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Alumni couple gives back after retiring from OSU

Lonnie and Arlene Sellers support the library with estate gift and charitable gift annuities.


For Lonnie and Arlene Sellers, the love of Oklahoma State University is a lifelong theme. Both grew up as Cowboy fans, earned degrees from OSU, and spent most of their careers working for the university through the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. In fact, Arlene remembers being so impressed with the Extension agents that she chose her future profession when she was a 10-year-old growing up on a farm in Kay County, Oklahoma.

Lonnie and Arlene Sellers

Lonnie and Arlene Sellers traveled 1,250 miles to Stillwater for Homecoming.

After they retired and began talking about estate plans, they knew their alma mater would be included. As Arlene put it, "OSU has been great for us, so giving back is just kind of natural. It's just what you do."

"It was just a question of what area of OSU to leave it to," added Lonnie, an agronomy graduate who worked for Extension as a 4-H educator in Kiowa and Stephens counties, an agriculture educator and county director in Caddo County, and finally as an area extension agronomist in Duncan, Oklahoma. "We chose the library because it benefits all students on campus. I spent a lot of time there. Most of the studying I did was in the library. And more than anything, as long as I was there I didn't have anything to do but study. There were too many distractions in other places."

Arlene also spent a lot of time in the Edmon Low Library when she was earning a degree in home economics education, and again years later when she completed a master's in clothing, textiles and merchandising. During that time, while on a sabbatical from her position as Kiowa County's extension home economist, she had one of the library's small study rooms reserved on an ongoing basis.

She later became an extension home economist in Grady County, and then retired as OSU's southwest district family and consumer sciences program specialist.

Through their giving, they wanted to show appreciation for the library in two ways. Along with a bequest, they have established charitable gift annuities each of the past three years. Through this gift-planning vehicle, they transfer funds to the OSU Foundation in exchange for a fixed payment for the rest of their lives.

Arlene called the annuities "wonderful" and "a win-win that is good for the university and good for us too."

"There is no better feeling than giving, and a charitable gift annuity is a great way to support the university," said Lonnie, who grew up near Indiahoma, Oklahoma. "You get tax deductions and the payment you receive in return is better than CDs, plus it's not up and down like the stock market."

The couple plans to continue establishing new charitable gift annuities each year.

Lonnie and Arlene Sellers

Lonnie and Arlene Sellers own a Camaro convertible and golf cart that both show off their love of orange and black.

Lonnie and Arlene Sellers

"You can't take your money with you when you die, and you don't want to wait to help everyone," Lonnie said. "We also give to our church, and that's where we first noticed that it seems like when you give, you never miss the money."

Sheila Johnson, OSU's dean of libraries, certainly notices the money these alumni are generously giving to the library.

"Their support has a far-reaching impact," Johnson said. "They graduated in the mid-1960s, and their contribution will touch the lives of students far into the future, even the mid-2060s. It's interesting to consider how those future students will shape our state and country. I hope they will be like Arlene and Lonnie, who are both kind and thoughtful individuals. It shows in their personal interactions as well as in their generosity to their alma mater."

Their gifts are unrestricted beyond designation to the library, because they want the money to do the most possible good.

"They know what the needs are more than we do," Arlene said.

"You don't give until it hurts; you give until it feels good," Lonnie said. "It hurts to give a little. It feels good to give more. We get more satisfaction out of giving, and we still play a lot."

They live and play in The Villages, a 124,000-person retirement community northwest of Orlando, Florida. They show off their OSU pride with two orange-and-black vehicles – a Camaro convertible and a golf cart.

The love for their alma mater pulls them the 1,250 miles back to Stillwater about once a year. They returned for Homecoming each of the past two Octobers, participating in the 50th anniversary class reunions for Arlene in 2016 and Lonnie this year.

"OSU has always been a major part of our lives," Lonnie said. "We went to school there and worked there. We enjoyed sports there. And now we enjoy giving back to help others there."