Who at UM was told about Dr. Robert Anderson’s alleged sexual abuse? Report names names

University of Michigan officials knew as early as 1975 that the late Dr. Robert Anderson…

Who at UM was told about Dr. Robert Anderson's alleged sexual abuse? Report names names 1
Who at UM was told about Dr. Robert Anderson's alleged sexual abuse? Report names names 2
Who at UM was told about Dr. Robert Anderson's alleged sexual abuse? Report names names 3

University of Michigan officials knew as early as 1975 that the late university Dr. Robert Anderson had been accused of sexual misconduct, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report, commissioned by the university, shows more than two dozen UM employees were told about Anderson’s alleged behavior over his nearly 40-year career. While several employees reported Anderson after learning of complaints, the majority of the people his patients told — including some of the most powerful people on campus — did not act to stop the doctor, the report found.

Multiple officials, ranging from coaches to university administrators, received “credible reports” about Anderson, the report from the WilmerHale law firm found. Despite that, Anderson was able to retire from the university in 2003. He died in 2008. 

Anderson’s alleged misconduct included unnecessary hernia and rectal examinations on patients who went to him for unrelated ailments, manual stimulation of male patients and arrangements in which he provided medical services in exchange for sexual contact, according to the report.

Here are the people the report says were told about that abuse: 

Thomas Easthope

One of the most powerful people named in the report was Thomas Easthope, who was hired as assistant vice president of student services in 1972 before being promoted to associate vice president in July 1980. Easthope, who died in February, received at least three complaints about Anderson, starting in 1978 or 1979, according to the report, when the doctor was director of University Health Service, known as UHS.

Easthope said he told his supervisor, then-Vice President of Student Services Henry Johnson, that they needed to “get rid” of Anderson. Johnson denied being made aware of the complaints, and the report found no evidence to the contrary. Johnson, who is retired, declined comment Tuesday when reached by The Detroit News.

Easthope said he fired Anderson, but documents show Easthope signed off on Anderson’s status change from director of UHS to a senior physician and approved a raise for Anderson effective in September 1980.

Other documents show Easthope interacted with Anderson again, including resolving conflicts between him and another doctor. In July 1981, Anderson transferred from UHS to the Athletic Department, where Anderson was “no longer within Mr. Easthope’s purview.” WilmerHale reported finding no evidence linking the transfer to complaints.

Bo Schembechler

Multiple former members of the football team reported telling former Coach Bo Schembechler about Anderson’s behavior. One said Schembechler told him to toughen up, while another said the coach told him physicals weren’t required to play football.

Another athlete said he told Schembechler about the behavior, and the coach told him he would look into it but did not apparently follow up. The athlete didn’t raise the matter again because he worried about his scholarship, the report said.

The WilmerHale report, however, includes in a footnote that multiple university employees who knew Schembechler said the coach would not have tolerated the misconduct had he been aware of it.

Schembechler died in 2006.

Jack Harvey and Ron Warhurst

A student-athlete alleged in a lawsuit that he told track coaches Jack Harvey and Ron Warhurst that Anderson was groping people’s genitals during exams and asked to see another physician.

The report notes both coaches “laughed” and refused the request.” Both coaches, in interviews with WilmerHale, denied the allegations.

Harvey led the team from 1975 to 1999; Warhurst replaced him as head coach in 2000 and stayed in the role until 2008. 

“Jack Harvey and Ron Warhurst had no knowledge that Dr. Anderson was abusing athletes, especially their athletes in the track and cross-country programs,” said John Shea, their Ann Arbor-based lawyer. “They deny being told by any of their athletes, or anyone else for that matter, that Anderson engaged in abusive conduct with them.”

Bill Johannesen and Cal Jenkins

Tad DeLuca, a member of the wrestling team, wrote a 10-page handwritten letter to his coaches, Bill Johannesen and Cal Jenkins, in July 1975. In the letter, DeLuca referred to Anderson as “Dr. Drop Your Drawers Anderson,” according to the report, adding “something is wrong with Dr. Anderson.” The letter, which was described as “long and hard to read,” also talked about his general unhappiness with the wrestling program and how he no longer wanted to be an athlete, and WilmerHale found it seemed “plausible” that Johannesen may have missed the comment.

Johannesen did not recall getting complaints about Anderson from members of his team, including DeLuca, he told investigators. He said he had heard jokes from the team about Anderson’s reputation, but no wrestler came to him to report anything directly. 

Johannesen could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Jenkins did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Don Canham

An athlete who said he told Schembechler about Anderson’s actions said the coach told him to tell Don Canham, the university’s athletic director at the time, according to the report. The athlete alleged in a lawsuit that he told Canham twice, in 1982 and 1983, but Canham took no action.

Shortly after DeLuca wrote to his coaches, Canham wrote a response to DeLuca rescinding his scholarship because he no longer wanted to be an athlete. WilmerHale noted it was impossible to know whether Canham had read DeLuca’s letter, but the report said DeLuca did not feel like losing his scholarship was related to his complaint about Anderson.

Canham died in 2005.

Jim Toy

Toy, an employee at the university’s Human Sexuality Office and the university’s gay male advocate, told Easthope that Anderson was “fooling around” with men at University Health Service in 1978 or 1979, according to WilmerHale.

Toy also worked with Keith Moree, a student volunteer in the Human Sexuality Office, to complain about Anderson to Easthope in late 1980 and early 1981, the report found. Moree reported misconduct by Anderson to Toy in 1980 and helped him to complain to Easthope, according to the report.

Marvin Parnes and Jane Hassinger

Marvin Parnes and Jane Hassinger were counselors in the university’s Counseling Services Office and reported Anderson to Easthope in fall 1979 based on what they were hearing from students.

That included reports from a gay student who told Hassinger that Anderson “subjected him to inappropriate, prolonged, and invasive examinations” after that student had sought out Anderson for his “gay-sensitive reputation,” according to the report. That also included a member of a football team telling Hassinger about an unspecific invasive procedure and a medical student telling her that Anderson “required male students to participate in classes involving genital examinations in Dr. Anderson’s office at UHS.”

Parnes also recalled multiple complaints about Anderson, including from a different member of the football team. They jointly reported Anderson to Easthope in 1979, they said. Easthope said he did not remember complaints from Parnes and Hassinger, according to the report.

Paul Schmidt

An athlete at the university in the late 1980s and early 1990s complained to now-Assistant Athletic Director and Head Trainer Paul Schmidt about Anderson’s exams and alleged Schmidt told the student to “get used to that,” according to the report. Schmidt told WilmerHale he did not remember making that comment.

He told investigators he did know Anderson performed digital rectal exams, but Schmidt “assumed they were appropriate and never thought that Dr. Anderson abused any patient.” The trainer held Anderson in high regard, the report said, and would have given Anderson the benefit of the doubt if a student-athlete had questioned him.

Schmidt could not be reached for comment Tuesday. He told The News last year in an email he was unaware of allegations against Anderson.

“As I shared with the police and the investigators, I had no knowledge of alleged assaults and have no recollection of the event described,” he wrote.

Several coaches, trainers not named

Of the nearly 50 current and former employees of the UM Athletic Department interviewed by WilmerHale, none reported getting complaints from athletes.

But athletes said they reported Anderson to multiple coaches. That includes a basketball team member reporting Anderson’s “strange behavior” to a now-deceased assistant coach who is not named in the report. Other reports included an athlete telling the men’s gymnastics head coach in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The coach, who is not named and now deceased, shrugged and changed the subject, according to the report.

Another athlete told a trainer she didn’t want to see Anderson again after he gave her a breast exam while moaning. The trainer reportedly did not ask why and did not recall anyone telling them they didn’t want to see Anderson.

An athlete on the women’s track team reported Anderson in the early ’90s to an athletic director, who later did not recall hearing about it. Two coaches who are not named in the report were present at later meetings where the behavior was discussed, according to information provided by university police, but neither recalled the meeting. One coach told investigators that he would have reported it to the athletic director had he heard about misconduct.

UHS employees

The WilmerHale report also found eight instances where patients shared concerns with UHS personnel.

One patient reported asking a UHS scheduler to assign him to a different doctor after Anderson had exposed himself during an exam. The patient told the scheduler that Anderson had “behaved inappropriately last time,” and the scheduler replied, “I understand.”

Another patient told university police that in or around 1978, he told a clerk at UHS while leaving the building that “Anderson had conducted an uncomfortable rectal examination that lasted longer than it should have.” The patient “caused a scene” the next year when they returned and learned Anderson still worked there, the report said.

A patient who had several rectal exams from Anderson in the late 1970s reported complaining about Anderson to a new physician who treated him a few years later. That physician, who the patient could not remember the name of, told the patient they didn’t “have to worry” about Anderson anymore because he was gone, according to the report.

A former physician at University Hospital who volunteered in UHS’s Gay Men’s Health Clinic in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s reported several patients told him about Anderson’s unnecessary genital exams when they had appointments for unrelated problems, such as a sore throat. The physician said he encouraged patients to file complaints but did not report them himself. 

A female patient who saw Anderson in the ‘80s said Anderson made her feel uncomfortable during an exam by spending an “extended amount of time” examining her vagina. A nurse was also present during the exam, she said. The patient later told a receptionist she wanted a different doctor because of Anderson’s behavior.

Michigan Medicine

WilmerHale also found two accounts that might have come to the attention of employees at Michigan Medicine, UM’s health system.

A patient told investigators that in the ’90s he told his therapist, who was a clinical social worker at University Hospital, that Anderson “attempted to manually stimulate his genitals during a medical appointment” at Anderson’s private practice. The social worker did not recall hearing a complaint about Anderson.

Anderson also disclosed a lawsuit on a credentialing application in 1996 that had been filed against him and later dismissed. WilmerHale couldn’t find evidence the university looked into the suit, but it alleged Anderson “performed inappropriate breast, pelvic, and rectal examinations on a female patient.”

Michigan Medicine went on to approve Anderson’s credential five more times, the report found. WilmerHale did not find evidence the university checked into the lawsuit any of those times.


Twitter: @Hayley__Harding

Staff Writer Kim Kozlowski contributed.

Our special thanks to:detroitnews.com


Enjoy our news? Please spread the word :)