My Decision to Give

Making Long Term Decisions that Matter

By Janie DeCelles for Live Oaks

I finally got around to doing my estate planning, a project which I had procrastinated on for years (all while advising others to do so!). When it came time to deciding where to distribute my estate, charitable giving was going to be an important part of my planning.

I knew I wanted to leave my estate to institutions that would still be around some 30-40 years from now and would spend it wisely and thoughtfully. Having seen the transition of leadership at the Museum from 25-year veteran and friend Mick Hager to the very talented and capable Judy Gradwohl, I knew instinctively that theNAT was an organization which met my criteria.

Once I reached my decision, I made it known to Donna Raub, the Museum’s director of planned giving. I didn’t have any expectations for recognition of my plans, and was pleasantly surprised that I would become a member of the Museum’s Live Oaks Society and receive public recognition among a small group of peers. The Live Oaks group meets regularly, helping to reinforce our decision to provide future support for the Museum, while allowing us to enjoy special learning experiences offered by the institution’s deeply entrenched and experienced scientific staff. While I was comfortable with sharing my plans, the Museum also honors confidentiality for those who prefer to remain anonymous.

I never had any expectations of any “reward” for my decision but I have been rewarded far beyond what I ever imagined. It’s really nice to have this recognition during my lifetime for a gift that will go on forever.

To learn more about the Museum’s Live Oaks Society, please contact Eowyn Bates, VP Advancement, at 619.255.0172 or

One Curator's Decision to Give

There are as many reasons for someone to name the San Diego Natural History Museum in their estate plan as there are Museum members (approximately 7,000). For some, it’s knowing that this Balboa Park legacy institution has already been in existence for 144 years and is here for the long run. Others say it’s a matter of shared values–a concern for the environment and an appreciation for science education. Some take pride in the Museum being the source for pre-eminent natural science information about for the region, and want to help see that role maintained and expanded. Still others have deeply personal reasons, often drawn from their family experience.

One of these heartwarming stories is from Phil Unitt, the Dennis and Carol Wilson Endowed Curator of Ornithology. He shared a deeply personal story at this summer’s Live Oaks rooftop reception honoring new Live Oaks members. Phil’s brother, followed by his mother, both died in a short time frame—within the past three years—suddenly leaving Phil with a great deal to think over. Having spent his very notable career at the Museum, Phil concluded that leaving his estate to the Museum was an important statement, a way to “give back,” and simply what he wanted to do.

As for many of us, however, the process of finding an attorney, answering questions, and filling out paperwork, had slipped to the “back burner.” Often even close friends and family do not realize what a person’s wishes truly are. Phil knew he didn’t want to leave loose ends and uncertainty behind him so he took steps to find an attorney who worked well with him. Phil’s will and a trust are now complete, and now that his wishes are clearly stated, he can have confidence in his plans and enjoy knowing he will be assisting the Museum far into the future.