Contributions From IRA Provide Tax-Free Support for Annual Scholarship
While registering for his freshman year at Marceline High School, Ron Wiggins ('59) first encountered a new graduate of Northeast Missouri State Teachers College who would prove to have a profound and lasting influence on his life. Ron had been taught by his father to always follow through and complete each task. His new teacher and coach built upon that work ethic by "always encouraging me to try to excel in everything that I attempted," Ron says. He took this encouragement to heart and excelled as a three-sport athlete throughout his four years of high school. He benefited from countless hours with his mentor as they rode to and from contests, and they forged a lasting friendship.
Upon high school graduation in 1951, Ron accepted a scholarship to play football at Northeast Missouri State Teachers College after turning down offers from several other schools. His high school coach and mentor was then a member of the coaching staff at Northeast. "Unfortunately, after the first contest in 1951, I had an emergency appendectomy, which ended my playing career for that year," explains Ron. He then left college for enlisted duty in the U.S. Air Force, putting his Northeast football career and education on hold. Upon returning to Northeast, Ron was a starting football player for the next four years, completing eight years as a player for his friend and mentor, legendary coach Kenneth L. Gardner.
Ron earned a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in education in 1959. "I am the only member of my family to receive two college degrees, and it has taught me to realize the importance of a college education," he says.
He credits the education he received from Truman and Coach Gardner with providing him the foundation for his highly successful career. "It gave me the opportunity to serve the Hazelwood School District in St. Louis County for 29 years as a teacher, coach, and administrator before retiring in 1989," Ron says.
To honor his beloved coach and mentor, Ron and his wife Billie established the Coach Kenneth Gardner Memorial Annual Scholarship in 2004 to provide assistance to promising graduates of Marceline High School. Ron recognized a valuable opportunity to fund this scholarship through contributions from his IRA account. Legislation initially enacted in 2006 allowing for tax-free gifts of up to $100,000 annually, has been expanded through The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. Between now and Dec. 31, 2009, this new legislation allows individuals age 701/2 and older to transfer up to $100,000 this year directly from an IRA to a charity, including Truman. "The reason I have made these contributions from my IRA account is because they are tax-free, and by gifting the scholarship to a Marceline graduate, it will make an impact on the recipient's life," he says.
The Coach Kenneth Gardner Memorial Annual Scholarship has been awarded to four students in the past five years providing $2,000 annually in support for each recipient. Katie Cagle, the first recipient of the Coach Kenneth Gardner Memorial Annual Scholarship, received her Truman degree during the 2009 Spring Commencement.