Wendell H. and Elaine J. Matthias: Gift Works Well for Donors and Wartburg

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Know the difference between a Matthias family reunion and a Wartburg College reunion? There is no difference. Fourteen members of the families of Wendell H. and Elaine J. Matthias are Wartburg graduates, with a 15th scheduled to graduate in 2009.

"Wartburg is a very special place," Wendell says, "and what makes it so special is the people. That's just the way it is."

"It's the people," agrees Elaine, a 1959 graduate who met Wendell, a 1958 grad and now a retired farmer, when they were Wartburg students. "Your best friends then are still your best friends."

Wendell and Elaine are so appreciative for what Wartburg means to their family that in 2003 they set up a charitable remainder unitrust with the college. The trust was established with farmland.

"I'm really glad we did this," Wendell says. "There were big tax breaks—really big tax breaks—when we set it up. And the trust has grown quite a bit.

"My accountant said the other day, ‘I couldn't be more proud of you. The trust is doing exactly what it should—working for you and the college both.'"

Wendell and Elaine, who have also established a scholarship at the college and support Wartburg in other ways, find their unitrust particularly rewarding. Wartburg will receive "a lot of money" that would otherwise have gone to taxes, while they receive a 6 percent annual return on their investment.

"The college was very helpful when we decided to do this," Elaine says. "The person who worked with us was absolutely sharper than a tack."

"He really understood it all," Wendell says. "People should just sit down and see how (a unitrust) could work for them. They might be astounded.

"For us, it has been excellent. We're really happy—no second thoughts. Wartburg really appreciates it, too."

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