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Waidner estate lawsuit settled

After a two-year legal battle over the estate of a wealthy Baltimore County alumnus, Dickinson College - a small, private liberal arts college in central Pennsylvania - will receive the largest charitable gift in its 220-year history, college President William G. Durden announced this week.

Durden said the college will receive a multimillion-dollar gift as a result of the settlement of a lawsuit it filed in 2001 in Florida.

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The suit accused two Baltimore lawyers of persuading alumnus Robert A. Waidner to alter his will to benefit them and nonprofit institutions they were associated with, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

Under the settlement, the former Riderwood resident's wealth will remain with his family until the death of his widow.

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Settlement papers filed in Baltimore estimated that if the estate's value stabilized at $20 million, Dickinson would get $2.5 million every five years, GBMC would get $1.25 million, and the BSO and charities would share a smaller amount.

After 25 years, the fund would be dissolved and the remainder divided, with the college getting 50 percent, GBMC 25 percent and the BSO 15 percent.

"It's a welcome support," said BSO President John Gidwitz. The money would be used to endow an orchestra position, he said.

Waidner, a former chief executive officer of Standard Fusee Corp. designated the 2,000-student college in Carlisle, Pa., as the major beneficiary once he and his wife, Elizabeth, had died. Waidner died in 1999 in Florida.

College officials were surprised to learn after his death that Waidner had changed his original trust document, eliminating the bequest to Dickinson and setting up a permanent foundation to make much smaller donations to various causes, including the school.

The suit alleged that John H. Somerville and Robert Sloan, attorneys with Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, exercised "undue influence" over Waidner, who the college contended was in failing health and vulnerable to suggestions from lawyers.

Durden announced the settlement Tuesday in front of a portrait of Robert A. Waidner in the Waidner-Spahr Library, according to the college's Web site.

"All beneficiaries acknowledge that the trustees engaged in no improper acts and did not exert any undue influence in connection with Mr. Waidner's estate planning," he said.

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The Associated Press contributed to this article.


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