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Making a difference close to home

President George W. Bush met with Jane and Edward “Jack” Bardon, M.D., to recognize them for their impressive volunteer efforts with the Peace Corps and other groups.

The Minnesota home of Jane and Edward “Jack” Bardon, M.D., reflects their wanderlust. Every room displays folk art, rugs, and other souvenirs from their travels to places such as Southeast and Central Asia and West Africa. Many are items the Bardons acquired during their two years in the Peace Corps, which they joined in 2003, eight years into retirement.

“Everything has a personal story for us. That’s what makes it so special,” says Jack, pointing to a detailed Aboriginal painting hanging high on the wall, purchased, he says, from a man on a bicycle in the Australian desert.

It’s that personal connection that drives the Bardons’ actions in other areas of life as well, including their philanthropy.

Through two gift annuities, the couple has established the Jane S. Bardon and Edward J. Bardon, M.D., Endowed Basic Brain Research Fund at the University of Minnesota. The fund supports the prevention and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), such as Asperger’s syndrome—a disorder in which people maintain verbal and cognitive development and are often gifted in some areas but may have difficulty with behavior and social interaction.

“One of our grandchildren has Asperger’s syndrome. This remarkable little boy, who is now 11, is in both gifted and special education programs at school,” Jane says.

Families of children with ASDs struggle to understand the cause, adds Jack. “They are grasping at straws. They want an explanation.”

The Bardons say that their decision to support the University of Minnesota’s work in this area was simple, given their strong academic and professional connection to the University.

Jack graduated from the University’s Medical School in 1958 and held a joint appointment in the Department of Psychiatry and Boynton Health Service until he retired in 1995. Now a professor emeritus, he is teaching a seminar at the University about his new book, The Knowledge Drive. “I love the University. It’s my second home,” he says.

He and Jane met at the University, where she earned an undergraduate degree and later a master’s degree in Technical Communication.

Early in her University career, Jane was a statistician in the Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene located under Memorial Stadium’s Gate 27, and run by Ancel Keys, Ph.D. Jane later worked at the U’s libraries as an IT specialist from 1986 until retiring in 1995.

To make their gift to the University, the Bardons set up an immediate payment charitable gift annuity in 2007 and then established a deferred payment gift annuity the following year. They say that gift annuities were the best fit for them because the vehicle meets their charitable goals while providing tax benefits and, in the case of their second gift annuity, deferred income. “It’s hard to know what the future is going to bring,” Jack says. “That flexibility is very important.”

The couple hopes their gift will help families find answers for ASDs and even help prevent related brain disorders.

“We hope to be part of making a difference,” Jack says.

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