A Mathematics Professor Honors his Brothers
Faculty and staff help transform the lives of students at Tufts. But they don’t stop there. Read below how some who are members of the university’s legacy society, the Charles Tufts Society, are providing for future generations at Tufts. Read also how a Fletcher librarian is putting estate gifts to work.
Loring Tu has taught mathematics at Tufts for 35 years and authored five books—a distinguished legacy for any faculty member. One of his greatest pleasures, though, is giving his students the attention and support they need to succeed.
Consider last year, when the pandemic scattered many of the 150 students taking his course, Differential Equations, around the globe. That semester he taught his usual lecture not once but five times a week—three tailored to accommodate different time zones, and two for in-person groups on the Medford campus.
“I thought it would be too impersonal to teach all of them, at once, over Zoom; I wouldn’t get to know them,” said Tu. “It turned out to be great. The students did well, and that made me happy.”
With similar exacting care, Tu has made transformative gifts to the university he joined in 1986. His endowed scholarships will make it possible for the very best students to attend Tufts for generations to come, and other generous gifts he has made will foster a first-rate residential experience.
His philanthropy began in 2016, when he was inspired by a matching challenge for undergraduate financial aid to create an endowed scholarship in memory of his grandfather, Tsungming Tu, considered the father of Taiwanese modern medicine. More recently, he established another endowed scholarship in his own name.
Then last year, he was impressed by the new residential community called CoHo (for Community Housing), developed to expand on-campus living options for juniors and seniors. Three of the houses, standing side by side, resonated with his own positive undergraduate experience and his desire to honor his brothers and their Asian heritage.
Today, the houses at 11, 15, and 19 Bellevue Street embody Tu’s expansive vision. The first house is named for his older brother Charles, a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at University of California San Diego, the second for Tu himself, and the third for younger brother Samson, a senior research scientist at Stanford.
“The residential college experience is an integral part of undergraduate education, and I thought why not also use this opportunity to honor my brothers,” said Tu. “The houses are a testament to my affection for them.”
Born in Taiwan, he was 13 when his family immigrated to the United States so his father, a doctor by training, could pursue a research position at the University of Alabama Medical School. The family later moved to Canada, where Tu’s father would go on to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Alberta.
Meanwhile, Tu and his brothers, who are close in age, were eyeing McGill University. “But with my father a graduate student, there was no way to pay for tuition,” said Tu. “My parents couldn’t pay for even one of us.”
Full scholarships made possible his tuition-free admission to McGill, then a transfer to Princeton and a Harvard Ph.D., which in turn opened the door to a rewarding career in algebraic geometry and topology, the study of shapes and structures.
My personal experience made me realize the difference financial aid can make in a person’s life,” Tu said. Through two endowed scholarships, “I can do my part now, just as previous generations helped me."
Similarly, the three houses on Bellevue Street embody Tu’s focus on Tufts undergraduate life. His naming gifts support the CoHo concept—close-knit apartment-style accommodations preferred by undergraduates—and reflect his experience at Princeton, where conversations and shared meals nurtured friendships.
“College is not just simply about going to lectures and doing homework,” he said. “It’s also about meeting a wide spectrum of people, learning about different points of view, making friends—all these things happen outside the classroom. It’s good to know that I’m helping—a few beds at a time.”
By naming the houses, he also wanted students “to know Asians care very much about the public good,” he said. “It’s especially important for Asian-American undergraduates to see an Asian surname on a Tufts building. It may make them feel more at home.”
Tu asked his brothers to contribute inspirational quotes, now inscribed on plaques in each house in both English and Chinese characters. The sayings speak to the importance of relishing the full richness of college.
>“College is a time when most people are still malleable, open to new ideas, new perspectives, and new experiences,” Tu said. “Success in today’s world is too often narrowly defined in terms of achieving power, fame, and wealth. While students are still deciding what to do with their lives, it is useful for them to reflect on what would make it meaningful.”
>Tu chose a motto his grandfather wrote on calligraphy scrolls and presented to him when he was 29: “Indifference to fame and fortune shows the way; leading a simple and tranquil life reaches far.”
“Those words have guided my life since then, and they have motivated me to give,” he said. “Since I live a simple life, I can give away what I would never need. I’m glad to be in a position to help Tufts. Private giving is what makes American universities great, and I want to do my part to help keep Tufts great.”
Tufts CoHo offers juniors and seniors the independence of apartment-style living. For information on supporting CoHo, contact Nancy.Mahler@tufts.edu or call 671.627.5483. For more on including Tufts in an estate plan, call 617.627.4975 or contact Brooke.Anderson@tufts.edu.
Faculty and Staff Build Legacies
By including the university in their estate plans, faculty and staff are creating meaningful gifts that further the contributions they made throughout their careers. Below are just some of these members of the university’s legacy society, the Charles Tufts Society, who are providing for future generations at Tufts.
Jim Glaser, A14P, A17P, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, and his wife Pam are creating the James M. Glaser, Ph.D. and Pamella K. Endo Scholarship at the School of Arts and Sciences through a bequest in their estate plans. “I’m proud to be part of the community and support future students with scholarships. I have had a front-row view of why our gift is the right thing to do; it contributes to the university’s ongoing ability to meet its responsibility as a vehicle for social mobility.”
Janice Smith, former administrative assistant with the Tufts European Center and then receptionist with Tufts Athletics, served Tufts for 14 years. Now retired, she has created a gift through her life insurance policy to benefit both the center and athletics. “My work was all about the people, especially the students; you could see how in four short years they would grow into these confident adults. That’s Tufts for me: It’s all about the growth of a person. With my planned gifts, I can keep those experiences going. I’m giving back to the future of Tufts.”
Harris Berman,* dean emeritus of the School of Medicine, included a gift in his estate plans to benefit the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine as well as global health programs. “Public Health and Community Medicine is dear to my heart. It’s a department I was privileged to chair for five years. My wife, Ruth Nemzoff, and I were pleased to be able to accelerate our gift during our lifetimes. It’s an honor to help build a secure foundation for a field that’s essential to the future vitality of the School of Medicine.”
Karen D’Antuono, former senior associate director of gift planning at Tufts and current trusts and estates attorney and partner at Rubin and Rudman LLP, has earmarked funds in her retirement plan for a scholarship at Cummings School. “Tufts veterinarians are amazing; I know that firsthand but also from talking with countless grateful clients. This planned gift is a testament to how much I care about my own pet and to my faith in the school and its mission to educate future veterinarians who are smart, well-trained, and compassionate.”
*This article appeared in the fall One Tufts and was printed shortly before Dean Berman’s death. A remembrance in his honor is shared on Tufts Now.
A Fletcher Librarian puts Estate Gifts to Work
Ellen McDonald, A15P, research and instruction librarian at The Fletcher School’s Ginn Library, has devoted 20 years to helping students and faculty find what they need for scholarship and study. These days she’s also supporting the school as executor of the Norma M. Ricci Trust.
That philanthropic role is rooted in friendship with her neighbor, Ricci, who died at age 92 last year, leaving her estate to McDonald to disperse. McDonald knew about Ricci’s empathy for the vulnerable, including animals and children, and her interest in Fletcher. “She always loved hearing stories about the school and what Fletcher students and faculty were doing,” McDonald said.
The trust is now the source of gifts to the Tufts Elephant Conservation Alliance, as well as to The Fletcher Fund and programs that put Fletcher students and faculty at the forefront of global issues: the Refugees in Towns program and Fletcher LEADS: Leadership, Equality, and Diversity, an initiative focused on gender equality and inclusive leadership.
Gifts are also expanding Fletcher’s financial aid resources, including scholarship support for Ph.D. candidates, stipends that cover living expenses during unpaid summer internships, and the COVID-19 Hardship Fund. The ripple effect goes further still: The Ricci Trust’s support of the nonprofit Green Pro Bono helps fund Fletcher interns working to connect green social entrepreneurs with free legal help.
“I think Norma would be delighted by how she’s supporting the school,” said McDonald, who first worked at Ginn Library from 1985 to 1991 and, after a 16-year hiatus to raise a family, resumed her career there in 2007.
“I have definitely woven the Fletcher community into my life,” she said, “so it seems a natural gesture to give back to a school that has given me so much. It’s a joy and a blessing to be able to say: ‘I can help.’”