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Film Festival Leads to Support of Film History and a Fellowship in Film and Media Studies

Gordon Kit ’76CC

The love of film has been ingrained in Gordon Kit ’76CC since childhood when he frequented drive-in theaters with his family. By the time Gordon entered Columbia College, he and friends from high school had made several 16 mm films—and he was a full-fledged film buff. Today Gordon enthusiastically supports the School of the Arts, starting a film noir festival in 2018 and later establishing a charitable remainder trust at Columbia.

The Dr. Saul and Dorothy Kit Film Noir Festival was Gordon’s initial foray into philanthropy. The Festival’s goal is to educate the public on the historical, cultural, and cinema-graphic aspects of film noir. “As a result of my involvement in the Festival, I decided to further give in ways that would both support the film department and also benefit my family,” the retired lawyer explains. “Columbia suggested a charitable remainder trust—I give them money, they invest it, they send 5% a year to whomever I designate for life, and eventually Columbia gets the remainder for the purposes I have directed.” In his case, the balance will eventually be used to establish the Gordon Kit Fellowship in Film and Media Studies and the Gordon Kit Endowment for the Study of Film History.

“With Columbia’s help, the trust was very easy to set up. The main item for consideration was how to fund it: with cash, stock, or mutual fund shares. With appreciated securities, which I used, there is a major tax advantage—no capital gain. I transferred my ownership of the shares to my trust at Columbia, which sold the shares and reinvested the proceeds using its expert investment strategies. I got to choose the investment asset allocation risk I was most comfortable with. The ownership transfer did not create a taxable event for me, plus I got a federal income-tax deduction upfront—which I can carry forward over several years. So it’s a double gain. These were long-held mutual fund shares, which would have resulted in a significant tax event if, instead, I had sold them and given the cash directly to Columbia.”

From Columbia University to the District of Columbia

Gordon grew up in Houston, the child of Dr. Saul and Dorothy Kit—film aficionados for whom Gordon named the film festival in their honor.

While attending Columbia, Gordon served as a Big Brother mentoring a pre-teen from Morningside Heights. Together on Saturdays, they explored the city, worked on math and reading, and went to Kung Fu movies—his “little brother’s” favorite genre.

After graduating from Columbia with a B.A. in biochemistry, Gordon went to graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley, planning to earn a Ph.D. in molecular biology, and then to go on to become a research scientist and professor at some academic institution. But life is full of twists and turns, and during his first year at Berkeley he began to have doubts about “sitting at a lab bench for the rest of my life.” He decided to stay another year at Berkeley, obtain his M.A., and to entirely switch career paths—to go to law school.

He moved back across the country to attend law school in Washington, D.C., where he still lives today. In his career as a patent attorney, which spanned three decades at the same D.C. boutique patent law firm, he put to good use the scientific education he absorbed at Columbia and Berkeley. Having clients worldwide, he also worked on patents, co-invented by his father and brother, for the first genetically engineered vaccine approved by the U.S. government as well as on patents for several blockbuster drugs.

Using film to inspire others and preserve a genre

Gordon retired in 2008 and has spent much of his time since then enjoying and promoting film noir—a term coined by the French for the gritty American crime dramas of the 1940s and ’50s, by directors such as John Huston, Edgar Ulmer, and Fritz Lang.

“These are the films of my parents’ formative years, films they watched in the 1940s when they were in their mid-20s,” Gordon says. “When I was in high school and college, I saw a lot of these films and found them quite interesting: the dialogue, the camera angles, the twists in the stories, the dark parts, and much more.”

Gordon founded the Kit Noir Film Festival because he hoped film noir would occupy a special part of Columbia’s renowned film studies program. “The idea of being able to bring people together, create something out of nothing, and inspire future generations of film students is very rewarding,” says Gordon.

Once the film festival’s ten-year run comes to an end, he is comforted by knowing that his future endowed funds will have an enduring impact on Columbia’s film students and professors.

“I want to help people do the things that I wish I could have done years ago: to study the history of film and to be involved with film making,” Gordon says. “I want to inspire other people, and I want to help them financially. And I am glad to do it at the university where I got my start.”

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