure."

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