UM board chair praised, urged to seek a 'just resolution' after joining doctor's accusers

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

After one of the The University of Michigan's highest-ranking officials and biggest donors came forward and said he was molested by the late Dr. Robert E. Anderson, some praised his courage while others said they hoped he would lead the school toward transparency about the widening scandal.

Ron Weiser

UM Regent Ron Weiser, who is chair of the board, told The Detroit News for a Thursday story that he was abused by Anderson — the now-deceased doctor who worked for decades at UM as the head of University Health Service and team physician for the Athletic Department.

After Weiser's account became public, a second regent spoke out, saying heis related to two people who allege the doctor sexually abused them during exams.

"We applaud U-M Regent Ron Weiser for sharing such a personal story and for encouraging other former patients of Dr. Anderson to come forward and talk with investigators," university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in a statement.

"Individuals seeking to report alleged misconduct by Anderson are encouraged to call a new dedicated call center at 855-336-5900. The call center will be staffed Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m."

Weiser is the most high-profile alleged victim to come forward in the Anderson scandal, which broke three weeks ago. In addition to contributing more than $100 million to UM, Weiser is a former U.S. ambassador to Slovakia and former chair of the Michigan Republican Party.

He said he came forward to "encourage survivors to come forward and tell their story, and protect their privacy."

Weiser's account prompted fellow Regent Paul Brown to reveal that he had at least a half-dozen cousins who played sports for UM during Anderson's era and at least two allege Anderson abused them, including former wrestler Thomas Evashevski, who spoke publicly last month.

University of Michigan Regent Paul Brown

"They love the university but are disappointed in what happened and want to make sure that never happens again," said Brown, who was elected to the board in 2018. "I promise them we will make it right and make sure it never happens again."

California-based attorney John Manly, who helped victims of serial pedophile Larry Nassar land an unprecedented $500 million settlement from Michigan State University, said he was sorry to hear about Weiser’s alleged abuse, adding it took courage for him to come forward.

“Mr. Weiser has had success in his life and is in a leadership post,” said Manly. “Because he is a survivor in leadership position, he has a real opportunity to lead his fellow regents to a just resolution without a fight. Our clients hope he steps into that role.”

“It’s was a piece of hidden history in the school and it needs to come out, and it is,” Manly continued.

Weiser was allegedly abused by Anderson, who died in 2008, when he was a UM student from 1963-67 and wrestled for the university.

UM officials have said Anderson worked for the university from 1968-2003 and declined to address the apparent discrepancy presented by former UM students who have accused the doctor of abuse that occurred before 1968.

"As I have said in the past, the details of his employment at U-M are part of the ongoing investigation," Fitzgerald said Wednesday.

Fitzgerald acknowledged Wednesday that another firm has not been selected to conduct that inquiry in place of Steptoe & Johnson, the legal team UM initially hired. UM said Saturday it would the firm replace when it it realized Steptoe & Johnson had defended two prominent men accused of sexual abuse, the late financier Jeffrey Epstein and film director Roman Polanski.

Asked how an investigation is ongoing without a firm in place, Fitzgerald did not respond.

Parker Stinar, a Colorado-based lawyer who is representing several clients including whistleblower Tad DeLuca, said the lack of an investigative team is among his concerns when UM is still asking victims to call the hotline.

"For any victim willing to come forward and say they were abused by Dr. Anderson, there are obviously very, very brave for doing that," said Stinar. "The public as well as victims have a right now to know who is conducting the investigation."

Mick Grewal, who is part of the team of lawyers who also represented Nassar victims, also hailed Weiser for coming forward.

"It’s a great step that everybody is coming forward no matter who they are because it will lead people to see it's safe to come forward," said Grewal, a lawyer based in Okemos. "The old saying was that it was shame and guilt when survivors came forward. Now survivors need to feel safe and that they will be believed."

But Grewal said UM is refusing to do an independent investigation and the full truth will never come out about what happened with Anderson. 

"I think they are worried more people will come forward," said Grewal. "If more people come forward, I think they are worried how large this problem is and/or was and could have been prevented. They are worried about how bad it might look for them (in) a truly independent external investigation."

Fitzgerald also did not respond to questions about waiving privilege for a potential Michigan Attorney General investigation that had been called for last week by survivors of Nassar, the former serial molester at Michigan State University. 

AG Dana Nessel said she could not embark on any investigation until UM "commits to complete transparency and full cooperation."

Nessel made the comments in the context of her office's MSU investigation, which is still incomplete because 6,000 documents remain secret under attorney-client privilege. In the past, Fitzgerald has said that all independent investigations at UM are done under attorney-client privilege.

In the wake of the Anderson scandal at UM, scores of men have come forward and spoken publicly, retained lawyers and called the university in three weeks after Robert Julian Stone first publicly accused Anderson of sexual abuse in a story he shared with The News.

Stone's accusation forced UM to reveal an exhaustive police investigation that had been underway for 18 months and included Tad DeLuca, who alerted UM to Anderson in letters written in 1975 and 2018. The investigation also showed that UM fired Anderson in 1979 because he was allegedly "fooling around with male students" in exam rooms. But he stayed on as a UM employee and was the team physician for the Athletic Department until he retired in 2003. 

Those who have come forward include claims of forced masturbation, rape and unnecessary medical exams.

UM has since apologized for Anderson's behavior, hired outside investigators, encouraged other victims to come forward and also offered free counseling.

The university reported last Friday that as of March 6, it had received140 unique complaints, mostly through the UM Compliance Hotline

Former Attorney General Mike Cox has filed more than a dozen lawsuits, including one in which a former UM student allegedly told two UM track coaches about Anderson in the 1970s.

Three law firms also have filed a lawsuit on behalf of a former UM football player that it is seeking to get certified as a class action.

A team of lawyers who represented Nassar victims also are representing dozens of clients.

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com