Please help me honor a scientist
September 25, 2007 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Please help me honor a scientist I once knew. I'm looking to (A) set up a small scholarship in her name and (B) figure out what to do with something that she bequeathed to me.

I was a member of a local amateur science club when I was younger. One of the members, an older woman who was way ahead of her time with regards to women in science, passed away and bequeathed a special jacket of hers to me (it had neat commemorative patches). It's over 10 years later now, and I haven't been involved or in touch with the club for a long time. I found the jacket again recently in my wardrobe, and I'd like to properly honor this fantastic woman.

1. I'm interested in setting up a scholarship in her name for high school senior girls who plan to major in some branch of science. I'd like to start relatively small, like a few hundred dollars that can be used for books. Has anyone done this before? I don't know the details, like if I can just approach my local high school with this offer or if I need to do some kind of registration or non-profit paperwork first. It's the kind of thing where I can picture holding fundraising parties every year or so among my geeky friends to keep it going.

2. I would really like to do something honorable with the jacket itself. It feels disrespectful to have it just sitting in my closet. Any ideas?
posted by cadge to Education (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I suspect a nearby college or university would probably know how to set up a scholarship fund.

As for the jacket, you could have it framed and then have it on display.
posted by jjb at 8:31 AM on September 25, 2007

Could you find out where she got her degrees? If you are willing to give the scholarship to college women (lower division perhaps) at the scientist's school, they might be willing to make space for a memorial. The memorial could include the jacket, a picture and plaque.

The university might be willing to set up a memorial anyway, even if you really want the money to go to high school students. Also, if she worked at one university for a long time, they might be willing to do something in her memory.
posted by oddman at 8:32 AM on September 25, 2007

You may be best speaking with the school directly; or speaking with a lawyer. There may be tax implications and the like for you to consider.

But bravo to you for doing it.
posted by oxford blue at 8:32 AM on September 25, 2007

One nice feature of a memorial, is that it could be updated with pictures of each year's winner. That way it would honor your mentor and the current generation of women scientists.
posted by oddman at 8:34 AM on September 25, 2007

There's a lot of good info about setting up scholarship funds on this page. Creating a memorial scholarship at your mentor's university will probably be the easiest way to go -- no hassling with setting up a non-profit foundation, complying with IRS regs, reviewing applications, etc. You donate a large chunk of change, they put the money in trust so that it earns interest, and the university manages the application process and pays out the scholarship each year. Call the school's Alumni Relations office and ask for someone in Development.
posted by junkbox at 9:08 AM on September 25, 2007

A few things you may wish to consider, depending on your circumstances, when you speak with the Development person.

1) Are you interested in a planned gift funding the scholarship? (e.g. a bequest) How about a life income arrangement? (You give money to the university and get an income from it for the rest of your life, the remainder goes to the scholarship when you die).

2) What are their minimums for scholarships? Will they let you accrue the money over several years or do you have to start with a lump sum?

3) Will they help you contact people who might give to this scholarship? (Hint: They should.)

There are also non-profit organizations dedicated to improving the educational attainment of women in science and math. Look for them and see how easy it would be to work with them on something appropriate vs. the University.

Incidentally, don't get overly concerned about taxes and the IRS. It isn't as scary as people think. Just get sound advice and follow it.
posted by driley at 9:57 AM on September 25, 2007

I haven't gone too far into this myself, but I was thinking of doing something similar on behalf of my father.

I was just going to take the annual fund approach and pay as I go. A few hundred paid out of pocket every year is doable and the gratification is immediate, and could probably be treated as a cash gift by the IRS if I wasn't ready to mess with putting things right to make it tax deductible.

Accumulating enough money for a small endowment and managing it to use the income for the scholarships is a much bigger project. The development office of a college or university will certainly take care of all that for you, but I didn't want the funds to be tied to a specific institution. A 3rd party could also help, but then you have to be confident in their financial management.
posted by Good Brain at 11:29 AM on September 25, 2007

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