Couple uses financial savvy to pay it forward
Dennis and Barbara Williams start scholarship to invest in medical students' futures.
Dennis and Barbara Williams have a track record for making smart decisions. One of their smartest, according to Dennis, was attending the University of Florida College of Medicine in 1971.
Although the two didn’t know each other at the time, they did know that UF had a good medical school, and that it was the most desirable and affordable option available.
Late last year, after more than 35 years in medicine, the two scaled back their work schedules and made a smart investment that benefits not just their future but also the future of UF medical students.
Working with a planned giving officer at the UF Foundation, the Williamses transferred appreciated stock to UF to establish a charitable remainder unitrust, or CRUT. The UF Foundation invests the assets, and 6 percent of its value is distributed each year, with 5 percent providing income to the Williamses for the next 20 years, and 1 percent funding a scholarship for a deserving medical student beginning this fall.
At the end of the 20-year term, the remainder of the asset will go to the UF College of Medicine in support of scholarship.
“The CRUT allowed us to give a sizable gift to the University of Florida while we were alive and still receive an income source,” said Dennis, who has practiced cardiology in Tallahassee since 1981. “It’s a competitive rate with tax savings plus a safe and good return on our money, and at the same time it funds a scholarship.
“Medical students today face a great deal of economic stress that we didn’t have,” he continued. “We want to provide some financial relief to a deserving and high-achieving student.”
Although the Williamses’ road to Tallahassee went through Nashville and Chapel Hill, it was their time in Gainesville that set them on their course, and they credit the UF College of Medicine for bringing them together. Barbara and Dennis were in the same class, but they didn’t begin dating until after their second year during an obstetrics rotation. By the start of their fourth year, they were married.
“I was in love,” said Barbara. “But not with the matching process.”
Unlike now, in 1975, physician couples were rare, and to their great surprise the Williamses went unmatched.
“We were initially stunned at our misfortune, but thanks to the late (Dr. Hugh) ‘Smiley’ Hill, (dean for student affairs) and Dr. (Gerold) Schiebler, (emeritus professor and former chair of the department of pediatrics), Dennis and I were able to secure internships at Vanderbilt University in pathology and pediatrics, respectively,” Barbara said. “We subsequently made it to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and have never regretted our detour through Nashville and the extra experiences that helped shape our careers.”
Upon completing their residencies at UNC, the Williamses had another decision to make. “I was offered a job in Greensboro, but North Carolina was too cold for Barbara,” Dennis recalled. “I was also offered a job in Tallahassee, but Barbara was wary of living in the home of the Seminoles. I told her it’s either the cold or the Seminoles.”
Barbara, who has practiced family medicine for 38 years, said that although they are Gators in enemy territory, they love the Tallahassee community and feel it was a wonderful place to raise their three children. She remains involved with UF and the UF College of Medicine, serving on the Alumni Board for two terms and volunteering to help raise funds for her medical school class in honor of milestone reunions.
“Every opportunity I have had in medicine has been because of UF,” she said. “That is why Dennis and I are excited about establishing this scholarship. It is time to invest in the students.”