A Rewarding 'Choice'

Couple fuels financial goals and students' scholarly pursuits with planned gifts

Robert (BS '48, MS '49) and Phyllis Henigson.
Robert (BS '48, MS '49) and Phyllis Henigson.

For Caltech alumnus Robert Henigson, attending Caltech was not a decision. It was a choice.

"It was the only undergraduate school I ever applied to," Henigson says.

Almost 70 years after he first walked onto campus, Henigson proudly states that choosing to enroll at Caltech was one of the best steps he has ever taken. The expertise and rigor of the faculty paired with the determination and intelligence of his peers created an invigorating educational atmosphere that helped him—and many others—achieve extraordinary ambitions. Henigson earned a bachelor's in applied chemistry and a master's in chemical engineering before attending Harvard Law School and leading a successful law career.

"I'd never met a pack of such intelligent people," Henigson says of his Caltech classmates and professors. There was—and is—an "aura of commitment" that distinguishes Caltech from other institutions.

Henigson's assured confidence in the value of a Caltech education is unchanged today—and it has been a key factor in shaping the relationship he and his wife, Phyllis, have with Caltech.

Over the years, the couple has repeatedly chosen to invest in and engage with the Caltech community. They are lifetime and President's Circle members of the Caltech Associates—the Institute's premier philanthropic society—as well as lifetime members of the Caltech Alumni Association. And in 1987 the Henigsons joined the Torchbearers of Caltech by establishing their first of five charitable remainder unitrusts (CRUTs). The Torchbearers are a group of generous individuals who have made a commitment to support Caltech through bequests and deferred gifts.

"When I realized this was a real fountain of wealth, then I started concentrating on making more of these unitrusts," says Henigson, who has augmented his retirement income through giving. The unitrusts pay the couple a fixed percentage of the principal, revalued annually, for their lifetimes.

Adrian Chapman (class of 2012).
Adrian Chapman (class of 2012).

Most of the Henigsons' giving has benefited students through the Robert and Phyllis Henigson Scholarship Fund. They have also endowed a library fund, named the Henry and Ethel Henigson Memorial Fund in recognition of his parents, and were the impetus behind the William T. Gimbel Discovery Fund in Neuroscience, in honor of a dear friend.

"These gifts have been highly beneficial to me as well as Caltech," Henigson says, emphasizing the fulfillment he and his wife enjoy from encouraging today's scientists and scholars. "We both think that it is important that people who have the talent be given the opportunity to develop it."

Through their scholarship fund, the Henigsons have supported many students. This year's recipient is Adrian Chapman, a Caltech senior in physics. "I am really grateful for these four years that I've had to just improve myself and find things that I am passionate about," Chapman says. "It's made an important difference."