A Pragmatic Approach to Harvard Giving

Phyllis Rose '64, PhD '70
Phyllis Rose
Harvard Alumni website
December 9, 2013

When it comes to the deferred annuity she established with Harvard, Phyllis Rose AB ’64, PhD ’70 is matter-of-fact. “I am not a money person. I don’t want to worry. I want to know in advance how much money I have to live on,” Rose says. “In fact, I would give up a lot of income to know that I will not run out of money. So I have to view what I give as an investment, whose goal is to make my savings last my whole life. What I give cannot just be a gift, unfortunately.”

By deferring her annuity, she will earn around 8 percent interest and enjoy great tax benefits. “Eight percent is fantastic,” she says. “Even if inflation goes up, it has got to go up for a long time before eight percent doesn’t look like a great rate of return.” The fact that Harvard is managing the money gives her confidence, too. “The thing about an annuity is that you have to trust that the institution will be in business for the whole length of your life,” Rose says. “I cannot think of another organization that has been ‘in business’ as long as Harvard—longer than the United States itself! And I would rather Harvard have the money that is left over than an insurance company.”

Rose has designated her annuity to benefit the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, which houses one of the finest collections of resources for research on the history of women in America. “I do not know of another project like the Schlesinger,” she says. “I totally support what they are doing, and however they use the money is fine with me. I would not presume to tell the Schlesinger how to use it.”

The decision to support the Schlesinger Library comes from her concern that the library is not one of the usual suspects when it comes to earmarked donations to Harvard. More than that, though, is that libraries were an essential part of Rose’s time in college.

“The town I grew up in on Long Island was not particularly intellectual. So I was especially happy to be in the intellectual world of Harvard,” she recalls. “I studied; I talked to people; I ate ice cream at Brigham’s or hamburgers at Mr. Bartley’s and had great conversations. It was unbelievably exciting to be with other kids who loved books and ideas. When I got to Cambridge, it was like the Pearly Gates had opened.”

Indeed, one set of gates still resonates. Along Massachusetts Avenue stands Dexter Gate, which cuts through Wigglesworth Hall. The inscription on the outside of the gate is a quote from former Harvard president Charles William Eliot: “Enter to grow in wisdom.” 

“I have always loved that inscription,” Rose says. “It meant so much to me as a student.”

For more information on charitable gift annuities, contact the University Planned Giving office at 800-466-1277 or pgo@harvard.edu.

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