Robert Wilson, 86, Dies of Apparent Suicide; Multi-Millionaire Tried to Give Away Fortune Before Death

Robert W. Wilson, 86, reportedly took his own life by leaping from his apartment in New York City just months after suffering a debilitating stroke. His death has rocked the financial and philanthropic worlds.

"He was 86 and suffered a stroke a few months ago. He always said he didn't want to suffer, and when the time came, he would be ready," friend Stephen Viscusi told the New York Post.

Wilson was the founder of Wilson Associates, which wound up being worth an estimated $800 million in 2000. Wilson wanted to give away the majority of his fortune before he died; he chose causes that were near to his heart and invested significant amounts of money in them, including nature conservancies and Catholic schools.

"He was the most committed person I have ever known," Bonnie Burnham, president of World Monuments Fund, told the Post. "More than his financial contributions, he brought an astute mind and sharp wit to the organization. He will be missed greatly and long remembered as a visionary donor."

Wilson was an avowed atheist but chose to help out floundering Catholic schools.

"I realized that Catholic schools were closing all over the country, and Bill Gates probably didn't have enough money to save them," Wilson told Bloomberg News in 2010.

"I'm an atheist but I think the schools are especially good," Wilson told the Financial Times.

At age 86, Wilson managed to give away the majority of his fortune but complained that he still had $100 million to give away. He had no children and his 35-year marriage ended several years ago. Wilson leaves behind one brother, who lives in Michigan.

Police believe that Wilson willingly took his own life and did not deem the death suspicious in any way. His apartment window was left open when authorities arrived. Wilson leaped from the 16th floor of his luxury building. He left a note for those who found his body, though the contents of that note have not been made public.