Ex-UM music professor Shipps set to plead guilty in sex case

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — A renowned former violin professor embroiled in one of several sexual misconduct scandals at the University of Michigan is expected to plead guilty after being charged with transporting a minor girl across state lines for sex.

Stephen Shipps is scheduled to plead guilty to an unspecified crime Nov. 16 in front of Chief U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood, according to a federal court filing Tuesday. Shipps was set to stand trial a week later, on Nov. 23.

Stephen Shipps

The hearing will come 13 months after Shipps was indicted on two counts of transporting a minor and accused of transporting a girl younger than 18 across state lines to allegedly have sex with her in February, March, June and July 2002. The charges are punishable by up to 15 years in federal prison.

Shipp's lawyer John Shea and a university spokesman declined comment.

In recent years, sexual misconduct accusations have emerged against former UM Provost Martin Philbert, the late Dr. Robert Anderson and others including David Daniels, a former professor in the UM School of Music, Theatre and Dance. The Anderson case has drawn the most attention due to the scope of allegations against the former football team doctor that involve more than 2,100 complaints of alleged sexual abuse.

UM president admits Robert Anderson litigation is 'enormous' liability for university

Shipps was a violin professor at the UM's School of Music, Theatre and Dance from 1989 to 2019. He was also director of the Strings Preparatory Program, which offered instruction to young musicians of elementary school through high school age.

In addition to his job at UM, Shipps served on the faculties of Indiana University, North Carolina School of the Arts, University of Nebraska-Omaha, and the Banff Centre in Canada. He also taught students at summer music programs in the Czech Republic, Germany and the United Kingdom, according to federal officials. 

He retired from the university in February 2019 months after UM's student newspaper, the Michigan Daily, outlined allegations of sexual misconduct that spanned four decades. The report included allegations of unwanted touching, inappropriate statements and sexual relationships with teenage students.

One of the women who accused Shipps of misconduct, Maureen O’Boyle, told The Detroit News she lost her virginity to Shipps when she was a 17-year-old high school student in the late 1970s.

At the time, he was concertmaster of the Omaha Symphony and she had moved from her home in Omaha and was studying with him and playing in the symphony.

One night, Shipps invited her to his house after rehearsal along with other musicians, said O'Boyle, an associate music professor who teaches violin at the University of Tulsa. 

She became inebriated after Shipps poured her a vodka drink and she smoked marijuana, O'Boyle said.

He allegedly told her he would take care of her and make sure she got violin lessons from him if she babysat his young daughter. After everyone else left, O'Boyle said Shipps had sex with her on a couch where she always unpacked her violin for lessons.

"I remember knowing what was happening, seeing and feeling my body from afar, with the feeling that my life was already horribly off course and there was now no repairing it," O'Boyle wrote in a lengthy document outlining her claims of what happened with Shipps.

Beside going on leave in December, Shipps stepped down as chairman of strings in UM's School of Music, Theatre and Dance and as faculty director of the String Preparatory Academy pre-college musician program. 

Staff writer Kim Kozlowski contributed

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews