Returning Borrowed Opportunities: Sandy ’72 and Anne Lipsey
When Sandy Lipsey ’72 retired from the bench of the 9th Circuit Court in Kalamazoo County on the first of January, 2023, he had some figuring out to do.
After a career that included many years in private practice as a lawyer as well as four years as a Kalamazoo city commissioner, two years as vice mayor of Kalamazoo, six years as a state representative and more than 15 years as a Kalamazoo County judge, part of that assessment concerned how he spent his time.
Another piece of the puzzle for Sandy and his wife, Anne, who previously retired as executive director of Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes, involved making decisions about how they continued to financially support the organizations that are nearest and dearest to their hearts.
“That’s always been a part of what we try to do as a couple and as a family,” Anne said. “Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes and our church are important to us, and those are our major focuses. We know how important giving is, for both the financial stability and the psychological support of the organization.”
The Lipseys give regularly to the Kalamazoo College Fund (KCF), choosing to do so without restrictions.
“I worked for a nonprofit for a long time,” Anne said. “I never wanted contributions that were just for peanut butter. I was going to buy the peanut butter anyway, but I needed to be able to pay for the telephone to make the call to buy the peanut butter, and if somebody designated peanut butter, other options would go away.”
For Sandy, who graduated from K with a degree in physics before earning his J.D. at the University of Michigan’s law school, it’s important to pay forward the opportunities K offered him as a first-generation college student who relied on scholarship help. Sandy does so by serving as a member of the Board of Trustees, contributing regularly to KCF, and sharing that he and Anne intend to make a planned gift to K by naming the College as a beneficiary of their trust.
Sandy and Anne realized that by including K in their estate plan, they could insure K’s place in their bequest without having to adjust their contributions as their circumstances changed. Establishing the bequest through their trust gives clear guidance to the trustee as to what portion should be set aside for Sandy’s alma mater.
Sandy characterized his K experience in the early days of the K-Plan as a classic example of a liberal arts education. He majored in physics, played football, acted in plays through the theatre department, hosted a radio show on WJMD, studied abroad in Nairobi, Kenya, and joined the Black Student Organization (BSO). He worked on campus with one of the first campus computers, which took up most of a room. For his Senior Integrated Project, he programmed it to teach introductory physics in an interactive way.
Study abroad taught Sandy how capable he could be. While the majority of students heading abroad boarded a ship that would cross the Atlantic and deliver them to various European locations, Sandy was one of eight students who embarked on two eight-hour flights to reach Nairobi.
“We arrived, got ourselves to the University of Nairobi, and went to the registrar’s office,” Sandy said. “We told them, ‘We are the students from Kalamazoo College, here for our foreign study experience,’ and we got this blank stare from the registrar. They were not expecting us and were not sure what to do.”
Meanwhile, the study abroad program advisors were out of contact on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, and the students had to make do with the money in their pockets.
“That was a challenge, to pivot from being simply wide-eyed students, to how do we survive and make this work,” Sandy said.
Sandy learned self-reliance and confidence from that experience as well as his participation with the Black Student Organization. The BSO allowed Sandy to continue to pursue his interest in organizing and civic duty that had begun at Loy Norrix High School.
“It was an opportunity for us to try and figure out, what is it that we believe we need and want, what changes would we make?” Sandy said. “If you go back to the spring of ’69 and the confrontation between the BSO and the administration, no one trusted that the other side was looking to be a person of goodwill and do what was appropriate. There was a barrier, which did not serve either side very well, and that is more often true than not. Therefore, the things we set up as barriers, we need to take a closer look in saying, are we really on different sides of this?
“Everyone at the table has something to contribute and you need to be able to take them into consideration.”
That willingness to offer others a place at the table—which informed his approach to the city commission, the state legislature, and the bench—springs both from those learning experiences, and from his own experience of being offered a place at K.
“I think the four years at K were a safe haven in some ways,” Anne said. “I think that in his public schooling, Sandy often had to fight for a place at the table. At K, it was assumed that he was here to study and that he could do what needed to be done. That was, in some ways, a relief and a pause in the more challenging kind of fight against the whole world. It grounded him in the belief that, yes, I have a seat at the table, so I can dare to go out and push for what I want done.”
“K has been a foundation in establishing who I am,” Sandy said. “It’s the recognition I have of that foundation, which says I need to pay it forward. I figure that K lent me the skills to allow me to be who I am and to succeed. I’m returning those borrowed opportunities—both through our outright giving and our planned gift—for the next student to use.”
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