When Joe Lumarda visited Berea College this year, he carried with him a bittersweet package.
Lumarda, a Private Wealth Advisor at Capital Group Private Client Services, was delivering a substantial donation to the Kentucky liberal arts college on behalf of a client. The donation, one of the largest given through a will in the 156-year history of the college, would go a long way toward furthering the school’s mission of helping gifted students of modest backgrounds graduate with little or no debt. The client was Karin Larson, a longtime Capital Group analyst whose estate was disbursing gifts after her passing.
The bequest was part of a deeply personal mission that Larson carefully planned over many years. She was devoted to charitable causes and wanted her wealth to benefit those issues closest to her heart. Throughout her years of planning, Larson relied on Lumarda and others at Capital Group Private Client Services, including the Wealth Advisory Group and the trust and estates team, for extensive guidance on pursuing her goals.
“Karin was always dedicated to philanthropy,” Lumarda says. “I met her more than 25 years ago through our work with charitable organizations. Being able to help realize her dreams in the way she wanted, it really feels like coming full circle.”
Larson was a self-starter with a remarkable career arc. She was not a scion of wealth or prestige, joining Capital Group in 1961 as an administrative assistant. However, she was gifted with numbers and made an impression on her supervisor, quickly moving up to statistician. In 1968, she was promoted to equity analyst — a significant leap for anyone but especially notable given the dearth of high-ranking women in the financial industry at the time. In 1974, she again blazed trails by becoming the first American woman to cover Japanese companies.
In nearly five decades at Capital Group, Larson was beloved and well respected, often acting as a mentor to other associates. Her sage, and often lively, advice left strong impressions.
“I remember first being charmed by Karin when she left a Coke can on top of a research report” covering the iconic beverage company for a senior portfolio manager, retired Capital Group portfolio manager Darcy Kopcho recalled in a memorial last year. “She excelled in the vaunted role of ‘career analyst’ and was an inspiration to others who wanted to follow in those footsteps.”
By the time she retired in 2008, Larson was well along in her philanthropic endeavors, Lumarda says. And though her investment acumen gave her a significant edge in making portfolio decisions, she also understood that some facets of wealth management lay outside her expertise.
“She and I had these wonderful, broad conversations about the economy and the investment environment,” Lumarda recalls. “And when we’d discuss those areas that she didn’t cover when she managed money, she’d want to know what Private Client Services and other current analysts and portfolio managers were thinking. She wanted other perspectives, and it’s something we could provide in a very deep and personalized way.”
Capital Group Private Client Services helped Larson by going over her options for tax efficiencies and scenario planning, and by offering suggestions she could take to her legal and tax advisors to help her keep her documents and plans up to date as circumstances evolved over time.
“You want your estate plan to follow your intentions,” Lumarda says. “Things change. Laws change. You want to make sure that your estate is being done correctly, not only in terms of your intentions but in terms of strategy and language. You want to make sure it’s all up to date.”
Lumarda adds that he strives to ensure that all his clients — even those who are experienced investment professionals — understand how their portfolios and holdings are arranged, to help achieve their objectives.
“Managing stocks and bonds in mutual funds is different from managing your own money in light of your retirement, philanthropic and estate plans,” Lumarda explains. “Part of what we offer is a different point of view, to help our clients consider their options as they focus on their goals, such as realizing a fun and satisfying retirement, providing for the future of their families and giving to charitable organizations to make a positive impact in the world.”
Portfolios, with their holdings in company shares and debt instruments, are inherently abstract. As a result, growing them — and their value — can feel ethereal. However, that value represents a very concrete ability to impact the real world and individual lives. Indeed, when that value is unleashed, it’s hard to overstate the effect it can have.
Larson’s gift to Berea will provide funding for students to take the first steps toward a successful career. The school’s endowment covers most student tuition costs, allowing it to educate bright young people while helping them avoid the debt burden that so often comes with higher education.
That’s especially resonant in light of the school’s admission policies. Berea only accepts students whose financial situations would allow them to receive Pell grants. Many of these students come from the poorest regions of Appalachia. That’s why Berea’s donor-supported endowment is so critical, says Dr. Chad Berry, the school’s vice president of alumni, communications and philanthropy. Without the generosity of outside benefactors, the school would have to rely on the debt and legacy systems common at other colleges — both anathema to a founding principle of providing top-tier education to students of limited means.
“Many donors are moved by the mission,” Berry says. “They or their relatives have been transformed by educational opportunity and the mobility that follows it. Karin described her parents as blue-collar folk, and I suspect that she, like many donors, might have seen herself reflected in our student body.”