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Boston Center for the Arts head resigns amid allegations of inappropriate conduct

Gregory Ruffer has resigned as chief executive of the Boston Center for the Arts.
Gregory Ruffer has resigned as chief executive of the Boston Center for the Arts.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe/File 2018

The chief executive of the Boston Center for the Arts has resigned following allegations of inappropriate conduct while he worked as a professor at a Florida college years ago, according to a statement released by the organization’s board of directors Sunday.

Gregory Ruffer stepped down from his post after public radio station WBUR reported Saturday that a former student at what is now called the College of Central Florida alleged in a blog post that Ruffer anonymously sent him inappropriate e-mails while Ruffer was a professor at the school.

John G.F. Ruggieri-Lam, the president of the arts organization’s board of directors, said in a statement Sunday that they take “all matters of this nature extremely seriously.”

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“The Board and leadership of the BCA pledges that we shall take necessary steps and action as necessary to ensure that the organization’s important mission continues, and proper policies and procedures are in place to ensure a safe and appropriate work environment for all who are involved in our organization,” Ruggieri-Lam said in the statement Sunday.

Ruffer did not immediately respond to messages requesting comment.

In a post dated Sept. 19 on the blog Schmopera.com, Wes Hunter, a music performer who attended the Florida community college, alleged that Ruffer sent him the e-mails while working as Hunter’s voice teacher.

On Saturday, WBUR reported that the center for the arts was going to hire an outside law firm to investigate the allegations. Ruggieri-Lam confirmed the account on Sunday.

The allegations pre-date Ruffer’s employment at the Boston Center for the Arts, Ruggieri-Lam said Sunday.

In a phone interview Sunday, Hunter, who is now 30 and lives in Boston, said the e-mails were sent during the 2009-2010 academic year.

“I am glad that the board of directors at the BCA recognized these allegations as important enough to begin an official investigation,” Hunter told the Globe.

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Over the past few days, the center has “taken steps necessary in response to this situation,” Ruggieri-Lam said, including conferring with the organization’s counsel.

The center’s chief operations officer, Kristi Keefe, and chief advancement officer, Emily Foster Day, have been appointed to serve as co-directors of all day-to-day business, Ruggieri-Lam said.

Ruffer was hired in 2016 to serve as the president and CEO of the center. He previously served as president and CEO at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee.

Before that, Ruffer was the music department chair at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. Ruffer also founded the Orlando Chorale and was the organization’s music director, the Globe previously reported.

Last month, Ruffer touched off controversy at the Artist Studios Building in the South End after he announced that artists renting space from the arts organization had to vacate their studios by May and reapply for admission as part of a new BCA artist residency program.

The building’s current residents — including many who have been there for years — have no guarantee they will be able to return and have criticized Ruffer’s handling of the new program.

Ruffer told the Globe last month that the program will create opportunities for more artists to have space in Boston.


Malcolm Gay and Brian MacQuarrie of the Globe staff contributed to this report. John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.