Michael Darling '86: Inspiring Student Honors His Professor

Donor Photo

Michael Darling '86 and Professor Duane Johnson in the Lindell Library.

Michael Darling '86 is continually amazed when others think he's done something special with his life. After all, what's so special about graduating from high school, then graduating from college, getting married, having a career, and eventually retiring?

What's special is that, what others see as obstacles, Michael treats simply as facts of life.

Michael was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of six. Doctors at the time recommended that his parents, June and Andy Darling, place Michael in institutional care. It was obvious to the care providers that the best thing his parents could do would be to sit Michael in front of a TV all day.

This was not his parents' conclusion. Michael's mother became his advocate as they negotiated the public school system (years before the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990). She fought to get him out of "special ed" classes and into regular classrooms. Michael always had the ability to verbalize, but his cerebral palsy prevented him from writing.

As much as Michael's parents supported his right to an education, they thought graduation from high school would be the end of his formal education.

Michael, however, had other plans.

A Will to Succeed

He enrolled at Minneapolis Community College, only telling his parents on the first day of class. Michael did well academically. Navigating access to classrooms and faculty offices was a different story; often very difficult, if not downright impossible.

"One day I had to explain why I was late for class," he related, laughing. "I'd been using my (motorized) wheelchair all term to push open a glass door to the library, but on that day, the glass shattered! I finally had to drive across broken glass to make it to class."

Learning that Augsburg had a much more accessible campus, as well as other support programs, Michael transferred after one year. "It's difficult to explain how much more open, accepting and accommodating everyone at Augsburg is to someone in a wheelchair."

At the time, one of Augsburg's graduation requirements was proficiency in a foreign language —reading, speaking and writing —the latter of which Michael was physically incapable of mastering. "It took some doing," recalls Michael, "but the College agreed to an accommodation for this requirement. Instead, I took a course in Chinese culture."

Following graduation, Michael worked at Courage Center, counseling clients and their parents. He retired several years ago, and currently lives in Edina with his wife, Dottie.

Giving Back Is a No-Brainer

When Michael began formulating his estate plans, he decided to include Augsburg through a bequest in his will. "After everything Augsburg did for me," says Michael, "it's a bit of a no-brainer to give something back."

Through consultation with one of Augsburg's gift planning staff, Charlie Green, Michael learned he could honor his advisor and mentor, Professor Duane Johnson, while also supporting the College. "Professor Johnson encouraged me throughout my time at Augsburg, and this is one way I can say ‘Thank you!' to him."

As a result, a portion of Michael's bequest will be added to the Ruth E. & Duane E. Johnson Psychology Scholarship Endowment Fund; the remainder of the bequest is unrestricted to be used at the discretion of the Board of Regents.

"I'm so pleased that Augsburg has continued its tradition of making its campus accessible to students with physical challenges...and I can't wait to try out the new skyways!"

For further information about will and trust provisions or other gift plans and how they can benefit your situation, contact Amy Alkire at 612-330-1188 or alkirea@augsburg.edu.

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Augsburg University a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I give to Augsburg University, a nonprofit corporation currently located at 2211 Riverside Ave., CB 142, Minneapolis, MN 55454, or its successor thereto, ______________* [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to Augsburg University or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Augsburg University as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Augsburg University as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and Augsburg University where you agree to make a gift to Augsburg University and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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