Robert Wilson is a man you may not have heard of, but he has no doubt made a difference in countless people’s lives. Sadly, the multimillionaire philanthropist reportedly took his own life on Monday, as he jumped from his 16th-floor apartment in the historic San Remo building in New York. He was 86 years old.
Police say that the death was not deemed suspicious, as his apartment window was open, and he left a note.
Wilson was a hedge fund manager who had amassed a fortune of about $800 million by the year 2000, before he started slowly giving it all away. By the end, he only had about $100 million left, and that’s only because it was tied up in long-term investments.
Wilson’s friend Stephen Viscusi said, “He was 86 and suffered a stroke a few months ago … He always said he didn’t want to suffer, and when the time came, he would be ready."
His favorite groups to contribute to were preservationist groups. The World Monuments Fund is one such group, which exists to “preserve architectural and cultural heritage sites around the world.”
The group’s president, Bonnie Burnham, said, “He was the most committed person I have ever known … more than his financial contributions, he brought an astute mind and sharp wit to the organization. He will be missed greatly and long remembered as a visionary donor.”
He also had a soft spot for Catholic schools, despite being an atheist. In 2010, he was quoted as saying, “I realized that Catholic schools were closing all over the country, and Bill Gates probably didn’t have enough money to save them.” He believed that private schools offered a better education than “the union-controlled inner-city schools.”
He was married for 35 years, but divorced long before his death, and he had no children.
I feel so sad that a man that had so much wealth, and such a generous heart to save the children and the world, seemingly felt he had nothing left to live for at the end. This Christmas, I want to hug my loved ones a little tighter and remember that there’s always a reason to hold out hope.
If you’re struggling with depression or having thoughts of killing yourself, there is help. Please call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Image via Jeff Berman/Flickr