2012 Honor Roll of Donors
Pilot & entrepreneur
By Phil Murphy
ou can see San Francisco Theological Seminary
Trustee Browne Barr’s destiny as a private pilot writ-
ten into the locations of the six truck stops he used
If you start at the Gallup, N. Mex., stop, you have to
drive 706 miles to get to the next one in Gordon, Texas.
To reach the other four, it’s 582 miles northeast to Denver,
Colo., 677 miles farther northeast to Des Moines, Iowa,
308 miles due east to Joliet, Ill., and 300 miles from there
to Black River Falls, Wis.
Now semi-retired at 80, Barr wanted face-to-face con-
versations with his employees at his six truck stops, which
provided fuel, food, respite and repairs to truckers. On aver-
age, his truck stops employed 125 people each, operating
Using airlines made no sense to him, so at 30, he got his
pilot’s license. During the 40 years or so he ran his business,
he owned five planes: two Barons and three Bonanzas. “I
crashed only once,” he deadpanned, adding that a landing
gear collapsed at touchdown and penetrated the plane’s fuel
tank. He slid to a halt, shoved open the jammed cockpit
door and escaped uninjured to the runway.
As he approached retirement, he learned of the advan-
tages offered by charitable remainder trusts. A trust special-
ist showed him how this type of trust could help him and
his wife Dorothy, since deceased, add to their retirement
income from the sale of the Black River Falls operation in
Wisconsin, the last of his truck stops.
Instead of the conventional sale he had used to sell the
five others stops, he placed half of the Black River Falls
assets—its facilities included a store, a restaurant, diesel
and gas stations, and a garage—into a charitable remain-
der trust for SFTS’s benefit. Because the ultimate destina-
tion of the trust’s assets is the seminary, the Barrs escaped
capital gains tax on the assets placed in the trust. They
also received payments from the trust for life, earned an
immediate income tax deduction, and had the satisfaction
of providing for SFTS, which they believe in strongly and
to which they were linked by family ties.
His uncle and namesake Browne Barr was dean of
SFTS from 1977-83. His brother Robert was vice president
of development and then acting president from 1984-85.
Browne became an SFTS trustee in 2006 when his wife
Dorothy left the board because of illness.
The plainspoken Barr is enthusiastic about his charitable
remainder trust, which he established about 20 years ago.
“It’s just a great deal,” he said. “It helps both the individual
who sets it up and the seminary.”
The Barrs selected the minimum payment required by
law—5 percent—and an option that prevents invasion of
principal if the trust earns less than that. This conservative
approach allowed the Barrs’ charitable trust to hold its value
despite the 2008 economic meltdown and other vagaries of
“I think highly of SFTS,” he said. “I feel that all church-
es need to get their acts together, learn to get along, and
bring peace to the world. The churches have a long way to
go. The seminary is the starting point.”
Phil Murphy is a planned giving consultant.
SFTS CHIMES | Fall 2012