Sometimes, names elude us. Meaningful gestures rarely do.
Daniel Geiser '39 was sitting on the steps of Founders Hall experiencing a personal episode of the Great Depression. A rising junior at Juniata, he had just found out that the family-friend benefactor financially supporting his college education had passed away. His academic and athletic careers were over - until another man walked toward him.
After hearing the sad answer to the question "What are you doing," the man changed Geiser's life with five little words.
"I'll pay for your education." The year was 1937.
That man - whose name no one can recall - donated the money for Geiser to finish his bachelor's degree, letter in four varsity sports and meet the love of his life, all during the last two years at Juniata.
Geiser's story now is embodied by his daughters. The oldest, Judith Geiser '66, tells another story. No, it's not the story of her parents' innovative careers as college faculty - her mother pioneered theatre at Juniata and her father reinstated football for Bridgewater College after World War II on a budget of just $500. Nor is it the story of her father's behind-enemy-lines rescue of fellow servicemen in World War II, a feat for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
It is the story of her parents' anonymously funding the college education of one of Judy's own students.
"When I first started teaching in 1973-4, I told my parents about a student who had fallen on hard times and couldn't come back to school. They said they'd like to pay and that if somebody had not done this for Daddy, he wouldn't have gotten to finish college. Life would be very different, they said. They asked to remain anonymous but wanted to pass it on."
Geiser's younger daughter, Jean Geiser, points out the family's definition of it. During his career as a collegiate athletic director, Jean says her father would preach: "Instead of lifting weights, dig ditches. Get something accomplished." Accomplishment of what's needed - that is it. It is the Geiser way.
Jean has a story of her parents' generosity much like the one her sister tells:
"A man came to Daddy's funeral and said of my father, 'He changed my life.' Daddy had asked the young man what he was going to do with his life and asked him if he wouldn't come to Bridgewater to play ball." When financial aid came between this man and college, Geiser eased his fears. "I'll find a way for you to come," Geiser said.
"It was a quiet little story from a funeral, but we hadn't heard it," Jean says of hearing the young man's tale at her father's 2009 service. She and her sister never even caught the man's name. But they will never forget their father's impact on him and many like him.
"That man went on to be an aviator just like Dad," Jean says.
Geiser's pay-it-forward benevolence will continue at Juniata for years to come. The Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust (CRAT) he and wife Betty established will help fund students' educations via a named scholarship and through the unnamed, existing Student Scholarship Endeavors Program.
Generosity. Accomplishment. Impact. That's it. The Geiser way. Recognition optional.
Daniel and Betty Geiser used a Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust (CRAT) to help Juniata. CRATs are only one type of planned giving. What is "planned giving?" The term refers to making charitable contributions that require arrangement in advance, often with financial planners and commonly involving wills, trusts, or annuities. Most people are surprised at what they can do with planned giving. Good plans incorporate retirement income, family inheritance, and charitable interests in a balanced overall financial plan.