ELKHART, Ind. — A gift of about $125 million to the Elkhart County Community Foundation from the estate of a longtime resident stands to become a watershed event in the history of the northern Indiana community, the foundation's president said.
Foundation president Pete McCown said the gift from the estate of David Gundlach, who died of a heart attack last October at age 56, will rank with the arrival of the earliest settlers of Elkhart, the development of its musical instrument industry and of Miles Laboratories.
"I don't think we have any idea what the scope of change is going to be," McCown told The Elkhart Truth for a story Sunday (http://bit.ly/RdhvoM). The 21 members of the foundation's board will make "decisions that will define the future of our community."
The gift more than triples the size of the charitable foundation's overall holdings and grows its unrestricted fund for Elkhart County nearly tenfold. The foundation will go from giving out roughly $750,000 in grants each year — about 5 percent of the value of its endowment — to about 10 times that amount.
The foundation also has looked at other large charitable foundations to find out how they handle sizable gifts.
Gundlach, a 1973 graduate of Elkhart Memorial High School, made his fortune in insurance. He founded the English insurance company Hastings Direct and ran the company for a decade.
McCown met Gundlach last summer, just months before his death.
"He had greater wealth than what was expected or what we were aware of," McCown said.
When McCown asked Gundlach about where he'd like the money to go, McCown recalled, "He said, 'Kiddo, as I understand, your foundation exists to do good in my hometown. . Seems to me your organization is better qualified to make those decisions than I am.' "
Elizabeth Borger, a friend of Gundlach who handled his estate, said, "David gave everything back to this community."