A 1948 square dance at the Henry Street Settlement.

She Worked Until Age 96, Living Modestly. Then Came The Incredible Gift.

Sylvia Bloom didn’t want many things, according to a recent report in The New York Times. Every now and then she craved good chocolate. After she retired at age 96, she hoped to find a lively bridge game. Professional and personal independence were always a priority.

But it became apparent, after her 2016 death, that she did want one thing passionately: To alleviate want in others.

Bloom, who worked for nearly seven decades as a legal secretary at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, was recently revealed to have left a fortune to Manhattan’s Henry Street Settlement, Hunter College and an as yet unnamed scholarship fund. Her donations, which altogether total $8.2 million, are intended to be used to finance scholarships. Henry Street Settlement, at which Bloom’s niece and estate executor Jane Lockshin is treasurer of the board, received $6.24 million. The remaining $2 million will be split between Hunter College, Bloom’s alma mater, and third scholarship fund.

No one, apparently, knew that Bloom had amassed such wealth. Lockshin theorized that even Bloom’s late husband, Raymond Margolies, may not have known the extent of her assets. Lockshin told The Times that her aunt had built her fortune through savvy investing, following the lead of her bosses, who would, in her earlier years at the firm, have her purchase stocks on their behalf.

She would follow orders, Lockshin said, “and then buy the same stock for herself, but in a smaller amount because she was on a secretary’s salary.”

Bloom had a vested interest in education. Through her early childhood, the Great Depression and the first post-war years she went to public schools, finally completing a degree at Hunter College by taking night classes and working a day job. Paul Hyams, of Cleary Gottliebe Steen & Hamilton’s human resources department, told The Times that Bloom had always wished she had gotten a law degree.

While Hunter College and the unnamed scholarship fund have yet to announce their intentions for distributing Bloom’s gift, the Henry Street Settlement told The Times that their portion of her legacy would go to their Expanded Horizons College Success Program, which funds undergraduate education for students who have taken part in Henry Street Settlement programs.

Author

Talya Zax

Talya Zax

Talya Zax is the Forward’s deputy culture editor. Contact her at zax@forward.com or on Twitter, @TalyaZax.

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