The gift of time

Longtime gift planning officer David Crabb reflects 
on his career—and standout gifts—before retirement.

David Crabb, JD’63, is responsible for administering UChicago’s estate gifts as well as gifts in kind—generous and creative gifts from alumni and friends that include works of art, rare books, oil and gas interests, stock, partnership interests, real estate, and insurance policies. Crabb, who has collectively worked for the University for close to 40 years, plans to retire next June to Virginia to be near his young grandchildren.

As he reflects on his career, a few gifts stand out. The most unusual, he says, came in the mid‑’80s: "an undivided interest of a horse named Alydar, one of the most successful champion thoroughbreds of all time."

The University owned one-third of the horse for roughly 20 minutes. “We picked up a deed at one end of the table at the bank and went to the other end of the table to exchange it for a check of over $11 million.” The gift was directed to support pediatric research.

The largest bequest the University received was $44 million in unrestricted funds from Renee Granville‑Grossman, AB’63, who died in 2012 and had never made a gift to the University during her lifetime—a donor known as “a secret admirer.”

Crabb sees testamentary gifts not only to all areas of the University but also from all levels and backgrounds: “People who are not alumni, not faculty, but friends of the University who have developed a great affection for the OI or Smart, or who have received great care from the University of Chicago Medicine. These people also remember these institutions in their estate plans.”

He can attest that settlement of these gifts can take time. Although beneficiary designations on retirement funds and life insurance typically settle much faster than other gifts, they don’t happen overnight.

“People may be surprised to know that estate settlement takes longer than most imagine that it will,” Crabb says. “The process can take anywhere from one to three or more years from the death of the decedent, regardless of whether we knew about the gift beforehand or if the gift bypasses probate.”

Beyond time, improperly planned estates can present complications, including the ability to realize a donor’s intentions. “It is very helpful to the University and the donor to be sure that the terms of the bequest are acceptable to the University and that the University can honor their good intentions,” Crabb says. “Of course, unrestricted bequests are valued because the University can use them for its most pressing needs.”

With the countdown to his retirement approaching, Crabb feels grateful. “I have enjoyed my time at the University of Chicago, which has been a part of my life for about 45 years,” he says. “I get a great deal of satisfaction out of helping colleagues, donors, and decedents. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”