Home Depot co-founder pledges to give away billions before he dies

Image 1 of 17

At 88, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus is in a hurry.

He wants to give away more than half his estimated 4,2 billion dollar fortune right now before he dies.

In his hometown of Atlanta earlier this summer, Marcus walked the halls of Grady Memorial Hospital, where his nonprofit, The Marcus Foundation, has donated about $50 million dollars over the last few years.

On this day, Marcus was helping to open the new outpatient clinic at Grady's Marcus Stroke and Neuroscience Center.

It's the next chapter in a plan to turn Grady into one of the Southeast's top stroke center.

"We're very proud of this," Marcus says.  "We're proud of the bottom line, which is people are being helped here. People are being saved here, every single day."

Grady, the region's largest indigent care provider, was on the brink of closing just a decade ago.

Today, thanks to the Marcus Foundation, the hospital has a new, state-of-the-art trauma center, and is a regional stroke center treating critically ill patients from Georgia and neighboring states, says Marcus Stroke Center Medical Director Dr. Mike Frankel.

"It wasn't that way 10 years ago," Dr. Frankel says. "So with a gift from Bernie Marcus we were able to create a center and attract the best and the brightest physicians and really be prepared for what we know is a very common disease."

In 2010 Bernie and his wife Billi Marcus signed the Giving Pledge, vowing to give away at least half their wealth in their lifetime.

For 20 years they've been quietly funding medical programs in their hometown.

They began by creating the Marcus Autism Center, then funded the organization Autism Speaks.

At Shepherd Center, Marcus has donated millions, funding programs like the SHARE Military Initiative, a rehabilitation program that allows post 9/11 combat veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries to receive care at no cost to them.

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, which now runs the Marcus Autism Center has received about $50 million.

In 2016, Piedmont Hospital gave $75 million for Piedmont Heart Institute.

And remember, that vow we mentioned, to give away half their fortune?

"We'll we're giving more than half, actually," says Marcus.  "We're giving about 90 percent of my total estate. Because we think issues like this, charities like this, that are saving lives, are critically important."