Priests endorse Music Pavilion with creative giving vehicle

IRA Charitable Rollover proves helpful tool.

Helen and Ron Priest of East Lansing have a shared passion for classical music. They feel strongly about the need for better facilities for MSU musicians, and they used an IRA Charitable Rollover to support the Music Pavilion project.
The Priests (center) previously funded an endowed scholarship in the college which is currently supporting violin student Daniela Diaz (second from left) who brought a quartet of MSU musicians to the Priest home for a special performance.
Daniela Diaz, a senior majoring in violin performance, rehearses prior to a performance in the home of Helen and Ron Priest.
Digital elevation rendering of the Music Pavilion expansion as viewed from Adams field.

As most music fans know, the best way to support the art form that you love is to purchase concert tickets, recordings and merchandise, as well as making the musical arts a personal philanthropic priority. Classical music lovers, Helen and Ron Priest, haven taken that last type of support to heart, and this time they’ve chosen to be creative with their giving vehicle.  

The Priests, of East Lansing, have an endowed scholarship in the College of Music dedicated to support music students whose primary instrument of study is an orchestral instrument. They also have plans in place to further support that endowment through an estate gift. Most recently, they’ve turned their attention to the new Music Pavilion project, utilizing the IRA Charitable Rollover provision as a helpful tool to allow them to make a greater impact on the student experience during their lifetime.

“I’ve always enjoyed the concerts the college had, even when they had the old (Fairchild) auditorium, before they got all that fixed up,” Helen Priest said. “What a difference that made to have it renovated! Now, after learning about how small the practice rooms have been, I thought wow, this new building could have a very good influence on music students if they can have a nice place where they can perform, practice or study. The changes (with the new pavilion) sound tremendous.”

The Music Pavilion project, with 37,000 square feet of new space and 8,500 square feet of renovations to existing space, has received approval to proceed from the MSU Board of Trustees. The project excited the Priests, and they understood the advantages an IRA Rollover could provide when supporting the project.

“We gave this some thought before we committed to it, and we came up with good reasons to use the IRA,” Ron Priest explained.  “First, with the IRA, once the money is distributed it is taxed as ordinary income, so you get hit significantly harder on the appreciation with a traditional IRA. But by donating through an IRA Charitable Rollover, the university gets the entire amount. Donating our IRA proceeds now means that we get to see that the money actually goes to where we want it to go.”

Using the IRA Charitable Rollover allows the entirety of their generosity to be put toward a project that is meaningful to them.

“Once you give the IRA, you get to see it in action. You can actually see the fruits of your donations,” Ron Priest said. “I look at it as a malleable moment. We both have the opportunity to make a long-term contribution to the area of the university that we both really like.”

Ron Priest is a retired entomologist with the State of Michigan focusing on the study of the Gypsy Moth, and he currently spends a great deal of time on campus as an adjunct curator in the MSU Department of Entomology. Helen had a long career in advertising, primarily in the automobile industry. They bonded over their long-time love of classical music, enjoying the symphonies in Midland, Lansing and MSU over many years, and have supported many organizations through their philanthropy and volunteerism.

They have been impressed with the high caliber of musicians both on the faculty and among students at MSU, and that played a part in their decision to endow a scholarship for MSU Music students. Undergraduate violinist Daniela Diaz is the most recent of the four students their endowed scholarship has supported thus far.

“Daniela is a marvelous young lady,” Helen Priest said, “very vivacious and interested in music. She is somebody really special, and I’m sure she will go very far. When I heard about the music building, I got so excited. I said, ‘Ron, we’ve got to give some money.’ It’s super, and it will help people like Daniela. It’s the frosting on the cake.”

In honor of their contribution to the Music Pavilion, a large chamber ensemble practice room will be named for the Priests. They are grateful for the honor and for the fact that their gift to the new building will allow them to see it come to life and influence so many young musicians.

“Certainly, when providing funds from your IRA, it becomes tax free,” Ron Priest explained. “If you want to give money away, that’s distinctly the place to do it – from the source – because it really provides a nice means of realizing your desires.”

To use an IRA Charitable Rollover as a giving vehicle, donors must be age 70½ or older on the date of the gift and may gift up to $100,000 annually. This gift also satisfies any required minimum distribution.

“I’ve just enjoyed living here. I like the college, I like the atmosphere and the performances. I think it’s terrific,” Helen Priest said. “There’s so much you can go and see. If you don’t like classical music there’s jazz, there’s choral, there’s an opera twice a year.”

And, Ron Priest added, the new and renovated spaces will make things even better.

“I look at it as a major step forward for the College of Music to be able to expand and give the students and faculty what they need.”

If you would like more information about naming opportunities in the Music Pavilion, please contact Senior Director of Development Rebecca Surian at or (517) 353-9872. To learn more about the IRA Charitable Rollover gift vehicle, please contact the MSU Office of Gift Planning at (517) 884-4678.

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