School of Science Donor Profile
Ally of Nature: Audrey Buyrn and Alan Phillips
Audrey Buyrn '58, PhD '66 and Alan Phillips '57, PhD '61 have established the Ally of Nature Fund and challenge others to help preserve the biodiversity of the planet.
A love of Physics brought Audrey Buyrn and Alan Phillips together. They met at MIT while working with Professor Lee Grodzins on Mossbauer effect experiments. As nuclear physics graduate students they were among the many who worked in the “permanent temporary” Building 20.
Shortly after receiving their doctorates they left the east coast for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. They started backpacking while living in Berkeley. “We became ‘bare granite freaks’" Audrey explains. "Falling in love with the Sierra above timberline, with its polished granite cut by rushing streams, its flowers and animals, and its enormous skies.”
Since that time Audrey and Alan’s interests have been focused on the environment and wildlife. “We grew increasingly concerned about man-made climate change. We saw old friends like the St. Vrain Glacier, Conness Glacier and Lyell Glacier shrink. We saw the destruction wrought by bark beetles in the Sierra, who can now survive the winter. We’ve read of the declining krill populations which are the basis of the Antarctic food chain.”
With successful careers behind them, Alan with Science Aplications International Corporation (SAIC) and Audrey with the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), the couple decided it was time to redo their wills.They knew they wanted to “leave money to MIT in gratitude for the life it made possible.”
“I never had to prove that I was serious about my work” says Audrey. “The fact that I had both an undergraduate degree and a PhD from MIT, proved that for me. I wore the brass rat to all important meetings with strangers.”
Audrey and Alan did a little research and learned that MIT faculty and students were working in many of the areas that interested them. They decided to establish the Ally of Nature Fund and then chose to fund it during their lifetimes. Because, as Audrey says, “Why wait until we are dead to have the fun of making a difference, even a small difference?”
To supplement the Ally of Nature Fund Audrey and Alan established an MIT charitable remainder unitrust, or CRUT, invested in the MIT endowment. The unitrust will grow at the same rate as the MIT endowment, providing them with variable income during their lifetimes the remainder of the CRUT will ultimately benefit the Ally of Nature Fund. They plan to add to the unitrust in the future, increasing the Fund’s ultimate impact.
In addition, Audrey and Alan have offered to match all gifts to the Ally of Nature Fund, up to $500,000. “We deliberately left our names off the Fund, because we hope that others will want to contribute” Audrey explains. “It is not our Fund; it belongs to everyone who is worried about what humankind is doing to our only current home.”