Man Built a Multi-Million Dollar Fortune and Then Secretly Gave it All Away When He Died

By: Lauren | Published: Dec 29, 2023

One man from Indiana left more than $13 million with his lawyer to be distributed among local charities.

None of his friends even knew he was wealthy, as he lived a quiet, frugal life, dedicated to serving his country and his city.

Who Was Terry Kahn?

Terry Kahn was born in 1943; he was raised in Tucson, Arizona and attended the University of Southern Carolina before joining the Army.

US advisors and South Vietnamese troops gathered in front of a tank during the Vietnam War

Source: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

He served in the Vietnam War, and when he returned home, he almost immediately began working at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Working for the VA

In college, Khan studied psychology and public administration, so he was the perfect fit, as a veteran himself, at the VA medical center.

A Veterans Affairs building is illuminated by orange light

Source: Flickr

First he worked in New Orleans and Nashville before settling at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis in 1976, where he would continue to work for the next 27 years.

Terry Kahn’s Love of the Simple Life

It’s said that Terry lived a quiet and frugal life. Even when his mother passed away in 2000 and left Terry a significant inheritance, Terry didn’t change his lifestyle at all.

Terry Kahn’s house in Indianapolis, Indiana

Source: YouTube

He never bought a cellphone, and he remained in his modest home in Indiana that sold for only $200,000 after he passed in 2021.

What Did Terry Spend His Money On?

Terry Kahn was a big fan of the local sports teams, including the Colts and Pacers. It’s said that the only big purchases he ever made were season tickets for the games.

Overhead shot showing Pacers center Rik Smitts, in dark uniform, rebounding in the paint while surrounded by a trio of Boston Celtics

Source: Bob Stowell/Getty Images

However, true to himself, he would sell tickets to the games he couldn’t attend and made most of his investment back every year.

Terry Kahn Needed Legal Help

In the 1990s, Kahn met lawyer Dwayne Isaacs as they both worked for a healthcare foundation. But in 2010, their relationship changed after Kahn called Isaacs to ask for legal help.

Dwayne Isaacs working in his home office

Source: YouTube

Isaacs told the press that his friend Terry asked him to write a will for the $3-$4 million he had at that time, stating that he wanted to give it all to charity.


Terry Began Researching Charities

At Isaacs’ recommendation, Terry Kahn began researching charities to find out who he wanted to bequeath his millions to.

Terry Kahn at a local event in Indianapolis

Source: Reddit

By 2021, Isaacs knew the charities his friend had selected, and he finally told his lawyer, Dwayne Isaaccs that it wasn’t $3 million to be donated, but more than $13 million.


Dwayne Isaacs Was in Shock

Dwyane told the press, “We were very surprised. And at that point in time, I think my quote was, ‘[Terry], why didn’t you let us know?’”

Dwayne Isaacs talking to the camera

Source: YouTube

And when Terry Kahn passed at the age of 77 on January 13, 2021, Dwayne got straight to work contacting the chosen charities and explaining that they were receiving a big donation.


The Donation Plan

Isaacs and Kahn had worked out a plan so that each charity chosen would receive $1 million; Kahn had selected organizations that weren’t so big that the donation wouldn’t mean anything, but large enough to handle it.

Exterior of the HVAF building in Indianapolis

Source: YouTube

When Isaacs contacted a few of these organizations, they didn’t believe the donation was real. In fact, Emmy Hildebrand at HVAF didn’t even respond to Isaac’s original email because she thought it was a scam.


Isaacs Chose Charities Close to Terry’s Heart

Terry didn’t hand select all 13 charities before he passed, but Isaacs made sure that in his selection, he chose organizations that were close to Terry’s heart.

Exterior of the Teacher’s Treasures office in Indianapolis

Source: YouTube

That included those that focused on veterans affairs, children’s sports and education, and health care.


$1 Million Can Go a Long Way

Margaret Sheehan at Teacher’s Treasures was incredibly excited to learn that her foundation was receiving $1 million, which is two times their annual budget.

Margaret Sheehan from Teacher’s Treasures

Source: YouTube

And because Terry didn’t specify what the money needed to be used for, such as building in his name, these groups can use the funds for what they actually need.


The Act of Giving

There aren’t many people in the world like Terry Kahn. He not only gave $13 million to charity, but he also didn’t accept or want any of the recognition or glory for doing so.

Icons of the 13 charities that received money from Terry Kahn

Source: YouTube

But Terry changed the lives of people around the city of Indianapolis forever, and he will not soon be forgotten.