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Adrian College music professor resigns after sexual misconduct allegations resurface

  • Dwight-Burdette-3

    Herrick Tower at Adrian College in 2010

  • Thomas-Hodgman

    Adrian College's choir director Thomas Hodgman.

    Handout. Not Blade photo.

ADRIAN — An Adrian College music professor and choir director accused of sexually abusing two students decades ago has resigned.

Frank Hribar, vice president for enrollment and student affairs for the college, confirmed in an email to The Blade that Thomas Hodgman resigned “for personal reasons.”

“The college will make no further comment regarding this matter,” he said.

Mr. Hodgman could not be reached for comment.

Joelle Casteix, 47, has long said she was abused by Mr. Hodgman in the 1980s when he was a teacher at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana., Calif. Documents released after a settlement with the diocese show Mr. Hodgman admitted to school officials about the abuse of two teenage students.

He resigned his position in 1989 and has worked at Adrian College since 1999. Mr. Hodgman claims the documents are "false and unofficial." Adrian College has long stood by him, calling him "an exemplary faculty member" in 2005 when the documents were first released.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has campaigned against the college’s support of Mr. Hodgman, despite its knowledge of his past transgressions. In an emailed statement, SNAP Toledo leader Claudia Vercellotti accused the college and President Jeffrey Docking of secretly firing Mr. Hodgman after covering up his behavior.

School officials previously admitted they confirmed Mr. Hodgman "engaged in inappropriate behavior while teaching in a California high school approximately 30 years ago," but argued they could take no action because Mr. Hodgman was tenured and a member of the Adrian College Faculty Union.

Ms. Casteix has repeatedly made public criticism of Adrian College for its relationship with Mr. Hodgman. She says she was 15 when the abuse started. She filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Orange County in 2003 — when California temporarily lifted its civil statute of limitations on such cases, clearing the way for hundreds of lawsuits to be filed against Catholic dioceses in the state.

She received $1.6 million, part of a $100 million settlement with dozens of victims — the largest payment at the time by a Catholic diocese to victims of alleged sexual abuse.

As part of the 2005 settlement, the diocese agreed it would not try to block the release of documents relating to the allegations. But Mr. Hodgman objected, and a judge declined to approve the release of the documents specific to his case, sending it to a higher court.

But some papers were released inadvertently in 2005, according to the Orange County Register, which printed parts of the letters. The Blade also obtained copies of the letters, and Ms. Casteix has published them online.

Mr. Hodgman was most recently excluded from an upcoming Adrian College Choir performance March 19 at the New England Symphonic Ensemble at Carnegie Hall in New York City. SNAP had sent letters to the production company, MidAmerica Productions, the participating schools, and Carnegie Hall, though it was unclear if their campaign was the reason for Mr. Hodgman’s removal from the event.

SNAP suggested Mr. Docking be removed as president and called for further action from college officials.

“We call on [the Adrian College] Board of Trustees to immediately investigate why Hodgman was allowed to leave the school quietly,” Ms. Vercellotti said. “We also call on them to demand full accountability from Jeffrey Docking for the decade-long cover-up of Hodgman’s behavior and his actions against Joelle Casteix, including besmirching her character. He — and the Adrian College Board of Trustees — owe her a full apology.” 

Contact Alexandra Mester amester@theblade.com419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.

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