UM violin prof retires after sexual misconduct claims

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News
Stephen Shipps

A renowned University of Michigan violin professor has retired months after a published report outlined allegations of sexual misconduct that spanned four decades.

Stephen Shipps, a UM School of Music, Theatre & Dance faculty member, retired Feb. 28, according to university spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen. 

Shipps had been employed by UM since September 1989. He went on leave Dec. 7. Three days later, UM's student newspaper, the Michigan Daily, reported allegations of unwanted touching, inappropriate statements and sexual relationships with teenage students involving Shipps.

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 what happened with Shipps.

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

At the time of his leave, the Daily also obtained an email from Shipps where he said that he would be retiring in May. It was unclear why he retired sooner.

His attorney, David Nacht of Ann Arbor, was out of town and could not be immediately reached for comment Monday.