There's a hint of incredulity in Russ Gerns', B.A. '59, voice when he talks about his contribution to UCLA Anderson. "You almost feel like you're cheating," he says with a shake of his head. He's talking about the charitable remainder trust he and his wife, Nadine, B.A. '62, set up.
It all started when Russ was approached by a friend, Kip Hagopian, '66, who encouraged him to "pony up" to the last capital campaign. Russ felt compelled to give, so, like the accomplished businessman and entrepreneur that he is, he looked into the most effective ways to contribute.
"What immediately struck my interest was the charitable remainder trust where you are, in effect, lending a chunk of money to the school for whatever period of time you pick," he explains. "We chose a ten-year charitable remainder trust. Then, based on an actuarial table, you get to declare in the first year a certain percentage of the gift as a charitable donation, which you can deduct from your income tax. That's a significant benefit. But then, every quarter, you also get deposited into your checking account a sum based on the interest rate you set when you made the gift."
The school benefits by investing the initial sum to generate more income than interest payments to the lender - both the school and the donor benefit. "It's incredible to think that you could contribute money to UCLA, write off a big chunk of it in the first year and get checks every quarter for ten years," Russ says.
"We wouldn't be sitting here if it weren't for UCLA."
The family connection to UCLA runs deep. Nadine, who grew up on the west side of Los Angeles, remembers driving by UCLA long before she enrolled and being struck by its beauty. "I knew that I was going to go to school there," she says. She would go on to earn an undergraduate degree in Ancient History. She also met Russ, another Los Angeles native who was finishing his undergraduate degree in industrial engineering.
The couple decided to stick around town after graduation, a remarkably fortuitous decision. Soon after, a business associate offered Russ a job at a startup in Santa Monica. The company, Scientific Data Systems, made digital computers, and Russ was the 23rd employee. Seven years later, when it sold to Xerox for nearly a billion dollars, there were nearly 6,000 employees. Russ then went on to start three more high-tech companies that went public. Following that, he worked for years in venture capital.
The Gernses have four children, including a son who graduated from UCLA, and five grandchildren. And they credit UCLA for making it all possible. "We wouldn't be sitting here if it weren't for UCLA," Russ says. Which may explain the trace of disbelief in his voice when discussing the gift he and his wife made. Even after all these years, UCLA is still paying off.