FSU Foundation

Alumna Wishes to “Pay It Forward” Through Planned Gift

Jo Ann Nelson on a camel

Pay it forward”—a simple concept that first caught the attention of Florida State University alumna Jo Ann Nelson (’68) while preparing to sit down for a meal, but now serves as the inspiration behind ensuring generations of students find success at Florida State.

Through a generous planned gift of approximately $200,000, Nelson recently established the Pay It Forward Leadership Fund, which will benefit both undergraduate- and graduate-level students by supporting various scholarship, educational travel and experiential learning opportunities across the university.

“I saw [the phrase] encouraging customers to leave extra when paying their bill, so someone less fortunate may use the extra to cover the cost of their meal,” Nelson shared when speaking of the creativity behind the name. “I grew up in a family that exhibited a generosity of spirit—be it sharing a meal, offering a ride, paying for something, a hug or a prayer. There was no expectation of a return on the investment. Wouldn’t it be a better world if more people thought this way?”

Nelson credits her dynamic academic career at FSU, from pursuing her business degree to her involvement in and serving as treasurer of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, for the success she has found since graduating. “The things I learned and experienced as an FSU student and member of Gamma Phi Beta had a great deal to do with the overall person I became,” she explained. “I had numerous individuals who believed in me, encouraged me and challenged me to be the best that I could be.”

Nelson wanted to ensure the Pay It Forward Leadership Fund would allow students to encounter their own unique journey to completing their degree.

“The ‘book learning’ is essential, but personal skill and growth are important too,” she expressed. “The ability to communicate, listen and overcome obstacles were paramount to my career and personal life. It took me a long time to acquire such abilities, and I hope this gift allows its recipients to experience a wide range of outside opportunities that better equip them to enter their field of endeavor.”

But Nelson reiterated her wish for this gift to be simply one of kindness. “I do not have any set expectations other than that recipients will hopefully go forth and want to make the world a better place to be.”

To learn more about supporting the future of Florida State University with a gift through your estate or will, contact the Office of Gift and Estate Planning at giftplanning@foundation.fsu.edu or (850) 644-0753.