For the Love of Madison: Roberta Gassman and Lester Pines

Power couple would be an apt description for Madisonians Lester Pines and Roberta Gassman.

Roberta Gassman and Lester Pines started a donor-advised fund and joined the Legacy Society to give back to the community they love.

After decades of building successful careers, raising children and now grandchildren, and giving back to the community that’s meant so much to them, Lester and Roberta have made their passion for Madison permanent.

This year, Madison Community Foundation welcomed them into the Legacy Society, which recognizes people who’ve named MCF as a beneficiary in their will. They signed a commitment letter, and can change the charitable amount or type of asset at any point in time. Their assets are permanently invested in an endowment fund, and gifts to their cherished local causes will be given in perpetuity.

“MCF is a priority for us, and what better time to make the commitment than during its 75th anniversary this year,” says Roberta, who came to Madison at age 17 to attend UWMadison—the first in her family of immigrants to go to college. “It’s when we all come together that we can have the greatest impact.”

A senior fellow in the UW-Madison School of Social Work, Roberta’s career in all levels of government include secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development in the cabinet of Governor Jim Doyle and deputy assistant secretary of employment and training in the U.S. Department of Labor for President Obama. Before that, she was a top aide for both the Mayor and County Executive and Governor Tony Earl, and a social worker before that.

Lester’s record of success as a trial attorney and as a partner in the firm Pines Bach, is as formidable as his wife’s accomplishments in public service. On top of all that, the dynamic duo makes time to serve in a variety of volunteer roles as part of their civic and religious life. In fact, that’s how they first met—Roberta volunteering and Lester working at Neighborhood House. And their two greatest accomplishments—daughters Anna and Jenny—are products of Madison’s public schools.

“We are so thankful that Madison has been such a great place to live, work and raise our kids,” says Roberta, who currently chairs MCF’s Grantmaking Committee and serves on the Board of Governors. “We’ve been fortunate, and we have a responsibility to give others the chance to have the same successes.”

For Lester and Roberta, the decision to leave a legacy to MCF was as practical as it was benevolent. They started their donor-advised fund in 2013 and make annual gifts. “You don’t have to make a big gift initially, but you can start,” says Lester. “How much you give can be fluid over time.”