“I think the University of California is the best public university system in the country,” says dual alumnus Lawrence Benveniste, who earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at UC Irvine in 1972 and a doctoral degree in mathematics at UC Berkeley in 1975. A former dean of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, the renowned economist attributes his success to the rigorous training in mathematics that he received at the two UC schools. Now he and his wife, Marie, have established a $5 million planned gift to ensure that his alma maters continue to provide all students, regardless of background, with the type of world-class education he had.
Benveniste, a native of Culver City, Calif., knows how transformative a UC education can be. He and his brother were the first in their family to attend college. He discovered his passion for mathematics when an influential UC Irvine professor, Robert W. West, introduced him to the rigor and elegance of mathematical thinking. Benveniste still remembers how West artfully used pictures to bring his class in real analysis to life. “It was far and away the best class I’ve ever taken,” Benveniste says. “It inspired me to pursue my studies in math.”
West encouraged his talented protégé to attend graduate school at UC Berkeley, which had a more established program in mathematics than did UC Irvine, then just 7 years old. Well-prepared and highly motivated, Benveniste headed north. He knew that if he could succeed at UC Berkeley, he could succeed anywhere.
As a doctoral student, Benveniste became interested in how mathematics and economics overlapped. His adviser, Professor David Gale, helped him explore this new fascination, and new worlds opened up. Thanks to Gale, Benveniste learned that his passion encompassed economics and finance, as well as mathematics. By the time he graduated, Benveniste felt confident that he would succeed at whatever he chose to do. Mathematics proved to be an ideal launching pad.
“If I started over in life, I’d do exactly what I did,” he says. “I would study math first. I still think that’s the basis for everything I did afterward.”
Paying it Forward
Benveniste has never forgotten what the California education system did for him. Now he and his wife are opening doors for others by structuring a planned gift that will directly benefit the mathematics departments at UC Irvine and UC Berkeley.
When the Benvenistes pass away, their estate will make a distribution valued at about $5 million to create two charitable remainder unitrusts that The Regents of the University of California will manage for 20 years. During that period, the CRUTs will provide the Benvenistes’ heirs – Lawrence Benveniste’s son and granddaughter – with an annual income stream. After two decades, the UC regents will split the rest of the CRUTs between the UC Irvine and UC Berkeley foundations. With the accumulated interest, the combined payouts could exceed $6 million.
According to the Benvenistes’ plan, these funds will be used to establish named endowed chairs in mathematics at the two campuses. The distinguished scholars awarded the endowed chairs will be ideally positioned to advance the field of mathematics regardless of fluctuations in the marketplace. The endowments will be invested in perpetuity, and annual payouts will become a critical source of sustainable funding for the chair holders’ research, teaching, service and other scholarly activities.
Like Robert W. West and David Gale, the two professors who so profoundly influenced Benveniste, the faculty members who hold the Benvenistes’ endowed chairs will introduce future generations to the rigor and elegance of mathematical thinking. And the undergraduate and graduate students who study with them will have the opportunity to explore new frontiers of knowledge with trailblazers in their fields.
Funds from the trust remainders may also be allocated for endowed graduate fellowships in mathematics and for endowments that honor West (at UC Irvine) and Gale (at UC Berkeley).
By supporting charity as well as their heirs, the Benvenistes strengthen the impact of their estate. First, Lawrence Benveniste’s son and granddaughter will receive an annual income stream from the CRUTs. Twenty years later, UC Irvine and UC Berkeley will receive the rest of each trust to subsidize gifted mathematicians. Everybody wins.
As Marie Benveniste says: “A charitable remainder unitrust provides for our family, and then we get the opportunity to impact more lives, especially the terrific faculty and talented students at the two campuses. We get to make a difference in so many lives.”
Her husband adds: “One of the beauties of this structure is that we can be sure that after we’re gone, the money will be managed well. We don’t have to worry.”
Through their strategic philanthropy, Marie and Lawrence Benveniste support bold scholars, dedicated teaching and visionary leadership. The beneficiaries of their endowed gifts will be proud to link their achievements with the Benveniste family name for generations to come.