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'It's just returning the gift.'

Alumna makes giving back a priority

Valerie K. BlackburnThroughout a distinguished career in media, Valerie K. Blackburn '79 has overseen financial and strategic planning for some of America's most successful broadcast operators in their top radio markets. She has served on the boards of directors of several organizations and is passionate about numerous community causes.

She also is a strong believer in the power of gift planning. That's why, along with providing for her family, she included TCU and other organizations in her estate plan.

"These organizations have really been a big part of my life," she explains. "I don't have children of my own, so I love the thought of helping new generations after I'm gone."

Like many donors, Valerie started small. "TCU was in my first will for $500," she says. "It wasn't a lot but it made me feel like I was at least making a statement that TCU was important to me."

Her steady career achievements have led her to re-evaluate her estate plan periodically and steadily increase that amount. "Just like you rebalance your retirement account, you should also look at rebalancing your estate plan," she notes.

Valerie disputes the idea that a small estate gift won't have a measurable impact. "Many people feel if they can't leave enough that a building can be named after them, that their gift doesn't matter," she says. "That's just not true. If 100 people give a small amount, together those contributions become a significant gift. I think people should also realize that they don't have to leave a specific dollar amount. They can leave a percentage of their estate to a favorite organization. Or make the institution a beneficiary of an IRA or life insurance policy. It's easy to do."

'Just a regular college student...'

Valerie came to TCU from McAllen, Texas, on a part-tuition scholarship. She joined the fledgling Student Foundation; worked as a resident assistant in Colby, Waits and Foster halls; sang in choirs; and quickly made lifelong friends.

A return to campus for Homecoming after a 20-year absence rekindled her memories. "I love TCU. I love the experiences I had there," she reflects. "I was just a regular college student. I think I led a pretty normal existence."

A curiosity about the workings of her favorite college-era radio station—KVIL—helped inspire her career path. Valerie served as the market controller for seven radio stations owned and operated by CBS Radio in Los Angeles, the top billing radio market in the country. In 2010, she was named one of the most influential women in radio by Radio Ink Magazine, one of the industry's most respected trade publications.

"College helps shape who you will become," she concludes. "It forms your friendships, how you're going to make decisions, what kind of person you will be. It just so happens that TCU was a fabulous place to do that!"

Bequests are one way donors can shape their favorite institutions for years to come. "I think planned giving and recognizing organizations that have been important to you is such a wonderful way of giving back," she adds. "It's just returning the gift."