An Extraordinary Life and Gift
Sitting outside a senior center in Phoenix, Ariz., wearing his signature baseball cap and backpack, a clean-cut homeless man would surprise many with an extraordinary gift and a reminder that you can't judge a book by its cover.
Rita Belle, a registered nurse who met Richard Leroy Walters at the senior center, became one of the few people to befriend this homeless man before he died. She tried to help him get off the streets, assisting with doctors' appointments, grocery shopping, and even finding him a place to live. But Richard didn't seem to care much for material possessions, and the only hints of the legacy he'd leave behind came from his mysterious phone calls discussing finances and income taxes. "I'm sure that's when he was making his trades and so on," Rita said in an interview with National Public Radio (NPR). "He was involved in investing; we talked investments a lot."
An Unexpected Surprise
In 2007, Ball State University, NPR, the senior center, a Catholic mission, and several other nonprofits that were important to Richard received unexpected, substantial gifts from his estate, which was worth about $4 million.
Richard graduated from Ball State in 1954 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry and physics. He was a member of the National Math and Science Society Sigma Zeta while attending Ball State. He earned his master's degree in engineering from Purdue University, and served during the Korean War in the United States Marine Corps.
Upon retirement as a jet propulsion engineer at AlliedSignal Inc., Richard moved to Phoenix and survived off of services provided by a Catholic mission and a local hospital. He retained few material possessions, despite his large estate, not even owning a car. He had no spouse or children.
Richard's unconventional path led him to become a great philanthropist who generously supported organizations that touched his life. Loyal to his alma mater, he made a gift of approximately $400,000 to the Ball State Fund, which provides unrestricted support for the university's priority projects. His gift is a reflection of his values and commitment, providing a lasting legacy for future generations of Ball State students.