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Do bequests make a difference?

Donors make bequests to make a difference after they are gone. Mary Goodman, a New Haven laundress who bequeathed her life savings (nearly $5,000) to Yale Divinity School to provide scholarships for African Americans, was especially successful in this regard: her bequest supported the school’s first black students, and continues to support students today, nearly 144 years later.

Goodman saw the critical need for education among African Americans following the Civil War, and her vision led her to become the first person of color to make a gift to Yale University. The Divinity School continues to recognize the transformative power of this gift, which is now worth nearly $190,000. In May 2015, Yale Divinity graduated its largest-ever class of African American students, and in January 2016, the school announced the creation of the Mary A. Goodman Circle. Any person who gives $50,000 or more to the Divinity School, cumulative, during his or her lifetime will become a member of the circle. And an alumni group is urging the university to name one of two new residential buildings that will open in 2017 in honor of Mary Goodman.

Mary Goodman did not have an education, and faced racial and gender barriers that would seem almost insurmountable from today’s perspective. And yet she continues to have a significant beneficial impact on education, society, and individuals who will minister into the 22nd century and beyond.

That is the power of bequests.

This article was first published in the blog of In Trust Center for Theological Schools | January 28, 2016