Gave Up Millions

Alice De Lamar’s inheritance was the subject of many headlines. First, her father was richer than anyone had imagined, and the source of his wealth, apart from gold mines, was murky. Second, he speculated on Wall Street, and Alice was faced with several lawsuits from his investors after his death.

De Lamar left half of his estate of over $20 million to the three best medical schools at the time (Harvard, Columbia, and Johns Hopkins). Alice got a $10 million trust fund; if she died “without issue,” this, too, would go to the three institutions. These three medical schools are what they are today due in part to the De Lamar legacy. Harvard used the bequest to fund infectious diseases research. Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health was founded in 1922 as a result of De Lamar’s endowed gift. Johns Hopkins Medical School was able to expand during the Depression because of De Lamar’s bequest, and there is a De Lamar Professorship of Biological Chemistry at the school.

Under New York State laws of the time, Alice had every legal right to contest her father’s will. Yet, all she seemed to want was two yachts, the Savarona and the Sagetta, claiming that they were part of her father’s bequest to her of his country estate, Pembroke, on Long Island. Alice didn’t appeal the court’s decision. It seems that she was eager to move forward and get on with her life.


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