4 Philanthropists Who Pretty Much Gave Away Their Fortunes

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by Ian Fortey

Everyone wants to be a millionaire, since they're the ones who get to buy the most luxurious of hams and pristine lapel pins. And while it's said that money can't buy happiness, we're certain that having plenty of cash doesn't put you in a bad mood. Except for maybe these people, who seem like they couldn't get rid of their extreme wealth quickly enough.


Millard Fuller Wanted To Make Sure You Had A Home

Millard Fuller is, without a doubt, one of the most generous people in history. While some philanthropists are content to give a portion of their income to charitable causes, or maybe build mini-subs to fight Mole Men or whatever, Fuller went above and beyond, devoting his entire existence to making sure people had homes.

He was a millionaire by age 29, the result of a bizarre circus of business ventures. As a child he would fatten up pigs and sell them to buy more livestock, you know, as kids do. Later, he sold cows to pay for his college tuition, where he both dabbled in small real estate ventures and ended up becoming a massive cookbook publisher. Then he became a lawyer. Then he dropped that and went back to real estate. And now you know the secret formula to wealth: Pigs + cookbooks + real estate = an assload of cash.

At some point, Millard's health began to suffer, as did his marriage. So he and his wife made the decision to dump pretty much every single thing they owned, donating it all to various Christian missions and charities. They then moved to a community in Georgia in the 1960s and began building houses. Lots of them.

"I found a hammer! I'm naming him 'MC'."

For years, Fuller and family built homes in the US and Africa. The houses weren't meant to be fancy, but they would at least stand up to the elements and ensure you weren't waking up having to wrangle your pillow away from a possum or something. It was this drive to provide housing to people who needed it that inspired Fuller to co-found Habitat for Humanity in 1976. By 2013, the charity had already built 800,000 houses. Though Fuller died in 2009, the charity he started still carries out his remarkable mission of helping those who can't afford housing get a place to live, and that's a pretty awesome legacy.

Tin Ka Ping Wanted Everyone To Have An Education

If you live in the Western world, it's likely you've never heard of Tin Ka Ping. But in China, he was one of the greats when it comes to just being a stand-up dude. He made his fortune starting in the 1950s in Hong Kong, when his plastics and chemical empire made him rich and plasticy. Despite the fact that he had quit school at age 15 when his father died, Tin was a big believer in the importance of education, which is why he spent ungodly amounts of time and money making sure other people received it.

In his 99 years, Tin is said to have been responsible for funding over 300 different schools, which included donating over $1 billion of his personal fortune to start the Tin Ka Ping Foundation. He even sold the $56 million mansion he and his wife had been living in, donating the money from the sale to schools. They rented an apartment after that because, let's be honest, who the hell wants to mow the lawn on a hunk of land for a house like that? It probably takes up all the time you'd otherwise spend dusting the 100 rooms you never use because being rich doesn't give you the ability to be more places at one time than the rest of us. Wait, I just realized why rich people have butlers and housekeepers. Never mind.

He should have at least one medal for "Good Book Learnin'".

Not content with the normal, everyday badassery of creating hundred of schools, the foundation also put up the cash for a multitude of hospitals, libraries, roads and bridges, those last two being necessary because you can't really learn anything if you don't have a path to get there. And that's a fact you can only learn in school. Or maybe on the internet, we guess.

Zell Kravinsky Would Give You His Kidney ... Literally

You've probably heard the saying "give until it hurts," and if we're being honest, it sounds like some kind of well-meaning, metaphorical nonsense. Sure, helping others is a wonderful thing, but until it hurts? What does that mean? Zell Kravinsky knew exactly what it meant, and in quite the literal sense. Because when he ran out of millions of dollars to donate, the man actually started giving away body parts. Not a lot of people have that kind of commitment to philanthropy.

Kravinsky is a scholar and one of those people who's way better at investments than the average chump, and it made him a millionaire. But as a man who tries to view the world through a utilitarian eye, he couldn't see the good in having all that money for himself. So after establishing a trust to fund his kids' education, he donated over $36 million to the Ohio State University Center for Health and the Center for Disease Control Foundation, plus some land to a school for disabled children. But even after dispersing the majority of his personal fortune, he wanted to do more, and that's when he realized that even though he didn't have any money left to give, he did have an extra kidney. So he gave that away, too.

It wasn't that there was someone Kavinsky knew personally who was in imminent need of it ... he just knew that lots of people need kidneys. If you're thinking that's a pretty extreme way to want to give back to society, you're not alone, as his family thought the same thing. They weren't exactly on board with the idea, or at least wanted to have way more discussion before he went through with it, which is why he felt it necessary to just sneak out one day and have it done. Hell, even the doctor performing the surgery tried to talk him out of it.


While the family was concerned that maybe one of Kravinksy's kids might need that kidney someday, it was simple math for him. The odds that one of his children would need a kidney, and his would still be healthy by then, and would be a better match than a sibling's kidney, were too small. That, coupled with the knowledge that the odds of dying after having the surgery were a measly 1 in 4,000, basically meant he had to do it. Otherwise, didn't that mean he valued his own life 4,000 times more than somebody else's? He wasn't having that.

These days, Kravinsky and his wife live a simple life, making about $50,000 a year from their rental properties and living in a $140,000 house they bought in the '90s. Oh, and they have three whole kidneys between them.

Charles Feeney Gave Away More Money Than Entire Countries Even Have

Charles Feeney may be the most least rich guy ever. Is that ... does that make sense? Well, we're not quite sure how else to explain a man who amasses a fortune worth $8 billion then just gives it all away because he feels it's the right thing to do.

Feeney made his fortune by co-founding a duty-free shop back when duty-free shops weren't much of a thing, and it just sort of exploded from there. They began by selling goods to troops abroad, mostly booze, then eventually expanded to all the crap you currently enjoy buying at airports like more booze and different kinds of booze.

On his long road to wealth and success, Feeney was also secretly being philanthropic in a way that made other philanthropists look like craplanthropists. In the 1980s, he created a charitable organization entirely in secret and then gave a massive portion of his shares in the company to the charity. He never told anyone, though. Instead, he kept running the show as though he still owned everything, quietly donating the money he made behind the scenes.

Enough to give every person on the planet $1, and still have over $500 million left.

Feeney's money has gone to universities, medical research, and more over the years. $8 billion to make the world a better place, while Feeney himself lives a humble, normal life. He and his wife rent an apartment in San Francisco, and he's known to fly economy when he has to go anywhere. He doesn't own a car and his watch cost $15. Not bad for a dude whose wealth was more than triple the GDP of Belize.

Like this article? Check out "5 Millionaires Who Started Out Homeless And Broke" and "5 Badass Kids Who Came Through In A Clutch".

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