Former Delbarton Students Still Waiting

(Star Ledger) When the first allegations of sexual misconduct against former Delbarton School headmaster Luke Travers were made public in January, the abbot at St. Mary’s Abbey, which runs the school, labeled the accusations a “minor boundary violation” in a statement.

But the next day, in an e-mail recently obtained by The Star-Ledger, Abbot Giles Hayes called Travers’ alleged misconduct “heinous, evil, sick, and emerging from the psyche of a defective conscience.”

In that e-mail, to victims advocate Patrick Marker on Jan. 13, Hayes also tried to duck responsibility for words attributed to him:

“I did not use the word ‘minor.’ Our attorney slipped it in so other attorneys would know that there was a legal distinction between pedophilia and adult to adult abuse,” he wrote. “I got very upset when I saw it used … and told our spokesperson to get rid of it.”

The e-mail — one of two dozen connected to Travers’ case and obtained by the newspaper — comes to light as Bernard Murphy, a 1989 graduate of Delbarton, steps forward as the latest man to put his name to allegations against Travers.

After accusing Travers privately in a letter to the abbey more than a year ago, Murphy said he is going public, strengthened “by the courage” shown by two other accusers who have used their names.

In all, four men are known to have made decades-old accusations against Travers. One, who provided a notarized statement of his allegations to The Star-Ledger, remains anonymous.

A spokesman said abbey officials would have no comment on the e-mails, which were verified by the other parties.

Murphy said that while he was a Delbarton student in the 1980s, Travers often kissed and hugged him against his will. When Murphy returned to campus as a college student for a 1990 visit, Travers professed his love for him and said he wanted to run away together, Murphy said.


Murphy and the other alleged victims are waiting for the Morris Township abbey and school to announce the results of the investigation into their claims and possible disciplinary action against Travers, who served as headmaster of the elite all-boys school from 1999-2007.

No criminal charges are expected against Travers, because of the age or nature of the known allegations. But the abbey can mete out punishment if officials believe Travers acted inappropriately and violated his vows.

In a 90-minute interview with The Star-Ledger, Murphy said he was told the investigation by the abbey’s six-member review board would be completed by the end of 2011. Instead, it drags on. While ensuing claims against Travers might have widened the probe, Murphy believes the abbey knows enough to sanction the monk. He said the abbey “can’t keep stringing out” the investigation with each new accuser.

In e-mails to Murphy on June 14 and 17, 2011, the Rev. Simon Gallagher, an adviser to the review board, called Travers’ alleged behavior “unpardonable” and “outrageous.” These comments, and Hayes’ remarks, lead Murphy to wonder: “What’s taking so long?”

“I don’t know the status of the investigation, do you?” Murphy said. “Does anyone? It makes me feel the review board is ineffective, or they have some sort of agenda, that they’re hoping this will all go away. But it won’t.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to on the review board or as a representative of the review board have been nice, wonderful people. But it’s hollow. It’s lip service. It’s a charade.”

Murphy said he was angered by Hayes’ “minor boundary offense” comment, especially in light of the stinging remarks made by the abbot in the private e-mail the next day.

“When you see that kind of hypocrisy, is there any wonder why people question the validity of the review board?” Murphy said.


The Hayes e-mail isn’t the only damning peek at the way the abbey and school have handled sex abuse allegations.

When Murphy made his allegations last year, Travers — then working at a Virginia abbey — immediately was placed on restrictions that limited his unsupervised travel and banned his contact with anyone under 21 years of age, St. Mary’s officials told Murphy.

Via e-mail, review board investigator Ann Ordway assured Murphy that Travers was being watched closely in Virginia. In another e-mail, Gallagher said he, or other abbey officials, would monitor Travers “six times a month.”

In January, however, officials at the Virginia abbey said they had never been told about the restrictions, and they immediately expelled Travers, who had not been monitored and had been in contact with local students, they said. Travers returned to St. Mary’s, where he remains in supervised seclusion, an abbey spokesman said.

In an e-mail to Marker on Jan. 17, Hayes said he “made a mistake” by trusting Travers (to adhere to his restrictions), “however, the PR and lawyers are involved because we could be sued by him. I must negotiate between the devil and the deep blue sea,” Hayes wrote.


Murphy said that during his years at Delbarton and after he graduated, Travers “professed his love for me, and when giving me a hug of support, would kiss me on the neck, ears and everywhere else he could before I pulled away.

“Luke acted the way I would expect from a girlfriend of my age at the time. It was total crush-like behavior. He would sit near me and kiss me. If I was wearing shorts, he’d say, ‘You know, you have beautiful ankles,’ ” Murphy said.

In 1990, Murphy and the monk were in Travers’ office on campus when the monk again spoke of his love and promised to ditch his vows if Murphy would run away with him, Murphy said. Murphy rebuked Travers and cut off contact, he said, but continued to receive unwanted correspondence and phone calls from him. The monk once showed up on his Boston doorstep, Murphy said.

Murphy said he repeated all of this to Ordway, who interviewed him in Boston in December. She then supposedly made a report to the review board shortly thereafter.

Murphy said he was prompted to reveal Travers’ behavior after watching the monk rise in rank. After serving as Delbarton headmaster from 1999-2007, Travers was sent to Virginia, presumably being groomed to run an abbey someday. Recently, a former Delbarton administrator said abbey officials knew Travers was “too touchy-feely” with students, but Travers was appointed headmaster anyway.

“I was afraid he would rise to even higher status,” Murphy said. “His behavior had not stopped his progression up the ladder, so I felt a responsibility to make known his behavior toward me.”

Three others have gone public with claims against Travers. Brian Kvederas, a former Morristown firefighter, was the first. In January, he said Travers kissed him and tried to stick his tongue into his mouth during an emotional confession at a local church when Kvederas was a high school student 25 years ago.

Kvederas, also questioning the legitimacy of the investigation, said this week he still hasn’t been contacted by Delbarton.

Murphy said behavior like Travers’ was “prevalent” at the school, which today boasts Gov. Chris Christie’s son as a student.

“The students laughed it off,” Murphy said. “It was known that Luke was touchy-feely, that you didn’t want to be alone with him. I’d go with my friends to the library, and another monk would be talking about sex and asking if we wanted him to buy us beer. Luke’s behavior did not stick out like a sore thumb.

“If a student went to the school the four years that I did and hadn’t at least heard from another student about this stuff, their heads were completely in the sand. But I don’t believe there are many students like that.”

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Former Delbarton students who accused ex-headmaster of sexual abuse still waiting for investigation to conclude
April 15, 2012
Kevin Manahan
The Star-Ledger