Linda and John Jonides

As an esteemed cognitive neuroscientist and University of Michigan faculty member for 48 years, John Jonides knows that opportunities for graduate students to secure funding for their own research are limited. That’s why Jonides, Edward E. Smith Collegiate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and co-director of the Functional MRI Laboratory, and his wife, Linda, chose to focus their planned giving on supporting graduate student research in LSA's Department of Psychology through the Jonides Graduate Research Fund.

“As research assistants, graduate students are limited by the resources of the grant-funded labs in which they work,” noted Jonides, whose research on short term memory and cognitive control has examined major depressive disorders and ADHD. Recently he led an NSF-funded study of people's misconceptions about the widespread incidence of COVID-19, and how their behavior affects the spread of the disease.

“The Jonides’ gift provides much-needed support for our exceptional graduate students to undertake pioneering research in psychology, expand their skill sets, and hopefully gain recognition for their individual research achievements,” said Nestor Lopez-Duran, interim psychology chair. “We are beyond grateful for their generosity and excited about the significant impact their gift will have on the careers of countless graduate students.”

The Jonides Graduate Research Fund will be endowed through a charitable gift annuity (CGA), a unique type of planned gift that pays a beneficiary over the age of 50 a fixed amount each year for the rest of their life, in exchange for a gift of cash or stocks now. After the lifetime of the beneficiary, the balance of the annuity is a gift to LSA.

What makes the gift more notable is that it was the first to qualify for a $10,000 cash match from the LSA Legacy Match Challenge, a limited opportunity that will match 10% of each qualifying documented planned gift, up to $10,000, until the match pool is exhausted. Match dollars can be directed to any expendable LSA fund. John and Linda Jonides are using theirs to kick-start the Jonides Graduate Research Fund. 

“I was absolutely thrilled to hear about the match because it maximizes our gift. In fact, even more so because with a CGA the department doesn’t get to use our funds until Linda, the beneficiary, passes away,” said Jonides. “So now Psychology gets an infusion of cash that it can start applying immediately to supporting grad student research.”

Jonides says he was inspired in part by a former student, now a distinguished faculty member at another prestigious university. After nearly two years as a research assistant, the student came to him with an idea for a novel experiment that aligned with the lab’s research well enough that Jonides could support it through one of his grants. The research program proved so fruitful, said Jonides, “for the first two years I was leading him, [but] for the last three years he was in grad school he was leading me.”

“But a lot of times grad students will come to me with a great idea for doing research that doesn’t relate to the research in my lab,” Jonides continued. “That’s the kind of thing I think this fund is going to end up supporting: students who’ve got a sense of independence. They’ve got an idea they want to investigate but, beyond faculty support, they need the financial resources to go and pursue this idea largely on their own.”

Undertaking their own research is a foundational career skill with numerous benefits to graduate students; it increases confidence and builds data analysis, writing, and presentation proficiency that will better position them to get jobs after they’ve completed their programs. The work may also be recognized by a publication or the invitation to present a talk or poster at a professional meeting, further advancing their careers. Grants from the fund will be used to support the assorted costs associated with a program of research, including equipment and supplies, subject recruitment, conference travel, and journal submission fees.

“Part of what we’re doing by starting this fund is training graduate students to be independent scientists,” said Jonides. “Regardless of what they’ll do in the future, in whatever field, in or out of academia, that independence is critically important.”

The LSA Legacy Match encouraged the couple to consider whether they could make additional gifts to the university now. It was the driving factor in John and Linda's decision to document a bequest in their estate plan as well, enabling them to secure another $10,000 in LSA Legacy Match funds and double the Jonides Graduate Research Fund’s immediate impact. 

Find out how you can make your new or increased planned gift to the College of LSA go further with the LSA Legacy Match by contacting us at or (734) 936-4564.