En español | John Löf was a young boy when his grandfather passed along the lesson of a lifetime. In those days, silver poured from the mountains near Aspen, Colo., and the financial advice from the Colorado banker was to invest wisely and live frugally.
Now Löf, 94, of Storrs, Conn., has proof he was paying attention. The emeritus professor of electrical engineering recently announced he would bequeath $1 million to the University of Connecticut, referring to the gift as reimbursement for 30 years of retirement benefits he received from the state.
“I said, ‘OK, give it back,’ ” Löf says when asked to explain his decision. “That didn’t take any great amount of thinking or analysis. I thought it was reasonably logical.”
The money will help fund the graduate education program in UConn’s School of Engineering. Löf, former director of UConn’s computer center, insists his good fortune—and now UConn’s—was made possible by his grandfather’s philosophy of investing in stocks.
“He worked in the bank [in Aspen] and realized what money meant,” Löf says. “So, he pushed me. As soon as I started working, I started saving money like he would recommend. Of course, my grandfather had connections. He introduced me to the right people. If I had a few spare dollars, I would go see the securities man to see what I should invest in.”
Löf, who grew up in Denver after his family moved from Aspen, attended graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and worked on a government project during World War II that used a computer to calculate trajectories for battleship cannons. He was hired as an assistant professor at UConn in 1952 and stayed until his retirement in 1976.
In addition to the $1 million gift, Löf has given $100,000 to establish the Ruth and John Löf Fund for Natural History at the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History at UConn. His wife, Ruth, was a bird enthusiast and government-sponsored bird bander. Their backyard was the site of many bandings until her death in 1992.
Löf says he avoided investments in “computer activity” and planned to “make a living off the good companies” such as Kimberly-Clark and General Electric. Forty years ago, he says, he invested no more than $400 in GE and it is now worth more than $100,000.
A gift to the university was something Löf has considered for quite some time.
“It’s all happening now because I finally got around to remaking my will,” he says. “Circumstances are different now. Half of my wealth is what UConn will get. The other half is investment in stocks and bonds, which my only son will get. ... It’s money that has gone in—and hasn’t come out.”
Löf still maintains an office at UConn’s computer center, but doesn’t have an e-mail address. Weather permitting, he drives to school early in the morning to work on “my mathematical puzzles” and interacts with students and faculty until lunchtime. At home, he spends his time tapping his own maple syrup, or working in a vegetable garden that produces a large portion of his meals. When the afternoon newspaper arrives, his mind turns to solving the daily crossword puzzle.
“I would say his legacy was secure before this,” says Mun Choi, UConn’s dean of engineering. “The professor inside him is still burning very strong. When he told me he would like to make this kind of contribution, I was very grateful. We definitely can put that money to very good use in training the next generation of Professor Löfs.”
Löf worked with the UConn Foundation to arrange his gift. At a time when state funding to public universities is being reduced, donors are finding that deferred commitments make good sense.
“Whether people want to simply give back or further a mission close to their heart, a planned gift such as Professor Löf’s bequest is a superb way to leave a legacy to a favorite charitable organization,” says Hal C. Reed, assistant vice president for planned giving at the UConn Foundation.
After a lifetime working in education, Löf is pleased his donation will help others extend their schooling to a higher level.
“Certainly, that’s the thing that pays off for people later on in life,” Löf says.
Ken Davis is a writer in Coventry, Conn.
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