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Gift Planning > Donor Stories

Paying It Forward for Columbia's Students

Alex Li is planning now to make more possible for students through a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT).


Alex Li '73CC had never travelled more than 50 miles beyond his home in Hong Kong—which made choosing Columbia University over the closer Hong Kong University immensely difficult. But that decision—and what he learned and experienced at Columbia—changed his world forever.

"Columbia meant a time of learning and exploration," he says. "The College's Core Curriculum introduced me to Western culture, civilization, philosophy, arts, and music. It was a complete eye-opener for me. What I learned in the Core Curriculum has profoundly influenced my life."

Alex attended Columbia from 1970 to 1973, graduating in just three years with a BA in Computer Science. After nearly thirty years as a trader and an auditor with Citibank, Alex retired in 2004 and now lives on Long Island with his wife of forty years.

"After I retired in 2004, I had a lot of time to reflect on my past and take stock of all the people and things that have changed my life. Columbia was on top of the list. I needed to help pay back what Columbia has given me in terms of financial assistance, as well as a great education."

Alex made a planned gift in the form of a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT), which will make lifetime payments to his wife and him and then be used to establish a scholarship for international students.  The CRUT is invested alongside Columbia's robust endowment.

"My gift is tied to the performance of the Columbia endowment fund," Alex explains. "I feel that the endowment fund will be managed prudently in the long-term interest of Columbia.  I believe that this gift perfectly aligns with my interest in providing a steady stream of income for my wife, while also insuring that the income will be there to support future scholarship recipients. I think a planned gift like this has a truly lasting effect."

Alex believes the impact his three years at Columbia have had on his life cannot be overstated - from his first-class education including the Core Curriculum, to beginning friendships that have lasted more than forty years.

He recalls his most memorable moment:

"I'd just gotten off the plane from the long flight from Hong Kong.  My friend Dominic and I took a cab from the airport and dragged my luggage along College Walk. We stopped in front of Alma Mater, and I looked to my left, Low Library and to my right, Butler Library. That was the most awestruck moment of my life…that I'm here, in the middle of the campus of this great University."

He adds, "When I went to Columbia, my financial support was given by people who came before me. The scholarship I've established is for a future student who attended high school in Greater China. I hope that someone from that area, like me, will also benefit from all Columbia has to offer."


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