A Donation After Their own Hearts

Photo of Jerry and Gisela Rohde
Local historians Jerry and Gisela Rohde have donated to Humboldt State University in various ways over the years. But recently they discovered a new program to donate to and a whole new way to make

Local historians Jerry and Gisela Rohde have donated to Humboldt State University in various ways over the years. But recently they discovered a new program to donate to and a whole new way to make that donation. And it fits them to a T.

Humboldt State University Press has been publishing books, journals, conference proceedings, data sets, open textbooks, and more since October 2015.

“HSU Press is an open access publisher and we work with authors in the community and on campus to help them publish content, and everything we publish, we publish for free online,” says Scholarly Communications and Digital Scholarship Librarian Kyle Morgan.

That’s where Jerry and Gisela come in. Both have authored numerous books about the history of Humboldt County as well as guidebooks of Humboldt County parks. They recently chose  HSU Press to publish their forthcoming titles. Their newest book about the history of Arcata Bay will be published by HSU Press.

While working with Morgan on the publishing of their book, Jerry happened upon some information about a new way of donating to nonprofits. The “Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement” Act, aka the SECURE Act, went into effect on January 1, 2020, and changed many of the rules governing retirement plans, including several provisions relevant to making charitable IRA rollover gifts (also known as qualified charitable distributions).

When an individual turns 72, the IRS requires they withdraw a percentage of the money in their IRA, this is called a Required Minimum Distribution. This withdrawal is then subject to taxes. The SECURE Act allows people to donate that withdrawal to a qualified nonprofit and not have to pay the taxes on the withdrawal. The SECURE Act allows people to donate beyond their Required Minimum Distribution, as much as $100,000 per taxpayer per year without paying taxes on the withdrawal.

That’s just what the Rohdes decided to do. With money from their IRA, they made a qualified charitable distribution of $30,000 to create an endowment that will fund a paid student internship with HSU Press and Special Collections in perpetuity. The Rohde Library Scholar Internships will provide powerful positive experiences to HSU students interested in publishing or researching local history collections.

“Because we’re authors and interested in publishing, and also because HSU offers such a good resource for historians like me, it seemed natural to us to make this kind of donation,” says Jerry.

With the Rohde’s donation, every academic year Morgan will be able to hire a student who will be publishing books through HSU Press, developing the skills and knowledge of book publishing.

“Students do all aspects of book design and layout, copyediting, and marketing and when they finish their work here, they will have publications under their name, and their names will be in the books as copy editors and designers,” says Morgan.

The Rohdes, who will work with student interns, say it feels good to be working with the very people their donation is supporting. “We can see the direct impact of our giving,” says Jerry. “We know the student and will be in touch with the student who is benefiting from this donation. It all makes it more real than if the money was just going to some major group somewhere and you couldn’t track how it was being spent.”

The Rohdes’ gift also supports initiatives through HSU Library Special Collections, including opportunities for students to work with rare and unique materials, processing collections, creating digital exhibits that showcase the unique collections of rare books, photographs, documents, historical maps, oral histories and media. Over the course of a semester, students experience hands-on learning in special collections, including exploring the worlds of archives, public history, and museum studies as a profession.

The timing of this donation was also a factor for the Rohdes. “This has been such a stressful year for students and the university in general. So we thought, wow, if we could make a donation like this this year, it would probably help people’s morale.”

The Rohdes were very happy to discover the benefits of the SECURE Act and be able to utilize this as a way to donate to a program that is so important to them. They hope other people will be able to take advantage of a donation opportunity like they did, “I bet there are others out there who would be interested in doing something like this.”

If you would like to donate to this fund or find out more information about qualified charitable distributions, contact HSU advancement at giving@humboldt.edu, 707-826-5200, or go to giving.humboldt.edu.

For information about the Library Scholar Internship program, please visit: library.humboldt.edu/about/lsinternships. You will also find links to many of the outstanding Library Scholar Projects.