CONCORD — St. Paul’s School is stripping the name of two former rectors from campus buildings, the school said, the latest fallout as the elite preparatory school confronts the disclosures of decades of sexual assault and cover-ups.
The late Rector William Oates, who headed the school from 1970 to 1982, will have his name removed from the school’s performing arts building.
The name of Rector William Matthews, who was rector from 2005 to 2011, will come off the hockey center.
“For many people, the removal of these names might feel like a betrayal of friendship or disrespect for service and leadership. At the same time, these sentiments cannot stand in the way of our greater obligation to uphold the values of our school,” wrote trustee President Archibold Cox in a “Dear SPS Community” letter dated Saturday.
Cox wrote that the removal follows the adoption of a St. Paul’s renaming policy in May. He noted that many institutions have developed policies that address how to align their values with previous naming decisions and donor gifts.
St. Paul’s has undergone a steady stream of disclosures of sexual assaults and improprieties at the boarding school, ever since the 2015 arrest and subsequent trial of recent graduate Owen Labrie on sexual assault charges.
A lawsuit filed last year accused Oates of trying to cover up efforts by a faculty adviser to engage a student in sexual activity in the late 1960s.
Other articles reported that Matthews had given fired St. Paul’s teacher David Pook a glowing recommendation when the teacher, who had a history of student-teacher boundary violations, applied to Derryfield School in the late 2000s. Pook was arrested last year and eventually pleaded guilty to covering up his sexual relationship with a former student.
In his letter, Cox said the trustees had found “instances of decision-making at odds with our responsibility to place student safety and well-being first.”
A fact-finding committee of three former alumni/trustees, a senior faculty member and a lawyer investigated the two rectors and spoke to people with strong beliefs both for and against removal.
School officials contacted the Oates family, and his sons requested the name be removed, Cox wrote. His letter made no mention of contact with Matthews, but said trustees voted to remove Matthews’ name from the hockey center.
“This decision, while wrenching for many, aligns with the school’s values and priority placed on honesty, integrity, and student safety and well-being,” Cox wrote.