Richard Gilder, a billionaire investor and benefactor who was instrumental in revitalizing two neglected exemplars of American democracy — the study of American history and Central Park — died on Tuesday May 12 2020 at his home in Charlottesville, Va. He was 87.
Since graduating from Yale University, he has worked as a stockbroker on Wall Street, first at A.G. Becker & Co. then, in 1968, he founded his own firm, now known as Gilder Gagnon Howe & Co. LLC.. As an investor, he was considered a risk-taker, buying into start-ups, like Wal-Mart and Home Depot, that showed potential. By the end of the 1990s, its 70 employees were managing $11 billion and Mr. Gilder had amassed a fortune, much of which he was in a position to give away.
He is also Trustee Emeritus and former Chairman of the Manhattan Institute; Trustee of the American Museum of Natural History; the New-York Historical Society; and The Thomas Jefferson Foundation. He is also a co-founder and co-chairman of the Club for Growth.Co-founder of the Lincoln Prize and The Frederick Douglass Book Award.
In 1974 he founded the Central Park Community Fund and, in 1980, became a founding and continuing trustee of the Central Park Conservancy. He is the recipient of honorary degrees from Gettysburg College, St. John’s University, and the Yale Medal.
Richard Gilder Jr., a fifth-generation New Yorker known for his tweedy professorial appearance, was born on May 31, 1932, in Manhattan, the great-great-grandson of a Jewish immigrant from Bohemia. Richard Sr. was a property manager for a real estate company. Mr. Gilder’s mother, Jane (Moyse) Gilder, was a homemaker.
He left the Bronx High School of Science after a semester because of disciplinary problems and completed his secondary education at the Mount Hermon School for Boys (now Northfield Mount Hermon) in Massachusetts. At Yale, he switched majors from economics to history and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1954. He lasted a month or two at Yale Law School before dropping out.
Mr. Gilder’s marriages to Britt-Marie Lagerljung, Virginia Chromiak and Teresa Maria Dempsey ended in divorce. In addition to Ms. Chiles, whom he married in 2005, he is survived by four children from his first marriage, Ginny (an Olympian rower), Peggy, Britt-Louise and Richard Gilder III; a sister, Peggy Tirschwell; and 10 grandchildren.