Legacy Society member stories

Taking the long view of wellness…

“Most people at Upstate Medical University who have known me for many years have realized that I'm always doing something special, from lung cancer surgery, laboratory research, clinical trials, research in the Upstate Cancer Center, and now as Upstate’s first chief wellness officer. I've always been looking for the place where I could not only fulfill something that I thought was important, but something that was useful for the Upstate community as a whole.”

So states Dr. Leslie Kohman, who has been working with the Upstate Foundation for decades to fulfill her priorities to improve the health and well-being of the members of her community served by Upstate Medical University. Her support of the Upstate Foundation always takes a wide perspective in terms of what she can fund that will have the greatest long-term impact.

“My participation seems to be just a natural transition because I am nurturing the place that nurtured me,” she said. “I joined the faculty of Upstate Medical University and found it a place to thrive because nobody impeded me when I wanted to change focus. I feel that I'm useful to the organization and especially to the community, and that makes me feel really good.”

A more recent focus for Dr. Kohman is well-being for physicians and nurses, as a result of her appointment as chief wellness officer at Upstate.

“The pandemic and the post-traumatic stress of our health care workers will extend for at least 10 years, so it's really important to me that we have resources to help them,” she said, adding that the Upstate Foundation has worked with her to identify creative ways to raise money, and also to recognize and fund specific initiatives that support Upstate’s medical staff in this very difficult time.

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

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

“I tell people to contact the Foundation. Look at the website. Even if you don’t want to establish your own fund, there are so many funds to which you can contribute. 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.

For more information about ways to create your own personal Legacy, contact your financial advisor or call Carolyn Hendrickson, director of legacy giving at the Upstate Foundation, at 315-464-6490.


“I would encourage anybody who wants to make a charitable gift to have that conversation.”

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, in fact, Iris and her family decided to leave a legacy gift to the center through the Upstate Foundation… “They made giving very, very easy because the team has a collective approach,” Iris explained.

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“If you have a spark to do something that’s bigger than yourself… say yes to that impulse. Say yes to life.”

“It feels like there is a sense of peace, and it feels humbling, because this is something that will be happening after I leave this world,” said Daniel. “If you have a spark to do something that’s bigger than yourself, this is a wonderful avenue for it. And I would recommend it for anybody. Say yes to that impulse. Say yes to life.”
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“It’s very gratifying… knowing we will continue to help young people with mental health issues.

“I think Corey would be extremely proud of us,” said Lisa. “I can’t tell you how many people reached out to us after the fact and told us she was always there for them.”
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“It’s a way to help make sure others have the same positive experience you’ve had.”

“Dr. Wright was like an angel on earth,” said Dick. “When Priscilla was hospitalized, I was so impressed by the care that he, and every nurse and orderly showed not only to Priscilla and me, but all patients and families on the oncology floor. Even though Priscilla was going through a traumatic time, it was joyous how everyone was treated like family. I still get emotional about it even today.”
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“We’ve been blessed. There’s no question.” 

They consider themselves blessed. That is why Dr. Frederick “Fritz” Parker and his wife Ginny included the Upstate Foundation in their estate plans.
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“I want to invest in the lives and health of children.”  

It’s no wonder, then, that Dr. Victoria Meguid – who has been a powerful force for pediatric care at Upstate Medical University since 1992 – has made the Upstate Foundation a beneficiary of her retirement plan.
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“It never hurts to pay it forward. I like being part of the Upstate Foundation.”

While listening to a local television station in 2005, Shirley Florczyk  heard about a motorcycle ride supporting Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. She sent in a gift and ended up connecting with Toni Gary, assistant vice president for development for the Children’s Hospital… the beginning of a wonderful relationship for both women.
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Charitable gift annuity benefits both donors and Upstate  

“It’s terrific! You can have your cake and eat it, too.” This is how Dr. Michael Ratner and his wife Rissa describe their latest philanthropic endeavor – a charitable gift annuity through the Upstate Foundation.

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Legacy gift reflects love for community

A legacy gift as part of Jim and Ceme Curley’s estate plan is just one more step in an enduring relationship with the Upstate Foundation. 

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A legacy that inspires

“Your legacy is how you’ve led your life and how you’ve influenced someone else,” said Molly King, who added to her legacy in this community by including the Upstate Foundation in her estate plans.

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Former longtime Upstate physicians help children and families through legacy gift

“Leaving Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital as a beneficiary in our will was an easy decision for us,” says Dr. Richard Sills, former director of the Dr. William J. Waters Center for Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders, and Dr. Irene Sills, former professor of pediatrics, pediatric endocrinologist at Upstate University Hospital.

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Sick children helped by retired nurse’s planning and commitment

When Elizabeth “Betty” Runkle created the gift annuity, she remarked, “The health profession has given me so much. I’m glad to have the opportunity to pay it back in a small way.” Read more…


Lifetimes of service inspire a legacy of hope

John and Mell Gleason’s professional lives have been devoted to the not-for-profit sector. Read more…