Letters to the editor

Readers respond to stories about surviving abuse by a teacher and the dangers of tanning.

Whit Sheppard.
Adam Ewing
Whit Sheppard.


I admire Whit Sheppard’s determination to help others by writing about his path to recovery after being molested at Deerfield Academy (“What Happened at Deerfield,” July 21). Margarita Curtis, the head of school, deserves recognition for her compassion when contacted by Sheppard. In a similar case at Buckingham Browne & Nichols, the head of school, Rebecca Upham, and the board of trustees were not so immediately compassionate. Eventually the head and the board decided the school would bear the cost of counseling for survivors. This thoughtful decision focused the school’s energy — and helped focus mine — on recovery in the future instead of damage in the past. Other schools would do well to follow this example.

N. Daniel Weinreb

BB&N ’89, Northampton

Thank you so much for running Sheppard’s important story about the sexual abuse he experienced. As an advice columnist (my “Ask Amy” column appears in The Boston Globe and many other newspapers), I want Sheppard to know that every time someone comes forward to recount a story such as his, countless others are inspired to tell theirs, to seek treatment and reconciliation — and to help others to heal. I also applaud Deerfield Academy’s (eventual) choice to respond to Sheppard with the respect he deserves.

Amy Dickinson


Freeville, New York

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As a 1976 graduate of Deerfield Academy and the father of two daughters who are recent graduates, I was both saddened and heartened to read Sheppard’s story about the abuse that took place while he was a student there. I was saddened by what he experienced and the emotional pain it caused. Yet I am also heartened by his extraordinary courage to report the abuse and the unrivaled leadership of Curtis, who on behalf of the school took immediate responsibility to uncover the truth in spite of the events having taken place decades before her tenure. Sheppard and Curtis embody the best of the Deerfield community and have set an example for all entrusted with the care of children to follow. Deerfield graduates of every generation are asked to be worthy of their heritage. Sheppard and Curtis set an even higher standard.

Miles Byrne


I founded a trauma clinic about 30 years ago that today serves more than 400 children and families a week. I am inspired and honored every day by the children and adults whom I serve who share their stories of violation and pain. Thank you to Sheppard for his courage, his articulate voice, and his recognition that the greatest threats to children are silence and denial. And I thank him for taking a very large personal risk in the service of all those who remain alone and unheard.

Paula Stahl



It took real courage and obvious pain for Sheppard to write his article. These abuses will not stop unless the victims are able to step forward and tell their stories. He should be very proud of what he has done. I commend him.

Henry Bass


I cannot imagine the havoc this experience occasioned, but feel relieved that Sheppard has found a relatively peaceful place. I know this story will stay with me, not so much because of the trauma but rather because of his response to it.

Erica Goode


This is a wake-up call to all parents, grandparents, other relatives, and friends of young children. The conversation about predators needs to be had way before you might think it is needed. Please petition your school for parent and child education. No one should have to endure the lifelong pain inflicted by a sexual predator. Thank you, Whit Sheppard, for having the courage to speak up.

Bonnie Capaul


Boulder, Colorado

When the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal erupted, I feared that the focus would stay there and not be the alarm it should be to other institutions that are responsible for the care and safety of children. And now, more than 10 years after the scandal broke, sadly this is the first positive article I have read. Every school, coaching group, day care, Boy Scout program, camp, and church should have a policy and procedure manual on record in the event of abuse. Thank you, Margarita Curtis, for your swift response. And, Whit Sheppard, had you been my son, I couldn’t have been more proud. I hope that the Globe will continue to report on the appropriate responses to sexual abuse so that we may all learn from them.

Kara Brown



On July 21, as I read Mark Pothier’s “A Grave Glow” (Perspective), my daughter Joanne was dying in a Worcester hospice of metastases to the brain, liver, kidney, and elsewhere. This chapter in Joanne’s journey has been only seven weeks long — a lifetime for her husband, sons, and the rest of the family. What we need to do is scare these young women, prom-goers and brides, about tanning; they need to see pictures of malignant melanomas at different stages, of a young mother’s side after all of her lymph nodes have been removed. They need to see the hair loss, the crying children, and the sobbing 92-year-old grandmother who can barely stand as she watches her granddaughter die. Primary care physicians and dermatologists need to scare these young women who have no idea that dreams come undone so quickly and that little boys will cry for their mothers for years to come. Melanoma can and will kill you. Joanne (Nichols) Rokes passed away at 8 p.m. on July 22. Thirty-seven-year-old mothers should not have angel wings.

Lydia M. Bogar

North Grafton

I have the same story as Pothier — from wanting that tan when I was younger to the surgical procedures for skin cancer to the teenage children whom I so want to protect from going through what I have. My girlfriends got tans; I got basal and squamous cell skin cancers. My two teenagers have been witnesses to these scars, but being young, they think it will not happen to them and are not diligent enough about applying sunscreen. Fortunately, no tanning beds, which should be banned. I will have them read Pothier’s article just so they know I am not the only parent warning them about the dangers of skin cancer, that another parent cares enough to warn the teenager in the house to practice healthy skin-care habits. Thank you for writing “my” story.

Mary Fitzgerald

West Roxbury

I wanted to let readers know about initiatives the Melanoma Foundation New England is working on relating to tanning by teens and young adults. In the past, the foundation has helped to pass a ban on tanning bed use by minors in Vermont, by those younger than 17 in Connecticut, and on using one without parental consent in Rhode Island. Currently we are working with state Senator Jim Timilty to push Senate Bill 1105, which would ban tanning bed use by minors in Massachusetts. In addition, we have a program called Your Skin Is In that seeks to build awareness in high schools and colleges of the dangers of intentional tanning. Young melanoma survivors speak at schools, we use facial scanners to teach kids about sun damage, and we ask them to take a pledge not to tan for their high school prom or college spring breaks. We invite volunteers to join with us in this initiative and hope that your readers will also consider taking the No-Tanning Pledge at our foundation’s website,

Deb Girard


Executive Director

Melanoma Foundation New England

CONTACT US Write to or The Boston Globe Magazine/Comments, PO Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819. Comments are subject to editing.