Upstate Today & Tomorrow

Upstate Today & Tomorrow highlights timely ideas and stories showing the profound impact of a planned gift to the Upstate Foundation. For more information or to have a confidential conversation regarding your legacy gift plans, contact Carolyn Hendrickson at 315-464-6490 or

Fall Issue 2022

Financial planner is also grateful parent and legacy donor

For Iris Buczkowski, whose oldest daughter is autistic, the new Golisano Center for Special Needs at Upstate Medical University was a life changer. So much so that Iris and her family decided to leave a legacy gift to the center through the Upstate Foundation.

“My daughter utilized services at the center for a rather extensive period of time,” said Iris, of Rome, NY. “After successfully completing an intense therapy program, she became herself once again and was back to the happy child we knew we had.”

Grateful for the excellent care her daughter received at the center, and the support her family received, Iris wished to create something permanent that would help other families, too.

Iris is a licensed financial advisor and chief executive officer of Birch Wealth Management, which helped guide her decision to donate a life insurance policy that will establish an endowment supporting the needs of the Golisano Center for Special Needs for future generations.

Iris understands the impact of legacy giving and routinely explores the topic with her clients.

“It’s my favorite part of what I do, because I get to show people how to maximize something that is meaningful to them while they’re planning at the younger stages of their financial life,” said Iris. “I wanted to set an example that you don’t have to be at retirement age or past your working years to make a meaningful legacy gift that’s going to create a long-term impact; you can leverage money to make an even bigger gift than you think you can.”

“The people at the Upstate Foundation made giving very easy,” Iris noted. “They’re accessible if you have questions. They facilitate all of the administrative responsibilities. I would encourage anybody who wants to make a charitable gift to have that conversation.”

A wife and mother of three, Iris also strives to make a positive impact in her community, serving on local boards including the chamber of commerce.

Longtime Upstate physician views legacy gift as expression of caring

“Most people at Upstate Medical University who know me realize that I'm always doing something special – lung cancer surgery, lab research, clinical trials, cancer research, and now wellness. I always look for the place where I can not only fulfill something that I think is important, but something that is useful for the Upstate community as a whole.”

So states Dr. Leslie Kohman, who has been working with the Upstate Foundation for decades.

“My participation seems to be just a natural transition because I am nurturing the place that nurtured me,” she said. “I joined the University’s faculty and found it to be a place to thrive. I feel that I'm useful to the organization and especially to the community, and that makes me feel really good.”

More recently, as Upstate’s first chief wellness officer, her focus has been on well-being for physicians, nurses, and other providers.

“The pandemic and post-traumatic stress for our health care workers will extend for at least 10 years, so it’s really important that we have resources to help them,” she said.

“The Upstate Foundation helps me accomplish what’s needed to carry out my personal vision and priorities,” Dr. Kohman explained. Her vision prompted her to make a legacy gift, recognizing that Upstate is going to have needs long after her service has ended. She is donating a life insurance policy, designating the Upstate Foundation as its beneficiary.

“When I talk about legacy giving to others, especially those who think it won't matter, I always say, ‘your gift is the only one that matters.’ It matters to you and it matters to what you give to,” she said.

“I tell people to contact the Foundation. Look at the website. The Foundation’s reputation and financial rating are wonderful. They make legacy giving easy and value me as a donor.

“Leaving a legacy gift makes great sense. It’s not about how much you give. It’s your personal expression of caring,” Dr. Kohman concluded. 

Upstate Foundation and Cancer Center team up to promote cancer research

Since the Upstate Cancer Center’s opening eight years ago, research has been as important as patient care. Discovering new treatments and diagnostic tools enable the center to stay at the forefront of cancer care.

Each year, the Cancer Center issues a request for proposals for Upstate Cancer Center Research Pilot Grants. The goal of the pilot grant program is to foster cancer research on novel ideas and generate preliminary data to use for requests for grant funding from external sources, such as federal grants.

The grants also seek to bring together the scientist and the physician to sharpen the focus on discoveries that go from lab bench to bedside.

Funding for Cancer Center Research Pilot Grants is provided through the Upstate Foundation’s Cancer Center Annual Fund and Turn 4 A Cure Breast Cancer Research Fund, with additional funding through the Hematologic Malignancy Research Program. Funded projects typically range from $25,000
to a maximum of $50,000 each. 

Benefits of charitable life insurance

Michael P. Murphy, Financial Advisor Murphy Financial Group

Life insurance can be an effective and convenient asset to donate. As people age, they may have originally purchased life insurance for the growing needs of a family and financial obligations which may not be relative or they may have outgrown.

Although the policies may be large or small, gifting life insurance can provide tax benefits to the grantor and maximize gifts for the Upstate Foundation. In some cases, policies can be used to benefit charities today and in the future. A grantor may wish to gift the policy by adding the charity to the beneficiary which provides the gift at death, or the grantor may wish to turn the entire policy over to the charity. Either way, the benefits of a life insurance gift provide charitable tax-free funds in a useful way when the policy is no longer needed in the original way intended.

Leveraging life insurance can create a lasting legacy for a cause the grantor believes in.

Funds in the sporlight

The Upstate Foundation manages over 1,000 funds, the most of any charitable organization in the region, in support of patient care, education of health care providers, scientific research, and community health and well-being. Below are just a few of the Foundation’s many funds.

Physician Wellness Fund #38710 – To provide resources that will support opportunities to foster the well-being of Upstate physicians/trainees.

Golisano Center for Special Needs Fund #07850 – To support the creation of the Golisano Center for Special Needs.

Turn 4 a Cure Breast Cancer Research Fund #45935 – To support breast cancer research at the Upstate Cancer Center.

Cancer Center Annual Fund #47622 – To support the programs and activities of the Upstate Cancer Center.

To find the fund – or create a new one – that matches your giving interests, contact the Foundation or visit

To view previous Upstate Today & Tomorrow issues, click here.