James L. Hecht and Amy Blatchford Hecht

Strengthening International Ties Through a Gift That Pays Income

By Amanda Basler

For more than 60 years, James L. "Jim" Hecht and Amy Blatchford Hecht have believed in the power of cultural exchange to promote greater understanding between people of different cultures and nationalities. While neither of the two attended the University of Denver as students, an introduction to DU's Josef Korbel School of International Studies helped transform the couple's passion into a newly established  endowed fund in support of academic and scholarly exchange.

Developing a Passion for Different Cultures
Amy first sparked the couple's interest in the importance of increasing cultural understanding. Her family's history in the Middle East gave her a unique tie to a region critical to the world yet foreign to many Americans. Her great-aunt was married to Howard Bliss, the second president of the American University of Beirut, where her parents also met as students. This family history inspired her to explore the world on her own—she credits a summer spent in France with deepening her appreciation of cultural differences. She shared this appreciation with Jim, whom she met and married while in graduate school.

Jim's 31-year career as a chemical engineer in research and development at DuPont took him across the globe. His experiences with Amy and appreciation for different cultures enhanced his career.

Hecht"When I started traveling abroad for business, I was much more effective because of what I understood about cultural differences. I have seen instances where people just don't understand how to deal with another culture," Jim says. "Travel and study abroad is not just a great experience, it's also one that better prepares you for your career."

The Hechts also share a strong interest in public policy and law, and when Jim retired from DuPont in 1985, he became an adjunct professor of public affairs, first at the University of Delaware, then at Temple University, where Amy served as dean of the College of Allied Health Professions.

Where Passion and Purpose Intersect
When the couple moved to Colorado, former U.S. Senator Hank Brown appointed Jim as a senior fellow at the Center for Public Policy and Contemporary Issues at the University of Denver. Through his fellowship as well as his positions on the boards of World Affairs Denver and the Institute of International Education, he and Amy became acquainted with the Korbel School of International Studies.

"We were very impressed. DU's encouragement of study abroad programs for its students was one of the things that interested us in Korbel. We think it's a great school," Jim says.

Motivated by their interest in the Middle East, Jim and Amy attended the opening of the Center for Middle East Studies at the Korbel School for International Studies in 2013. The Hechts were impressed by DU's commitment to engaging the community in informed discussions about the Middle East. They began attending symposia and seminars at the center and discovered that they had found an ideal partner with whom to advance their passion for academic and scholarly exchange.

Building a Legacy
In 2015, the couple created the University of Denver/American University of Beirut Academic Partnership Endowment Fund to support an academic partnership between the two universities. Their gift was matched with institutional funding, providing funds immediately.

The fund supports a scholarship exchange for faculty and students of the University of Denver and AUB. For the first three years, DU and AUB will exchange faculty members to visit classes, give public talks and meet with faculty and students.

"The partnership offers a unique opportunity for DU to build close faculty and student relationships with one of the premier universities in the Middle East," says Dr. Andrea Stanton, assistant professor of religious studies and affiliate faculty for the Center for Middle East Studies at DU. "Given DU's focus on internationalizing our curriculum, our faculty research and our students' educational experience, this partnership will likely also serve as a model for future partnerships around the world."

Student exchanges will also be part of the partnership to promote broad exchanges of knowledge and community building. AUB sent a student to DU for the fall term, and DU is working with internationalization to send a student to AUB for the same length of time.

The Power of a Gift That Pays Income
With the assistance of DU's Office of Advancement, the Hechts chose to establish their fund through a gift that pays them income for life. By transferring appreciated securities to the University, the Hechts receive a partial tax deduction and a lifetime stream of annual income from DU.

"A charitable gift annuity is a good financial tool. If you sell stock, you lose a lot in taxes. By giving appreciated stock, we increase our income, and there's no downside," Jim says.

The Hechts hope to benefit both universities through this partnership and strengthen bonds between the U.S. and the Middle East at the same time.

"We believe this gift and the faculty and student exchanges it supports will help both universities. There are people in the U.S. who have no idea what people in the Middle East are like, and people in the Middle East need to know what Americans are like. There are a lot of misunderstandings on both sides; hopefully, cultural exchange will help clear some of those up," Jim says.

Provide a World of Opportunities
Your gift can enhance the experiences of DU students and faculty. Contact Jon Kraus at 303.871.4619 or jon.kraus@du.edu to learn about making a gift that pays income as well as other ways you can make an impact at DU.