Westmont Magazine Life after Retirement
An interview with John Watts, assistant to the president, by Iva Hillegas Schatz, director of planned giving, prior to his retirement on June 30, 1996.
Q: John, how did you get involved in the field of planned giving, and how long have you worked at Westmont?
A: My work in planned giving began in 1968 when it was called “deferred giving.” Having an undergraduate degree in accounting, a love for administration, and an even greater love for people, I was fascinated by the whole subject. I attended a seminar conducted by Robert F. Sharpe in Memphis, Tennessee, that year and became even more intrigued with the concept, which led me to further advanced studies at Louisiana State University. In 1970 I was invited to re-join the staff of The Navigators in Colorado Springs to launch their planned giving program, and I served there for 13 more years.
While living in Colorado, all three of our children enrolled at Westmont. Our observations and the excellent experiences of our children, who all graduated, greatly impressed us. In 1983, Dr. Glen Adams and Dr. David Winter asked me to join the Advancement staff in the area of planned giving, and I accepted their invitation. Patty, my wife and indispensable partner, also went to work for the college.
Q: During the 28 years you have been helping people plan their gifts, what has impressed you the most?
A: I can help people provide for their family and extended family—including their church and Westmont. I sit down with them and simply ask, “What do you have and what do you want to do with it to benefit the people who mean the most to you?”
Many people envision gift planning as a highly technical field, and it does involve special expertise. However, this information is available to all of us through the fine services of our legal community. My role is almost entirely a human relations effort in which I serve as a facilitator.
Probably the most gratifying aspect is guiding people through the process of analyzing what they have and how they want to benefit the family and community members who have had the greatest impact on their lives. Together we work out a preliminary blueprint and then consult the technicians who complete all the arrangements.
Q: Is there a basic question we all should ask before setting up an estate plan?
A: Margaret Thatcher’s often quoted remark, “There is dignity in simplicity,” comes to mind. In 1970 an older gentleman in his final years of working in this field said to me, “John, I just ask people what they have and what they want to do with it.” I guess I’m saying to people, “What do you want your final portrait to look like?” Most of them would like to leave behind a “living legacy” that others will remember.
Q: How can we on the College Advancement staff best serve our alumni, parents, and friends in the area of gift planning?
A: The challenge for our staff is to possess a working knowledge of the gift planning concepts that will bring the greatest benefits to our constituents. The ultimate result we are all striving to achieve is to assist others in most effectively providing for family and loved ones. Many of these money-saving concepts also give individuals an opportunity to provide for their extended family—their local church, Westmont, and other key community organizations.
Q: What comes next for John and Patty Watts?
A: We recently wrote a mission statement which I like to think covers the remainder of our lives and ministry. Simply stated it says, “Let’s serve the Lord by serving our family and extended family (Westmont and the remainder of our community) in the way we serve best, and let the Lord take care of the rest.”
We would like to think we are not retiring but changing “saddles” (or shoes). We want to spend time with our family as well as our community. I am working with five local and national charities as well as continuing as a faculty member in the National Planned Giving Institute at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Our love for Westmont leaves us with a strong desire to serve the college community in the years ahead in whatever capacity we may be most helpful. Since we will be staying in the Santa Barbara area, lots of new possibilities lie ahead.