Gift of $50 million is Largest In Pittsburgh Foundation’s History

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January 6, 2011; Source: Post-Gazette | While the holidays have officially ended, at the Pittsburgh Foundation the season of good cheer is still in full swing. It has just received a $50 million gift, the largest in its history. The money comes from the estate of a 97-year-old chemical engineer, who the Post-Gazette reports "lived modestly and quietly accumulated millions through savvy investments made during his retirement."

Charles Kaufman, who died in September, never married, had no children, or nieces or nephews, so he chose the foundation to receive the bulk of his estate. His gift will support two separate funds at the foundation. The Charles E. Kaufman Foundation, which was started in 2005, will receive $35 million to $40 million to underwrite scientific research in the state. The rest of the money will support a range of projects that Kaufman and his sister Virginia, favored during their lifetimes, such as Jewish health care, land conservation and public education, including the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program for students in Pittsburgh public schools.

Pittsburgh Foundation President Grant Oliphant, who said Kaufman "was passionate about giving back to the community," described the benefactor's life as a "wonderful Pittsburgh story." Kaufman, said Oliphant, "worked very hard to make some money and when he retired, parlayed that into business interests that panned out nicely for him."

Ironically, it was one of the more important technological developments in recent years that led to Kafman's decision late in life to start a new fund for scientific research. Wendy Denton Heleen, a partner at the law firm Goehring, Rutter & Boehm and the executrix of his estate, said Kaufman, was surfing the Internet one day and read about the Welch Foundation that supports chemical research education in Texas. Heleen said, "He called me and said, 'I want to do the same thing in Pennsylvania.' He found the prototype but his was not limited to research in chemistry. It also includes biology and physics."

While Kaufman's legacy is more than secure for the ages with this gift, before his death he confided in Heleen that his real ambition was for his philanthropy to help someone win the Nobel Prize.—Bruce Trachtenberg