A Meaningful and Lasting Legacy

Jerry and Mary Lou Wiggins told each of their four children that two important ingredients were foundational for a happy life. The first was to choose a soulmate for a partner. The second was to get a quality education.

According to Jerry, all of the siblings have done well in both regards. His third child, Kristin Wiggins Reich ’91, chose to attend Saint Mary’s College, and earned a degree in elementary education. Both father and daughter agree that the advice—and her choice of schools—has made all the difference in Kristin’s life. 

Jerry graduated from Notre Dame in 1962. Raising their family in Columbus, Ohio, he and Mary Lou stayed close to his alma mater, returning to campus occasionally to attend a football game. Kristin has a vivid memory of  visiting Saint Mary’s as a 13-year-old on one of those weekends, and being impressed. Years later, when it came time to choose her college, she did not hesitate.

“When I was 13, I thought I could never choose an all-girls school,” Kristin said. “But, once I was in high school and knew I wanted to be a teacher, I remembered how the campus felt, and I applied.” 

When she received her acceptance letter in the mail, it was a big moment for her entire family. “In January of my senior year, I was waiting for all of the acceptance or rejection letters to come in. One day, two arrived in the mail,” Kristin said. She remembers walking into the house, her mother holding the big envelope from Saint Mary’s. “She looks at me with this face, just no expression. And I thought, oh no! But then I saw the envelope was thick—because back in the day, they were thick when you were accepted—and she blurted out that she’d already opened it and read it.” Turns out, Mary Lou had also already called Jerry with the positive news, but Kristin didn’t mind. The other envelope, also an acceptance letter,  was tossed in the trash. 

Decades later, Jerry and Mary Lou reorganized their estate plan to include all of their children, as well as organizations that supported Catholic values. They chose to support Saint Mary’s through Charitable Gift Annuities (CGAs). 

“For us, Catholic organizations, including Saint Mary’s, provide a strong moral and ethical foundation for their educational process,” Jerry said. “That was the most important issue for us. The Catholic Church has developed a whole array of very high-quality educational facilities. When Kristin made the decision to come to Saint Mary's, it was with our full support. We were very pleased. And now the College has become the beneficiary of that process.”

A planned gift, such as the CGA chosen by the Wiggins’, allows a donor to make a sizable gift using cash, securities, or other assets. In return, the donor is eligible to take a partial tax deduction for the donation, plus receive a fixed stream of cash payments from the charity for the rest of their life. At the end of the donor’s life (as well as their spouse’s if giving as a couple), the charity receives the remainder of the gift. 

To know that Jerry and Mary Lou have chosen to support Saint Mary’s in their estate plan is deeply meaningful to Kristin. “It means the world to me. I am so proud that my parents are able to do that because I consider myself very fortunate to have gone there. Not every woman out there can say they went to a college like Saint Mary’s.”

Though Mary Lou passed away in 2022, she was able to watch Kristin thrive throughout her career.  “My time at Saint Mary’s is such a big part of me,” Kristin continued. “And their gift will allow students to attend, who otherwise may not be able to. I tell every person who has a daughter to look at Saint Mary’s. It is an integral part of who I am. I'm very fortunate to have that degree.” 

Jerry encourages others to consider a CGA as a planned gift to benefit Saint Mary’s. “I think it's just a wonderful opportunity to make a meaningful gift to the College,” he said. “It will provide you with a charitable deduction on your taxes, and provides you with a very safe cash flow for the remainder of your life. It's just a great vehicle for a retired person to provide that kind of support.”

Today, Kristin is newly retired after a 31-year career in elementary education. Living near Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and their blended family of five children, she is still considering a second career as a college-level educator. 

“Someday I might still do that,” she says. “I earned my master’s degree from University of Memphis in 2005, and I have always thought about teaching at a college. Because I will say this, the education department at Saint Mary's was ahead of its time when I went through. We had to have a lot of classroom experience before we even stepped foot in a student teaching position. Other people I’ve talked to who graduated around the same time from other schools did not have that. Saint Mary's really wanted you to know what a classroom experience was like. As soon as you graduated, you could hit the ground running.”

As a tribute to Kristin’s lifelong gratitude to Saint Mary’s, and how the College prepared her for her career, Jerry and Mary Lou also established the Kristin Wiggins Reich '91 Endowed Scholarship in 2020. The purpose of the scholarship is to assist students with financial need who are intending or declaring a major in education. At the end of the CGA payout terms, the Wiggins’ have committed the gift remainder to this scholarship. 

“The cost of education has gone up dramatically,” Jerry said. “I looked at Kristin's tuition bills from when we sent her to school, and the difference is night and day between then and now. Economically, it is much more difficult for a person to attend a private school.” Jerry and Mary Lou understood there was one way they could help: to provide economic support for those who want to attend Saint Mary’s.

To Kristin, knowing young women will have the chance to receive the same foundation as she did is a gift from her parents that she can never repay.

March 14, 2024

Back to Stories