Although a New York appeals court ruled several weeks ago that Worcester Academy, a preparatory school in Massachusetts, would not have to relinquish a major bequest because the school now admits girls, that decision will probably be appealed, according to a lawyer involved in the case.
At issue is an annual income of about $100,000 from a trust left to the school so long as it "continues to be operated as a preparatory school for boys." The court ruled that John Edwards, who died in 1968, intended the trust of more than $1 million for the school provided that it "prepares boys for college entrance"--a proviso that the court believes the school continues to meet, even though it began to accept female students in 1974.
Victor Meyers, the lawyer for Christ Episcopal Church in Hudson, N.Y., which is next in line for the bequest, said he expects the church to appeal the decision to New York's highest court. The church must decide before the end of this month.
The Rev. C. Robert Lewis, a rector at the church, said the church's vestry would probably make that decision at its regular meeting next week.
Mr. Lewis said that the church's leaders have "felt that the [Worcester] school was disqualified" from the bequest by its specific terms, and that he was concerned about "adverse publicity."
"We weren't trying to strip any school of its income," the rector said.
Chartered by Massachusetts in 1834, Worcester Academy originally admitted women, becoming an all-boys' school in the late 19th century. When enrollment began to sag in the 1970's, it became coeducational again.
Worcester has not received the income from Dr. Edward's trust since December 1980, when the trustees for the alumnus's estate began court proceedings to clarify the school's right to remain a beneficiary, according to John A. Bloom, the academy's headmaster.
If the academy loses, Mr. Bloom said, "it would be too extreme to say that the school would have to close, but several years ago, that might have been the case. No school can look blithely at the loss of $100,000 in operating income."
"I will feel much better when we know there are no further roadblocks," he added.