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Our lives are shaped by the places and people we encounter. For Barbara Corti Herrmann, Class of 1962, Elmira College was one of those places that helped shape her future and for that reason, Herrmann was inspired to give back to Elmira College through a planned gift.
"The most important thing is to ensure Elmira College continues to impact the lives of students - the same as it did for me," said Herrmann.
Originally from North Tonawanda, New York, Herrmann grew up in a place and time with limited options for young women. Only 10 percent of students from her high school went to college. It was common for women to marry and stay home, and those who pursued careers were expected to go into nursing, teaching, or become a secretary.
But none of that fit Herrmann. After some research, she found Elmira College and liked its emphasis on providing a curriculum for women that was as rigorous as programs for men.
"Attending Elmira College meant a lot to me," said Herrmann. "I never would have had the guts to get a job. It opened my eyes to other possibilities."
Her time at Elmira College had its difficulties. She came from North Tonawanda, an area known as the Lumber Capital of the World. She didn't feel as prepared for the curriculum as other students, many of whom came from New York City and attended a preparatory school. But she was determined and persevered. "I learned to keep going at Elmira College," said Herrmann.
Her determination served her well, graduating in 1962 with a degree in history. She credits the support system of the faculty for setting her on a path to have a fulfilling career and the independence to leave the region of her birth. "I just hope that people realize that small schools are valuable," she said. "You don't get lost in a small school. You can find a support system, without which, there is no point."
After graduation, she moved with her husband to Indiana. There, she accepted her first job at Purdue University running the film library at night, but not without having to fight for it first. "I had heard they wouldn't hire a woman for the role," she said. "But I pursued it and got it!"
Herrmann and her husband later moved to Minnesota but throughout her adult life, she has been canny with her money. She managed the finances for her family and made sure to get a financial planner and set aside money toward retirement. "I always put 10% of my salary away for retirement and pretended like it wasn't there," she said.
After her husband passed away, Herrmann decided that the best way to avoid paying a lot of taxes on the money would be to gift the money to the institutions that meant the most to her. Her children and grandchildren were already well provided for, so this meant she could give back to Elmira College, the institution that changed her life, with a planned gift.
Herrmann said setting up the gift was easy with her financial planner. She also wanted to make sure that the gift didn't come with strings attached, so she left the planned gift unrestricted. "There is no way to know what the College will need," she said. "Why tie their hands?" Leaving it unrestricted allows the College to use it where they need it most."
Planned gifts like Herrmann's go a long way to making sure students will find their place at Elmira College while preparing for the complexities and challenges of today's world - just like Herrmann did more than 50 years ago.