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The Benefit of Qualified Charitable Distributions from IRAs (QCDs)

Posted on 05 December 2016 by editor

I want to share with you a giving method that has proven advantageous to me and one of my favorite investments, Grace University.

In December 2015, Congress made permanent a law allowing you to give up to $100,000 to charity directly from your individual retirement account (IRA) when you 26853920325_7ff150590b_k-1are over 70 1/2 years old without counting the distribution as taxable income. This type of charitable gift is called a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD). I have used this method of giving for a good number of years but each year waited to see if it would be renewed. Now it is possible to plan for current and future years.

When you take money out of your IRA it is a taxable event, whether it is the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) or a larger amount. The withdrawal adds to your taxable income and inflates your adjusted gross income (AGI). Since a QCD is not taxable income in the first place, it has no effect on your AGI. This is important because itemized deduction phase-outs, exemption phase-outs, Roth contribution eligibility, the net investment income Medicare surtax, Medicare premium costs, the taxability of Social Security income, and some credit phase-outs all factor off your AGI. Furthermore, giving a QCD directly from your IRA can allow you to benefit from charitable giving even if you don’t normally itemize your deductions. Giving directly from your IRA allows you to ignore your QCD IRA distribution when calculating your taxable income and also take the standard deduction.

Normally, charitable giving can only be deducted if it is less than 50% of your AGI. Giving directly from your IRA allows you to effectively reduce your AGI even if the gift amount would otherwise be greater than 50% of your AGI. Qualified Charitable Distributions count as IRA distributions and can be used to satisfy all or part of your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD). This makes them particularly useful for senior citizens who are still working, have a large pension, or, in general, find themselves in a higher tax bracket.

The Board of Trustees of Grace University approved a budget last summer that anticipates significant financial support from friends and alumni this year end. I encourage you to make a significant Qualified Charitable Distribution from your IRA, as I have done. I am very willing to answer any questions you may have regarding how to process this. Please notify Grace University of a check coming from your IRA custodian so checks sent direct to the charity are donors identified.

Enjoy the season of Thanksgiving as a time of giving and a time for family celebration.

Mel Friesen, Planned Giving Volunteer

How To Do A Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD)

  1. Already be age 70 ½ on the date of distribution
  2. Submit a distribution form to the IRA custodian, requesting that the check be made payable directly to the charity
  3. Ensure that no tax withholding is being done from the QCD to the charity (as the money must actually go to the charity to qualify, and as a non-taxable distribution no withholding should be necessary)
  4. Send the check directly to the charity, or to the IRA owner to be forwarded along to the charity

While the process of completing a QCD to a charity is fairly straightforward, the key administrative requirement is that the distribution check must be made payable directly to the charitable entity. If the funds go to the IRA owner and are then passed along to the charity, it is still a taxable distribution to the IRA owner and not a QCD.

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Alumni Weekend 2016

Alumni Weekend 2016

Posted on 06 October 2016 by editor


Mark your calendars and plan to be on campus with your fellow classmates October 28-29. Watch your inbox for details about the dinners, concerts, and athletic events going on all weekend. There will be class reunions and activities for the entire family:

  • Chorale and Collegians Reunion Concert
  • Family picnic
  • Nate Drege Concert
  • Band Festival
  • Volleyball, Basketball and Soccer games
  • Meet & Greet with Trustees and University leadership

Class officers will be in touch with you soon. Please send your updated contact information to

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From the Desk of Dr. Eckman

From the Desk of Dr. Eckman

Posted on 06 July 2016 by editor

ftdoe070516July 4th is Independence Day in the United States, a day in which we celebrate our independence from the British Empire; the birth of our nation.  From 1776 to 1783, this new nation fought a war of independence, and then, in the summer of 1787, the founders of this new Republic wrote the Constitution.  You cannot understand these momentous events from 1776 to 1787 if you neglect the issue of religious liberty.  The founders of this new Republic were committed equally to the pursuit of both political liberty and religious liberty.  As the First Amendment declares, protecting the “free exercise” of religion is one of the obligations of the state.  In these early years of the 21st century, there is a growing threat to the free exercise of religion in this Republic.  The mission of Grace University is to develop servant leaders through, among other things, “excellence in biblically integrated education.”  The Bible is the beginning point of all knowledge and the integrating center of everything done at Grace.  To lose this integrating center would end the uniqueness of Grace’s mission.  For that reason, Grace needs to be a robust institution financially.  After three years of poor stewardship, we must “right the ship.”

Under the capable leadership of Dr. John Holmes, Interim President, Bill Bauhard, CEO, and Dr. Karl Pagenkemper, Academic VP, Grace University is retooling.  We are paying down debt and righting all accounts so that we can begin the new academic year, which begins in mid-August, financially stable.  As our friends and donors, you play an important role in the mission of Grace.  Your prayers are necessary in these difficult times and we covet those persistent, regular, passionate prayers for Grace University.  We also crave your financial support to achieve the financial stability we need for the new year.  Thank you for your investment, through your prayers and your gifts, in this eternally significant work of God.

In His mighty grasp,

James P. Eckman, Ph.D.
President Emeritus, Grace University

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Nebekers Called to New Ministry

Nebekers Called to New Ministry

Posted on 06 July 2016 by editor

IMG_3507After 19 years at Grace University, God is calling Dr. Gary Nebeker to a new full-time ministry.

“This is a sad time for me, but also one marked by excitement as Denise and I pursue, in the fullest fashion possible, the soul care ministry of Christian leaders,” said Dr. Nebeker.

In 2013 Dr. Nebeker and his wife Denise created to encourage the spiritual renewal, emotional health, and relational holiness of Christian ministry leaders and their spouses. In this new season of life, the Nebekers will devote themselves fully to the soul care of Christian leaders worldwide. Dr. Nebeker also is actively serving as an elder at Coram Deo Church where he gives attention to the leadership development and spiritual formation of this growing church.

“We are saddened by his departure, yet excited for the coming path the Lord has him on,” said Dr. Karl Pagenkemper, vice president of Academic Affairs. “Many of us are familiar with the kinds of strengths Gary and Denise have brought to the life and ministry of Grace University.  They will be a huge asset to the cause of Christ and His Kingdom in whole new ways as the Lord moves them forward  into a new season of life.”

Since arriving at Grace University, Dr. Nebeker has served students and the GU community as a theology professor and as the vice president of Christian Formation and Student Services. Denise served Grace University as an adjunct instructor in the graduate counseling program, in addition to doing overseas mission ministry, consulting with mission agencies concerning personnel and counseling needs, and having a private counseling practice. Please pray for the Nebekers as they begin an exciting new chapter of their lives.

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Creating a Charitable Legacy:  How Life Insurance Can Help Your Contributions Do More Provided By: Paul Ludacka, CFP®, Northwestern Mutual

Creating a Charitable Legacy: How Life Insurance Can Help Your Contributions Do More Provided By: Paul Ludacka, CFP®, Northwestern Mutual

Posted on 06 July 2016 by editor

When most of us purchase life insurance, we’re thinking about one thing: making sure our loved ones are taken care of after we’re gone. But life insurance can also provide a way to create a lasting impact on a charity or cause that has special meaning for you. That’s because life insurance allows you to make a much larger gift to charity than you might otherwise be able to make. At the same time, it can provide certain tax benefits to the giver.

Making Every Dollar Count

To understand how life insurance can boost your charitable efforts, consider this hypothetical example. Imagine Ellen contributes $5,000 each year to an organization that creates educational opportunities for young girls in developing countries. Her donations are earmarked to buy textbooks. If Ellen donates this amount over the next 20 years, her total charitable gift would total $100,000.

What if Ellen wanted to do more for this charity? She learns that it would take a pledge of $500,000 to build a library, which is more than Ellen can afford to give right now. Fortunately, there’s a solution that would enable Ellen to meet her giving goal without having to come up with a lot of cash up front. Ellen could use her annual contributions to pay the premiums on a life insurance policy with a $500,000 death benefit and name the charity as beneficiary of the policy. In doing so, Ellen would be able to leverage her annual contributions, thus creating what could potentially be a much larger legacy over time.

Naming a Charity as a Beneficiary

The simplest way to use life insurance as a tool for charitable giving is to name a favorite charity as a beneficiary of a new or existing life insurance policy on your life. This approach enables you to retain control over the policy, which means you can change your beneficiary at any time and access any cash value.

Naming a charity as your policy’s beneficiary will not provide a federal income tax charitable deduction. However, your estate will receive an estate tax charitable deduction for the amount of the benefit the charity receives upon your death. Maintaining ownership of your policy provides another important benefit: the ability to transfer your policy’s ownership to the charity of your choice in the future, when you may no longer require the life insurance for your own needs. At that time, you may be able to take an income tax charitable deduction.

Purchase a New or Donate an Existing Policy

A second option would be to purchase a new policy or donate an existing one to a favorite charity and name that organization as the beneficiary and owner. To do this, you must assign all rights in the policy to the charity, which means you give up all control of the policy forever. In exchange, you may be able to take an income tax charitable deduction. The policy would not be included in your gross estate, unless you die within three years of the transfer. Then, your estate would be eligible for an offsetting estate tax charitable deduction.

When you transfer an existing life insurance policy to charity, that organization has the option to take advantage of any accumulated cash value to meet current funding requirements, preserve the full death benefit to meet future needs or a combination of the two.

Using a Life Insurance Policy with a Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT)

A third choice is to use a life insurance policy in conjunction with a Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT). A CRT lets you convert a highly appreciated asset, like stock or real estate, and use it to create a lifetime stream of income to meet your current needs. Upon your death, the remaining trust assets go to the charity you chose. With the income from the CRT, you could then purchase a life insurance policy on your life, usually inside an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT), and name one or more heirs as the policy beneficiaries. At your death, the proceeds from your ILIT would pass income tax free to your loved ones, thereby “replacing” the assets that went to the charity.

The Benefit of a Professional Perspective

These are just a few of the options that make life insurance a powerful financial tool for leveraging your donations and accomplishing your charitable goals. By gifting a policy outright or naming a charity as beneficiary, you can provide the organizations and/or causes that matter most to you with a lasting legacy while keeping the inheritance of your loved ones intact.

Financial security is the confidence that comes from taking action today to provide for tomorrow. It’s an ongoing process during which you should be disciplined but flexible to adapt to changes over time. Working with a qualified financial professional can help as you make sound decisions about your life insurance, and more importantly, your future and the future of organizations you care deeply about.

NM_Mutual_paulfinal-1Article prepared by Northwestern Mutual with the cooperation of Paul Ludacka, CFP®.
Paul Ludacka, CFP® is a Financial Advisor with Northwestern Mutual based in Omaha, NE. Paul Ludacka, CFP® is a licensed insurance agent. Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NM), Milwaukee, WI, and its subsidiaries. To contact Paul Ludacka, CFP®, please call (402) 891-2304 or email at

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Grace University Reaches More than 25,000 in China

Grace University Reaches More than 25,000 in China

Posted on 06 July 2016 by editor

Rob Benson conducts the Star Spangled Banner for 4000 at Taigu School No. 1

The Grace University Community Concert Band, led by Jeff James, assistant professor of music, performed for more than 25,000 during a five-city tour in central China.  This was the fourth trip to China for the band and many alumni and community members joined the band for a return trip with the purpose of maintaining relationships from previous tours and developing new ones.

“Besides performing on stage, our greatest thrill is talking with people on many occasions, including before and after concerts. They were so excited to talk with us. We made a point of allowing time for this,” said James. “Many new friends accompanied us on the bus to concerts and to the Taiyuan church on Sunday.”

The band performed for diverse audiences and with the Taiyuan University of Technology Band, the Ruby Orchestra featuring traditional Chinese instruments, and the Longcheag Symphony.

In addition to the band, there was a string quintet, a clarinet quartet, a percussion septet, a piano quartet (8 hands on one piano), a vocal ensemble, and voice, marimba, and piano solos. A special violin/dance solo was also performed.  The soloists were:

  • Rob Benson, marimba, Casper, Wyoming
  • Ali Boyd, soprano, Ft. Calhoun, Nebraska
  • Michaela Harwood, piano, Papillion, Nebraska
  • Jana James, violin, Omaha, Nebraska

In addition to classical music, the band performed movie music familiar to the Chinese, including Mission Impossible and Star Wars. The biggest hit of all was senior Josh Pace, SBA president, running around in the audience in full costume as the band played Superman.

The band did some sight-seeing as well, including seeing the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Terra Cotta Warriors. “Performing is our main order of business, but we want our students to learn about the culture of China as well,” James said.

“I really enjoyed everything about the tour. God has opened my eyes to see a new perspective of what is going on on this side of the world. The people were fun and friendly, and our concerts had a wonderful impact on the school students,” said Ali Boyd, senior voice and percussion major.

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Before You Give, Please Plan

Before You Give, Please Plan

Posted on 17 April 2016 by editor

By Paul Ludacka, CLU®, ChFC®, CFP®, Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Advisor based in Omaha, NE

Charitable giving – to Grace University or another beloved nonprofit – is a top priority for many of us. These causes are extensions of who we are. And often times, these organizations helped make us who we are.

Anne Frank once said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” That is true – but there are strategies to make your charitable gift go farther for an organization.

Many people ask me for advice before they give, because they want their financial contribution to make a lasting and meaningful effect. It’s wise to pause, think and plan before you give. As part of a full-picture financial plan, you can understand your options, identify and prioritize your long-term goals, and ensure that your charitable giving doesn’t sacrifice any other financial goals.

That’s the main difference between “giving” and “planned giving.” Through planning, you may be able to minimize the impact of income taxes, capital gains taxes and estate taxes – and give even more to charity.

As part of a comprehensive financial plan – I recommend three giving strategies to today’s philanthropic families:

  1. Be direct

Giving directly to a charity can make a lot of sense, especially if you already have a planned charitable giving strategy in place and if it’s important to send your gift to the nonprofit immediately. However, what you give and how you contribute matters. Generally, gifts to a public charity are eligible for a larger tax deduction in comparison to a private foundation. Additionally, gifts of cash may be eligible for a larger deduction than gifts of stock or retirement savings. It’s wise to work collaboratively with a financial advisor and a tax professional to identify that most efficient and effective giving plan for you.

  1. Give life

For many, life insurance is often an overlooked and underestimated strategy for charitable giving. Through this strategy, a donor can gift a policy or name a nonprofit as a beneficiary, helping to provide a sizeable donation to a beloved cause. This may allow the giver to make a more substantial contribution than would otherwise be possible. As an added benefit, a charity that owns a life insurance policy has the option to access the policy cash value with loans or withdrawals, if needed. These benefits are generally tax-free for the charity.

  1. Trusts and foundations

For some givers, a charitable trust helps them to give and also keep their more complex estate plans intact. For others, a private foundation may be of interest, enabling them to build a lasting legacy of giving for generations to come.

Giving is great – but “planned giving” may help you to maximize your charitable gift. Consider working with a financial expert and a tax expert so you can leave behind the kind of legacy you want.

NM_Mutual_paulfinal-1Article prepared by Paul Ludacka, CLU®, ChFC®, CFP® with the cooperation of Northwestern Mutual.
Ludacka is a Wealth Management Advisor with Northwestern Mutual, the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NM), Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and its subsidiaries.  Ludacka is an Insurance agent of NM based in Omaha, NE.  To contact Ludacka, please call 402-891-2304, email him at or visit his website at

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Dr. Z Celebrates 25 Years

Dr. Z Celebrates 25 Years

Posted on 14 April 2016 by editor

25987205330_ba81e9a651_kThe students of the Grace University Chorale recently honored Dr. Greg Zielke, chair of the Music Department, for his 25 years of service to students and the Grace University community. They celebrated his accomplishments during the final concert of the Spring Tour, which included an Easter Sunday concert at Carnegie Hall.

To see photos of alumni who attended concerts during the Spring Tour click here.

“Dr. Zielke has poured so much into each of the students’ lives.  He is so encouraging and believes that every Chorale member is extremely important,” said senior Claire Dupré, Music Education major. “He knows how to pull the most out of a choir, and I’m still astounded by how large the chorale is for the size of this campus and that most members are not music majors.”

In addition to teaching conducting, choral methods, church music, voice, and directing the Chorale, Dr. Zielke directs the Chamber Singers and Front Four quartet. Under his direction, Grace choirs have performed across the U.S. and in Australia and Europe. He also has been Conductor and Artistic Director for the Omaha Symphonic Chorus since their 2002-2003 concert season. As a church musician, he is blessed to serve a wonderful church, Community Bible. He especially enjoys the opportunity to lead church music seminars and choir festivals.

“Congratulations to a master musician who loves Jesus, loves music, loves his students and his choirs—and has the unique capacity to put all of these virtues together to produce rapturous music!” said Dr. James P. Eckman, President Emeritus.

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IS Students Train in Spain

IS Students Train in Spain

Posted on 14 April 2016 by editor

spain41416Junior Intercultural Studies students Lauren Witteveen and Cassidy Burkholder are serving and studying in Spain this semester as part of their coursework. During this program, they are immersed in the culture and language of Spain, while completing academic courses related to evangelical mission work. The Grace students have the opportunity to live with host families and see first-hand how religion and culture are intertwined during celebrations such as Holy Week, which focuses on Jesus’ death and Mary’s suffering.

The Grace students are busy teaching English and building relationships with their Spanish tutors so they can share the Gospel in a meaningful, culturally appropriate way. They are also preparing to work in an upcoming camp hosted by missionaries.

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Students Serve in Guatemala

Students Serve in Guatemala

Posted on 14 April 2016 by editor



During Spring Break, 12 Grace University students who have been trained in making disciples through the art of biblical storytelling served in Guatemala. While working in Antigua, San Pedro and Tecpan, the team worked with Pat Duff, missionary for Casa de Esperanza of the Josiah Foundation, to reach out to children and youth who have not heard the Gospel.  They also served  people with special needs. The GU students shared Bible stories so that the people they met could understand the Gospel in their own language in a culturally appropriate way. Students also led soccer camps with kids they met in the villages and played a game with a local youth group. The team raised enough money to deliver a month’s supply of food to 20 families. In each home, the students shared testimonies and prayed for the family’s needs. The team also experienced Holy Week festivities from the local perspective.



Dr. Tara Rye, Dean of Women, described the trip this way:
I feel that this trip was a Joseph trip. Just as Joseph glorified God in whatever circumstance he was placed in this is what our team did. It did not matter that it was hot, dirty and extreme poverty, the students immediately connected with the people we met and served. Truly, the students lived out being relationally Jesus to those we served. I could not be prouder of our student body. One way God showed Himself to our team was through toothpaste. We had two huge cases of toothpaste given to us. I could not understand why people gave us toothpaste because we were not doing dental missions. Well, one of our main sites where we were to serve backed out a few days before our trip. Our missionary had met a young new mission couple so she set it up for us to meet with them. So, our first two days was serving with a brand new mission plant. On the first day of serving, the missionary shared that someone had given them toothbrushes and only one tube of toothpaste. After one month in this community, they already had 39 children attending their feeding center. She shared that after the children are given food, they have the children brush their teeth. The missionary told us that they prayed and asked God to provide more toothpaste. They did not know we had toothpaste. We were able to give them enough for a long time. God used this to increase the faith of the missionaries and of the team. It was a powerful moment in realizing that God knew where we would serve and provided the toothpaste three weeks before the mission couple had even met our missionary.

Thanks to everyone who supported the team and made the trip possible through your financial gifts and prayers.

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Tidings 2015