In Memoriam, André R. Donikian
Beloved husband, father, grandfather and retired founder of Pentera, Inc., an icon of the charitable sector and one of the pioneers and leading experts in the planned giving industry, passed away on December 3rd in Indianapolis after a long illness. He was 76 years of age. André leaves a legacy of innovation, mentorship, and entrepreneurship in the planned giving industry. His most significant professional achievement was the founding of Pentera, Inc. in 1975, one of the nation’s first and leading planned giving consulting and marketing firms, which he entrusted to his daughter Claudine A. Donikian, JD, MBA, in the mid-2000s as president and CEO to oversee and to bring the company into the digital age. The charitable gifts stimulated by André's consulting as well as by the marketing ideas in Pentera’s materials for its clients would no doubt total in the billions of dollars, thus impacting the lives of many thousands of people who are the direct recipients of services rendered by the country’s charities.
Claudine says that her father was very proud of Pentera’s success and growth since he stepped aside over 10 years ago. He was extremely pleased that the firm has continued to carry on the high quality and innovative marketing resources for its clients. She said, “I know that my father wanted Pentera to continue to be the best in the planned giving industry and we are so proud to have been doing just that since he retired. Now we will continue to do that in honor of his legacy to the company and to the industry.”
André helped pioneer the planned giving profession in the 1970s, well before any national organization existed. In addition to founding Pentera, Inc., André was a founding member of the national organization, National Council on Planned Giving (now National Association of Charitable Gift Planners - CGP) that brought together planned giving professionals from across the country. He was inducted into the CGP Hall of Fame in 2018.
During the CGP Hall of Fame event, André’s impact on the planned giving industry was noted by his peers.
“If you were selecting the top half-dozen or so who gave birth to planned giving as we know it, André would be among that group,” says fellow CGP Hall of Fame inductee Frank Minton who began working with André in the late 1970’s. “He was among those considered to be a leader from the very beginning.”
André’s early influence on the founding of CGP is described by Ron Brown, who is planned giving’s leading historian in addition to having led programs at several universities, including Princeton and Columbia.
“There is no question that André is one of a handful of people responsible for the existence of our national professional organization,” Ron says. “What I would point to is the pilot training program that the Lilly Endowment launched for colleges in Indiana (in 1978). André was chosen to take the lead to train gift planning professionals in those schools. The program was so successful in the eyes of Charles Johnson (then the Lilly Endowment vice president for development) that he decided to launch the national organization—and fund the first five years of it. The relationship between André and Charles was crucial for our field, and André deserves a lot of credit for the national association’s founding.”
As a young attorney, André was among the first to realize the implications of the Tax Reform Act of 1969 and he developed planned giving materials and training programs that applied the provisions of the Act and became a benchmark for promoting and educating donors, boards of directors, and gift officers about planned giving nationwide. He was an expert and leading interpreter of tax law changes and in 1992, and he became the first person to introduce and discuss the tax cost of passing retirement funds and other IRD assets to heirs and the advantages of making charitable gifts with them. He also called attention to the advantages of contributing distributions of company stock from retirement funds.
André was a sought-after speaker with his engaging and entertaining style that could turn an esoteric subject into pragmatic advice. He had the technical knowledge about tax laws and planned giving but also had the communication skills and charisma to captivate and engage his audiences.
Although he provided guidance and wisdom to so many, his top priority was his family. “My father was an amazing and generous provider and completely devoted to our mother,” said his daughter Janine. “He seemed to know the answer to any question and was always happy to teach what he knew, which was a lot, whether it be about cooking, wine, classical music, or tax law. I will miss our lunches and enjoying seeing my children learn so much from such a wise and loving man.”
André was born in 1943 in Beirut, Lebanon, and he, his sister, and parents, Dr. Marc and Beatrice Donikian, immigrated to the United States, settling in upstate New York, when he was in high school. He graduated from Union College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and from Albany Law School with a Juris Doctor and was a member of the New York State Bar. In addition to his daughter Claudine (Christopher Blake), he is survived by his beloved wife of 52 years and business partner, Molly Stark Donikian; his devoted daughter, Janine R. (Douglas Weaver) Donikian; and his three adoring grandchildren, Maxwell, JohnStark, and Charles Weaver, who will forever be in their grandfather’s eyes “the best.” André was preceded in death by his parents and sister, Janine N. Donikian.
Visitation will be held on Friday, December 13, 2019 at Aaron-Ruben-Nelson Mortuary, 11411 N. Michigan Road, Zionsville, IN 46077 from 4-7 PM. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, December 14, 2019 at Aaron-Ruben-Nelson, with pre-service visitation at 10:30 AM and the service at 12 PM. Interment will be at Crown Hill Cemetery, and all are invited to attend a reception immediately after (location to be announced later). All are welcome.
Any person desiring to make a memorial gift should direct it to André’s alma mater, Union College, www.union.edu.
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