Establishing a Trust to Support Leadership

Timothy Sullivan, MBA ’89, established the $1 million Timothy and Susanne Sullivan Family Charitable Lead Trust in 2008, creating a “win-win” situation.

March 14, 2012

Making a planned gift to Stanford GSB to support leadership enabled Timothy Sullivan, MBA ’89, to achieve several goals. Not only does the school benefit from his support but the Chicago-area alum feels good about giving back to his alma mater and supporting a key part of the school that he is passionate about, while providing that any assets remaining in the trust in the future will pass to family.

Timothy Sullivan, MBA '89

Timothy Sullivan, MBA ‘89

Through the establishment of the $1 million Timothy and Susanne Sullivan Family Charitable Lead Trust in 2008, Stanford GSB receives annual payments that are directed to the Center for Leadership Development and Research (CLDR) for 25 years. The Sullivans have the benefit of having Stanford Management Company, which also invests the assets of the Stanford University endowment, manage their trust.

“In many ways it’s a win-win situation: The trust allows us to transfer money tax-free to our heirs on the back end, it provides a long-term investment to the university, and we’re comfortable that the money is being invested in a responsible way,” says Sullivan, managing director of private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners LLC.

Sullivan, who has a military background, is keenly interested in the teaching and development of ideas around leadership. His gifts to CLDR support the Leadership in Focus video series, a set of some 200 interviews with business leaders who speak candidly about their workplace challenges. The video vignettes have teaching notes that aid instructors in effectively using them to tackle explorations of difficult issues through role play, discussion, and writing exercises. Sullivan himself uses the videos as a lecturer in leadership at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

“The vignettes make the classroom environment more dynamic. They are fantastic teaching and learning vehicles,” Sullivan says.

After focusing on free distribution of the Leadership in Focus series to other academic institutions, the center is now concentrating on revenue-generating partnerships like those with the National Park Service, manufacturing giant Caterpillar, and BTS, a global strategy implementation consultancy.

The gift is just one of the ways that Sullivan engages with Stanford GSB. He has provided his expertise as a member of Stanford GSB Trust; as a judge for the Executive Challenge that serves as the final exam for the Leadership Labs for first-year MBA students run by the CLDR; and as an admissions interviewer. Sullivan also chaired his 20th reunion fundraising campaign. In addition, he and his wife have directed past financial support of Stanford GSB to the Timothy Ling Leadership in the CLDR and the Yellow Ribbon Fellowship Fund, which benefits students with military backgrounds.

Sullivan sees his support of leadership activities at Stanford GSB as a way for him to “connect the dots” between his time as an undergraduate at the U.S. Naval Academy, his military service, and his Stanford MBA. He is enthusiastic about the changes to the MBA curriculum, especially the greater emphasis on leadership development, which he notes is dramatically different from when he was a Stanford GSB student.

“We had the opportunity to observe and learn from great leaders but we weren’t thrust into situations that helped us become leaders,” he said. “The layering and depth of the changes mean it is a much deeper learning experience.”

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