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Advancing stem cell science

Clayton and Susan Kaufman (Submitted photo)

Current and planned gifts extend alum’s longtime University support

Clayton Kaufman knows a high-impact story when he hears it. His judgment is forged by a broadcasting career that spanned more than four decades. That’s one reason he’s keeping tabs on advances in stem cell science—and why he’s supporting the research through current and planned gifts to the University of Minnesota, his alma mater.

“The importance of stem cell research cannot be overemphasized,” he says, mentioning its potential impact on a myriad of diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. That’s another reason Kaufman is interested in the research: he has Parkinson’s.

Then there’s his youngest son, Dan Kaufman, M.D., Ph.D., associate director of the University’s Stem Cell Institute, who’s investigating the use of embryonic stem cells in therapies such as bone marrow transplants to treat patients with leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and other cancers.

In fact, Clayton Kaufman, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism in 1949, says since his time as a student, his longtime commitment to the U of M and to stem cell science continues to grow stronger.

Family connections to the U

Dating back to his undergraduate days, Kaufman met his late wife, Nancy—mother to his three sons—when they both attended the University of Minnesota.

A self-described “lifelong Gopher football fan,” Kaufman says that he learned the basics of journalism while working as a sports editor at the Minnesota Daily, the University’s student-run newspaper. That experience, he says, launched his career.

He went on to work as a sports writer and editor for an International News Service and later took a job at WCCO Radio, where he worked for 39 years. He was initially hired as a news writer but eventually became the general manager and then senior vice president for radio. In 2007 he was inducted to the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

The University also helped to shape the careers of Kaufman’s three adult sons. The oldest, Dixon Kaufman, M.D., Ph.D., completed his undergraduate, medical (Class of ’83), and doctoral degrees at the University, as well as his residency and fellowships. Now a transplant surgeon and researcher, he has worked at Northwestern University in Chicago and was recently appointed Transplant Division Chief at University of Wisconsin—Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health, and at its hospital and clinics. Middle son Douglas Kaufman, M.B.A., earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota and is now the finance director of corporate trust services at U.S. Bank.

Dan, Clayton, Douglas, and Dixon Kaufman. (Submitted photo)

Meanwhile, Dan, an alumnus of Stanford University and Mayo Medical School, is an associate professor at the University of Minnesota and an internationally recognized stem cell researcher—working with induced pluripotent stem cell, or iPS cells, and embryonic stem cells.

Clayton Kaufman says exposure to medicine through his sons sparked his interest in the field, as did his service on the Minnesota Medical Foundation’s Board of Trustees in the 1980s, and later on the Masonic Cancer Center’s Community Advisory Board in the 1990s. “[MMF] opened the door for me to get involved in a whole new community,” he says.

The importance of stem cell science

Although he provides generous annual support to the Masonic Cancer Center and the journalism school, Kaufman says that embryonic stem cell research is the primary focus of his giving.

Philanthropic support for embryonic stem cell research is hindered by many factors, he says—most notably donors’ tendency to fund research on specific diseases, like cancer and heart disease. “People don’t have stem cell-itis,” Kaufman says.

The lack of a national organization that raises money exclusively for stem cell research and the politicization of the research also deter scientific progress, he says.

“Federal money has been diverted on and off since they started studying stem cells,” says Kaufman’s current wife, Susan. “Private fundraising is the most important financial source for embryonic stem cell research.”

So, Kaufman says, he decided to turn their frustration into action by making two planned gifts that directly support embryonic stem cell research at the University.

The right kind of gift

“For a long time I had thought, “When my day comes, I want to leave some money for stem cell work at the University,”” Kaufman says.

But after learning about the charitable gift annuity—a gift that allows donors to transfer assets to a charity in exchange for fixed payments for life—he decided to accelerate his planned estate gift.

Kaufman funded two charitable gift annuities with MMF in 2008, increasing his current income and securing a partial tax deduction while ensuring continued support for embryonic stem cell research at the University after his lifetime.

“This is a way I could make my gift now, get some benefit from it, and have a major share available for the Stem Cell Institute,” he says.

Kaufman says that he hopes his giving will inspire others to think about the promise of stem cell science and act now—instead of later. “You can’t take it with you,” he says. “But this is a way to give it before you go.”

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