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Yosemite valley and hills

Yosemite was a favorite destination for Ray Bright, JD '59.

Life Income Gift Honors Law School, Supports the Environment

Spring 2012

Ray Bright, JD '59, long had two primary goals: to keep Stanford Law School strong, and to ensure that the environment remains beautiful and supporting for mankind. He started moving toward those aims five years ago with a generous life income gift to the Law School. Now, with his passing in August 2011, an added bequest gift establishes a cash award to be given by Stanford annually to an individual who has made a significant mark on environmental preservation and global sustainability.

A lawyer who specialized in personal injury litigation while developing property in the San Francisco Bay Area, Bright, who had no children, established a charitable gift annuity with Stanford of $5 million in 2007. Under the terms of such a gift, he received a regular income from the transfer of his assets while he was alive. Since his passing, the remainder of the gift has transferred to the Law School, along with an additional donation of the bulk of his estate—properties and financial assets that will raise Bright's total support for the law school to approximately $11 million.

Starting in 2013, $100,000 of the gift will apply annually to what will eventually be called the Bright Award—a prize to honor a person who resides anywhere in the world and who has been identified by a Stanford faculty and student committee as someone with a significant track record in working for environmental preservation. That person, whom Bright specified "does not need to be educated," will be flown to the university to deliver a lecture and meet with faculty and students. "He wanted to support not just high flyers, but anybody from any walk of life who has helped preserve the earth—the common man and woman," says B. Howard Pearson, senior philanthropic advisor and development legal counsel at Stanford, who worked closely with Bright on his charitable giving.

The rest of the gift will be applied to Stanford's environmentally oriented educational initiatives—such as the Woods Institute on the Environment, classes, clinics, student efforts, and field trips. "Ray and his wife Marcelle enjoyed nature by spending time at Yosemite, Death Valley and Sardine Lake, a few favorite places, to rejuvenate the soul," recalls Michael Bright, one of Bright's two surviving brothers. "One of Ray's quotes was 'Nature, by itself, may mean more to a human's spirit than anything else.' He also would say, 'Since the human race has the ability to destroy nature, and itself, it is incumbent on the human race to protect nature.'"

Bright's interest in beauty, both natural and man made, was reflected in his development of a complete block of land known as Victoria Mews, which contains 87 Victorian-style condominiums in his beloved city of San Francisco. In addition to managing the Mews and other properties, Bright and Marcelle, who passed in 2005, loved to travel around the world, and Bright was also an avid boater, golfer, and tennis player.

"Ray had the foresight to partake of a combination of giving options available through Stanford—the life income gift and a bequest that included real estate—to secure both the Law School's future and his own while he was still alive," said Pearson. Life income gifts, such as charitable remainder trusts, are created when donors transfer cash, securities, real estate, or other assets to the university. Stanford then invests those assets, and the donors or other beneficiaries receive income for life.

Giving by bequest costs nothing up front, yet gives donors a great deal of satisfaction knowing that their future gift will live on. An outright gift from one's estate is entirely free from federal estate taxes, which means that Stanford is able to use the full amount of the bequest. Some donors also choose to transfer to the university retirement plan assets, appreciated securities, gift annuities, and pooled income funds.

"Ray believed he owed Stanford for the education he received above and beyond what he paid while attending," says Michael Bright. "He also felt, after meeting Howard Pearson at Stanford, that they were the people and the institution he could trust to pass on his vision for protecting the environment."

Pearson comments, "Ray is a wonderful example of how one can marry philanthropic interests with excellent charitable giving vehicles to produce a terrific result. This will leave a lasting legacy at his alma mater and will impact the area he wanted to support."