Man Of Steel

Bob Morgenstern is, by a nature, a planner. “My whole life has been based on planning, not just waiting on happenstance,” the Pennsylvania resident says.

But you don’t have to take his word for it. His actions speak just as loudly.

Over the last six years, Bob, who’s 77 and has retinitis pigmentosa, or RP, has been donating generously to the Foundation. He’s done so, lately, in the form of a charitable gift annuity. Known also as a CGA, it’s a donation the Foundation holds onto while paying the benefactor a “yearly income,” anywhere from 4 to 8 percent of the gift’s worth. Once the giver passes away, the Foundation keeps the remainder.

To date, Bob’s given the Foundation a few CGAs. “Every year, I give basically $10,000,” he says, matter-of-factly. “It’s the thing to do.”

He’s also written the Foundation into his will. After his wife died of cancer almost 10 years ago, the retired social worker felt he needed to leave some of the wealth he’d accumulated—through financial investments—to a worthy cause. So a portion of his estate will go to the Foundation.

Bob, who grew up one of eight kids in the steel town of McKeesport, and now lives outside of Pittsburgh, was diagnosed with RP at age 7. That was in the early 1940s, when next to nothing was known about retinal diseases. He had some vision well into his thirties, but exactly when he lost his sight completely, “I can’t remember,” he says.

Visual impairment never stood in Bob’s way. He got his college degree in social work, and eventually became an assistant district manager in the state office in charge of blindness and visual services. He also helped raise four stepchildren.

When the Foundation was established, in 1971, Bob was aware of it, but research then was progressing “in bits and pieces,” he recalls. “Now, it’s going in leaps and bounds, and that’s a good thing.” So good that, after Bob attended the Foundation’s annual VISIONS conference several years ago (he’s been to four thus far), he knew he’d have to change his will.

“I’m a high-tech kind of guy,” says Bob, who’s especially thankful for those smartphone “talking items” that do everything from identify currency to help map out travel. “I believe in the power of technology and medical research,” he adds. “That’s kind of what helped me decide to give to the Foundation.”

But as a lifelong planner – someone who’s had to insure against his vision loss with keen personal and business decisions – he also took into account the legacy he wants to leave behind.

“I’m 77. It would be great if I woke up tomorrow and they said, ‘Hey, we have a cure right now for RP,’” Bob says. “But that’s unlikely. More likely, the ones who will benefit from research are the younger people. So anyone who has any means whatsoever to become involved, giftwise, with the Foundation, should sit down with an attorney and a financial advisor and get something started. Don’t say, ‘I’ll get around to it.’ That’s a fatal error that people make – they never do get around to it.”