This Thanksgiving students at St. Thomas More High School had a lot to feel grateful for after a shocking donation by a kind-hearted alumnus who granted financial assistance to thousands of students in need. After you find out how much money this anonymous man left to the high school in his will, you will be shocked too.
Who was Leonard Gigowski?
During his lifetime, Leonard Gigowski ran a successful grocery store on the corner of his street that he had inherited from his father. Gigowski had worked in the family-owned business ever since he was young and after the death of his late father, Leonard Gigowski took on the role as the owner of the grocery store.
Simple and Selfless
Little was known of the fact that Leonard was a generous donor of educational institutions and foundations and even after he passed away, he found a way to ensure that thousands of students at St. Thomas More high school could afford to pay their tuition, a school that Lenoard himself had attended back when it was called St. Francis Minor Seminary.
In his will, Lenoard donated a staggering sum of $13 million in a fund which helped provide scholarships that would waver off up to half of the tuition for students who would otherwise not be able to afford private education and did not qualify for government aid.
According to his friend and lawyer Larry Haskin, Lenoard led a lifestyle that was simple and devoid of extravagance; at times even buying clothes and shoes that would not fit him if they were on discounted sales just to save a few dollars. He preferred to help those in need rather than spend his wealth on himself and would habitually save money to help others to leave a legacy of his own.
He had never been married or had any children and would hardly go on dates, instead he had a passion for ballroom dancing and pigeon racing in his pastime. He owned around 50 to 100 pigeons at his Berlin home and would regularly drive more than a hundred miles to release the pigeons to allow them to race back home.
He had been a regular contributor and donor for Thomas More high school and would donate upwards of $25,000 to the school’s annual fund along with his contribution of $660,000 to the school’s capital campaign between 2001- 2003.
An Unexpected Disease
On July 21st 2015, he died of cancer at the age of 90 in his New Berlin home, but not before he had established his Leonard Gigowski Catholic Education foundation with the help of Larry Haskin. He even donated a large part of his possessions and estates to his foundation and scholarship fund, with small gifts going towards his friends and family.
After his death, his lawyer and friend, Larry Haskin arranged for a meeting over coffee with the president of Thomas More to inform her about the sizeable donation he had left for the students at the high school. According to Mary McIntosh, the president of Thomas More, she almost “fell out of her chair” upon learning about the magnitude of Lenoard’s donation.
In the wake of Leonard’s sizeable donation, the school was able to award a total of $489,000 of scholarship to 131 students to either cover one half or one third of their annual tuition of $10,800 and Mary McIntosh plans to grant 5% of the scholarship fund annually in order to maintain the scholarship fund in perpetuity for deserving students who could apply annually for the scholarship programme provided.
Life and Legacy of Lenoard Gigowski
According to his close friend and real estate broker Jeff Korpal, Leonard was a devoted catholic and as a kid aspired to one day becoming a priest. Raised in West Allies, he served in the navy as a cook during the Second World War and then took up a job in a meat processing company where he was able to acquire the company’s stock which he subsequently sold, putting his earnings to good use in various investments.
In later years, Leonard was able to acquire several residential properties, open a grocery store, a nightclub and also a dance studio in his neighborhood block. During this time, Jeff Korpal helped him buy and sell his various residential properties following which, Leonard retired at the age of 75 to pursue his interests and devote more time to his passion for dancing and pigeon racing.