It is the start of a new year and a new decade.  Many of us recently enjoyed some holidays and had much to eat and drink.  Many of us are also feeling the lingering effects of this merriment.  I figured that an uplifting, feel good read would be a nice way to start 2020.  I was thus delighted to learn about Eva Gordon, and her estate.

Ms. Gordon passed away at the age of 105.  She grew up on an orchard in Oregon, never graduated from college, and worked as a trading assistant at an investment firm in Seattle.  In 1964, she married her husband, who was a stockbroker.  They did not have any children together.  Neither Ms. Gordon or her husband came from money, and they lived a modest life.  Ms. Gordon’s godson, who was the Estate Trustee, joked that if Ms. Gordon and her husband went out for lunch or dinner, then they would make sure to bring their Applebee’s coupon.

From the salary that Ms. Gordon received from her employer, she purchased partial shares in numerous stocks, including oil and utility companies, and was an early investor in Nordstrom, Microsoft, and Starbucks.  Unlike many at that time, Ms. Gordon held onto these valuable stocks.  As a result of this shrewd investing, Ms. Gordon’s wealth increased considerably over the latter years of her life.

Instead of wasting away her money, in her Will, Ms. Gordon decided to bequeath $10 million to various community colleges, with about 17 colleges each receiving cheques for $550,000.  Interestingly, no stipulations were put into place as to how the money was to be spent by the colleges.  The colleges could do with the money as they wished.  For many of them, it was one of the largest donations they had ever received.

For an interesting perspective on the impact of donations to modest, as opposed to elite, institutions, you should listen to Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast (episode 6).

Noah Weisberg

If you find this blog interesting, please consider these other related blogs: