Richard Herman, who died last November at the age of 100, left $28 million to the Greater Washington social service agency Family Matters.

Tonya Smallwood, the president and CEO of Family Matters, at a news conference Wednesday called the bequeathal one of the largest donations ever received from a single donor to a D.C. social service agency.

She said the money will “have a direct, intangible impact on district families for years to come.”

“By all measures, it was an extraordinary gift,” Smallwood said.

Some of the money will be used to establish a series of arts programs both because Herman loved the arts and the arts “have always been a part of healing and expression,” she said.

Herman made his first donation to Family Matters in 1967. The organization has been operating in the D.C. area for 130 years, serving low-income children, teen mothers, families and seniors in such areas as mental health and counseling, child welfare, youth development and financial development.

Herman came from an unobservant German Jewish family who worked to assimilate into American life. However, a family member, Betsy Paull, said he "certainly was proud to be a Jew.”

Herman’s father worked at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and Southern Railway, working his way up to chief engineer and amassing enough money for Herman not to have to work, although he had a degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Herman was an only child who was “shy," said Paull, whose mother was Herman’s first cousin. "He was very unassuming, not pompous, a gentle person.”
Paull said he did leave some of his money to the arts, but “this is by far was his grandest bequest.”