To call Mike Littlejohn a tree hugger is exaggerating things quite a bit, but he does like trees, especially one very significant tree on the campus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. It's a tree that represents his proudest accomplishment during his undergraduate years when he was studying business administration in the early 1970s.
"That was a very active time on campus. It was the anti-war era, and activism and student protests were a regular part of student life," Mike explains. "I was a student senator-very involved in student government-and participated in the African American Student Liberation Force. One of my proudest accomplishments was organizing a tree-planting ceremony in front of UT's university center to commemorate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The tree and the commemorative plaque are still there today."
Recently, Mike returned to campus to be a part of two commemorative occasions. On Feb.1, 2011, he joined the march that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first black undergraduate students to enroll at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
"There were more than 500 people who participated in that walk from the Torchbearer to the university center, and it warmed my heart to see that students are still engaged and interested in civic affairs," he says.
Then on Feb. 18, Mike lunched with the recipients of a scholarship made possible by his generosity. "I support this scholarship because I want to help kids who are as I was-hardworking, brimming with potential, but needing a little financial support."
Mike reminisces about his own financial struggles. "I remember one two-week period during my junior year when the only thing I had to my name was two old pennies. The only way I made it through those two weeks was through the kindness of my friends. I remember thinking, 'If I ever have the opportunity, I'm going to give back and help someone else.' That is my motivation; well, that plus the philosophy instilled in me by my parents that a good education is the ticket out of poverty."
Mike is one of eight children raised by his parents in Memphis, Tenn. "Dad was a laborer with the Illinois Central Railroad, and my mom was a maid, so with eight kids, we were very poor. But my parents taught us the value of hard work and a good education. Going to college was expected."
Mike says it was on the streets of Memphis that the seeds were sown for his life's work.
"I've always enjoyed sales. Even as a kid I had a newspaper route and sold sweet potatoes door-to-door; I had the drive and focus to be good at it. Plus, I enjoy people, and sales really is all about people and relationships."
Mike remembers taking his first airplane flight to attend orientation at UT. "Ironically, I've been flying on planes ever since," he says.
Shortly after graduating in 1973, Mike joined IBM in Knoxville to sell typewriters. He retired 32 years later, after logging countless frequent flier miles and moving his family six times. "I suppose it's true what they say," he laughs, "IBM stands for 'I've Been Moved!'" Mike's work with IBM took him to Detroit; White Plains, NY; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Pittsburgh - twice.
A Lifelong Fan
Although his longest stay was in Pittsburgh, Mike never invested in Steelers tickets; he was too busy driving to Knoxville to follow the Vols! "Of course!" he says, as if there were no other choice. "I would pick up my two boys at school on Friday afternoon and either drive or fly to Knoxville for the games on Saturday." Both sons eventually graduated from UT's College of Business Administration as well-Karl with a major in marketing in 2002 and Drew with a major in logistics in 2009.
Mike is still an avid Vol fan, following athletic events from swimming to basketball and softball to track. "If the Vols had a pinochle team, I'd follow that too!" he admits. No doubt, the proximity to UT sports was a major factor in Mike's decision to make Knoxville his retirement home. "I also have half a dozen lifelong friends who live here, friends I met while I was at UT," he adds.
While he enjoys maintenance-free living ("I gave my lawnmower and leaf blower to my son-that was a great feeling!") and a schedule that makes him feel "as if everyday is Saturday," Mike is still very much a productive force to be reckoned with. "Let's put it this way," he says, "I'm on the lookout for good things to do, and I'm busy enough to have no trouble sleeping at night!"
"I have a tremendous affection for the University of Tennessee because of what it did for me. It played a huge role in my life and opened a lot of doors for me along the way. I have no hesitation in encouraging others to give. Every gift makes a difference," Mike says.
One need only see Mike with his tree for proof of how, with just a little help, seedlings can blossom into bountiful blessings.
To learn more about how you can leave a legacy that will help future students for generations to come, please contact the Office of Planned Giving at (865) 974-4826 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The information on this website is not intended as legal or tax advice. For such advice, please consult an attorney or tax advisor. Figures cited in examples are for hypothetical purposes only and are subject to change. References to estate and income taxes include federal taxes only. State income/estate taxes or state law may impact your results. Annuities are subject to regulation by the State of California. Payments under such agreements, however, are not protected or otherwise guaranteed by any government agency or the California Life and Health Insurance Guarantee Association. A charitable gift annuity is not regulated by the Oklahoma Insurance Department and is not protected by a guaranty association affiliated with the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Charitable gift annuities are not regulated by and are not under the jurisdiction of the South Dakota Division of Insurance.
A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to The University Of Tennessee a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.
an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan
"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to The University Of Tennessee [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."
able to be changed or cancelled
A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.
cannot be changed or cancelled
tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient
the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation
the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase
the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on
The person receiving the gift annuity payments.
the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid
a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will
the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will
A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to UT or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.
An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.
Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.
Securities, real estate, or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.
Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.
A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.
You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the gift tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.
You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to UT as a lump sum.
You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to UT as a lump sum.
A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.
A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and UT where you agree to make a gift to UT and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.