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Lukens gift turns timber to scholarships

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What began as an exploration of options for reducing a tax burden on a vacation property has grown to a rewarding way for Abbie Lukens to continue to enjoy a family tradition while helping MSU students.

Abbie’s brother Karl originally purchased a large lot on Lake Michigan near Onekama as an investment. He built a small cottage on the place and the family has enjoyed vacationing there ever since, adding on additional rooms and a garage over the years. The main attraction, however, was quiet acres of pristine woods leading to a bluff with a breathtaking view of the lake.
 
In the early 90s, the growing property tax obligation began to undermine the ability of the family to retain their retreat. Karl, who passed in 1991, left the property to Abbie but instructed her to sell it if she could not find a solution for managing the tax liability.
 
Abbie had no previous connection to Michigan State University and hoped that Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources might take the property as a forest reserve. Some friends she met in Michigan, Leonard (’49, Engineering) and Ruth Klein, suggested that Michigan State University was uniquely qualified to manage the forest. Her alumnus nephew Bill Lukens (’71, Social Science) was consulted, MSU experts in forestry and land management visited, and Abby donated an initial parcel to MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 1993. A selling point for Abbie was that MSU would selectively harvest hardwood from the property and use the sales to create an endowed scholarship named in Karl’s honor. To augment her support, she has continued to donate parcels to MSU, most recently in 2009, retaining only a small portion where the cottage is located. 
 
MSU Land Management Director Charles Reid estimates that the university will be able to harvest timber every 10 to 12 years, utilizing MSU’s expertise in agriculture and natural resources, to build a sizeable endowed scholarship fund. A retired physician from the Chicago area, Abby has directed that the scholarships benefit students pursuing degrees in forestry or medicine with a preference for students from the Onekama area.  Abbie has directed all of the property to one day go to MSU after her nieces and nephews no longer wish to use it.
 
Her nephew Art Lukens recalls his earliest holidays at the lake. There was no electricity but plenty of family fun and he once spotted a cougar, fortuitously dashing away from him. When asked how the arrangement with MSU has worked out, Art commented that it has gone “amazingly well. Everyone from MSU has been upright and forthright and we couldn’t be more pleased.”
 
Abbie concurs, adding that MSU has been “a wonderful fit” for her, her family and the beautiful spot on the lake.
 
For more information on making a gift of real property to Michigan State University, contact the Office of Gift Planning at (517) 884-1068 or the director of development for the college you are interested in supporting.