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The Secret Millionaire: How A Secretary Made (and Gave Away) A Fortune

NextTribe secret millionaire Sylvia Bloom

Maybe the first clue Sylvia Bloom was different was that she didn’t change her name when she got married. That was back in the 1940s, long before it was commonplace. But beyond that, everything else about her seemed normal, conventional. That is, until a couple of days ago.

For 67 years, Bloom worked as a legal secretary for a Wall Street law firm, and died shortly after her retirement in 2016. She was remembered at her company for her warm intelligence, her humor and wit. But with an announcement earlier this week, many inside and outside her office will remember her for something else: the $6.24 million she left in her will to Henry Street Settlement, a non-profit that helps disadvantaged youth succeed in college.

The size of the gift was particularly astonishing because her family and friends never realized she was quietly amassing a fortune while living on a modest salary. Her trick: Whenever one of her lawyer bosses directed her to buy stock for him, she would buy a smaller amount for herself. Her shrewdness paid off, and thousands of low-income students will benefit, through the scholarships her donation will fund.

We love that Bloom was the secret millionaire on the clerical staff and the big-hearted philanthropist who demonstrated that any of us can make a huge impact in the world.

–Jeannie Ralston


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