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August 21, 2007

Purdue, family agree to settlement in student's death

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University and the parents of Wade Steffey have reached a settlement that will provide a $500,000 payment to the family and create a $100,000 endowment for a scholarship in the deceased student's name.

"This agreement brings to a close a tragic chapter in the history of the Purdue family," Joseph L. Bennett, Purdue vice president for university relations, said Tuesday (Aug. 21). "The entire university community continues to mourn for the loss of this young man and for the pain that was felt most intensely by Wade's family and close friends.

"The settlement provides financial compensation for the family and also assures that Wade's memory will live on through the students who have access to a Purdue education because of the scholarship."

Under the terms of the settlement, Wade's father, Dale Steffey, and mother, Dawn Adams, will give up any further claim to remuneration from Purdue, Bennett said. The Wade Steffey Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to students from Indiana to attend Purdue.

Bennett said the scholarship will be awarded initially for the fall semester 2008. It will be administered through Purdue's Division of Financial Aid, which will establish the exact process for application. The scholarship is being funded through earnings from Purdue's endowment.

The settlement to Wade Steffey's parents was paid in a lump sum on Tuesday (Aug. 21) from the university's insurance reserves, Bennett said.

Wade Steffey died Jan. 13 when he entered an electrical vault in the basement of Owen Hall, a Purdue student residence building. The Tippecanoe County coroner ruled that his death was the result of accidental electrocution. Steffey's body was found March 19 after extensive searches by police agencies, university staff and hundreds of volunteers.

An analysis of the accident by the Rimkus Group, an independent consulting firm hired by Purdue, concluded that Steffey had gained access to the vault by climbing over or through a railing and going through an exterior door located about four feet below ground level. The door, which was intended only for maintenance purposes, either was unlocked or not securely latched.

Source: Joseph L. Bennett, (765) 494-2082,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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