An Easy Gift to Make

Author: UTIA Advancement

Last Updated:

Category: Donor Stories | Legacy Giving

Helen Knight

Helen Knight has always had a passion for helping students.

Born and raised in Knoxville, Knight earned a BS in office administration at UT in 1950. She then taught business education in Maury, Rutherford, and Davidson Counties before returning to Knoxville to retire. She now channels that passion into helping students at the UT Institute of Agriculture.

“My late husband Felix and I spent our lives in public service— he as an Extension agent and me as a high school teacher,” Helen explains. “Because we had no children of our own, the students we served became our children—particularly the students involved in the 4-H program.” So it was no surprise when the Knights made gifts to fund a scholarship endowment for 4-H’ers.

Felix, a native of Dayton, Tennessee, earned a BS in dairying from UT in 1950 and an MS in animal husbandry in 1961. He began his career with UT Extension as an agent in Maury County. He enjoyed teaching and encouraging 4-H youth there and in Rutherford County where he worked next. Felix invested the largest portion of his career in Davidson County, where he served for twenty-three years before retiring as county Extension leader. He passed away in 2006.

“I saw firsthand the benefits of Extension and particularly 4-H,” Helen says. “Our hope was that the Knight scholarship could ease the financial burden associated with going to college for those 4-H students.”

The Felix and Helen Knight Memorial Scholarship Endowment was initially funded with a bequest and a charitable remainder trust. Following Felix’s death, Helen, however, felt called to do more. That “more” came in the form of a charitable gift annuity.

“I was intrigued by the charitable gift annuity because I was able to make a charitable gift and receive a tax deduction and then get an income stream for life,” she says. “Evan Beech, assistant director of advancement, suggested it, and it made perfect sense for my situation. The advancement team assisted with the paperwork, and I didn’t even have to see my lawyer. It was an easy gift to make.”

At its heart, a gift annuity is simply a contract between a donor and a charity such as the UT Foundation for the benefit of UTIA. In exchange for a charitable gift, the UT Foundation agrees to make specified quarterly payments for life to the beneficiary. Numerous charitable strategies allow the donor access to an income stream when making a charitable gift. One of the oldest and most popular is the charitable gift annuity.

Because of the Knights’ generosity, many 4-H’ers are able to study at the Herbert College of Agriculture.

“Felix spent his entire career as an Extension agent, doing what he loved to do,” Helen says. “UTIA played such a significant role in my husband’s life. I want other students to have the opportunity to pursue their passions just like he did.”