Posted September 1st, 1998

In The News…

Phenomenal bequests from frugal, yet savvy, couple

No one imagined that the estates of chemical engineer Dr. Donald Othmer and his wife and former teacher Mildred Othmer would be worth approximately three-quarters of a billion dollars. When she died in April (he passed away in 1995), the Othmers left a fortune to many of their favorite charitable organizations.

The Polytechnic University of Brooklyn, where Dr. Othmer taught and conducted his research beginning in 1932, stands to receive the largest portion of the Othmer’s estate, almost $200 million, an amount that is nearly four times the school’s current endowment. Long Island College Hospital, where Dr. Othmer was a trustee, should receive approximately $160 million. Planned Parenthood of New York City and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, organizations where Mrs. Othmer regularly volunteered, are in line to receive $75 million and $11 million respectively. Other charitable beneficiaries are also named in the Othmer’s wills.

What was the source of the Othmer’s wealth? While Dr. Othmer was a successful inventor with over 40 patents for Kodak, a consultant, and professor, it was his and his wife’s investment with a young family friend–investment guru Warren Buffett–in the early 1960s that transformed them into an astoundingly rich couple. However, the Othmers lived an unassuming life and rarely discussed their wealth.

Mr. Buffett said the Othmers “just rode along” over the years, first purchasing shares in Berkshire Hathaway, Mr. Buffett’s holding company, in 1969. “They were such high-quality, nice people, who had no children and wanted to translate their wealth into something beneficial to society,” Mr. Buffett said.

And, according to Mr. Buffett, there are more people like the Othmers whose investments with him will lead to tremendous charitable bequests. “There are more coming,” he stated. “There are going to be some bigger ones than this.”

Source: The New York Times, July 13, 1998

A gift of flight

Northwest Airlines donated 11 million frequent flier miles and $100,000 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. The hospital will use the miles to fly patients and their families to the Memphis facility for medical treatment.

Source: The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN, July 10, 1998

It may be Greek to give

According to a survey sponsored by the Research Initiative of the National Panhellenic Conference and the National Interfraternity Conference, members of the Greek system are inclined to be more generous than their non-Greek counterparts. Twenty-two percent of fraternity and sorority alums said they gave between $500 and $1,000 to their alma maters in 1996. Only 4.2% of non-Greeks reported giving at the same level. At higher giving levels, the results were similar, with 11% of Greeks contributing at the $1,000 to $5,000 level, compared with 1.4% of non-Greeks.

Source: American Demographics, July 1998 Apr. May June July Aug. Sept.

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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