Don Ogden, the founder of Grace College’s music department, died in 2015. Photos taken from ChristianPost.com

WINONA LAKE — The late founder of the music department at Grace College & Seminary in Winona Lake has been accused of sexually abusing at least 100 young men over decades.

Don Ogden died on June 27, 2015, at the age of 88, according to christianpost.com. He founded the music department in 1950 and served as its president until 1987. The father of two daughters and a son served a combined 42 years at two area churches, retiring in 1993.

According to a September 21 Christianpost.com article, “A six-page statement with supporting evidence recently shared with The Christian Post by Ogden’s adult daughters, Diane and Kathleen, said they discovered in February 2021 that , with his legacy in music, their father left behind about 100-200 male victims of his predation.

Contacted by the Times-Union on Wednesday about the article and the allegations, Grace College provided a response and the investigative brief.

“In February 2021, Grace College administration became aware of allegations of sexual misconduct by Don Ogden toward Grace students while employed from 1950 to 1993. Although the allegations involved sexual misconduct occurred more than three decades ago, the passage of time has not diminished our responsibility and commitment to uncover what happened and to support those who were harmed by its actions,” the response reads.

Grace College has hired an independent investigator to conduct a “thorough, professional, and impartial investigation, a response consistent with higher education best practices to address allegations of misconduct,” the response states.

The investigator’s interviews “supported allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault by Mr. Ogden”.

The response states that Grace is “committed to acknowledging the pain of Mr. Ogden’s actions, protecting our campus community, and preventing future misconduct. We are committed to focusing on accountability, improvement, and meaningful action based on the investigator’s recommendations.

Grace College “condemns all forms of sexual harassment, which has no place in a God-honoring community like ours,” the response reads. “A respected member of the school and community has betrayed the trust placed in him by students and families. We are deeply sorry that this happened.

The response indicates that there is no room for any type of sexual misconduct in Grace and that the behavior should not have occurred. It also expresses the college’s grief and sadness at how one man’s actions have affected so many.

Grace’s primary concern has been the safety and well-being of those affected by the abuse, the response states. “Because the investigation was again traumatic for many of the investigation participants, Grace College will not release any information associated with this situation in order to protect the privacy of these participants.”

As the investigation determined, the response states that Grace “did not respond appropriately over the decades that Mr. Ogden was on staff. Policies and staff are in place to prevent and respond to these situations if they occur.

The two-page investigative brief on Ogden, dated June 15, 2022, states that in the spring of 2011, Grace received a report that Ogden had engaged in sexual misconduct while employed by the college. In response, Grace engaged Elizabeth H. Canning, Campus and Workplace Solutions, to conduct an independent investigation to review the reported allegations, determine whether Grace was aware of any allegations of misconduct, and assess whether the college had taken appropriate action in response to this information.

The investigator first sought to speak with two former alleged victims named in the initial report, work with those who may have knowledge of other victims, and gather information to determine appropriate investigative steps.

As the case progressed, the brief says Canning determined it was likely that Ogden was inappropriate with additional students on multiple occasions and that it was prudent to reach a wider range of old students. Since Ogden’s primary contact with students was through the music program, Grace sent 900 letters to alumni of the music program and bands. During the investigation process, 11 people who responded to the letter said they had experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct by Ogden, with most incidents occurring while touring choirs or music groups.

Over 140 people responded by email or phone to the investigator’s letter or direct outreach. Those who responded had a range of statements and emotions about Ogden, a note in the brief statements, and “much of the communication was supportive” of Ogden. Other responses were indifferent, stating only that they had nothing to report. However, 12 of the former students interviewed said they witnessed or experienced Ogden’s sexual misconduct, the memo said.

The investigator interviewed 19 former students and 18 current and former employees, the brief continued. Since Ogden died in 2015, the investigator could not interview him.

The investigation “substantiated” allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault perpetrated by Ogden in the course of his employment at Grace, the brief said. Reported incidents occurred between 1960 and 1990, with most incidents occurring in the 1980s.

The investigation also revealed that some former employees had knowledge of the misconduct and did not respond appropriately to the information at the time.

In 1993, Ogden was arrested in Kansas for sexually assaulting a minor while traveling as part of his job with Grace’s Alumni Department, but the case was not prosecuted, the brief said.

The Christian Post article states that a March 15, 1993 report in The Hutchinson News said Ogden, then 66, was arrested on suspicion of aggravated sodomy in Wichita, Kan. A 16-year-old boy alleged that Ogden abducted him from the mall, drove him to a vacant spot and sodomized him. Then Ogden took the boy back to the mall and released him. Ogden was not prosecuted after the arrest because the boy recanted and said the sex was consensual, according to The Christian Post story. The age of consent in Kansas is 16.

The investigation file also contains Grace’s undertaking to act. It says Grace College leaders believe the abuse at Ogden was wrong and that the college “has made progress in recent years to implement state-of-the-art prevention and reporting policies and procedures and will follow the advice of the ‘investigator following this investigation’.

The second page of the investigative brief lists things Grace plans to do, including providing training to the campus community that clearly communicates definitions of prohibited behaviors, providing specialized annual training to students and responsible employees who travel off campus and provide training for the current leadership team on how to avoid abuse of power.

At the bottom of the brief, it says reports specifically about Ogden can be sent to Canning at [email protected] and reports about Grace now or in the past can be sent to Carrie Yocum at [email protected]

The full Christian Post story can be read online at https://www.christianpost.com/amp/founder-of-grace-colleges-music-department-was-serial-predator.html?fbclid=IwAR2dTGvEfo84yVtmrFpV0DXG4nI2TJ9yopQWGv8Tem1WhlDDMcpWRX8Q2A4