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Ms. Ella Mae Gaines: A Loyal Alumna's Gift that Keeps on Giving

Ms. Ella Mae Gaines: A Loyal Alumna's Gift that Keeps on Giving

A fourth-generation Atlanta native, Ms. Ella Mae Gaines was accepted to Spelman College on July 31, 1944. Her application for admission to Spelman stated, "I wish to come to Spelman, because I feel there is no other college anywhere in the world finer for a girl to receive training to prepare herself for higher gains in life. I have always looked forward to entering Spelman College, because Spelman students have a certain air about them that denotes character and culture. I would naturally like to fall in line."

She fell in line immediately, graduated in 1949 and went on to achieve those higher gains in life. She earned a M.S. in library science from Atlanta University in 1951, school library certification from Rutgers University in 1956 and a J.D. from Atlanta Law School in 1979. A devoted family woman, she married Clayton R. Yates with whom she had one daughter, Jerri Sydnor Lee.

Her impressive career encompassed university, public, medical and special librarianship, as well as being graduate librarian school lecturer, library consultant and research writer. Mrs. Yates held positions at the Brooklyn Public Library and several New Jersey Public Library Systems before becoming assistant director of the Atlanta Public Library System in 1972. She was also a visiting professor at Atlanta University's Graduate School of Library and Information Science at this time.

A woman of many firsts, Mrs. Yates was the first African American to head the Atlanta Public Library System (she was also the second African American woman to head a public library system in the United States), the first African American librarian in the country to have a major metropolitan library built during her tenure and the first librarian in the country to place a branch in a major security facility, the Fulton County Jail. She also served as a research writer for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and founded her own firm, Yates Library Consultants. She went on to become the state librarian for the Virginia State Library, the first woman, first Black and the first non-Virginian in the position.

As her career flourished throughout the years so did her love for Spelman. Mrs. Yates generously gave her time, talent and treasure to ensure that generations of young women would come to know and experience higher learning in the Spelman tradition. She consistently contributed to Spelman especially at Founders Day and Reunion and served on various College committees and as a Class Agent, rallying her classmates around each and every reunion. She reveled in her love for Spelman during one of her proudest moments as a Golden Girl at Spelman College's Reunion 1999. On June 27, 2006, Ella Gaines Yates lost her battle with lung cancer, but her legacy lives on.

Five years before her passing, Mrs. Yates set up a charitable gift annuity with Spelman College. A charitable gift annuity is a simple contract providing for the College to make fixed payments to a donor (and an optional second beneficiary) for life in return for their gift. The gift annuity offers the assurance of payments that will not fluctuate, and that are secured by all the assets of Spelman College.

A charitable gift annuity offers several tax benefits and can start paying the donor once a gift is made (an immediate-payment gift annuity), or payments can commence at a later date selected by the donor (a deferred gift annuity). Deferral allows for a higher annuity rate and gives the donor a larger charitable deduction.

A viable option for all ages, many younger donors create a series of deferred gift annuities over multiple years, jointly timed to begin making payments when they retire. To fund their gifts, they use assets they've already designated for retirement savings. Their deferred gift annuities give them an income tax deduction when they most need it, and an additional source of cash during their retirement years.

While charitable gift annuities can be financially beneficial to the donor and recipient they can also offer peace of mind, personal reward and in Mrs. Yates case, honor her family.

"My year-end gift to Spelman is both significant and far-reaching. I am giving thanks to the College by making a gift of my land and residential property. More importantly, I am really showing my appreciation for my family and their values and foundation of respect for our people," Mrs. Yates explained, about her reasons for giving both annually and through her charitably gift annuity. "They had the spirit of giving through the ages. They gave of themselves due to their yearning for a better life for future generations. Hence, my gift to Spelman preserves my family's long-standing tradition of giving."


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