The late entrepreneur, David Gundlach, pictured left, shocked his hometown in Indiana after his estate left $125 million to a community foundation there.
Gundlach was an entrepreneur in the insurance industry who also dabbled in film by producing the 2009 movie, “Get Low,” featuring Robert Duvall and Bill Murray, according to Elkhart County’s local newspaper, the Elkhart Truth.
In 2009, long before he died of a heart attack last year at age 56, he told Pete McCown, president of the Elkhart County Community Foundation, that he was including the foundation in his estate planning.
McCown said Gundlach, who had no spouse or heirs, was in town to visit his mother.
“He patted me on the shoulder and said, ‘Kiddo, your foundation knows better than I do what my hometown needs so I trust you to administer this wisely,’” said McCown, recalling that meeting in 2009.
“He was a fairly understated man,” remembered McCown, who said the foundation’s staff of five were “in awe” when they learned of the gift’s size at the time of Gundlach’s death.
The gift multiplies the size of the foundation’s discretionary portion of its endowment by 10 times.
The county has about 200,000 people, who are mostly working in agrarian and manufacturing industries, McCown said, with recreational vehicle companies headquartered in the county.
“He gave us very little direction as to how it would be deployed,” McCown said. He asked that it’s used to improve the quality of life for people of his hometown. That was the extent of his direction to us.”
McCown said “the privilege of investing in the lives of the 200,000 people is quite remarkable.”
The foundation has not made any decisions about how to use the gift, but McCown said “there has been a positive community conversation now that has emerged about what are the most pressing needs of our community.”
The foundation supports a broad range of non-profits and causes, namely the arts, community development, education, health and human services and youth development.
“In the 23-year history of our community foundation, there are hundreds if not thousands of stories of generosity,” McCown said.
As a community foundation, not private foundation where a single individual is the benefactor, donors include a couple who created a $10,000 scholarship fund in memory of a child and a young girl who for each of the last four years or so has donated a dollar.
“Dave’s story is the same story as those people,” McCown said. “His gift is clearly newsworthy because of the size, but Dave’s motivation is the same as the little girl who sends us a dollar at the end of every year.”