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Unrestricted Kindness: Family's Support of Southeast's Educational Mission Spans Several Decades


Both William and Christene were raised from humble beginnings, he on a farm north of Morehouse, Mo., and she on a farm east of Parma, Mo.

William graduated from Southeast in 1935 with a Bachelor of Science degree in education. During his time at Southeast, he was involved in several clubs and activities, including being a member of the football team.

"He played right guard in the first football game at Houck Stadium," says his son, Tom.

William was a long-time school administrator in Southeast Missouri, serving in different positions in several area communities over the course of 30 years.

"When he began teaching, he taught in one-room schoolhouses. He coached football in Chaffee, taught science and agriculture in Morehouse and later taught science and chemistry in Parma, where he was also the basketball coach," explains Tom.

He soon became the superintendent of the Parma school district. Also a skilled craftsman, William, along with the help of a custodian, built the gym in Parma.

"It was the only domed building in the area. People would drive all the way from St. Louis to see it," Tom says.

In 1956, William became superintendent of the Bernie, Mo., school district. He went on to become the area's regional superintendent while continuing to teach science, chemistry and coach sports. William retired from his extensive career in education and began farming in 1972.

Just as her husband did, Christene also had a love of education. Like William, she began teaching in one-room schoolhouses. After teaching full-time for several years, she retired in 1957, yet she continued to teach part-time in Bernie, Mo., for another 10 years.

Upon their retirement from teaching, the Mericks were not finished helping others pursue education. Beginning in 1978, Ms. Merick supported the educational mission of Southeast by annually giving undesignated gifts to the Southeast Missouri University Foundation's annual fund. By leaving the gifts undesignated, Ms. Merick ensured that the gifts could be used for any area of education at Southeast. In addition to Ms. Merick's undesignated gifts, the Mericks were also avid supporters of both Southeast's athletic program and agriculture program.

"They both were members of the Copper Dome Society. My mother also donated to the new (Charles L. Hutson) Agriculture Greenhouse, " says Tom. "Education is the foundation of what we are today and what will become of our future. My parents' entire lives were dedicated to education and trying to increase the literacy of society as a whole.

"My father liked to invent things. He made a foul indicator light box used for basketball games. These were used at many schools in Southeast Missouri in the 1960s. He was just always trying to teach someone something. We would go on educational trips all over the country during the summers, mainly to historic sites. My mother liked gardening and working on flowers & trees; basically, she loved anything having to do with horticulture," Tom explains.

"Having a father 50 years older than me and parents from their generation has given me a different outlook on life compared to others my age, and I am truly grateful to have had such wonderful, loving and caring parents," continues Tom. "My father was a great story teller and was invited to speak at a wide variety of functions. Every time I turned around, I would find him telling a story to help educate someone. My parents' hope, as well as my own, is for the good of many to help better our future and the future of those to come. My father saved his money and slowly started buying farmland. He finally ended up with more than 2,200 acres before he passed in 1988."

Always true to her and her husband's giving nature, Mrs. Merick recently left most of this estate as an unrestricted gift to support education at Southeast Missouri State University. The total bequest was valued at more than $4 million, the largest gift the Foundation has received in its history - a fitting final gift from two people who gave tirelessly in the support of a better world through education.

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to the Southeast Missouri University Foundation a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to Southeast Missouri University Foundation, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, 63701, [the sum of _____] or [_____% of the rest, residue and remainder of my estate, both real and personal] for its charitable purposes in support of Southeast Missouri State University [for its unrestricted use] or [to establish the _____________ Fund]."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to Southeast or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Southeast as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Southeast as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and Southeast where you agree to make a gift to Southeast and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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