A golf instructor has resigned from his post at Waubeeka Golf Links in Williamstown, Mass., as disturbing allegations of his conduct from his school teaching days have emerged.
According to the Greenwich Time, an investigation commissioned by Greenwich (Conn.) Country Day School has found that two of the school’s former teachers, Peter French and Jim Arden, sexually abused at least eight students during their tenures.
French taught at Greenwich Country Day from 1961 to 1999 while Arden was there from 1970 to 2001. Both were science teachers.
French, 83, had worked as a golf instructor at Waubeeka and ran a youth clinic at the course the last few years, but The Berkshire Eagle reports that he resigned on April 9 – the same day Williamstown Police alerted the course about the allegations.
Greenwich Country Day, a private preschool-ninth grade school with alumni such as George H.W. Bush, Bryce Dallas Howard and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, informed families of students and faculty in an email four days later about the findings of the law firm Shipman & Goodwin LLP, which the school had hired to begin an investigation into claims of abuse that had surfaced in September 2017.
Adam Rohdie, the school’s current headmaster, told the Greenwich Time that French admitted to his actions.
“Shipman interviewed Mr. French and confronted him with the evidence against him, and he admitted that he had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with students,” said Rohdie, who has been at the school 14 years. “GCDS has reported Mr. French to the Department of Children and Families, as well as to law enforcement in the community where he currently resides.”
French reportedly also confessed in an interview with Williamstown Police.
Through an attorney, French has since contested these reported confessions. His lawyer, Mark Sherman, pointed out that the reliability of the confessions are suspect. Sherman noted that French did not and should have had access to a lawyer at the time of his admissions.
French played on the golf team at Williams College, and after graduating in 1958 he tried his hand on the PGA Tour for roughly 5-6 years. After that dream fizzled, he joined the U.S. Army and served in an artillery division.
He then worked as a teacher at Greenwich Country Day for nearly 40 years. At least five students during his tenure have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse against French.
French grew up in Ohio, where a longtime friendship with Jack Nicklaus blossomed. French noted in a 2017 profile in The Berkshire Eagle that Charlie Nicklaus, Jack’s father, was like a substitute parent for him – driving French, Jack and others around the state to play in golf tournaments.
In that same profile before abuse allegations surfaced, French said he still considered Jack his closest friend.
The one-hour weekly clinic French hosted at Waubeeka involved juniors ages 6-13 and were done out in the open with French encouraging parents to be present. French was known as a respected and patient instructor.
There have been, to date, no reports of misconduct from French’s time at Waubeeka.
Despite the recent allegations regarding his Greenwich days, French has (by all indications) not been charged by police.
Per the New Haven Register, Connecticut State Law has a statute of limitations on crimes of sexual abuse against children that occurred before 1993. Prior to 1990, the statute was five years from the time the crime was committed. That statute was amended from 1990 to 1992 to two years after a victim turned 18 or seven years after the crime. The statute altered in 1993 to two years after a victim turned 18 or up to five years from the date police were notified, but the change was not made retroactive.
Douglas Lyons, the headmaster at Country Day from 1992 to 2004, said he never suspected French nor Arden of anything improper. But in retrospect, he can see how these men may’ve gotten away with alleged abuse.
“The classic profile is somebody who is both attractive to kids and adults and parents, and these are people who are trusted, you know,” Lyons told the Greenwich Time. “I mean I think both of those men, James Arden and Peter French, they were trusted by kids and families and colleagues and school administrators.”