The Driving Force of Education
Education has always been at the forefront of what drives Gerry Montgomery. Always willing to tackle the next challenge, he believes in equipping others to do the same.
Montgomery transferred to Iowa State University — known then as Iowa State College — in 1952. With 10 quarters of coursework to complete in nine, he set out to finish as many courses as he could in his set time frame.
"At times I had 24 credit hours and as many as seven three-hour labs at once. With that kind of schedule, Saturday morning classes were a must!" he said. "But as I always say, hard work never hurt anyone." In fact, Montgomery credits his rigorous schedule for instilling a lifelong drive to learn.
Soon after entering the workforce, Montgomery discovered the most valuable thing he had learned while at Iowa State. "Studying engineering was a terrific tool for teaching me how to think," he said. "The kind of work I did in chemical engineering gave me sound skills in analysis and taught me how to be both thorough and rigorous."
Early on in his career at J.C. Penney, he was assigned to work with electronic data processing machines. "We worked with an IBM 705, which had no operating system, no compiler, no disc, no magnetic tape, and a whopping 40,000 bytes of memory. It was a challenge to figure out and work with, but it was the most fun I've ever had."
Montgomery continued to build a successful career as a chemical engineer. Looking back, he knows that the time he spent vigorously learning valuable skills at Iowa State gave him the building blocks that got him where he is today.
"The scholarships I received at Iowa State made me realize that this kind of support isn't only a financial incentive, but it's also an encouragement," he said.
Scholarship support not only allowed Montgomery to transfer to Iowa State, but it also gave him the resources he needed in order to graduate on time — something he wants to make sure to provide for today's students.
Montgomery and his wife, Barbara, have always been active philanthropists in their community. "For as long as I can remember, my wife and I have tithed to our church — even if we may have been a little short of that in the early years! To us, it simply means we are thankful for what we have and should give back accordingly," said Montgomery. Therefore, supporting Iowa State was a natural step for the couple.
The Montgomerys have supported many areas at the university, including a handful of scholarship funds, but they wanted to become even more personalized with their giving. They did their research and established their own scholarship fund, supported largely by a charitable remainder trust.
"I wanted to do what I could to see more women in engineering. There were no women in chemical engineering in my graduating class, and I always thought they should be there," said Montgomery. "Plus, this gift is structured in such a way that my wife and children will still be supported after I'm gone."
For this instance, creating a charitable remainder trust was the best vehicle to support his passion and secure his family's future. "Basically it's like everything else one would do financially," said Montgomery.
"Do the homework and make sure you understand your options."
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