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Secret Millionaire Leaves Massive Gift to Seattle Charities

Seattle Children's Hospital
Jack MacDonald

Three Seattle-area organizations will split a massive charitable gift of $187.6 million, thanks to one generous donor. Seattle Children’s Hospital, the University of Washington School of Law and the Salvation Army call it the biggest gift given in the state this year, and the sixth largest nationwide.

The donor is Jack MacDonald, who died in September at age 98. He inherited a fortune built by his father’s MacDonald Meats company. 

But Doug Picha of Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation said MacDonald was never one to flaunt his wealth.

“Jack kept his fortune a secret for more than 40 years, and only his family and those of us closest to him at Children’s knew of it. He purposely wore sweaters with holes in the elbows, never wanting people to know about his wealth,” Picha said.

Nevertheless, MacDonald was planning a huge bequest. He wound up giving Seattle Children’s Research Institute a trust worth about $75 million, which will fund research into areas ranging from cancer to immune disorders. MacDonald was a UW Law School alum, and his gift there will fund an endowed chair, scholarships and other needs.

His connection to the Salvation Army Northwest Division was not so obvious. Major Doug Tollerud said he didn’t even know MacDonald, and was not expecting the gift. He said records show MacDonald regularly gave the Salvation Army $20 donations over the years. The gift announced Tuesday amounts to about $56 million.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.