By Bill Studenc
As a student at Western Carolina University in the late 1960s, Dennis Fox never dreamed that he might find himself in a position to make a six-figure gift to his alma mater.
But, thanks to what Fox describes as a philosophy of hard work and “clean living,” the 1971 graduate of WCU with a bachelor’s degree in sales and marketing has built a nest egg to become financially secure, with a strong portfolio of investments.
Now, after recent changes in tax laws, Fox is working with WCU’s Division of Advancement on a life-income gift that will provide a steady stream of income for the remainder of his life and that of his wife, Susan, while also establishing an endowment that will spin off financial support for professional and career development opportunities for students in the College of Business.
A son of Western North Carolina whose family has deep ties to the region, Fox always knew that he wanted to get an education and to be able to build a life and raise a family. After graduating from WCU, he met his goals of having a family and developing a career through a strong work ethic and loyalty, working for the same boss for more than 45 years. He also has ensured that their grandchildren have the opportunity to secure an education, and he has made financial provisions for his family upon his death.
Fox also is making financial provisions for WCU through the creation of a charitable remainder trust, or CRUT, which will allow him to avoid capital gains taxes he would have faced had he opted to simply sell off the assets he has accumulated over the years.
A CRUT is a way to provide a regular stream of income using appreciated assets, said Ben Pendry, WCU assistant vice chancellor for development. “Because he will be making a gift of stock, real estate or cash, WCU will invest the assets and provide Dennis a stream of income for the rest of his and Susan’s lives,” Pendry said.
The annual payments are based on a fixed rate applied to the market value of the assets, and a portion of the initial investment of a CRUT is immediately tax deductible, he said. Fox is utilizing recent changes in tax law that have removed provisions preventing individuals from using IRA funds to create life-income gifts such as CRUTs and charitable gift annuities (CGAs).
As part of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act 2.0, which became effective Jan. 1, 2023, the Legacy IRA Act enables those age 70.5 years and above to make a one-time qualified distribution of $50,000 from an IRA to a charitable remainder unitrust or a charitable gift annuity. The donation, which applies toward an individual’s required minimum distribution from an IRA, is not taxable.
Planned giving experts believe the act will generate a significant uptick in annual donations for charitable organizations, including new or increased donations to WCU.
"I am so very pleased that Dennis is choosing to take advantage of the recently approved bipartisan Legacy IRA Act,” Pendry said. “This new law will provide incentives to make charitable gifts not only to the university, but to other organizations nationwide that provide services, opportunity and hope. I encourage other members of the WCU family who are considering making a planned gift to the university to explore this new option.”
Fox said he was intrigued with idea of the change in the tax law as a way to reduce his taxable income while also providing financial support for his alma mater, citing his business education from WCU and the relationship development he received from his involvement with Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity as critical to his professional success.
“The CRUT investments will generate a monthly payment to me as the participant and hopefully grow to be larger than the original investment when the residual is distributed to WCU upon my passing,” he said. “There are other channels that offer excellent avenues to fund charitable contributions. But, at the present for my wife and me, this program is an excellent opportunity to serve ourselves and to serve WCU.”
Fox is also serving WCU in other ways. A member of the Western Carolina University Foundation Board of Directors since 2018, he was recently elected board chair.
A resident of Raleigh, Fox is currently a project consultant for National Coatings and Supplies, a subsidiary of Trail Creek Investments. He also served as vice president of market development for Trail Creek Investments, an employee-owned company and the parent company for National Coatings and Supplies. Prior to working for Trail Creek, he was the senior vice president for market development for North America for General Parts Inc.
After graduating from WCU, Fox joined a fledging distribution company that flourished, growing into a North American business. He became an early investor in the company through its retirement program and direct financial investment in various stock and incentive programs. The success of the company produced a consistent return on investment, which allowed for future investments and a secure financial future, Fox said.
For information on how to make a life-income gift to Western Carolina University, contact Ben Pendry, assistant vice chancellor for development, at 828-227-2558 or email@example.com.