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Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford pulls former headmaster’s name from athletic facility

Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford pulls former headmaster’s name from athletic facility

reporter photo

WALLINGFORD — Choate Rosemary Hall is removing the name of former headmaster Edward Shanahan from one of its athletic facilities. 

The school is renaming Shanahan Field, a multi-field sports complex on campus, to the “Class of ’76 Field” in honor of the field’s lead donor, a 1976 Choate graduate, headmaster Alex Curtis announced to students and staff during the school’s convocation Tuesday night. The complex was donated in honor of Shanahan in 2010. 

An investigation commissioned by Choate last year found Shanahan, headmaster from 1991 to 2011, was one of several former Choate administrators that failed to report allegations of sexual misconduct by teachers to authorities. Shanahan resigned as a life trustee of the school weeks after the report was released in April 2017.

School spokeswoman Lorraine Connelly said Wednesday the decision to change the name of the athletic facility had nothing to do with the investigation. 

“It’s not really related,” Connelly said. “The board and Ed Shanahan have been discussing this for a while and Ed supported the renaming of the field.”

“The trustees felt the time was right for this change and are pleased to honor the lead donor of the field and an extraordinary class at Choate Rosemary Hall,” Curtis told staff and students.

Shanahan’s name has been removed from a granite wall at the field and the school’s motto, “Fidelitas Et Integritas,” which translates to fidelity and integrity, will be placed there instead. 

“Mr. Shanahan worked with the board on this change. Indeed, since it was Mr. Shanahan who revived the school’s motto of, ‘Fidelitas Et Integritas,’ he is very pleased to have the motto so prominent at the site,” Curtis said at convocation, which is held to mark the beginning of the new school year. 

The motto, Curtis said, “will serve as a meaningful gateway to our playing fields — a fitting a reminder of our foundational principles to our players, coaches, and fans as they head out to competition.”

The complex includes two turf fields, stadium seating and lights, and is designed to accommodate lacrosse, field hockey, soccer, and football. It is located off of Gunpowder Creek Road on the Choate campus. 

Shanahan said in a statement that “upon reflection, it didn’t give sufficient acknowledgment to the generosity of the donor and the class of ‘76, and I’m pleased that it does now.”

The school’s investigation last year indicated Shanahan and Charles Dey, headmaster from 1973 to 1991, were aware of alleged abuses but did not report the incidents to law enforcement or child protection authorities. In some cases, Shanahan and Dey allowed accused faculty members to move on to other schools without informing those schools of the alleged incidents, putting other children at risk, according to the investigation.

A state law passed in the 1960s requires educators to report any allegations of abuse to authorities.

The investigation, conducted by former federal prosecutor Nancy Kestenbaum, named 12 former teachers who were accused of sexual misconduct ranging from inappropriate touching to rape. The alleged abuse mentioned in the report involved a total of 24 former students from 1963 to 2010. 

In the weeks after Kestenbaum’s report was released and shortly before Shanahan and Dey resigned as life trustees, Choate graduates started an online petition, which received nearly 500 signatures, calling for their resignations and urging the school to sever all ties with the former headmasters. The life trustee designation is considered largely honorific and is given to all former headmasters at the school.

The petition read, “The investigation shows that Headmasters Dey and Shanahan repeatedly handled allegations of sexual misconduct quietly and internally, allowing perpetrators to stay at Choate despite past misdeeds; move on to other schools with no warning to the students and families of those institutions; and in some cases, avoid criminal responsibility for their acts. It is hardly surprising that misconduct persisted for decades given the administration’s repeated tepid responses to serious allegations.”

Wallingford Parks and Recreation doesn’t utilized Choate’s athletic fields for its programs.

Neither does Wallingford Vikings, the local youth football and cheerleading organization, but Wallingford Youth Soccer League and Wallingford Lacrosse do.

Rosa Brunelle, Wallingford Lacrosse president, said Monday the name change “doesn’t affect the team.”

“As long as we can continue to use the field,” Brunelle said.

The youth lacrosse league is slated to begin a free clinic this week on Sunday mornings for girls and boys. The normal season starts in spring.

Representatives from Wallingford Youth Soccer League weren’t immediately available.

Reporter Lauren Takores contributed to this story.


Twitter: @MatthewZabierek

Morning Record talks about Choate's ongoing response to 2017 investigation