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Planned Giving: Russell Rustici

Gifts to conserve rangelands promote quality of life

Photo: Two men stand on rangeland

Randy Dahlgren (left) and Kenneth Tate, who each hold UC Davis positions endowed by rancher Russell Rustici, are working to improve range management and rangeland ecosystems.
(Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

The benefits of planned gifts

Careful gift planning often results in donors achieving philanthropic objectives at greater levels than they thought feasible. In addition to his generous bequest, rancher Russell Rustici used a combination of gift plans to achieve his financial and philanthropic goals.

Gift arrangements such as the charitable remainder trust, charitable gift annuity and pooled income fund can provide an income stream as well as tax savings to a donor through a charitable deduction. Other gift arrangements, such as designating the UC Davis Foundation as beneficiary of a retirement account, often significantly reduce taxes while increasing support for a donor’s charitable interests.

To find out more about the many benefits of these and other gift plans, visit the planned giving website or contact Richard Vorpe, executive director of planned giving, at (530) 754-4105 or via email.

by Angela Hokanson

A bequest from Russell Rustici, a cattle rancher who had a scientist’s drive to understand the rangelands that were his livelihood, will further research and outreach to address problems facing range cattle producers and rangelands in California.

Through planned gifts, Rustici gave about $9.5 million to establish the Russell L. Rustici Rangeland and Cattle Research Endowment in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The endowment will support applied research on water quality, rangeland ecology, animal health and other issues affecting ranchers and residents across the state.

“Russell Rustici’s bequest will assure the long-term health of rangelands and cattle ranching in California,” said Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “His gifts will allow our researchers to solve ecosystem problems facing ranchers and help improve the quality of life for generations to come. Russell clearly understood how private donors can support our land-grant mission of solving society's problems.”

Rustici, who died in October 2008, loved the range. After working in produce distribution, he fulfilled a lifelong dream to become a cattle rancher. As he became immersed in ranching in Lake County, he sought to better understand the science behind rangeland and cattle management.

His bequest followed years of philanthropy in support of research in these areas. In 2008, he gave $1.2 million to establish two endowed positions — the Russell L. Rustici Endowed Chair in Rangeland Watershed Science and the Russell L. Rustici Endowed Specialist in Cooperative Extension in Rangeland Watershed Science. Randy Dahlgren, professor of soil science and chair of the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, is the inaugural holder of the Rustici endowed chair. Kenneth Tate, a rangeland watershed specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences, holds the Rustici endowed specialist position.

The two endowed positions are furthering research and outreach on range management and rangeland ecosystems. For Dahlgren, that includes examining water quality, nutrient cycling and hydrology on rangeland watersheds. Tate’s research and outreach takes place at the interface between livestock production and ecological sustainability, examining issues like how to manage rangelands to simultaneously improve water quality and ranch profitability.

“His passion was definitely the conservation of California rangelands, as well as the ranching enterprises that make their living from them,” Tate said of Rustici.

Rustici’s total gifts to UC Davis are expected to exceed $10.8 million once his estate has been fully distributed. He is among the top 10 leading donors to The Campaign for UC Davis.

Angela Hokanson is UC Davis’ development and campaign communications manager.

This article was originally published in UC Davis Magazine.