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Press Release

Gift is the largest-ever unrestricted gift to a San Diego nonprofit

February 2, 2023 – San Diego, CA – San Diego Foundation announced today that it has received a historic, transformative unrestricted $100 million cash gift from the estate of local entrepreneur Jay Kahn, the largest-ever gift of its kind to a San Diego nonprofit.

“Jay Kahn was a compassionate man who loved San Diego and wished for his legacy and estate to be used for the good of San Diego,” said Mark Stuart, President & CEO of San Diego Foundation. “We had no existing relationship with Jay until we learned that he believed San Diego Foundation would achieve his goal and honor his wishes. We are humbled by this incredible generosity and we will honor Jay by continuing to inspire enduring philanthropy and enable community solutions to improve the quality of life in the San Diego region.”

The first grants from Kahn’s gift, which is the third-largest gift of its kind to a U.S. community foundation, include $150,000 unrestricted grants to 10 San Diego-based music education nonprofits to advance their work with under-resourced children. The intent of the grants is to grow music appreciation in San Diego in memory of Kahn, a classical musician who played clarinet in symphonies at University of California San Diego and University of San Diego. The $1.5 million in total grants were awarded at the SDF Board of Governors retreat on February 2, 2023. Grantees included:

  • A Reason to Survive (ARTS), which offers free after-school arts education to South County youth and young people
  • Classics 4 Kids, which provides free live music programming to children at 236 San Diego County schools
  • David’s Harp Foundation, which serves system-affected and homeless youth to achieve academic success through music education
  • Guitars and Ukes in the Classroom, which trains, inspires and equips educators to engage students in learning through the joy of making music and the power of song
  • Heartbeat Music Academy, which provides affordable after-school music programs in preparation for enrollment at Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs)
  • San Diego Symphony, which makes music an integral part of the cultural fabric of the San Diego region
  • San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory, which provides ‘cradle through college’ music education through its flagship ensemble program, neighborhood engagement projects and early childhood music curriculum
  • San Diego Young Artists Music Academy, which offers programs in vocal, instrumental, choir, dance and many other positive activities in a healthy and safe environment
  • Voices of Our City, which reconnects San Diego’s unsheltered neighbors with hope and housing through the healing power of music, individualized care and advocacy
  • Young Lions Jazz Conservatory, which enriches the lives of middle and high school students by inspiring imagination, intellectual curiosity, character and self-confidence through jazz music instruction

Aside from a portion of Kahn’s gift that will support housing and other strategic plan initiatives, more than $86 million will establish the Jay Kahn Endowment Fund at San Diego Foundation so that Kahn’s legacy and impact continues to grow and transform San Diego County in perpetuity.

Kahn, who passed away at 90 years old, lived in San Diego’s Ocean Beach neighborhood from 1972 until his death in 2022. He worked in the clothing industry in the San Diego-Tijuana region, and amassed his fortune as an entrepreneur, eventually retiring early to manage his personal investment portfolio that included early investments in Price Club, the San Diego-based predecessor to Costco, and Apple.

Kahn’s gift is one of several unsolicited gifts in recent years for San Diego Foundation, including an $8 million gift from American novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott in 2020 to the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund.

Media Resources

Photo 1: Jay Kahn
Photo 2: Jay Kahn with Clarinet
Jay Kahn: Biography
Jay Kahn: Press Release

B-roll and photos from the announcement available upon request.

About San Diego Foundation

San Diego Foundation inspires enduring philanthropy and enables community solutions to improve the quality of life in our region. Our strategic priorities include advancing racial and social justice, fostering equity of opportunity, building resilient communities, and delivering world-class philanthropy to realize our vision of just, equitable and resilient communities. For more than 47 years, SDF and its donors have granted more than $1.4 billion to support nonprofit organizations strengthening our community. Learn more at


Lorena Nava Ruggero, San Diego Foundation,, 619-814-1365
Theresa Nakata, San Diego Foundation,, 619-890-1378
Bailey Hahn, Mixte,, 619-732-0789 x 224

About Jay Kahn

San Diego Foundation donor and establisher of legacy endowment fund

Jay Kahn was born on February 23, 1932, in Benton Harbor, Michigan, to a recently immigrated German father and his second-generation wife. His father, Gene, was a livestock dealer and the family farm shared a property line with an adjacent small airfield.

When Jay was 14, after just a couple of flying lessons, he figured out that the pilots typically left the ignition keys in their small single engine planes. Early in the morning Jay would sneak into the airfield and help himself to the planes stored there. In this way he learned to fly and was an avid pilot for the rest of his life. He eventually earned his license to fly larger, two-engine aircraft and flew all over the U.S.

He left Benton Harbor just out of high school after he was awarded a full scholarship to study clarinet at the University of Texas, Denton. Though he didn’t finish the program, classical music, specifically chamber music for winds, remained a lifelong passion of Jay’s and he played in several ensembles around San Diego, including orchestras at both UC San Diego and the University of San Diego.

Jay Kahn with clarinet

Jay worked as a salesperson for many years in the clothing industry, spending much of his time between San Diego and Mexico. This drew him to San Diego and permanently to Ocean Beach. In 1972, Jay bought a home on the cliffs in Ocean Beach that is as eclectic and unique as the community itself, and he almost never left. He loved Ocean Beach and was enamored of the Pacific.

Jay built his wealth through prudent investments. He befriended Sol Price and was an original investor in Price Club. His initial $25,000 investment became several million. When that happened, Jay retired. A later investment and purchase of $250,000 of Apple stock turned into $80 million. Jay hosted a weekly music rehearsal at his Ocean Beach home for years where he and friends would gather to play chamber music, followed by drinks and dinner. Jay was an avid, accomplished cook with a gourmet kitchen.

For many years, Jay played tennis several times a week. He entered and won a number of tournaments and met some of his best friends on the court, people he remained close to even after he stopped playing.

Jay was a risk taker who chose to be low profile in the San Diego community. He had regular dinners with friends and enjoyed discussing politics. He was a thinker who was progressive, open-minded and compassionate, though reclusive.

Jay wanted his estate and legacy to be managed and used for the good of San Diego, and believed that San Diego Foundation would achieve that goal and honor his wishes.

Gifts like Jay’s prove that giving back can last a lifetime and beyond. A legacy fund of any size can provide lasting benefits for you, your family and the causes and charities you care about most.

If you are considering ways to make an impact through a legacy fund, submit the form below to download our Guide to Building Your Charitable Legacy or contact our Donor Services team today.

Download the Charitable Legacy Guide

This valuable resource will help you understand how to set up a legacy fund and the lasting impact planned gifts can have for you, your family and your community.