Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

August 27, 2012

Foundation receives $125M from estate

ELKHART — Out of one man’s death comes the chance to provide many opportunities for the residents of Elkhart County, according to a press release from the Elkhart County Community Foundation.

The foundation was named one of the primary benefactors of the estate of global businessman Guy David Gundlach. Gundlach, 56, who died in Malibu, Calif., in October 2011.

“While we grieve David’s premature death, we are honored David chose the Elkhart County Community Foundation as the conduit of his gift to the people of Elkhart County,” foundation president Pete McCown said in a press release.

The foundation began to receive transfer of the first amount of funds Aug. 16, McCown said. The initial transfer is for just over $114 million, and, once property transfer is complete, will be approximately $125 million, McCown estimated in the release.

“We’ve known for a number of years that were named one of the primary beneficiaries,” McCown said in an interview Wednesday. The foundation did not know the extent of Gundlach’s estate, however.

“This is the largest donation in the history of the organization... There are a myriad of possibilities for the funds,” McCown said.

Liz Borger, who served as Gundlach’s estate representative, said he loved Elkhart and the surrounding communities. Gundlach attended Elkhart Memorial High School, graduating in 1973.

“He had an extremely hearty laugh,” Borger said. “He loved to celebrate life, and he loved good discussions and conversation. He’s always had a history of being charitable.”

Gundlach attended Chapman College, graduating in 1979 with a degree in history, according to the press release. Gundlach worked for IBM briefly, but saw major business success with Hastings Direct, a direct insurance company he launched in Hastings, England, according to his obituary. He eventually sold the company, moved to Los Angeles and created a movie production company.

His first production was for the 2009 film “Get Low,” starring Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray, among others, according to the Internet Movie Database. The film

Gundlach was also fond of golf, and he belonged to two golf clubs in Elkhart, according to Borger.

“The Fourth of July was a big deal to him,” Borger said. “He always returned to Elkhart for it, to Elcona Country Club for their fireworks.”

Gundlach’s mother, Marge Swift, still lives in the area, Borger said. She was one of his “great devotions,” Borger said.

“He lost his dad at a young age, and his brother when he was 11,” Borger explained. “She’s still alive here, and she’s proud of him. She knew he was successful, but no one knew to what degree.”

Swift said, in a statement released by Borger, that Gundlach decided to give his estate to the foundation because “he was happiest here.”

“We were buddies,” Swift said. “We had so much fun together. He had two homes in Elkhart, yet he still loved to stay with me. I took him breakfast in bed!”

With the additional funds, the Elkhart County Community Foundation’s funds per capita in Elkhart County rivals some of the biggest in the country, including the Lilly Endowment.

“When the history of Elkhart County is told in 20, 30 and 40 years from now, people will tell of many chapters... We added a new chapter this week, of a global citizen who grew up in the community and wanted to have a charitable legacy.”

Even with all the excitement, the foundation members cannot begin spending these funds on projects quite yet, according to McCown. The funds must be held for one year before they can be spent, according to foundation stipulations.

“I would not have anticipated a gift this size,” McCown said. “Ultimately, this gift is David’s gift to the people of Elkhart County.”

For more information on the Elkhart County Community Foundation, visit www.elkhartccf.org.

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