Former Wittenberg professor Hollant “Max” Adrien was killed last month in Florida.
According to the Miami Herald, Adrien was beaten to death after an alleged attempt at unwanted “sexual advances” on 20-year-old Barry Joshua Baer. Baer stated that in self-defense, he stabbed the former professor with a knife before striking him over the head more than 40 times with a hammer.
In 2012, during his time as a professor at Wittenberg, Adrien fell under similar allegations of kidnapping and raping a local 19-year-old with a developmental disorder. Wittenberg fired Adrien, and the former professor went to trial.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Springfield Police had arrested the professor in October of 2012 for the 2012 sexual assault allegations, in addition to two previous sexual assault allegations, which were dropped later for “credibility issues.”
When news hit campus of the allegations, the reaction of the student body was mixed.
“I think there was a lot of confusion initially,” said Elizabeth Doll, ’15, a student in the language department during Adrien’s time at Wittenberg. “There were a lot of different things going around about what happened and to see the news trucks right outside of Myers Hall was definitely shocking…some staff were in support of him and said that he should be treated innocent until proven guilty, but I think among students there was more confusion and shock than anything else.”
Alumni Katie Mauch, ’15, followed Adrien’s lawsuit, and expressed similar sentiments.
“I know of people who staunchly advocated for his right to be presumed innocent … and I also know of people who wanted him off campus and fired right away,” she said. “There were people who supported the school’s decision to fire him, and people who saw the legal ramifications that surrounded that decision.”
Rick Incorvati, professor of English, did not know Adrien very well, but expressed his concern during the court process.
“At the time, I worried about him as I would worry about any colleague accused of a serious crime in a community that didn’t offer the support of family or a wide circle of friends. He was, in a lot of respects, alone,” Incorvati said. “Struggle as I might, I can’t convince myself that I have any useful personal convictions to share…all I know is what’s in the papers. I think I’m just like the average person hearing the news like we’ve received: I’m troubled and uncertain.”
According to the Springfield News-Sun, Adrien was found not guilty of the charges. Adrien filed a lawsuit against the university for his termination, in addition to six media organizations and the Springfield Police Department for defamation in 2013, eight months after his acquittal.
“[Regarding his actions post-acquittal] I think the damage had already been done,” Doll said. “He lost his job and so many people had their own ideas or opinions about what happened that the verdict didn’t really change that.”
Prior to the accusations, Adrien was a prominent figure in the media. According to the Miami Herald, he assisted volunteers of 2010 Haitian earthquake’s relief services, teaching them Creole.
One current member of the university’s faculty, head of the language department Ruth Hoff, was solemn when discussing her former colleague’s allegations and his death. She supported him during his accusations, though lost contact after he moved to Florida.
Instead of focusing on the trials, she said she will remember the positive things Adrien did with his 56 years of life.
“I will continue to remember Dr. Adrien for his commitment to raising awareness about his homeland’s rich culture and history, his enthusiasm for educating others and his volunteer efforts teaching Creole after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti,” Hoff said. “It greatly saddens me that his life should end so horrifically.”
When asked for comment on the case, Wittenberg University Vice President of Marketing and Communications Karen Gerboth sent the following statement to the Torch: “Despite the passing of time and what has transpired, it remains university policy not to comment on personnel issues.”