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A story of legacy: the Pearl Leeper Korman and Sandy Korman Auburn Fund

23 years after her death, Pearl Leeper Korman helps women and girls forever via charitable fund 

Pearl Leeper Korman grew up in Akron during the Great Depression, leaving college to work outside of the home, which was uncommon for women during this time. She worked full-time, even with a chronic medical condition, and went on to make a number of sacrifices to provide an enriching life for her daughter, Sandy Auburn, who, with her husband, Mark, decided to honor Korman’s legacy by establishing the Pearl Leeper Korman and Sandy Korman Auburn Fund at Akron Community Foundation.

As a record-setting 50th fund established within a fiscal year, the Korman Auburn Fund will support the Women’s Endowment Fund, the mission of which is the health, safety, and economic well-being of Greater Akron’s women and girls.

There is perhaps no better fit than Korman for this landmark fund, as she embodies the working class roots and spirit of Akron. “I don’t think she ever thought of herself as having a career,” said Sandy. “I think she thought of herself as having jobs. Times were different then. There weren’t as many opportunities.”

Pearl’s family struggled to make ends meet, and soon there was little money left over for college. As a result, she was forced to make the difficult decision to set aside her education and enter the workforce, first as a personal shopper and then later as a bank employee.

“My mother worked outside the home her whole life,” said Sandy. “She was a wonderful person who didn’t have the opportunities she made sure I had.” 

Sandy remembers her mother hang drying and ironing clothes; the family didn’t have a dishwasher, either, until the 1960s, and her mother would often can food to sustain the family through leaner times. “We didn’t have the conveniences you do now,” she said. “Times were very different then. The tasks of life took a great deal more time.”

Now, with the fund’s connection to the Women’s Endowment Fund, Korman’s hard work will pay off for other women and girls for generations to come, who will hopefully not have as many barriers to success as Korman faced. 

Sandy says she feels at peace knowing the Women’s Endowment Fund, which she’s supported for more than 20 years, will perpetuate her mother’s generous spirit in the community, and that the community foundation will uphold her and her mother’s charitable intentions forever. “This continues her name in our community,” she added. “I think she would have been very pleased.”

From hard work to IRA rollover
The oldest child of Russian immigrants, Korman held a number of different jobs, including clerking at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company and working as a personal shopper at Polsky’s Department Store. 

That hard work paid off in the form of Sandy’s opportunities: Whether it was college or summer camp, Korman and her husband, George, made sure to provide Sandy with the education that Korman had always dreamed of for herself.

“They would take out loans, then spend the rest of the year paying them back,” remembered Sandy, who also describes her parents as morally grounded and ahead of their time for their views on equality. 

Sandy and Mark Auburn are putting their own hard work to use by availing themselves of a newly permanent law that allows people to transfer IRA assets tax-free to charities.

They leveraged the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015, which allows people age 70-½ and older to transfer up to $100,000 of their IRA assets tax-free to an approved public charity like Akron Community Foundation. Couples can transfer up to $200,000. The annual provision became permanent and guaranteed in December of 2015. “Mark and I have been planning for this, and it worked exactly as we had hoped,” Sandy said. 

Transferring the IRA assets to Akron Community Foundation made the most sense because the couple could name the fund in Sandy’s and her mother’s honor and earmark it for the community foundation’s Women’s Endowment Fund.

It was a natural choice, Sandy said, explaining that she accumulated a portion of her retirement funds as the executive director of a YWCA.

“YWCAs are organizations that serve women and girls and families,” Sandy said. “It’s a perfect fit to support our fund here.” 

Sandy said she encourages everyone to consider a pledge or planned gift, as it’s a way to make a significant contribution without donating the money immediately. 

“A planned gift allows us to continue to serve our community, even after we are no longer alive,” she said. “There are many paths to creating a legacy – that’s the beauty of it.” 

Although Korman passed away in 1994 at the age of 80, this fund will preserve her legacy. 

“Mom would say, ‘Do the right things for the right reason at the right time,’” Sandy said. “She would have appreciated this fund.” 

A record fund for Akron Community Foundation
The Pearl Leeper Korman and Sandy Korman Auburn Fund was particularly special for Akron Community Foundation. It was the 50th fund created by charitable people, families, businesses and nonprofits during the community foundation’s most recent fiscal year, which ended March 31, 2016. It represents a record number of new funds started in a single year. 

“We’re pleased and grateful that we can serve more wonderful people like the Auburns – at Mother’s Day and every other day throughout the year,” remarked ACF President & CEO John T. Petures Jr. “Our goal is to add legacy to a person’s charity, and protect and promote their intent for future generations.”

For more information about starting a charitable fund in your or a loved one’s name, visit www.akroncf.org/giving. Or, to learn more about making a tax-free charitable IRA rollover, visit www.akroncf.org/IRArollover.