D.C. Charities Receive $43 Million in Estate Gifts

D.C. Charities Receive $43 Million in Estate Gifts

Family Matters of Greater Washington and the Kennedy Center have received gifts totaling $43 million from the estate of Richard A. Herman, the Washington Post reports.

The reclusive railroad heir, who died last fall at the age of 100, left 60 percent ($28 million) of his fortune to Family Matters, more than doubling the social service organization's annual budget of $12.5 million. A spokesperson for the organization told the Post the gift will be used to support ongoing efforts to assist local residents in need and help establish an arts program for youth and older adults that will be named after Herman.

According to cousin relative, Betsy Paull, the self-effacing Herman made his first donation, of $25, to Family Matters in 1967. However, it's unclear why he chose to bequeath such a significant amount to an organization serving disadvantaged families when he himself did not have a family or show a special fondness for children. "Maybe he appreciated the trials of others," said Paull. "It's almost as if he did appreciate the great fortune of his life and knew that with a stroke of a pen in his estate plan he could do something wonderful for people less fortunate."

An additional bequest of $15 million to the Kennedy Center will be split equally between the endowments of the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera. According to the Post, Herman had season tickets to both and would attend performances often. "It was a big part of his life. He loved music," said Maya Weil a senior development associate at the Kennedy Center. "I don't think there are a lot of people in the building who knew him well. With turnover and the fact that he was so shy, he didn't make his presence known a lot. But we know he's been a patron and a donor since the beginning."