Asher backpacking

Jefferson W. Asher, Jr. has always had a good head for business. That quality, combined with a compassionate heart, led him to become a consistent donor to Braille Institute over the last 28 years.

The native-born Angeleno served four years in the Navy during World War II. After, Jeff earned a bachelor’s in business from UCLA, then a master’s from Harvard, laying the foundation for his long, successful career in venture capital.

Even more successful, Jeff believes, was his 53-year marriage to his late wife Mary. “I didn’t know it at the time,” he wistfully confides, “but I married a saint. Nobody whose life Mary touched did not feel that.” After their children were grown, Mary earned a botany degree at UCLA, going on to her own career in academia and landscape design.

When Mary was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1987, Jeff devoted himself to caring for her at home until she passed away ten years later. Then, he says with a brevity that still expresses his grief, “I made another life for myself and went back to work.”

Giving to “Do the Most Good”

The Ashers had long supported numerous charities, and made their first gift to Braille Institute around the time of Mary’s diagnosis. But, Jeff adds, “Eight or nine years ago I began to divert more to special charities I liked.” Smart businessman and good soul that he’s always been, he explains: “I want to give money where it will do the most good, with the least spent for overhead.” That led him to increase his contributions to Braille Institute. “I was impressed with the caliber of the personnel and of the people they helped, and the friendliness of the staff when I started volunteering for the free Telephone Reader Program,” he adds in a mellifluous voice reminiscent of a classic radio announcer’s.

In years when it was permitted by law, Jeff increased his donations primarily through his individual retirement account. “After you’re 70½ the government requires that you take out a certain proportion each year.” By giving this required minimum distribution (RMD) “directly to a legitimate charity like Braille Institute,” he says, “you avoid paying taxes on it. I prefer to give the whole of my RMD to worthy charities.”

Such regular donations bring him deep satisfaction. “If you want to help people who are trying to help themselves, I don’t know of a better place than Braille Institute,” he says. Even more important to Jefferson W. Asher, Jr., however, is how his wife would have felt. “There is no question that this is the kind of thing Mary would have wholeheartedly supported.”