Don Ogden, the founder of Grace College’s music department, died in 2015. Photos taken from ChristianPost.com
Don Ogden, the founder of Grace College’s music department, died in 2015. Photos taken from ChristianPost.com
WINONA LAKE - The late founder of Grace College & Seminary’s music department in Winona Lake has been accused of sexually abusing at least 100 young males over decades.

Don Ogden died on June 27, 2015, at the age of 88, according to christianpost.com. He founded the department of music in 1950 and served as its chairman through 1987. The father of two daughters and a son served a combined 42 years at two area churches, retiring in 1993.

According to a Sept. 21 Christianpost.com article, “A six-page statement with supporting evidence recently shared with The Christian Post by Ogden’s adult daughters, Diane and Kathleen, said they discovered in February 2021 that, along with his legacy in music, their father left behind an estimated 100 to 200 male victims of his predation.”

When contacted Wednesday by the Times-Union about the article and allegations, Grace College provided a response and the investigation brief.

“In February 2021, the Grace College administration was made aware of allegations of sexual misconduct by Don Ogden toward students at Grace while he was an employee from 1950-1993. Although the allegations involved misconduct that occurred more than three decades ago, the passage of time did not diminish our responsibility and commitment to uncover what happened and to support those harmed by his actions,” the response states.

Grace College hired an independent investigator to conduct a “thorough, professional and impartial investigation, a response consistent with best practices in higher education to address allegations of misconduct,” the response states.

The investigator’s interviews “substantiated the reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault by Mr. Ogden.”

The response states that Grace is “committed to acknowledging the pain of Mr. Ogden’s actions, protecting our campus community and preventing future misconduct. We are dedicated to focusing on accountability, improvement and meaningful action based on the recommendations of the investigator.”

Grace College “condemns all forms of sexual harassment, which has no place in a God-honoring community such as ours,” the response states. “A respected member of the school and community betrayed the trust placed in him by students and families. We are deeply sorry this happened.”

The response states there’s no place for any type of sexual misconduct at Grace and the behavior should not have occurred. It also expresses the college’s grief and sadness about how the actions of one man affected so many.

The primary concern for Grace has been the safety and well-being of the individuals affected by the abuse, the response states. “Because the investigation was re-traumatizing for many investigation participants, Grace College will not release any information associated with this situation to protect the privacy of those participants.”

As the investigation determined, the response states that Grace “did not respond appropriately in the decades when Mr. Ogden was on staff. Policies and personnel are in place to prevent and respond to these situations if they do occur.”

The two-page investigation brief on Ogden, dated June 15, 2022, states that in spring 2021, Grace received a report that Ogden had engaged in sexual misconduct while employed by the college. In response, Grace engaged Elizabeth H. Canning, Campus and Workplace Solutions, to conduct an independent investigation to examine the reported allegations, examine whether Grace knew about any allegations of misconduct and evaluate whether the college took appropriate steps in response to such knowledge.

The investigator initially sought to speak with two alleged alumni victims named in the initial report, work with those who may have knowledge of other victims and gather information to determine the appropriate investigation steps.

As the matter progressed, the brief states, Canning determined it was likely that Ogden was inappropriate with additional students on multiple occasions and that it was prudent to reach a broader range of alumni. Since Ogden’s primary contact with students was with those in the music program, Grace sent 900 letters to music program and music group alumni. Through the investigative process, 11 individuals responding to the letter indicated they experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct by Ogden, with most of the incidents occurring during choir or music group tours.

More than 140 people responded by email or phone to the investigator’s letter or direct outreach. Those who responded had a range of statements and emotions about Ogden, a notation in the brief states, and “much of the communication was in support” of Ogden. Other responses were indifferent, stating only that they had nothing to report. However, 12 of the alumni interviewed indicated they witnessed or experienced Ogden’s sexual misconduct, the notation states.

The investigator interviewed 19 former students and 18 current and former employees, the brief continues. Since Ogden died in 2015, the investigator could not interview him.

The investigation “substantiated” claims of sexual harassment and sexual assault perpetrated by Ogden within his employment at Grace, the brief states. The reported incidents occurred between 1960 and 1990, with most incidents occurring in the 1980s.

The investigation also revealed that some former employees had knowledge of the misconduct and failed to appropriately respond to the information at the time.

In 1993, Ogden was arrested in Kansas for sexually assaulting a minor while traveling as part of his work in Grace’s alumni department but the case was not prosecuted, the brief states.

The Christian Post article states that a March 15, 1993, report in The Hutchinson News said Ogden, then 66, was arrested on suspicion of aggravated sodomy in Wichita, Kan. A 16-year-old boy alleged Ogden kidnapped him from the mall, drove him to a vacant area and sodomized him. Afterward, Ogden took the boy back to the mall and released him. Ogden was not prosecuted after the arrest because the boy recanted his story and said the sex was consensual, according to The Christian Post story. The age of consent in Kansas is 16.

The investigation brief also contains Grace’s commitment to action. It states that Grace College leaders believe Ogden’s abuse was reprehensible and the college “has made strides in recent years to implement leading prevention and reporting policies and procedures and will follow the investigator’s guidance following this inquiry.”

The second page of the investigation brief lists the things Grace plans to do, including provide training to the campus community that clearly communicates the definitions of prohibited behavior, provide specialized annual training for students and responsible employees who travel off campus and provide training for the current senior leadership team on how to avoid abuse of power.

At the bottom of the brief, it states that reports regarding Ogden specifically can be sent to Canning at grace@ecanninglaw.com and reports regarding Grace now or in the past can be sent to Carrie Yocum at yocumca@grace.edu.

The full Christian Post story can be read online at https://www.christianpost.com/amp/founder-of-grace-colleges-music-department-was-serial-predator.html?fbclid=IwAR2dTGvEfo84yVtmrFpV0DXG4nI2TJ9yopQWGv8Tem1WhlDDMcpWRX8Q2A4