Martha Symonds


Martha Symonds’s enduring connection to Northwestern’s School of Education (now the School of Education and Social Policy, or SESP) began in 1940 when her mother, a 1920s graduate of Northwestern, returned to get her master’s degree in education and teaching credential.

After Martha ’57 MS graduated from Stanford 15 years later with a bachelor’s degree in political science, she took her mother’s advice and decided to pursue her master’s degree and teaching credential at SESP, which she completed in 1957. She continued to follow in her mother’s footsteps by dedicating the next nine years of her career to teaching in Evanston and Wilmette schools. During that time, Martha had the opportunity to work with and mentor Northwestern student teachers who completed their practice teaching in her classroom.

When Martha attended Northwestern, SESP was a traditional school of education focused primarily on school-based learning and teacher training. Today, it has transformed into a school with an expanded mission, innovative programs, and far-reaching impact, preparing its students to contribute in the classroom, at not-for-profits, in government, and even in business. Its teacher education program remains one of the best in the nation. Through a broadened curriculum, SESP helps students consider all of the important factors and stakeholders that will impact their professional practice. This innovative approach to teacher training and commitment to preparing leaders in education resonated with Martha, who found her true niche as a problem solver in the leadership positions she held later in her career as Curriculum Director and District Superintendent.

In gratitude for the transformative nature of both her mother’s education and her own, Martha elected to designate SESP as a beneficiary of her retirement plan at the time she planned her estate in order to invest in a quality education for future educators.

“Many Northwestern alumni are regular people like me who have worked hard throughout their lives. You don’t have to be enormously wealthy to give to the University—by naming Northwestern the beneficiary of a retirement account, you can make a significant gift,” Martha says. Northwestern alumni and friends who wish to make a gift to Northwestern of all or a percentage of a retirement account can easily accomplish this by naming the University on the beneficiary designation form provided by the plan administrator. If, like Martha, you would like to direct your support to your favorite school or program at Northwestern, please contact Northwestern Gift Planning at 800-826-6709 or

“I would strongly encourage others to consider supporting Northwestern in this way,” says Martha. “I know that my gift to Northwestern will make a difference.”

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Northwestern 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 give to Northwestern, a nonprofit corporation currently located at 633 Clark Street, Evanston, Illinois 60208, or its successor thereto, ______________ [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

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 Northwestern 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 Northwestern 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 Northwestern 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 Northwestern where you agree to make a gift to Northwestern 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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