A widow unexpectedly received $1 billion of Berkshire Hathaway stock. Now, she's covering Bronx med students' tuition forever.


close-up of Ruth Gottesman smiling

Ruth Gottesman in 2016.Brent N. Clarke/Getty Images

  • Ruth Gottesman is donating her late husband’s $1 billion in Berkshire stock to a Bronx medical school.

  • The donation is set to cover students’ tuition in perpetuity.

  • A video posted Monday shows students cheering and crying when they hear the news.

When the 96-year-old Ruth Gottesman’s husband died in 2022, he left behind something that surprised even his wife: $1 billion in Berkshire Hathaway stock.

“He left me, unbeknownst to me, a whole portfolio of Berkshire Hathaway stock,” Gottesman told The New York Times. Her husband’s only instructions? “Do whatever you think is right with it,” she told the outlet.

At first, Gottesman couldn’t decide what to do with the massive bequest, but after her children advised her not to wait too long, she had a realization, The New York Times reported.

She would donate the money in full to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York City’s poorest borough, the Times reported.

“I wanted to fund students at Einstein so that they would receive free tuition,” she told the Times.

Her gift is so large that it’s set to cover students’ tuition for the medical school in perpetuity, the college said in a press release.

All current fourth-year students are set to be reimbursed for their spring 2024 tuition, the school said, and beginning in August, all current and future students will attend for free.

Gottesman broke the news to the current students in person on Monday morning. The second the words “tuition-free” came out of her mouth, students in the auditorium erupted into cheers, clapping and jumping out of their seats, with some crying, a video from the school’s hospital affiliate, Montefiore Health System, shows.

Gottesman, a clinical professor emerita of pediatrics at Einstein, began her career at the college in 1968, according to the school’s press release. She serves as the chair of the school’s board of trustees, a role she also held from 2007 to 2014.

Gottesman’s husband, David “Sandy” Gottesman, began his career in the ’60s with a friendship with Warren Buffett, leading him to become one of the earliest investors in Buffett’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, according to the Foundation Guide. He went on to found his own investment firm, First Manhattan Co., which his son now runs, according to the Foundation Guide.

Gottesman’s bequest will likely help the Albert Einstein College of Medicine attract a more diverse pool of applicants, the school said in its press release. And that was exactly Gottesman’s goal, she told the Times.

A year’s tuition at the school is over $59,000, leaving many graduates with more than $200,000 in debt, the Times reported.

“This donation radically revolutionizes our ability to continue attracting students who are committed to our mission, not just those who can afford it,” Dr. Yaron Tomer, the Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz dean at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said in the school’s press release. “Additionally, it will free up and lift our students, enabling them to pursue projects and ideas that might otherwise be prohibitive.”

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