Stiller named Weinberg president

Attorney to quit trial work in order to devote time to charitable foundation

January 22, 2004|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

Shale D. Stiller, a prominent local attorney who has represented some of the area's most powerful people and institutions, will become the next president and chief executive officer of the $2 billion Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation next year.

Stiller, a partner at Piper Rudnick LLP, a longtime Weinberg trustee and a trustee of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, will begin working at the Owings Mills-based foundation in August. He and departing President Bernard Siegel will work together until the following February, when Siegel will retire at the mandatory age of 75.

Stiller, 68, said he will remain of counsel to Piper Rudnick, but will give up trial work and will not take on any new clients.

"It's like going into the most important trial in my life," Stiller said of his new job. "I have an opportunity to help so many people in an intelligent way ... and this is a case I want to win more than any other case I've been involved in."

The foundation, one of the 25 largest in the country, is the legacy of real-estate baron Harry Weinberg, a sixth-grade dropout who parlayed his investments into a $900 million fortune by the time of his death in 1990. He left virtually all of it to the foundation, which now gives out about $100 million a year.

With the help of Stiller, his attorney, Weinberg created a charity with an elaborate set of rules.

He required that his name, and his wife's, be placed somewhere on any building to which his foundation had given more than $250,000 - a rule that, as the charity's assets grew, spread the names to more than 60 in the Baltimore area alone and many more around the world.

Half the money given yearly must go to building or renovation projects, and half to programs. Jewish causes and non-Jewish causes get 25 percent each, with the rest unrestricted as to religion. Universities, museums and symphonies aren't to receive anything - Weinberg wanted most of his money to be spent on the poor. About 25 percent of each year's giving goes to Maryland recipients.

To make sure his wishes would be carried out, Weinberg added a clause prohibiting any amendment to the charter.

Unlike most foundations of its size, the Weinberg charity operates with a low public profile and only a handful of employees, leaving virtually all decisions in the hands of its president and four trustees.

Pablo S. Eisenberg, a senior public policy fellow at Georgetown University and a longtime critic of the foundation's charter, said Stiller should move to make the charity more visible and accountable to the public.

"I think they need to open up and convince the community they are doing good stuff and that they are no longer back in the medieval philanthropic ages," Eisenberg said, referring to the days when even the foundation's phone number was hard for prospective grant applicants to find.

But big changes aren't likely. In a statement, Siegel said that a prime consideration in choosing Stiller as president was finding someone "who would remain true to the wishes of our founders." And Stiller said he plans to honor his client's policies and low-overhead operation.

"Harry Weinberg made this money," Stiller said. "In our country, people have the right to do with their money what they want to."

Darrell Friedman, a fund-raising consultant who traveled with Stiller as former president of the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, said he has witnessed Stiller's commitment to the foundation's principles. "What I'm impressed about is his passion for people that are disadvantaged," Friedman said. "I believe he will be a great standard-bearer for that foundation ... . and will establish this foundation as a model for others to emulate."

In addition to keeping his law practice and remaining on the board of Hopkins and other foundations, Stiller plans to keep teaching at the University of Maryland Law School, where he is an adjunct professor.

Stiller is married to Ellen M. Heller, a Baltimore circuit judge.

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