The 1836 Legacy Circle:
Providing for the Future

We know that you care deeply about the future of the Seminary.

All individuals and families who tell us that they intend to make a gift to Union through a bequest or other legacy-giving instrument become members of the Union Theological Seminary 1836 Legacy Circle—a cherished group of Union alumni/ae and friends whom we’re committed to thanking several times each year. Legacy giving is an exceptional act of generosity that deserves special appreciation.

Beginning in 2019, members of the 1836 Legacy Circle will begin to receive invitations to small gatherings at President Jones’s Seminary home in New York City with Union faculty representatives and students as well as invitations to a celebratory event during ReUnion—Union’s annual homecoming event. Members will also be recognized in honor rolls naming the Seminary’s legacy givers and will receive a modern-pewter lapel/scarf pin with the Seminary’s legendary seal. We hope members of the 1836 Legacy Circle will wear their symbolic pins with joy and explain its significance when friends and family inquire about it. All these efforts are intended to convey the depth of our gratitude to individuals and families who name Union as a beneficiary in their wills, estate plans, retirement plans, insurance policies, charitable gift annuities, and/or trusts.

We know that you care deeply about the future of the Seminary—and we care about you. Your faith in the future of Union is visionary and deeply appreciated.


There are several types of planned gifts. Each has its own benefits and features that allow legacy givers to meet a variety of personal needs and goals. For more information, please see Types of Planned Gifts.

These charitable deferred gifts—or planned gifts as they are often called because they are fulfilled after a person crosses the ultimate threshold of life—are among the most important contributions people give to the organizations they love. And many are revocable. This means that you can change your mind if the future unfolds in a way that is contrary to your best-laid plans. Of course, we hope your kind intentions unfold as envisioned.

If you find the idea of creating a planned gift for Union compelling, it’s never too soon to arrange such a special gift. We’re here to guide you through the gift planning process. It would be our pleasure to welcome you to the Union Theological Seminary 1836 Legacy Circle.


Some supporters give legacy gifts to Union because they want to return the gift of crucial financial aid they received while studying. Others give planned gifts to help the Seminary create a program, position, scholarship, or fellowship that doesn’t currently exist. Others wish to honor a special professor, department, or initiative at Union that has had a particularly remarkable impact on their lives. The opportunities for innovating an enduring legacy—named or unnamed—are numerous.


The Seminary wishes to welcome and thank legacy givers who choose to make unrestricted gifts to the Seminary through planned giving instruments. Unrestricted gifts are entrusted into the fiduciary care of the Seminary’s Board of Trustees and expended by them for critical needs and opportunities over time. These gifts are critical to Union because they allow Union’s Trustees to smartly respond to opportunities or adapt to challenging and changing circumstances with wherewithal and grace. Supporters of Union who give unrestricted planned gifts to the Seminary will be formally recognized on donor walls for their extraordinary vision.


The Seminary also wishes to welcome and thank legacy givers who choose to make restricted gifts to the Seminary through planned giving instruments. These restricted gifts are also known as endowed gifts. Endowments are held in perpetuity and generate income to be used as articulated by their givers for faculty support, student scholarships and fellowships, or programs. And although unrestricted gifts are a high priority for the Seminary, endowed gifts are likewise essential and deeply appreciated. Both are a measure of the Seminary’s financial strength. To address the delicate balance between Union’s need for unrestricted and restricted gifts, some legacy givers choose to make hybrid gifts to Union by designating a portion of their bequest or other planned giving instrument to an endowment and the other portion as unrestricted. We welcome a conversation with you about how this hybrid giving strategy might work for your personal aspirations for the future of Union Theological Seminary.


A number of legacy givers wish to create named scholarships, fellowships, or faculty chairs, often given in their own names or in the names of persons they love. We welcome your inquiries about how to establish these types of enduring legacies.


A significant number of planned gifts are made through the simple act of naming Union as a beneficiary of a retirement plan, charitable gift annuity (CGA), or life insurance policy. These intentional acts of legacy giving don’t require the help of an attorney. Furthermore, the majority of planned gifts are made via a bequest—meaning, through a last will and testament. These are often drawn up with the help of an attorney but not necessarily so. And, finally, some planned gifts—like via estates and trusts—are more complex and do require the assistance of professional advisors like accountants, attorneys, financial advisors, and financial planners. Yet in all these cases—retirement plans, CGAs, life insurance, wills, estates, and trusts—what is most fundamental is the simple decision to sustain the mission of Union Theological Seminary.

Please, won’t you also consider becoming a member of our Union Theological Seminary 1836 Legacy Circle?

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give,
not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
– 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV)

If you’d like to know more about charitable gift planning or to relay your expectations about how your future gift is to be administered, please contact Gift Planning at 212-280-1419.

Profiles of 1836 Legacy Circle Donors

Message from the Rev. Virginia Bergfalk

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Rev. Virginia K. Bergfalk ’81 first attended Union Theological Seminary on a full scholarship in the late ’50s but left to marry a Union graduate and become a missionary in South Africa during Apartheid. She came back to Union 20 years later to finish her degree and launch her own ground-breaking career as a

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A Tribute to Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon by Delores Dixon

Friday, January 15, 2021

Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon was a student pursuing her Ph.D. at Union Theological Seminary when she forged what would become a lifelong friendship with Elder Delores “Dee” C. Dixon, who was Christian Education Director at The Church of the Master, Presbyterian Church where Dr. Cannon was an intern. Throughout their lifetimes, both Dr. Cannon

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Union Taught Him to Ask Hard Questions

Monday, April 15, 2019

We regret to inform the Union community that Dr. David A. Sánchez ’06 died unexpectedly of heart complications while hiking in Eaton Canyon, Los Angeles, California, on Saturday, April 6, 2019. We are devastated. Dr. Sánchez’s obituary and a moving memorial written by a student at the university where he taught may be found far

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Studying at Union Was “a Dream Come True”

Friday, March 15, 2019

A conversation with Rev. Susan Sgarlat ’07 Susan Sgarlat, M. Div. ’07, has degrees from several prestigious institutions, but Union Theological Seminary is the only one she has put in her will. “I’ve attended a lot of different schools—a prep school, Barnard College, and Vanderbilt University Law School, but I have decided to designate Union

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Calvin M. Mew ’73: Ad Executive Says Thanks with Life Insurance Gift

Monday, October 15, 2018

Calvin M. Mew ’73 never worked in a religious field, but he says that his religious education and his service as a tutor in New Testament at Union Theological Seminary shaped his life and his career as a high-powered advertising executive who helped turn Chrysler around. And that is why the longtime member of the

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Rev. Carol F. Millspaugh ’69 and Rev. Dick D. Millspaugh ’70: Alum couple supports Union’s ongoing witness through monthly giving and planned gift

Monday, October 15, 2018

“Attending Union was one of the great joys and challenges of my life; my Union experience has blessed me, my family, and the churches I’ve served,” Carol Millspaugh, M.Div. ’69, writes. She applied to Union at the suggestion of Dr. Franklyn Josselyn, her religion professor at Occidental College and a Union alum, and thanks to

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Why I Am Including Union in My Will

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Dr. Mark Juergensmeyer ’65 Award-winning author and university professor Dr. Mark K. Juergensmeyer, M. Div. ’65, wrote the following statement about why he has included Union Theological Seminary in his will: “Being in Reinhold Niebuhr’s last seminar—just being there—and watching James Muilenburg thunder down the aisle of the lecture hall while recreating the Genesis story of

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Couple Makes Annual Gifts, Major Gift, and Planned Gift

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A conversation with Rev. Margaret C. “Peg” Miller ’66 and Rev. James H. Miller ’61 Jim and Peg Miller have been making annual gifts to Union Theological Seminary for more than 20 years, and in 2010 they made a major gift for the Institute of Art, Religion and Social Justice. They have also established a

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I Am Funding an Endowment with Several Types of Gifts

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A conversation with Dr. Edward LeRoy Long, Jr. ’48 Emeritus university professor and author Dr. Edward LeRoy Long, Jr., M.Div. ’48, wrote the following statement about why he created a charitable trust, established several gift annuities, and is making annual gifts—all to benefit Union through the Edward Long Endowment for Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies.

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Union Helped Her Follow Her Heart

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A conversation with Rev. Sharon Nordmeyer Hope Rev. Sharon Nordmeyer Hope, M. Div. ’86, is giving back to Union Theological Seminary through her will because the seminary allowed her to follow her call—including setting up a full-time prison ministry while a student. “Union totally supported me,” Sharon said. “President Donald Shriver loaned me his car

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