Dr. Berger Keatts

Alumnus’ honors his favorite professor with gift to WSU CVM

Dr. Berger Keatts, DVM (’50) and retired farmer, decided to support his alma mater in attracting a renowned instructor and researcher when he established the “Berger Keatts Distinguished Professorship” in the College of Veterinary Medicine. His gift is advancing research efforts and continuing the legacy of instructional excellence that places Washington State University among the top veterinary colleges in the nation.

Dr. John McCoy

Dr. Keatts was inspired to create the “Distinguished Professorship” in honor of the man who gave him the desire to become a veterinarian more than 50 years ago. The inspiration for Dr. Keatts’ gift came from his wish to honor the memory of Dr. John McCoy, former dean of the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. McCoy had a tremendous influence on Dr. Keatts’ career choice, stemming from an experience that occurred when he was just 10 years old. Dr. Keatts and his father traveled from their farm near Pomeroy to Pullman to seek treatment for a horse that had fallen ill. Dr. McCoy was the veterinarian who treated the horse, and the young Keatts was so impressed with the veterinarian that he told his father he wanted to be just like Dr. McCoy when he grew up. Dr. Keatts said Dr. McCoy was an articulate and thorough instructor whose diagnostic skills were unparalleled as he recalled how Dr. McCoy often astonished students with an acute ability to “practically see right into his patients.” Dr. Keatts careful gift planning includes the following elements:

  • First, he established a Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust that paid him a fixed income until his death and provided him with an immediate income tax charitable deduction. At his death, the remaining trust assets were passed to the WSU Foundation to fund the professorship he believes is so critical to veterinary education.
  • Next, Dr. Keatts changed the beneficiary designation on his Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to the WSU Foundation. The proceeds from the IRA also flowed into the professorship at his death. As a charitable organization, the WSU Foundation did not have to pay the deferred income tax on this account and realized additional savings dedicated to Dr. Keatts intent.
  • Dr. Keatts also provided an additional contribution to bring the professorship up to a predetermined level should the trust and IRA fail to do so. Together these elements ensured that his wishes were carried out regardless of market fluctuations.
  • Finally, Gift Planning staff worked with Dr. Keatts, his attorney, and the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine to create an agreement setting the criteria for the distinguished professorship. This provided Dr. Keatts with an extraordinary opportunity to provide direct input into the role and responsibilities his professorship assumed.

Like most veterinarians, Dr. Keatts was humble about his gift. Still he realized that it serves as an example and makes others think about what they can or might want to do for WSU. He said he was following his mother’s advice to “give your money away now so you can see it at work.”

Give now to the Berger Keatts Distinguished Professorship fund.