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Merrimack College professor charged with possession of child pornography

A Merrimack College professor was charged today with possession of child pornography, officials said.

Gary S. Spring, 61, of Danvers, chairman of Merrimack College’s civil engineering department, was arrested after a search of his college office and residence confirmed that he possessed child pornography, US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz’s office said in a statement.

According to a criminal complaint, the college discovered suspicious activity associated with one of its computers that had been loaned out to Spring, prosecutors said.

Further investigation determined that the computer was allegedly used to access child pornography.

Merrimack fired Spring on Friday.

“Upon the outset of this investigation, Professor Spring was immediately place on administrative leave and forbidden to return to campus,” said James Chiavelli, Merrimack associate vice president for communications, in a statement. “Under college personnel policies Merrimack on Friday immediately terminated his employment.

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“The Merrimack College community is saddened by these disturbing allegations. As the US Attorney’s Office has noted, college officials brought this matter to the attention of law enforcement and support all efforts to investigate the full breadth and depth of this case.”

Chiavelli added, “The college remains confident in the legal process, and stands firm in the knowledge that Mr. Spring is not reflective of the institution, its members and its core values. ... Our prayers today are for all victims of sexual exploitation, especially those unable to speak for themselves, and the college encourages everyone to immediately call potential abuse to the attention of the proper authorities.”

In addition to chairing his department at the North Andover college, Spring was the administrator of the college’s residential summer camp for middle and high school students, prosecutors said.

Trisha Thadani can be reached at trisha.thadani@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @TrishaThadani. Melissa Hanson can be reached at melissa.hanson@globe.com.