Harold Grinspoon first got into the landlord business more than 50 years ago, when he bought a duplex in West Springfield. That house led to another, and another, and then another – until he had built one of the largest real estate investment and management firms in the country.
His company, Aspen Square Management, which has properties in 16 states and specializes in multi-family homes and apartment buildings, has made him an extremely rich man.
Now, at age 85, Grinspoon and his wife, Diane Troderman, 73, have become the third Massachusetts couple to sign the Giving Pledge, created by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to persuade the world’s wealthiest people to donate most of their fortunes to charity.
Why did Grinspoon sign on? His answer is simple: He took the pledge, he said, “to encourage other people to do it.”
If you’re a person of great affluence, “you have to ask yourself a question: what are you going to do with your wealth?” said Grinspoon, reached at his home in Longmeadow, “and I’d like to do something meaningful and creative with mine.”
To date, he has put $390 million into his charitable Harold Grinspoon Foundation, which so far has distributed $170 million of that. He says that, upon his death, most of his remaining assets will go to philanthropy, too.
Grinspoon’s giving is mainly focused on Jewish causes. His foundation runs programs such as PJ Library, which distributes free books and music with Jewish themes, and JCamp 180, which supports Jewish summer camps.
After a diagnosis of tongue cancer about 25 years ago, “I figured there had to be more to life than making money,” said Grinspoon, who grew up in the Auburndale neighborhood of Newton, “so I decided I’d start thinking about giving away money intelligently.”
To date, the Giving Pledge, launched in 2010, has 137 “pledgers” (a family or couple counts as one pledger) from 14 countries. It is aimed at billionaires -- or people who would be billionaires if not for their giving – and originally focused on the US but went international in 2013.
The first Massachusetts couple to sign the Giving Pledge were Winchester residents Bill and Joyce Cummings, who own the Woburn real estate company Cummings Properties and whose charitable Cummings Foundation has more than $1 billion in assets. Seth Klarman, president of the Boston hedge fund Baupost Group, and his wife Beth, who is president of their charitable Klarman Family Foundation, valued at nearly $450 million, also have signed on.