Sara Knuf Mellinger knows all about conversions. The 1983 management information systems graduate spent much of her career in network and software system conversions with Verizon, beginning with its predecessor company GTE. Leveraging information and processes for maximum efficiency has been her life. So it's not surprising that when it came to investing and charitable giving, she and her husband, Jim, also an MIS graduate, wanted their money to do the same.
Sara and Jim took stock that they had purchased-and that had grown considerable gains-and created scholarships through the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. They wanted to create opportunities for students, but they also knew it was to their advantage to convert their gains into cash awards.
"Stock gifts just made sense for us," says Sara, adding that she and Jim took full advantage of their company's matching funds program to maximize the gifts. "We wouldn't have to claim the capital gains and UW-Eau Claire would get the benefit of those earnings."
The Mellingers established the Philip and Marilyn Knuf Scholarship in honor of Sara's parents, who were longtime teachers at Frederic High School in northern Wisconsin. Two awards of $1,000 are given to Frederic seniors each year and include needs-based criteria.
"We are big believers in education and the need for young people to broaden their perspectives," Sara says. "In many areas like northern Wisconsin there is simply not a lot of opportunity to travel and experience different cultures. There is not a lot of exposure to diversity in people or customs."
For this reason, and because they wanted to support the College of Business, the Mellingers also established the Jim and Sara Mellinger IS Study Abroad Scholarship.
"We feel really good about being able to broaden students' outlook on the world and the opportunities out there for them," Sara says.
One particular letter of thanks from a scholarship recipient has made an impression on her. The student wrote that the award allowed her to take just one part-time job instead of two jobs outside of her studies in order to pay for tuition.
"That we could help her take a full load and keep up her GPA makes it worthwhile."