From Disaster to Action

Laura and Jim Putnam

Laura and Jim Putnam

Jim '71 and Laura '71 Putnam met 50 years ago on Del Playa beach. Since marrying in 1972, they have raised a daughter and son, run their own financial and tax advisory firm, and traveled the world from Kenya to Cambodia. Along the way, they championed the environment abroad and at UC Santa Barbara's North Campus Open Space, where their recent pledge will help restore wetlands native to the Central Coast.

The Putnams attended UC Santa Barbara in the aftermath of the 1969 oil spill that closed the beaches, devastated marine life and opened their eyes to earth's fragility. Jim enrolled in the first environmental studies class offered in the UC system, and Laura began her lifelong advocacy for animals and nature.

"We've both become divers," says Jim. "We can see what the world looks like underneath, and it's a disturbing trend."

The Putnams met Professor Emeritus Duncan Mellichamp and his wife, Suzanne, on a UC Santa Barbara sponsored trip to France. Inspired by the Mellichamps' significant support of North Campus Open Space, the couple saw an opportunity to make their own impact and are using a retirement plan to make current and legacy gifts. The Putnams' required minimum distributions from their IRAs are paying off a five-year pledge for the site, and they have named the UC Santa Barbara Foundation as one of the beneficiaries of an IRA.

"I'm a big believer in social capital and I feel there's a responsibility to give that back. If you can leverage your contributions with tax savings, you can increase the amount you give," says Jim. The Putnams consider themselves blessed to have been part of UC Santa Barbara and a lasting community, along with their daughter Jennifer '00, and son-in-law Andrew '01.

"We met our lifelong friends in college," says Laura. "I would like to encourage others like us to give."

Making a gift to UC Santa Barbara from your IRA is easy. To learn how, contact Ilana Ormond at 805-893-5556 or