The Community Foundation of Greenville announced this week that it has received an $8.4 million bequest from Margaret Linder Southern to create a permanent endowment. It is the largest donation the foundation has received to date.
Southern, an Upstate native, designated the endowment funds to be distributed to organizations that provide early childhood education, education for special needs children and humane treatment of animals, with half designated specifically for the Greenville Humane Society.
Proceeds from the endowment will amount to about $400,000, according to the Community Foundation of Greenville. Annual grants distributed this month include $200,000 for the Greenville Humane Society, $50,000 each for Clarity, Meyer Center, Project Hope Foundation, and $25,000 each for A Child’s Haven and the Institute for Child Success.
Community Foundation officials knew about the bequest in 2004 when Southern approached them to make her estate plan. Bob Morris, president of the Community Foundation of Greenville, said Southern began investing her salary as a special needs teacher, and her future bequest was estimated at $4 million at the time.
After Southern’s death in October 2012, Morris learned that the bequest was going to be closer to $8 million.
“That’s the largest gift we’ve ever gotten,” he said. “It’s a very gratifying confirmation of the role we play in the community with the ability to administer large endowment funds to specific agencies like the Humane Society or to areas of interest she had.”
Kim Pitman, director of the Greenville Humane Society, said Southern’s gift catapults the organization to the close of its five-year capital plan two and a half years early and allows it to move forward with an expansion.
“We haven’t been able to keep up with public demand since we opened the new facility,” she said. The expansion could contain an education pavilion and additional bonding rooms where people can meet their potential pets. Pitman added that Southern’s interests converged at the Humane Society, which also serves as a job skills training location for special needs students.
Margaret Southern was born in the San Souci area on Aug. 8, 1918, and graduated from Parker High School and Greenville Women’s College. A special education teacher, she married and moved to Des Moines, Iowa, returning to Greenville after her husband’s death in the 1980s. The couple had no children, but she was known as someone who loved children and animals, Morris said.
Southern lived modestly and saved more than she spent, he said. “It’s a staggering amount of money saved by a schoolteacher.”
“She’s not anyone you’ve ever heard about, but she’s left a magnificent gift for Greenville,” said Denise Sudderth, the foundation’s director of development.
Michael Shain, senior vice president with UBS Wealth Management and Southern’s financial advisor since 1994, said Southern grew up during the Great Depression and began investing in stocks in the 1940s.
He said when they first met, Southern asked, “What do you have that’s good?” – a question she continued to ask often. “It was like I was a peddler – and it was a transaction,” said Shain. “We just hit it off.”
Southern loved animals and treated her dogs like children, he said. “Margaret was devoted to the care of those dogs and babied them.”
The Southern endowment is set up for perpetuity, said Morris, with half always going to the Greenville Humane Society and the other half given out as annual grants for early childhood education and special education for children and youth to be decided by a 12-member committee.
Southern was very modest, Shain said. “She was just a below-the-radar woman. She had charitable intentions.”