Jenny Baker
/ Categories: 584

Foundation Spotlight: Pay It Forward

Milton D. Hakel, SIOP Foundation President

Remember seeing the 2000 movie Pay It Forward, with Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment? I don’t. I’ve never seen it, but now it’s on my watch list.

The phrase “pay it forward” puzzled me when I first heard it 2 decades ago. The movie asserts an obligation to do three good deeds for others in response to a good deed that one receives. Not surprisingly, there is a Pay It Forward Foundation and even a Pay It Forward Day yearly in April. Paying forward makes good sense—we in I-O are surely the beneficiaries of many good deeds.

During the past 13 months of the COVID pandemic, I’ve watched more movies and television than ever. Seeing the ubiquitous credit card commercial in which Samuel L. Jackson asks “What’s in your wallet?” prompts me this month to ask “What’s your legacy?” The question is impertinent but one that is worth asking, and answering.

When “legacy” arises, estate planning and inheritances quickly come to mind. The easy answer is plan and write your will, but that’s easier said than done. Only 42% of U.S. adults have made a will, according to a survey by, a website for family caregivers.  You should do it now if you haven’t already.

The idea of legacy is much broader and deeper than the concrete procedure of specifying how economic assets are to be divided at a particular unknown point in time. The idea of legacy is dynamic and inclusive, covering all that you give to others—family members, work colleagues, employers, and the world, intellectually and emotionally. It is about your wishes and hopes for the future, as well as whatever material bounty you pass on. I suspect that all this complexity is one of the chief reasons why so few have written wills.

To repeat, soon is a good time to do it if it really ought to be done.

Stimulated by recent conversations with Bob Morrison, my friend since the late 1960s, here is a short synopsis of one way you might go about paying it forward, followed by some links to resources.

Start with this sentence in a December email from Bob: “By the way, we are setting up a fund within the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa so that major contributors to my life such as SIOP, Iowa State, Purdue, etc., will receive continuing donations over the years.” What a wonderful and exciting message to receive. It led to a phone call, some brainstorming, and more conversations with Bob and with Foundation Trustees. We’ve not yet settled on a specific plan for how SIOP Foundation and SIOP will use the proceeds from Bob’s fund, and we are joyfully working on ideas.

Bob celebrated his 90th birthday last October and resides in San Diego, so northeast Iowa was a surprise to me until I recalled his roots there.  He attended Iowa State (MA, ’56) on the GI Bill, worked 3 years as an employee-relations assistant at a Mobil refinery, and joined Bill Owens at Purdue from ’59 to ’61.  With his PhD, he worked first for Mead Paper and then Martin Marietta. When I met him, he was creating a decision aid for the board of directors to use in staffing the top executive jobs following Sun Oil’s acquisition of Sunray DX. A major career transition occurred in 1969, when Bob joined the human resources management group in the Faculty of Management Studies at the University of Toronto. Another major career transition occurred in 1975 with his move to the senior staff at the Navy Personnel Research and Development Center in San Diego. He retired in 1996 and is still playing tennis and paying attention to developments in I-O psychology.

Concerning uses of the proceeds from Bob’s fund, there are lots of options and opportunities: support for pro bono and volunteer projects, grants for thesis and dissertation research, small research grants, grants for constructive replications, scholarships, and support grants to masters and doctoral I-O programs. A bit more novel option would be to use the Morrison funds as dollar-for-dollar matching incentives to encourage other donors to contribute to the Advancement Fund, the Scholarship Fund, or any of the 20 other named funds in the Foundation’s endowments. In our conversations, Bob expressed concern about the replication crisis in psychology and the need for research studies involving workers at work in preference to psychology students in lab simulations. Among Bob’s enduring interests are mathematics and quantitative analysis (George Snedecor, known for introducing analysis of variance, facets of experimental design, etc., was an influence at Iowa State) and individual differences (Bob’s father was an identical twin, so Tom Bouchard’s studies resonate here). Thinking about Bob’s biography, we still know so little about career transitions.  It is exhilarating to consider the possibilities.

Now for some background followed by a few resources. First, foundations come in several varieties, such as public, private, and community. The SIOP Foundation is a public charity, under the rules and regulations specified in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service code, meaning that contributions to the SIOP Foundation are deductible from the donor’s federal taxes to the extent permitted by those rules and regulations. Furthermore those contributions may be disbursed for any permitted scientific, educational, cultural, or charitable purpose.

Community foundations are a particular variety of public charities, distinguished primarily by their focus on communities. The SIOP Foundation could function as one if it decides to do so. At roughly 50 times larger, and with the needed professional staff, the Greater Toledo Community Foundation (GTCF) is the custodian and manager for the SIOP Foundation’s endowed assets. GTCF is accredited by the Community Foundations National Standards Board. If community foundations pique your interest, there is likely to be one near you.

Next time you are mulling over your legacy and how to pay it forward, contact any of us at the SIOP Foundation. Our mission is to connect donors with I-O professionals to create smarter workplaces.

Milt Hakel, President,

Rich Klimoski, Vice-President,

Nancy Tippins, Secretary,

Leaetta Hough, Treasurer,

Adrienne Colella, Communications Officer,

Mirian Graddick-Weir, Trustee,

Bill Macey, Trustee,

John C. Scott, Trustee,

The SIOP Foundation
440 E Poe Rd Ste 101
Bowling Green, OH 43402-1355
419-353-0032 Email:

1459 Rate this article:
No rating
Comments are only visible to subscribers.


Information on this website, including articles, white papers, and other resources, is provided by SIOP staff and members. We do not include third-party content on our website or in our publications, except in rare exceptions such as paid partnerships.