Celebrating 200 Years of Generosity

Anna F. Backer

Anna F. Backer

By Frank Kovarik '94 (excerpt from the SLUH bicentennial book to be published in 2018)

Some say the school building at 4970 Oakland Ave., known affectionately as "the Backer Memorial," began with a fiery speech delivered by the Rev. Michael J. O'Connor, pastor of St. Francis Xavier (College) Church, on behalf of a 1920 fundraising campaign by St. Louis University.

In particular, Fr. O'Connor mentioned the desirability of moving the high school department (which at that time comprised two different schools, St. Louis Academy and Loyola Hall) to a different location in order to relieve congestion at the Grand Avenue campus.

After the speech, a parishioner named Anna F. Backer approached Fr. O'Connor. She offered to fund the project in its entirety out of the estate of her late husband, George, an 1869 graduate of Saint Louis University who had made his fortune in milling wheat and who had valuable mining investments as well.

Anna Backer originally pledged $300,000 for the construction of a new school building, but eventually the gift for construction of the building totaled $400,000. In later accounts, Backer explained her motivations:

"I planned the gift many years before my husband's death.... I wanted to give the young men a school where they would be inspired with the desire to enter the priesthood."

Bicentennial LogoBacker framed her philanthropy as God's work, writing, "It has been my happy privilege as an instrument in the hands of Almighty God to aid substantially in the establishment of the St. Louis University High School. This I gladly did in memory of George H. Backer, my devoted, deceased husband."

In April 1923, Archbishop John Glennon presided over a dedication ceremony to mark the beginning of construction of the high school building on Oakland Avenue. Some 3,500 people attended the event, which lasted approximately an hour and featured the laying of the cornerstone as well as the revelation of Mrs. Backer as the source of what was at that point the largest gift ever received by SLU and, for that matter, by any Catholic institution within the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

When Anna Backer's anonymity was finally lifted, the crowd looked for her on the dais in vain. She was humbly sitting in the crowd among the students.

Six years after the fulfillment of Anna Backer's vision of a Jesuit boys' high school fully separate from the university, this foundational benefactor of the school died peacefully in her home on September 12, 1936, at the age of 81. Backer, born in Switzerland in 1845, had moved to St. Louis as an infant with her widowed mother.

The entire faculty and student body of SLUH attended the funeral services for Anna Backer.

The students, well aware of Backer's generosity to their school, considered her a kind of "fairy godmother." Backer had treasured her relationship with the school and attended Mothers Club meetings faithfully. The class of 1936 affectionately paid this tribute to her in the yearbook: "Your memory, Mrs. Backer, will live in the beautiful school your generosity has made possible, but it will also be treasured in a nobler shrine—in the hearts of 'Your Boys' of yesterday, today, and tomorrow."

Upon her death, Backer made another gift to the school, approximately $500,000. This enormous bequest solved the school's financial difficulties at the time and constituted the bulk of its endowment for years to come.

Ensure SLUH's Tradition of Excellence for the Next 200 Years

You can follow in Anna Backer's footsteps and leave a legacy that helps SLUH continue building Christ's kingdom of truth, justice, love and peace for generations to come. Contact Melissa Jones, CFRE at mjones@sluh.org or 314-269-2186 to learn more about your giving options.

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to St. Louis University High School a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

UNRESTRICTED USE AND PURPOSE
"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to St. Louis University High School [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

RESTRICTED USE AND PURPOSE
"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to St. Louis University High School [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for [scholarship name or another specific purpose]."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to SLUH or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to SLUH as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to SLUH as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and SLUH where you agree to make a gift to SLUH and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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