Bequest Stories #3 – Long-Time Coming

Mrs. Dawson was in her 90s when she died. She left her church and a local university each 40% of her $4.5 million estate (which was invested 100% in Coca Cola stock and was worth double that just a few years before – there’s a lesson in fund management there). As the church administrator, I went to her house with the minister for senior adults to see if there was anything related to the early days of the church (her father-in-law was the founding pastor). We secured a few books and her beautiful flapper wedding dress! The remainder of her estate was left to a medical school in Iowa.

A few months later I got a phone from someone in the development office of that medical school. She was looking at a check for about $900,000 and said there was nothing in the school’s records about her attending the school. I laughed and said that we all wondered if they knew of any connection. I told her that according to the will, the gift was completely unrestricted and the school could spend it any way they wanted (I think she silently shouted for joy). I also said that to the best of our collective church knowledge, she had not lived in Iowa but that we believed her brother had attended the med school sometime in the 1920s or 1930s, about 70 years before her death. We talked for a few more minutes and then hung up.

Mrs. Dawson’s will was written in the 1980s but she remembered the kindness half a century before of a distant medical school toward her brother and she wanted to express her appreciation. They were exceedingly happy to get an almost $1 million gift with no restrictions. It took a long time for this gift to “mature” but it continues to make a lot of people very happy. By the way, the church used its $1.8 million on scholarships for college kids (so did the university).

Lead On!

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