By BRETT ZONGKER
WASHINGTON (AP) — A quiet, low-profile Washington philanthropist has left a surprise bequest of $28 million to one of the oldest social service charities in the nation’s capital.
Family Matters of Greater Washington announced the gift from Richard A. Herman on Wednesday. The charity was previously known as Family and Child Services of Washington. It was founded in 1882 and provides a range of services in the area, including mental health counseling and child welfare.
Herman died in November, a few months after his 100th birthday. He never married and has no immediate survivors. Herman was a Washington native who trained as an architect and inherited wealth from his father, who was chief engineer of Southern Railway, now Norfolk Southern Corp.
Betsy Paull, a second cousin who cared for Herman in his later years, said he was a quiet and shy man yet “completely pleasant and polite.” It wasn’t clear to the family how he came to know the charity Family Matters, Paull said, but Herman would write a check to the group each year, along with donations to arts groups.
Family Matters said Herman began donating $25 a year in 1967, increasing his giving over time. During his lifetime, he gave just over $500,000 to the charity. Now the group will receive the bulk of his wealth.
“It’s pretty much a big surprise,” Paull said. “He wouldn’t talk about his wealth, but if he were forced to … I think he would just credit good fortune.”
The charity plans to establish a charitable trust named for Herman to fund its ongoing work and will launch a new series of arts programs for youth and senior citizens.
Herman also has left $7.5 million bequests to both the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera after being a regular donor to both organizations for years, said Kennedy Center spokesman John Dow. Together, the $15 million bequest is the largest in the center’s history.
The National Symphony Orchestra dedicated its Dec. 6 concert to honoring Herman’s memory.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)