Before Beverly Hills recluse Liliore Green Rains died at age 76 last November, she gave no hint that she intended to leave almost all of her quarter-billion-dollar fortune to six institutions that either hardly knew her or did not know her at all.
The childless widow, heir to an oil and real estate fortune estimated at more than $250 million, split $240 million equally among four schools and two hospitals, with few strings attached.
The first installment of $18 million each has already been received by Pomona College, Stanford University, Loyola Marymount University, Caltech, the Hospital of the Good Samaritan in Los Angeles and the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kan.
The gifts are the largest bequests most of the institutions have ever received, and will secure the future for some of the smaller recipients, but most were baffled as to why Rains chose them.
“We don’t even know anybody to write a thank-you to,” said Ted Gibbens, vice president for development at Pomona College. “It’s just a remarkable gift and its effect is profound.”
Although Stanford has received larger gifts, the $40 million Rains willed to the university is the largest bequest in the school’s history, officials there said. Yet, when asked about Stanford’s ties with Rains, a spokesman said, “That’s simple--there were none. It was a total surprise.”
At least Rains’ name was familiar, if only slightly, to the other four recipients.
Rains was a friend of Dr. Roy W. Menninger, president of the Menninger Foundation, and had previously given money to the famed psychiatric clinic. A foundation spokesman declined further comment.
She had also previously given to Caltech student aid funds and had what Caltech’s director of development called “a modest relationship” with the school. “We at least knew who she was,” Susan Pearce said.
In 1980, she gave $1 million to Loyola Law School’s William M. Rains Library, named for her husband, a well-known lawyer who graduated from the school in 1926 and died in 1947, one month after they were married. Three years ago, she gave $250,000 for Merrifield Hall, a classroom building at the law school.
Father James Loughran, president of Loyola Marymount, said Rains’ bequest--by far the largest gift in the school’s history--has tripled the school’s endowment fund from $20 million to $60 million. “We are securing our future with this. It’s an extraordinary blessing,” Loughran said.
Father Donald P. Merrifield, chancellor and former president of Loyola Marymount, a Roman Catholic school, was a friend of Rains and had possible explanations for some of the gifts.
‘Enough for $40 Million’
“I understand she had a nephew who graduated from Pomona College many years ago, and for Lily that would be reason to leave them $40 million,” Merrifield said. He said Rains once had a minor injury that was treated at Good Samaritan Hospital, and “I guess that was enough for $40 million.”
Merrifield described the reclusive heiress as “very bright, very gracious, very quick in making judgments, and very witty.” He said she was a Protestant and apparently did not have a college education, although she was interested in education.
Gibbens speculated that Rains may have perceived Pomona, Stanford and Caltech to be “the best of California,” which she could enhance with her money.
That belief was shared by James Doggett, one of Rains’ lawyers, who said, “I’m sure she felt they were outstanding institutions, and I think she took great interest in intellectual pursuits.”
Attorney Died Earlier
Perhaps the only one who knew Rains’ motives was Doggett’s late law partner, Frank Hubbard, a Stanford graduate who died after preparing Rains’ will in 1980.
Rains was one of three daughters of the late Burton Green, a pioneer developer of Beverly Hills and a founding partner of Belridge Oil Co. Her inherited fortune greatly increased in 1979, when Belridge was sold for $3.6 billion to Shell Oil Co.
She has one living sister, Dolly Green of Beverly Hills. Her other sister, Burton Bettingen, died in March.
In her will, Rains gave $1 million each to Bettingen’s son and daughter and to their spouses. She left hundreds of thousands of dollars to their children, $2 million to a couple in Italy, and a few smaller bequests to friends and employees.
To Thomas B. Blakiston Jr., trainer of her more than 50 jumping and show horses, she gave ranch property in Ventura County.
Called ‘an Enigma’
Family members did not respond to phone calls about her. A Green family employee who did not want to be identified called her will “an enigma.”
Rains had given generously, and always anonymously, to a wide variety of charities, the employee said. “Her charitable requests were enormous, and that’s all we would do--go through them and decide how much to give. She never wanted to be identified, and she didn’t even want to have her picture taken. Not even a snapshot.”
She spent most of her life living in a huge Georgian-colonial mansion she had built on a hilltop on Doheny Road, on four acres given to her by her father, who died in 1965 at age 96. The estate was sold this year to entertainer Merv Griffin for $5 million.
Friends concur that Rains was a “charming, lovely, gracious woman” who was active socially in the 1950s and ‘60s, when she headed many civic groups, including the Los Angeles Girl Scout Council, the California Assn. for Health and Welfare and the Big Sister League.
Served Tea to Employees
Apparently no one knew what caused her long illness, during which she withdrew into seclusion and finally became an invalid. In her declining years, they said, her greatest pleasure was serving afternoon refreshments to her employees and taking an active interest in their families.
Even when visiting her Ventura County ranch to admire the horses she loved, Rains kept away from people, Blakiston said. She never attended the horse shows at which they won many awards.
When she died in November, there was no funeral.
Rains’ will places no restrictions on the schools’ use of her money, allowing them to use the principal as well as the interest to “further (their) objects and purposes.” Good Samaritan and the Menninger Foundation are to use only the interest.
The first installments were paid last spring, and the remaining $22 million due each institution is expected to be distributed next year.
Add to Endowments
Spokesmen for the institutions said they will put the money in endowment funds and will draw 5% interest that will give each an annual income of about $2 million.
On being notified of the bequest, Pomona College immediately increased faculty salaries “to a level that is competitive with the very finest liberal arts colleges in the country,” Gibbens said.
Loughran said Loyola Marymount trustees may use some of the money to “clear up some debts as we prepare to engage (in) an ambitious building program, and to provide financial aid for students.”
A spokesman for Good Samaritan Hospital said, “There is a good probability that the money will go into some kind of basic, as well as applied, research.”