Sharing Blessings for a Healthier Tomorrow
At the School of Medicine Basic Sciences, generous gifts from Dr. Kenneth Chastain and his late wife, Jan, are advancing research into non-drug-based solutions for maintaining or restoring wellness in patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or diseases affecting the heart or prostate.
They established the JKL Wellness Endowment in 2005 to further research leading to longer, healthier and more satisfying lives for patients like Jan, who passed away in 2006 after a battle with congestive heart failure.
Jan was his “kindred spirit,” Dr. Chastain said, “an ever-faithful and ever-loving helpmeet who made everything not only possible but also precious. She never wanted anything other than the opportunity to be there for us whenever we needed her.” Now Jan’s compassionate spirit lives on through the fund and through the MD and PhD students whose cutting-edge research it supports.
The Chastains became familiar with Vanderbilt during visits to the heart-failure team over the course of Jan’s illness. “To us,” Dr. Chastain explained, “the obvious choice for our financial blessings was to designate them to an organization with the capability and the goal of discovering natural ways and means to improve the health span of people.”
Dr. Chastain hopes that his family’s gift will inspire others interested in improving people’s health to contribute to a research program that impacts a cause close to their heart. “If we combine our resources, we can foster great advancements in the health span of people in the U.S. and around the world. The need is great, and the subsequent satisfaction of having made a difference through an organization that has the resources to make a much greater contribution than anyone can individually is unique.”
The Chastains made their first gifts through two charitable remainder unitrusts (CRUTs) that provide for an immediate income-tax deduction along with income for life. CRUTs are managed by the same team that manages the Vanderbilt endowment.
In 2023, Dr. Chastain decided to activate the gift during his lifetime by making an additional gift commitment through a qualified charitable distribution from his IRA. As an endowed fund, it will support Basic Sciences students’ research in perpetuity. His gift will also benefit Dare to Grow, Vanderbilt’s historic fundraising campaign.
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