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One Family's Legacy of Giving Back

Fred and Bessie Mae Chestnut

Fred and Bessie Mae Chestnut

The story of Fred and Bessie Mae Chestnut is a classic tale of America's Greatest Generation.

Born in 1918 in Orrville, Alabama, as the son of a sawmill worker, Fred Chestnut grew up wherever the work took his father during the Great Depression. After graduating from high school in 1938, he began building public projects around Alabama with the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program for unemployed, unmarried men.

When World War II broke out, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, serving as a wireless radio operator in India and China for three years. When he returned home, he attended Howard College (now Samford University) on the GI Bill.

At Howard, Fred met Bessie Mae McElroy of Cuba, Alabama, who shared his love of learning and deep faith.

She completed a year at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. The couple married in 1951 after Fred completed training at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary with the goal of returning to China as a missionary.

By then, China had closed its border to foreign missionaries, so instead the Chestnuts served rural churches until 1957, when Fred accepted an appointment to teach Biblical studies to seminary students at Selma University, a historically black Baptist college.

For the next 33 years, the Chestnuts made Selma their home. They raised two children—David, a highly regarded obstetric anesthesiologist, and Martha, now retired from global professional service company Accenture—who would give them six grandchildren.

Dr. David Chestnut

Dr. David Chestnut

David Chestnut, M.D., is honoring his parents' legacy—one of sharing their faith and helping the African-American community in Alabama—by creating an endowed scholarship at the UAB School of Medicine that gives preference to African-American medical students.

"I wanted to honor their example," says Chestnut, a 1978 School of Medicine alumnus, former chair of the UAB Department of Anesthesiology, and now on the faculty of Vanderbilt University. "They were part of the Greatest Generation—humble backgrounds, a lot of hardship, and called to their work."

When her children were in junior high school, Bessie Mae taught homebound students in Selma. She later drove 100 miles per day to the University of Montevallo to earn her teaching certificate, which she used for 17 years teaching in the Selma public schools until retiring in 1988.

Two years later, Fred Chestnut was diagnosed with a terminal illness. "I was on the faculty at the University of Iowa, and I came home to see him as often as possible," Dr. Chestnut says. To pass the time, Dr. Chestnut read aloud passages from Auburn University historian Wayne Flynt's Poor But Proud: Alabama's Poor Whites.

"My father and I both knew Wayne Flynt, another Samford graduate. His book and the time we spent together brought out stories that I had not heard before," Dr. Chestnut recalls. "I knew he'd had to repeat the fourth grade, and I assumed he had failed, though that had never made sense to me because he was a college graduate.

"I learned that back in those days, public schools could charge tuition. My father owed $4 for that year's tuition, and he had to repeat the year because the family could not afford to pay it."

Fred Chestnut passed away in 1990, and Bessie Mae Chestnut died in 2012. In 2007, Dr. Chestnut and his wife, Janet, established the Fred and Bessie Mae Chestnut Endowed Medical Scholarship. They have made additional gifts to the fund through The Campaign for UAB and have also included it in their estate plan.

"My parents taught me to give back, starting with the first 10 percent to the church," he says. "We feel strongly about that and have passed it on to our five children.

"My parents taught us to have servant hearts, and they lived that every day."

Give Back in Your Own Way

Like the Chestnut family, you can leave a lasting legacy at UAB. Every donation, no matter the size, makes a great impact. Contact the Office of Planned Giving at 205-996-7533 or plannedgiving@uab.edu today to learn more.

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to the University of Alabama at Birmingham 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 the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a nonprofit corporation currently located at
1720 2nd Avenue South
AB 1270
Birmingham, AL 35294-0112, 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 UAB 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 UAB 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 UAB 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 UAB where you agree to make a gift to UAB 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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