A sign referring to former University of Michigan sports doctor Robert Anderson is on display at a vigil for survivors of sexual abuse in front of the home of outgoing UM President Mark Schlissel October 13, 2021 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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The University of Michigan has agreed to pay $490 million in damages to the more than 1,000 former students, mostly male, who said they were sexually abused by sports doctor Robert Anderson, their lawyers confirmed Wednesday.
The announcement came after 15 months of mediation and appeared to close the book on one of the nation’s biggest sex abuse scandals, which involved several generations of victims going back to the 1960s.
“It has been a long and challenging journey and I believe this settlement will provide justice and healing for the many brave men and women who refused to be silenced,” said Parker Stinar of the Denver-based law firm Wahlberg, Woodruff, Nimmo & Sloane, which represents dozens of Anderson accusers.
Stinar said some 1,050 Anderson “survivors” will share the $490 million in settlement money, meaning that each accuser will receive an average of about $438,000.
Thirty million dollars of that money will be set aside for any future accusers.
Rick Fitzgerald, associate vice president for public affairs at the University of Michigan, confirmed a settlement.
“We hope this settlement will begin the healing process for survivors,” Jordan Acker, chair of the Board of Regents, said in a press release first obtained by the school newspaper, The Michigan Daily. “At the same time, the work that began two years ago, when the first brave survivors came forward, will continue.”
Anderson, who retired in 2003 and died five years later, was a former director of the University Health Service who also served as the top physician for Michigan football teams led by coaches Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr.
Schembechler died in 2006. His son, Matt, alleged that in 1969 Anderson molested him at age 10 and that his father refused to believe him. He said his mother, Millie, tried to get Anderson fired but Schembechler had him reinstated.
Former University of Michigan football player Jonathon Vaughn, who says he was sexually assaulted by former UM sports doctor Robert Anderson, takes part in a vigil for sexual abuse survivors outside the home of outgoing University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel October 13, 2021 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Bill Pugliano | Getty Images
The investigation was sparked by a whistleblowing former wrestler named Tad DeLuca.
DeLuca said that in 1975 he told his coach, Bill Johannesen, and the athletics director at the time, Don Canham, that Anderson had routinely fondled him and given him an unnecessary rectal exam.
Johannesen, who coached the Michigan wrestling team in the 1970s, previously told The Associated Press in a statement that nobody ever directly reported any abuse by Anderson to him. Canham died in 2005.
Anderson, DeLuca said, was widely known as “Dr. Drop Your Drawers Anderson.”
DeLuca said he wasn’t believed and wound up getting booted off the team. But he didn’t give up. And in 2018, police in Washtenaw County, Michigan, launched an investigation of Anderson based on a second letter DeLuca wrote.