Loss Leads to a Plan

Allison Hite Sheridan and Chris Conklin

Allison Hite Sheridan, shown with husband, Chris Conklin, used her will to show her love for Iowa State and support for art education.

Over the course of about eight years, Allison Hite Sheridan and her husband, Chris Conklin, lost both of their parents.

Chris’ mom and dad had serious illnesses. Allison’s parents both died unexpectedly. Her father, the last parent to die, passed in his sleep in 2019. Chris and Allison, who have no siblings, at one point had five houses and six cars in three states on their hands. They’ve sold some of the big-ticket items and continue to sift through and box up decades of family belongings.

“I hear the tear of packing tape in my sleep,” said Allison, who, as collections manager and Farm House Museum curator with Iowa State University Museums, has a lot of experience with art- and artifact-ladened estates bequeathed to the university.

During this complicated and emotional process, the couple started focusing on the fate of their own changing estate and the impact they could make through philanthropy.

“Once we saw the funds start to come together and how much we’re inheriting and the amount of land, I thought, ‘What if I get hit by a bus?’” Allison said. “We had wills but realized that we needed to go through the process again and make sure our wishes were ironclad.”

Allison came to Iowa State from Wisconsin with plans to study veterinary medicine but changed her major to history by the end of her first semester. An Introduction to Museum Studies course led to an internship with University Museums, and then, after graduation, a job. Her love of campus and art education inspired her estate planning.

“It’s a beautiful campus, with a sense of community,” she said. “I find it a magical place. I get to teach students to use scientific reasoning when they look at art. To look at a depiction of a farm or livestock and to bring their knowledge to determine how accurate it is. And I just love the Farm House because it is one of the original buildings on campus.”

Working with a lawyer, Allison and Chris created a plan in which part of their estate would go to Chris’ alma mater to fund a scholarship, and part to University Museums. Allison made sure that the Iowa State University Foundation knew she wanted the funds to support the museums’ day-to-day operations – “the nitty gritty, the not-so-glamorous things you need for programming and to keep the doors open.”

“We hope we are an example for people, particularly younger people,” she said. “Even if you have a will, revisit the plan. Make sure it is as up to date as possible.”

Is It Time to Update Your Plan?

Experts recommend updating your estate plan anytime you experience a life change such as a birth, marriage, death or move. To discuss how your plan can make an impact at Iowa State, contact the office of gift planning at 800.621.8515 or giftplanning@foundation.iastate.edu.