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Meet Our Donors

We thank all our planned-gift donors for their generous support. Here are some of their stories.

Jane Bergner

"I Am So Grateful for What the Arts Have Done for Me"

As an estate planning attorney, Jane C. Bergner helps others decide how to best support their favorite charities. Personally, her bequest decision was easy: Jane lights up when she talks about coming to a Kennedy Center performance.

"One of the greatest evenings I've ever experienced was forging my way through a snowstorm to the Kennedy Center to see the Mariinsky Ballet perform Sleeping Beauty," Jane said. "It was a magical performancethe whole experience was like a fairytale."

Jane earned her law degree from Columbia University and was asked in the early days of the Kennedy Center to do some tax work for the American College Theater Festival. She and her late husband, Alfred, were quickly hooked.

Jane and Alfred, who attended Harvard Law, opened their own law firm in 1993; nine years later Alfred died from a brain tumor at the age of 59. As longtime subscribers and donors, the Bergners for years attended ballets, concerts, and operas together. Jane prefers opening night of a ballet but closing night of an operabecause on the last night "they always sing their hearts out."

"No other venue in the United States presents as many of the world's major ballet companies each year as the Kennedy Center. Truly a national treasure!"

Jane says an estate gift is an ideal way for women donors with financial responsibilities to support the charities they love. "Many people are reluctant to give now because they may need the money for medical expenses, children, or grandchildren," she said. "A charitable bequest allows you to say thanks for all the pleasure you have received over the years. I am so grateful for what the arts have done for me."

Dana Hearn and Kevin McCloskey

Although they live 75 miles away in "Little" Washington, Virginia, Dana Hearn and Kevin McCloskey feel every trip they make to the Kennedy Center is worth it. "Just entering the building is like being in a cathedral" says Kevin. Their visits provide them with a tranquil sense of calm and grounding; and when they hear a piece of interesting or beautiful music, they are literally transported to a peaceful place. When asked what piece in particular inspires these feelings, they both agree on Sergei Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2. While their main love is classical music, and they happily subscribe to the National Symphony Orchestra, Kevin also introduced Dana to ballet which he now enjoys and they frequent the theater as well.

Over the years, Kevin and Dana increased their annual membership level to Producer's Circle, enabling them to attend events such as cast parties, Insider Events and backstage tours. "Everyone at the Kennedy Center makes us feel so welcome".

During a backstage tour of the Concert Hall they were particularly impressed by Marcia Farabee, the Principal Librarian of the National Symphony Orchestra, who talked about the many facets of her job. They had never thought about the intricacies and expense of getting the actual music on stands in front of musicians. Learning about the process gave them a whole new appreciation of how a symphony orchestra operates. "Before we use to come to a concert and just enjoy the music. Now we can appreciate the complexity of putting on a performance."

In the past, Kevin would read about planned giving and think "That doesn't apply to me. I don't have an 'estate'." But now he realizes that no matter what you have, it's important to decide who or what organization benefits from it rather than letting the state decide. A retired elementary school teacher of 40 years, Kevin decided to designate his bequest to the Kennedy Center education programs which will help provide amazing programs to millions of young people each year.
When thinking about their estate plans, Dana asked himself "What has given me some of the greatest joy in life? His answer: "The Kennedy Center!" He was so impressed by Marcia Farabee's talk during the backstage tour that he wants his future gift to be used for the NSO library. Dana says "I hope it comes across that the gift to the Kennedy Center is important to us and it can be important to others who may not have considered it before." 

The Kennedy Center is very fortunate to have such committed patrons as Dana and Kevin. We are deeply grateful for their support and enthusiasm.

George and Dorothy "Duffy" Ftikas

George and Dorothy "Duffy" Ftikas share a love of symphonic and chamber music, good food and travel. They particularly love the National Symphony Orchestra. "We are so pleased that we can support a first tier orchestra." Subscribers since they moved to Washington DC in 1986, the Ftikases say it's a privilege to see the combination of lyricism from the days of Principal Conductor Mstislav Rostropovich added to the discipline from Leonard Slatkin culminate in the excitement of current Director, Maestro Christoph Eschenbach.

They particularly love hearing and watching Concert Master, Nurit Bar-Josef and Principal Cellist, David Hardy both as part of the NSO and playing chamber music. As George's hometown Thassaloniki, the 2nd largest city in Greece and capital of Macedonia didn't have a symphony or any classical music, his early exposure to music was limited to a cousin's gramophone. One day he found a 78 recording of Beethoven's Egmont Overture and recounts how this record opened up a whole new world for him. His face lights up when he remembers the pivotal moment that led him to develop a great love for Beethoven. He describes the German composer's works as music that makes his hair stand on endhe likes to add with a twinkle "I don't have any hair." While George loves music, he bemoans his own inability to play an instrument. He says that it never sounds the way he wishes to hear it, but he is delighted to satiate his desire for beautiful music by coming to NSO performances with Duffy.

Duffy's love of classical music was encouraged both by her mother playing piano in her childhood home, and through wonderful gifts of records and concert tickets from her grandfather. After completing her Master's degree at Columbia University, Duffy worked for 35 years (at the same school!) in her home state of New Jersey as an occupational therapist helping disabled young children learn self-care skills. She loved every moment of her career, and was sad to retire and leave such a meaningful life's work. Her sadness is not regret though, as she and George can now do many fantastic things together especially travelling around the world. Duffy also felt confident to retire, as she had the opportunity to train many graduate students in her field and she takes great satisfaction that her work will be carried on by others.

It was this sense of gratification that also inspired the Ftikases to make the NSO a beneficiary of their IRA. It is the most tax-efficient gift they can leave, and it will help ensure the future of the performances they love so much.

With the worries of the workplace now at bay, George and Duffy can be found travelling around the world typically on a cruise, immersing themselves in local culture. Duffy says that they "hunger for travel" and just last year visited Fiji, Tahiti, Bali, Tasmania and one of their favorites New Zealand. When not off exploring international arts, the Ftikases enthusiastically enjoy the opportunities here in Washington that their Artist's Circle membership affords them, especially the small events where they have met Maestro Eschenbach along with many other artists. Each time they are at the Center, they take great pride in knowing they have left their mark on the local arts community. We are so appreciative of George and Duffy's support of the NSO both now and in the future.


Bill Turner

The first thing you'll notice about Bill Turner is his height. But once you get to know him you'll realize that the biggest thing about him is really his heart. "There is nothing I won't do for the Kennedy Center. When I volunteer, I do it without conditions." Not only has Bill volunteered as a tour guide and area leader for Kennedy Center festivals since 1988, but he is also a subscriber, donor, patron, usher, and general Kennedy Center enthusiast. You'll find him, resplendent in his red jacket, directing guests outside the Box Office on Thursday evenings or at the Eisenhower Theater taking your ticket at several weekend performances.

Chat with Bill about your favorite performances, and he may share his favorites with you. When he loves a show, he can't see it enough. A Washington National Opera subscriber since 1988, Bill saw Porgy and Bess on his subscription and loved it so much that he signed up to usher at the Opera House several more times so he could see it again. He's seen August Osage County about 15 times; when A Few Good Men premiered at the Kennedy Center in 1989, he marveled at the daily changes made by playwright Aaron Sorkin during previews. One of the biggest thrills of Bill's life was being a supernumerary in both La Bohme and Gtterdmmerung. He especially loves opera for the completeness of the experience--the passion, music, costumes, and theatrics.

Bill is "a child of Foggy Bottom." He was born at George Washington University Hospital to parents who met at GWU, and he grew up listening to his father play classical music and showtunes on their grand piano. Bill remembers enjoying family outings to the original "Watergate" (before the Watergate building existed), where they sat on the stairs under the Lincoln Memorial and watched the National Symphony Orchestra perform on a barge on the Potomac River. He also remembers the excitement of being taken as a child to see the first production of South Pacific on Broadway and The Nutcracker at Constitution Hall.

A former English professor with a Ph.D. in English (West Virginia University), an M.S. in Library and Information Science (Catholic University), and a B.A. in English (Davis & Elkins College), Bill has returned to his Foggy Bottom roots by working at the West End D.C. Public Library, where he runs a monthly book club. But the Kennedy Center and the Library are not his only passions--in 2010 he won the Volunteer of the Year Award from Miriam's Kitchen (where he regularly serves breakfast) for his program bringing life skills and arts therapy to the homeless through short stories.

About his dedication to the Center Bill says, "Everyone comes to the Kennedy Center sooner or later." He sees old classmates, family friends, clients from Miriam's Kitchen, former students, regular patrons, and newcomers in town for tours and performances and loves to share his enthusiasm with all of them. "The Kennedy Center is not just any institution--it serves as a place for the spirit. When I have a tough day at work I come to the Kennedy Center, and right away my spirits are lifted and I feel reenergized," he explains.

In addition to his annual gift, Bill has designated a percentage of his revocable trust for the Kennedy Center. Planning this bequest was important to him because "I want to leave a legacy that reflects my values and beliefs." He likes to paraphrase President John F. Kennedy by saying, "Ask not what the Kennedy Center can do for you; ask what you can do for the Kennedy Center." We are awed by the many ways in which Bill Turner supports the performing arts at the Kennedy Center. He is generous with his time, his money, and his heart. Thank you, Bill!


Bob and Jamie Craft


Robert and Jamie Craft at their son's celebrated restaurant, Niche, in St. Louis

Robert H. Craft and his wife, Jamie have such enthusiasm for opera, ballet and the performing arts that they sparkle with excitement when remembering the performances they've seen. Not only can they recall the name of the opera or ballet, they also remember the performers and the conductor, as well as where and when the performance took place. It's almost as if they mark events in their lives by the definitive performances they saw. They laud the heart-stoppingly beautiful performances they've seen from Diana Vishneva dancing Giselle with the Mariinsky Ballet to Plcido Domingo and Anja Kampe performing Die Walkre with Washington National Opera.

Since arriving in Washington DC in 1975, they have been regulars at the Kennedy Center, attending a wide variety of performances, but reserve a special place in their hearts for Washington National Opera productions. Jamie was a founding member of the Women's Committee of the Opera in 1976; Bob joined the WNO Board in 1980, serving as General Counsel for the majority of his term, and as President for 4 years.

Bob's love of opera began when a family friend advised him to broaden his course choices as a Princeton University sophomore. He decided to take "A History of Opera" and "Italian Painting of the Renaissance". He calls them "life-changing courses". As managing partner of the Washington office during a distinguished career at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, he was asked to choose the art for the Washington DC office. He relished the task of putting together a thoughtful collection of Washington-themed art, and Jamie put her antiques expertise to use by sourcing some of the American folk art.

Bob and Jamie met at a wedding, where he swept her off her feet - just as she was about to marry someone else! Early on, he took her to see Mefistofele at the New York City Opera, one of the great productions that people still talk about today. There, they began a lifelong love of attending performances together. Jamie says she was a "willing convert" and raves about the thrill of seeing a daring performer who keeps you on the edge of your seat.

They are thrilled about the upcoming WNO and Kennedy Center affiliation, and look forward to the future of the Opera under Michael Kaiser's care. They got to know and admire the Kennedy Center's current president when he joined the Board of what was then The Washington Opera in 1983. They feel that his business knowledge along with his love for opera will be important assets.

About 10 years ago, they decided they wanted to support the long-range plans of the Opera. They added a bequest into their wills, and were subsequently asked to become the Founding Patrons of Washington National Opera's Legacy Society. They have since graciously and enthusiastically filled this role, and continue to host an annual tea for WNO Legacy Society members. "Of course, our children and grandchildren will always be the priority, but we feel it's important to support the performances too, so they will be here for our grandchildren and for generations to come." Jamie believes "Everyone needs art in their lives". Bob adds "It's what keeps a community vibrant".


Patricia Morton: “Wherever I am, my spirit demands culture”


Liberace and Patricia Morton, At the 2010 Roger L. Stevens Society Lunch

Patricia Morton's life story is a tale of adventure, travel and commitment to the performing arts. Her mother was a teacher and exposed her to the arts from an early age. Even her birthplace seems to have set Patricia up for a life in the arts: "I was born in the same town as Merce Cunningham, Centralia, Washington", she likes to say. She often remembers events in relation to performances she saw and artists she liked. Her father and brother were sports lovers and always had the radio tuned to a game. If she wanted to hear music, Patricia had to make it herself: she became an accomplished pianist and thrived in a family of singers and artists.

After earning a B.A. in Economics, Patricia became a speech writer for then Governor of Washington, Albert Rosellini which gave her access to all sorts of performing artists. But the world beckoned, and soon she was positioned with the State Department in locations both exotic and glamorous. No matter where Patricia went, she connected with the countries and their people by soaking up local performing arts, architecture and museums. For her first assignment with the State Department, she had a choice: Paris or Nepal. A lover of mountain climbing from her childhood near Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens, Patricia agreed to go to Nepal but only if they would ship her beloved little blue convertible Triumph over. They finally agreed even though Katmandu hardly had any paved roads! She became famous for her car and even Royal Family members had their mechanics create new windshield wipers for it. "I never had problems with parts", she says with a smile.


Patricia Morton in front of the American Embassy in Nepal

From Nepal, she went on to postings in Singapore, Zaire, the Cameroon, Vietnam, the Netherlands and extensive working trips to South and Central America. At one point she was delighted to be assigned the night shift from midnight to 6am which allowed her to spend the day studying the city architecture and attending performances!

When she settled back in Washington DC, she chose an apartment in between the State Department and the Kennedy Center. In the early days, Patricia was the go-to person to give tours of the Kennedy Center to dignitaries and visiting officials. One day, after returning from the Netherlands, she noticed the Kennedy Center tulip beds were not looking their best. She asked if she might do some weeding and was told she'd first have to become an official volunteer. Thankfully she did, and Patricia is now well known at Center as one of the most dedicated volunteers helping out in many different departments. She is also a frequent audience member. Her international travels have given her an appreciation of the Kennedy Center's international festivals in particular. "We have to reach out to people. We need to open our minds. The festivals expose us to the creativity of other cultures."

Patricia has included a percentage of her residual estate for the Kennedy Center as one of the many organizations she cares about. She also knows that her IRA is the most tax efficient gift she can give to a non-profit organization. About her commitment to the Kennedy Center, Patricia says, "It doesn't matter what I did yesterday, but it's important what I do today or tomorrow." The Kennedy Center is so grateful for people like Patricia Morton who know their gifts will leave a lasting legacy that will allow the Center to continue presenting the finest performances and introducing future generations to a positive way of connecting people around the world the arts.


Dr. James T. Jackson: “The arts saved my life”

Donor

When Dr. James T. Jackson first moved to Washington, DC, in 2001, he would walk from his new office at George Washington University to the Kennedy Center every day after work to clear his mind and renew his spirit. “DC is a hard place, especially if you don’t know a lot of people,” he says. “The Kennedy Center really saved me my first year.” Dr. Jackson firmly believes that more people, especially students and teachers, should take advantage of the many offerings at the Kennedy Center including participating in the educational programs. He knows first-hand how the arts can change a life.

Growing up in the small town of Hodges, South Carolina, Dr. Jackson was considered to be a troubled child. His mother worked as a sharecropper until he was twelve years old and then she became a domestic working long hours. “We were very poor. I wanted to do something with my life but I didn’t have any role models,” Dr. Jackson remembers. He reflects sadly that everyone he knew growing up is either an alcoholic or dead. “I didn’t have any direction until I started the sixth grade in Mrs. Taylor’s classroom.” Mrs. Taylor recognized his creative talents and cast him in a singing role in the class play. Dr. Jackson credits Mrs. Taylor with introducing him to a way of learning through music and drama that put him on a different path.

Not only was he the first person in his family to graduate from high school, he also went on to receive a Bachelor’s degree, an MFA in Acting and Directing and a doctorate in special education. “Teachers can mold children by exposing them to educational programs such as the great ones offered by the Kennedy Center. Parents might not be equipped to provide these types of opportunities.”

He praises the Kennedy Center’s programs for students and teachers, such as ArtsEdge, and plans to have his own student-teachers at Howard University, where he is now a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, incorporate the Kennedy Center’s programs into their lesson plans.

Dr. Jackson knows what it feels like to give back. “I feel that I owe a debt, which is why I wanted to give back to the Kennedy Center by making the Center the beneficiary of my life insurance policies. I want other people to have the opportunities that I had. What really matters is what you want for yourself in life and how you dedicate yourself to achieving it.”

Dr. Jackson’s generosity ensures that the Kennedy Center will be able to continue to provide arts-integrated educational programs to thousands of children every year, allowing them to explore their creative outlets and discover possibilities for growth and positive development through the arts.

The Center sincerely thanks Dr. Jackson for his admirable forethought in planning his legacy to include the Kennedy Center.


Marilyn Schoon and Bill Wortley – 66 years of volunteering!

Donor

Marilyn Schoon and Bill Wortley love the Kennedy Center so much that between them they have volunteered at the Center for total of 66 years! Marilyn started in 1972, only a year after the Kennedy Center opened. A few years later, she met Bill at the Alexandria roller rink! Marilyn introduced the Kennedy Center to Bill, who had recently moved from California. Bill has been volunteering ever since.

Marilyn is a retired English and drama teacher. She took advantage of the many teacher training sessions offered by the Kennedy Center. She particularly remembers one thrilling session with Carol Channing who said, “Every night is the first time… If I didn’t get butterflies in my stomach before each performance, I’d stop.” Marilyn enthuses “What better way to reassure the kids who suffer stage fright than to tell them Carol Channing gets it EVERY time!” Bill is a safety manager for the military. Given his expertise, the Kennedy Center has been very fortunate that he takes charge of all the many volunteers who work crowd control for the large events such as Open House which welcomes tens of thousands of visitors for a full day of free performances each year.

Marilyn and Bill travel all over the world to see performances, but they always come back to the Kennedy Center. Not only do they drive 90 miles each way from their new home in WV to volunteer but they have also included the Center in their will. “Both of us feel very strongly about arts and the Kennedy Center and that’s why we make the commitment we do.”


Francis H. Rasmus, Jr.

Donor
Frank Rasmus with NSO Summer Music Institute musicians. Photo by Carol Pratt

Having shared in the joys of the performing arts with his family throughout his life, Francis H. Rasmus, Jr. recently established an endowment at the Kennedy Center to celebrate the memory of his parents, Mary and Francis Rasmus, Sr. Not only has he set up more than one charitable gift annuity with the Center, he has also named the Kennedy Center partial beneficiary of several IRAs.

The most amazing thing about his extraordinary generosity is that Frank earned a middle income salary. He receives great joy from his philanthropy. Since his retirement, he spends most of his time helping the institutions he loves while building his own financial security. He currently has dozens of charitable gift annuities (“CGAs”) with many different organizations set up to provide income, not just for himself, but also for relatives.

Frank points out that while he has guaranteed tax-advantaged payments for life, after he dies, “the charities will benefit from the residuum instead of an insurance company”. One of his favorite sayings is “You can’t take it with you!”


Gerson Nordlinger

Donor

“When I set up the Charitable Remainder Trust, not only did I receive an immediate tax deduction, but I gained a sense of accomplishment and the personal satisfaction of knowing that I am taking care of something I love.” Mr. Nordlinger wants to ensure that future generations will enjoy the NSO as he does. His lifelong love of music has inspired him to give generously of both his time and money for many years. He established the Gerson Nordlinger Debut Artists Fund through an irrevocable bequest to the NSO via a Charitable Remainder Unitrust - a generous gift that is already being used each year to underwrite a debut performance with the NSO. Having met some of his closest friends while volunteering on boards or committees, he encourages everyone to become actively involved in causes that are meaningful to them. The longest serving member of the board of the NSO, he believes “you get back so much when you give.”


Grover Batts

Donor

Grover Batts, a North Carolina native who still speaks with a delightful hint of a Southern accent, moved to Washington DC after returning from serving in WWII and completing his degree at Wake Forest thanks to the GI bill. Immediately after arriving in Washington, DC, Grover bought a subscription to the National Symphony Orchestra. Building on his love of literature, art and collecting, Grover spent 25 years of his working life at the Library of Congress as a Manuscript Historian cataloging the papers of such luminaries as Henry Kissinger, Alexander Graham Bell and even Mae West. Grover Batts knows what it means to leave a legacy. Handling the works of great Americans makes you think about your values and what impact you’d like to make. He says “I get a thrill out of giving and I love to see my gifts appreciated.” He entered into a charitable gift annuity with the Kennedy Center because he loves the fact that he can help the Kennedy Center at the same time as increasing his current income which is difficult to do in this low interest rate environment.


Lillie Lou Rietzke – honoring the memory of her son

Donor

Longtime National Symphony Orchestra patron and supporter, Mrs. Lillie Lou Rietzke wanted to create a legacy in the name of her son, Renah Blair Rietzke. In her will, she left a bequest for the National Symphony Orchestra to support a series of annual NSO children’s concerts in his memory. During her lifetime, she used to personally bring 2 children from the Metropolitan Police Boys and Girls Club to see the symphony perform each week. Longtime NSO tuba player, David Bragunier recalls “Introducing music to the kids meant so much to her. They not only sat in the box with her, but she would also bring them backstage to meet the artists.” Children are still benefiting from her generosity and dedication and will continue to do so for many years to come.


Bill Hopkins and Richard Anderson

Donor

We attend lots of theater in Washington, and the Kennedy Center is tops in providing the "big show" experience to complement the abundance of high quality performances at our smaller theaters. We wanted to support the Kennedy Center in a substantial way that would not detract from our continuing needs for income during our lifetimes. The two-life charitable gift annuity does just that. We receive income for the rest of both of our lives, and the Center gets a large contribution after we both are gone. Win-win for all concerned. The great staff knew just how to word the contract to avoid unwanted tax consequences, to give us a large immediate tax deduction, and to provide continuing income (half of which is tax free) for life. The benefits of membership in the Roger L. Stevens Society, which accompany the annuity, add greatly to our enjoyment of the Kennedy Center experience.


Dee and Skip Seward

Donor

Dee and Skip Seward arrived in Washington in 2001 when Skip started a new job in DC. She says the first thing they did was come to the Kennedy Center. Dee, a former school teacher, especially loves that the Kennedy Center provides free performances every day on the Millennium Stage as well as a great variety of education opportunities. She says “My heart soars each time I attend a performance.” Dee and Skip were reviewing their estate plans and realized that by leaving retirement assets to the Kennedy Center they could pay less in taxes and leave more to both their heirs and the Kennedy Center.


Jean Oliver and the late Vincent Oliver

Donor

Jean and Vincent’s love of the performing arts brought them to the Kennedy Center countless times during their 35 years of marriage. Vincent particularly loved the symphonic music, while Jean’s passion has always been theater and dance. They happily indulged each other by sharing artistic interests as much as possible. The Kennedy Center mourns Vincent Oliver’s passing in December of 1999.

Jean has been volunteering with the Friends of the Kennedy Center since 1997. You will find her every Friday giving tours and sharing her love for the Center and its mission. Jean believes “the Center has grown to embrace people from all walks of life. It is truly a place for all individuals to come together and experience the magic of the performing arts.” She is also a vital member of the Kennedy Center Circles Board and particularly enjoys the infectious enthusiasm her fellow members show for the Kennedy Center.

Knowing they wished to continue supporting the performing arts into the future, Jean and Vincent decided include the Kennedy Center in their estate plan with a bequest. Jean says she is pleased that “They will have a lasting legacy at the Center for many generations to come.”



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