Bequests (also called planned giving or legacy giving) to non-profit organizations have been growing in recent years. According to Giving USA, bequests reached over $42 billion dollars in the United States in its most recent report on 2020. These are gifts that are made as part of a will or trust.

In a surprising fact, bequests amount to more than 2.5 times the total donations from corporations. Since Giving USA began tracking the sources of charitable gifts in 1975, bequests have provided more funding to nonprofits than corporate giving in every year except one (1984). Moreover, while the total dollar amount of corporate and estate giving used to be roughly equal, the value of bequests began to pull steadily ahead in the 1990s and over the last decade has continually outpaced corporate donations by about 60 percent.

This growing form of charitable giving has many benefits for estate planning, including flexibility, tax benefits, recognition (leaving a legacy), and efficiency in distribution of assets.

In recent years, Southeastern has been the recipient of several bequest gifts. To date, the largest one ever given to Southeastern was a bequest made by Mr. Seth Ryan in the name of his wife, Thelma Ryan. Mr. Ryan was a Southeastern graduate who wanted to provide scholarship opportunities for female students who may need a little help reaching their goal of a college education—something that Mrs. Ryan was not able to do.

Two other recent bequests have helped Southeastern students, as well as raise the profile of planned giving on campus.

Dr. Ronald D. Stetzel teaches music during his tenure at Southeastern.

A large bequest by Ronald Stetzel, a retired Southeastern faculty member, endowed and boosted the impact of the Ronald and Mildred Boyl Stetzel Endowed Scholarship in Piano.

Dr. Ronald D. Stetzel was a Southeastern music professor who taught for 33 years and who was also co-founder of the Louisiana Music Teachers Association state-wide piano rally in 1970. A composer in his own right, he loved to write music for two pianos. He and his wife Mildred performed together on a regular basis. They were known as a great two-piano team. Both were also committed to spreading the joy of music and music education. Mildred was a long-time piano teacher to generations in the region.

Stetzel2Dr. Stetzel was a WWII veteran who served in the Eighth Air Force. He taught at Southeastern from 1948 to 1981, making an impact for decades. In retirement, he stayed involved in music in both Sun City, Ariz., and Rochester, N.Y., and was a world traveler. He was preceded in death by his first wife Mildred and his second wife Mary Ann Woodworth. He passed away at the age of 97 in 2017 after a long and active retirement. The gift of the scholarship will aid music students in perpetuity—yet again spreading the joy of music.

Timofei Kunin2

Timofei Kunin1
Music student Timofei Kunin is able to enhance his skills as a professional musician, thanks to support from the Stetzel Scholarship.

Current Stetzel scholarship recipient Timofei Kunin has been a pianist for over 15 years. He has competed and won many national and international competitions, performed in prestigious venues, and is a composer as well. After having moved to the United States several years ago, some friends recommended Southeastern with its strong music program. Kunin said, “I instantly connected with the faculty, and the scholarship helps a great deal since finances are sometimes a problem for international students at first.”

“I am incredibly grateful to be the recipient of the scholarship the Stetzels set up,” he added. “It is a great opportunity.”

Another recent gift was received from the bequest of Mr. Gaylord Bickham. While not an alumnus of Southeastern, he was a strong believer in the mission of the University. The Franklinton, La., native was aware of Southeastern’s impact, and he always noted that he was very fond of Southeastern because, from its earliest days, it offered area students a quality education, which was especially crucial for those who could not attend a university far from home. It didn’t hurt that his cousin Bruce Bickham played football at Southeastern.

Gaylord Bickham has made a lasting impact on Southeastern by creating a bequest.

For many years he owned and managed the Bickham Oil Company in Franklinton, serving Washington and surrounding parishes. He served as a director on the boards of numerous financial and business institutions. He was an active member of the Franklinton Rotary Club, a conservationist, an animal lover, and a “tender-hearted” man according to family members.

Already a donor who created a scholarship in his parents’ name for a student who graduated from a Washington Parish high school, he left a large bequest for general University support. This allowed the funds to be utilized in the most impactful way.

A planned gift can extend one person’s legacy to many others. Southeastern is fortunate to have donors who’ve had the forethought to place the University as a beneficiary and help it continue to provide an excellent and caring education to students for decades to come.

To learn more about legacy giving opportunities, contact Katherine Rose at 985.549.2239 or


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