Chemistry, Charity and the Best Choice

Dr. Diana Nevins

Dr. Diana Nevins

Dr. Diana Nevins is frank about her decision to attend Iowa State University. It was not her first choice.

"Iowa State was my 'safety' school," she admitted. "I was accepted to two other 'prestigious' schools, but my parents didn't have enough money to send me there."

Today, Nevins considers Iowa State the best choice.

"I received a great education," said Nevins, who graduated with a degree in chemistry in 1985. She always wanted to be a doctor, but she felt a pre-medical major was too limiting. "I wanted a major that was marketable beyond a medical degree," she said. Majoring in chemistry was an easy pick for Nevins, who liked the subject in high school and received support from Iowa State chemistry professor Robert Angelici for her decision.

Gilman HallShe enjoyed her classes and professors at Iowa State, even when one lab experiment went awry. Nevins and her lab partner were working with a chemical compound for an assignment, when, "We saw the gas pouring out the end of the tube," Nevins remembered. The fume hood in the lab had malfunctioned and Gilman Hall had to be temporarily evacuated.

Other experiments also garnered Nevins and her classmates attention, but were far less harrowing.

As a member of the student-organized Society of Chemistry Undergraduate Majors (SCUM), Nevins was part of a chemistry-themed magic show that drew crowds at Veishea and local elementary schools. SCUM students made their own costumes, sets and puppets — creating their version of The Muppet Show, a television program by puppeteer Jim Henson that aired during the late 1970s. Nevins, who played a wizard, and her fellow student actors joked with their puppet co-stars while demonstrating basic chemical reactions using phenanthrene, white phosphorus and liquid nitrogen.

After graduating from Iowa State, Nevins received a master's degree in molecular, cellular and developmental biology and a medical degree from Penn State University. She now works in pathology at Methodist Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, where she has served since completing her fellowship nearly 17 years ago.

Nevins gave back to Iowa State when she could, even during the lean years as a medical student. "They were small amounts, but it made sense because I wanted to support Iowa State and I didn't have a lot of money," Nevins said.

A hurricane changed things.

In 2005, Nevins was reading comments on an online message board about Hurricane Katrina and the loss people suffered along the Gulf Coast. Moved by the need of those who had lost so much and now working as a physician making a better income than when she was a student, Nevins wrote a check to Katrina relief and decided to make charitable giving part of her financial planning.

Since then, she has established the Dr. Diana L. Nevins Scholarship in Physical and Life Sciences at Iowa State. She made her gift in three parts, providing short-term funding so the scholarship could be awarded right away, building a permanent fund to ensure the scholarship continues into the future and designating funds to be added later through her estate plan.

Student in lab

1987: Student Jim Thoden creates color reactions in a SCUM chemistry show.

Nevins believes more students should consider Iowa State, which offers an outstanding education and is more affordable than private schools. Scholarships will help keep it that way, Nevins points out. "If state legislatures are cutting back on funding and we want to keep educational costs under control, individuals are going to have to fill in the gap. We can make a difference."

As a proud Cyclone, Nevins said it is rewarding to help others who have chosen Iowa State University. "Going to Iowa State turned out to be a wonderful thing," said Nevins of her experience. "Iowa State is where my heart is."

Choose to Make a Difference

Whether you give to scholarships, faculty or facilities, a gift in your will elevates the exceptional education for which Iowa State is known and makes a significant difference in the lives of students. To learn more, contact the office of gift planning at 800.621.8515 or

“I thought about what meant the most to me – outside of my family – and it was obvious that I would give to Iowa State. So I called the office of gift planning and they helped me plan the best course of action.”

- Margaret "Margi" Donaldson

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Iowa State University 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 Iowa State University, a nonprofit corporation currently located at Ames, Iowa, 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 Iowa State 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 Iowa State 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 Iowa State 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 Iowa State where you agree to make a gift to Iowa State 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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