Jody Pullen Williams, JD’83, has spent a lifetime giving to others as a teacher, mother, volunteer, and advocate. A self-described “free spirit,” she cared more for enriching the lives of others than accumulating riches of her own.
But when her younger brother passed away prematurely seven years ago, Williams found herself the executrix—and partial beneficiary—of his surprisingly large estate. Describing him as “a frugal eccentric and secret genius stock market investor,” she says she soon learned he was also a committed philanthropist who’d left the bulk of his estate to charity.
Inspired by his generosity and “unexpectedly armed for the first time with real money to give away,” Williams began researching ways to make a difference for the people and the causes she loved, just as her brother had. “I liked the concept of a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRT) because it provides a meaningful amount of money over time.
It’s a win-win as a vehicle to both invest and share my unexpected, unearned inheritance.” She established her first trust with her undergraduate school, naming her two children as beneficiaries.
Next, she turned to Boston College Law School, working closely with BC’s Office of Gift Planning to set up a second CRT, which benefits two special people in her life: a widowed adult granddaughter (herself a working mom in college) and an old family friend. “For the next 20 years, my CRT will send a small but reliable cash gift to two women who need it more than I, while of course benefiting the law school and providing me with tax advantages,” says Williams. “It’s my way of saying ‘thank you’ for an extraordinary education grounded in academic rigor and a commitment to social justice.”
A Life-Long Advocate
Growing up during the turbulent ’50s and ’60s gave Williams a deep appreciation for the importance of good government and the duty to be an active, informed voter. “I’ve always loved civics and civic engagement, from the local to the international stage,” she says. Though her first degree was in French, she dreamed of studying political science—a passion that eventually led her to BC Law after several years as a high school teacher.
Drawn by BC Law’s dedication to public service and social justice, Williams threw herself into her studies, managing to balance law school with raising two teenage children, including one with complex learning disabilities. After graduation, she took on policy roles in various state agencies, working to improve public services for persons with disabilities.
Now retired and living in Florida, she and her husband are active members of more than a dozen of the area’s cultural, religious, and civic organizations, explaining: “We’re joiners. And we like to give back.”
Williams still draws on her legal education in her work as a volunteer court mediator and as a guardian ad litem, who monitors the well-being of children who have been removed from their parents. “A law degree helped with my messy executrix duties as well as in my own estate planning,” she says. “To me, the law is a vibrant, brilliant, and essential— albeit at times ill-used—tool in the fight for true justice.”
As she prepares for another move, this time to a nearby retirement community, affording her less yard work and more time to volunteer and travel, Williams reflects on her journey: “Looking back on my life, I’ve been blessed with pretty good health, good intellect, and good prospects. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share some of those blessings with others through this trust.”