“Surprised” barely approaches Rose Lincoln Hamilton’s reaction when she heard the news.
“I was absolutely in awe,” she said late last week.
Hamilton is president and CEO of The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, and the news concerned a gift from the estate of a University Place couple, Don and Mary Williams.
A gift of $15 million.
A quiet gift of $15 million.
“It was very bittersweet,” Hamilton said. “I never got to meet the Williamses.”
It is a gift that will make a difference, she said, for generations yet to be born.
Don Williams was a retired financial adviser with Morgan Stanley.
Mary was a dedicated gardener.
After 47 years of marriage, Don passed in 2003 and Mary in 2010.
He was born in 1928, she in 1929. Seattle natives, both attended and graduated from the University of Washington but did not meet until, following his service in Korea, Don inquired about employment at a UW office where Mary worked.
They settled in University Place and began a life of work and service.
“They were always quiet in their giving,” said friend James McCormack.
Don worked with the foundation, at its inception, as an investment adviser.
They traveled, played golf. Don once served as president of the Tacoma Club. Mary became a gardener, working with the Tacoma Garden Club and as a volunteer at the Point Defiance Native Garden.
They directed that a part of their bequest go to “horticulture.” A part will go to the arts, and a part to youth.
“What a generous gift to the community,” said Hamilton. “It’s unbelievable. The difference it will make in Pierce County is phenomenal.”
With a base of $15 million, a portion of the earnings – at least $600,000 – will be distributed each year.
As long as the rivers run.
“They made their money here, and they wanted their money to continue to do good things,” Hamilton said. “I would have loved to have asked them what gave them such faith in the foundation.”
The $15 million bequest brings the foundation’s assets to approximately $83 million, said Elyse Rowe, director of communications.
With an annual generation of some $645,000 from the Williamses, the foundation’s yearly grantmaking will increase by some 22 percent, Rowe said.
Where last year the foundation distributed some $2.8 million, it can now expect to offer $3.4 million, she said.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” she said. “The board is still trying to figure out what is the best way to both honor the wishes of Don and Mary, and to best impact the community.”
The foundation manages some 450 individual funds and supports a broad range of activities in Pierce County, including the arts, capital projects, education, the environment, neighborhoods and basic needs.
Grants typically go to nonprofit groups, and some are distributed through advice from donors. Some funds are unrestricted by donors, and are given across a wide range of interests.
The bequest from Don and Mary Williams is the largest in the foundation’s 31-year history.
Now comes the part where the bequest goes to work.
“We’re listening to experts in the community about where it will be the most strategic,” Hamilton said. “A $15 million gift is a big deal. Anywhere.”
The gift will be quiet no longer.
“They didn’t want any notoriety in life,” Hamilton said. “But they have been incredibly generous in their death.”
By C.R. Roberts> Read the article on the Tacoma News Tribune