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Published: Wednesday, 3/27/2013

Humble grad of Notre Dame bequeaths record $1.5M

Gift funds scholarships; details on donor scant

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Wideman Wideman
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Notre Dame Academy is flattered to have received a $1.5 million gift from a 1939 graduate named Dorothy Wideman, the largest in the academy’s history and one that should fund more scholarships for years.

But school leaders don’t know much about Ms. Wideman, other than she was vice president of her senior class and moved to New Jersey at some point after graduation.

And that, apparently, she was quite modest, according to Michael Downing, Notre Dame vice president of institutional advancement.

The woman, who was most likely in her early 90s, passed away in November. Those close to her honored her request not to have an obituary published. It is not even known if she ever married, Mr. Downing said.

According to Mr. Downing, the trust officer of her estate honored her wishes not to divulge more information about her to the academy. He assured the trust officer he would not divulge that person’s name. Also being kept under wraps is the bank where the $1.5 million was deposited so the trust could be established after her death.

The academy learned of the gift in December. It held off on an announcement, thinking it might learn more about Ms. Wideman in the coming weeks.

It didn’t. As the date drew closer to an annual scholarship event last Saturday, the academy decided to wait and announce it to attendees then.

An Internet search showed an elderly woman named Dorothy Wideman as having a New Jersey address, but did not provide more information.

Her gift is designed to work as a trust that makes all investments and operates the gift as an endowment. Returns on all investments are provided to Notre Dame once a year after trust expenses are deducted. That’ll probably occur in late fall or early winter, according to Mr. Downing.

He said Notre Dame won’t likely know until at least December how many scholarships and how much money can be awarded for 2014, the first year scholarships affiliated with this trust will be available. But he said he expects multiple scholarships ranging from several hundred to possibly a few thousand dollars.

“This came out of the blue for us,” Mr. Downing said. “The trust officer said she was a very private person and active in her church, a devout Catholic. He said she was concerned about Catholic education, and appreciated what she received [at Notre Dame].”

Keith Burwell, Toledo Community Foundation president, said this sort of scenario occurs more often than people think. Some donors of large sums want to remain private to avoid solicitors. Others feel their gestures are more genuine if they don’t draw attention to themselves, he said.

“I think folks in this community would be shocked if they knew how often this happens,” Mr. Burwell said.

One such donor who insisted on remaining anonymous had the foundation distribute a number of $10,000 checks to unnamed recipients after his death nine years ago. Those checks continued to be distributed until recently. Siblings of that individual since have started to rebuild that account for other philanthropy, Mr. Burwell said.

Notre Dame is touched by Ms. Wideman’s generosity, Mr. Downing said.

“It’s a tremendous, tremendous gift,” he said of the $1.5 million. “We know more about her generosity than we do about her as a person.”

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.



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