Prospective students weren't the only ones eagerly anticipating the approval of Lakeland College's bachelor of agriculture technology program.
More than a year before the Government of Alberta approved the degree program, Bryan and Sharon Perkins committed to creating a student award for the program.
"I've been very interested in the bachelor of agriculture technology program since I first heard about it while I was a member of the board," says Bryan. He served on Lakeland College Board of Governors from 2013-2020.
A day after Lakeland announced the program approval in January, Bryan phoned Lakeland's Community Development department to finalize the Bryan and Sharon Perkins Bachelor of Agriculture Technology Award. It is available to two students in the crops stream. This is the first award established for the degree program.
In addition to their new award, the Perkins fund two other awards: Bryan and Sharon Perkins Agricultural Award (two recipients) and Bryan & Sharon Perkins Double Diploma Award (two recipients). During the 2021-22 academic year, the six recipients of their awards will receive $1,100 each.
"For Sharon and me, farming and agriculture are our way of life, our source of income, and, perhaps more importantly, the chosen fields for our children and grandchildren as well," says Bryan, noting that they live on land homesteaded by his grandparents in 1908. "Agriculture is an exciting field. It offers so many challenges and so many opportunities – it keeps your feet on the ground. We're pleased to do our part to support students interested in this industry."
Endowment will fund awards in perpetuity
To ensure the awards continue after they're gone, the Perkins established an endowment fund with Lakeland in 2018. They've increased the fund through cash contributions and a recent stock donation. A planned gift of a $60,000 life insurance policy will grow the endowment after Bryan passes away.
"Our goal is to keep building the endowment fund. We want it to be self-sustaining and have the funds in place to continue supporting these awards after we're gone," says Bryan.
While they're building the endowment for the future, they realize the tax advantages now. They received a charitable receipt for the cash surrender value of the life insurance policy. The Perkins are charitably receipted annually for the premium payments they make on the policy.
In donating the stocks, the Perkins also received a charitable tax receipt for the fair market value when they transferred them to Lakeland. Transferring the shares directly to Lakeland allowed them to avoid paying capital gains taxes. That way they actually got two tax benefits rather than if they had sold the stocks and donated after-tax proceeds.
"When it comes to charitable giving in Alberta, everything over $200 provides a 50% tax credit. When we include Lakeland in our charitable giving and donate $1,100 for one of our awards, the government in effect contributes $550 of the award. If we can donate to help students and get the tax credit, we're happy to do so," says Perkins.
University of Alberta students also benefit from their generosity. The couple met at the university in the late 1960s, where Bryan earned a bachelor of science in agriculture and Sharon a teaching certificate. They created an endowment to fund the Perkins Family Bar None Award. Bryan and fellow alumni also developed the Agriculture Class of 1969 Bar None Leadership Award.
The most rewarding part of being a donor is hearing from the Lakeland students who receive their awards, says Bryan.
"To learn about their goals and their plans is so enjoyable. It makes me feel good about the future of agriculture. It makes me feel that anything that we've done to support their goals is worthwhile."