Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Ex-Friends' Central chief accused of 'inappropriate conduct'

Officials at Friends' Central School say allegations of "inappropriate conduct" have surfaced against a former longtime head of the Wynnewood school.

Officials at Friends' Central School say allegations of "inappropriate conduct" have surfaced against a former longtime head of the Wynnewood school.

A statement posted on the school's website yesterday referred to "two allegations" against the late Thomas A. Wood involving incidents that occurred 30 years ago. Wood, who died in 2007, was head of the school from 1971 until 1987.

School officials reacted quickly by renaming the campus's Wood Building, which houses the upper school and was named in Wood's honor when he resigned. It has reverted to its former name, the "Main Building."

School officials did not say how they became aware of the allegations and provided no details beyond saying that the actions were "directed toward Friends' Central students" in the early 1980s.

Wood's ex-wife, Patricia, called the accusations -- and the raising of them six years after her ex-husband's death -- "despicable, outrageous and unfair.

"Never in all of our lives together was there any indication of anything like this," said Patricia Wood, of Wynnewood, who said she found out about the allegations yesterday in a call from a Friends Central official. "You can't just smear a person. He died in 2007, and he's not here to defend himself."

Patricia Wood said she might hire an attorney to defend her ex-husband's reputation.

Officials are encouraging members of the school community who may have been affected by Wood's alleged inappropriate conduct to contact the school.

"It is profoundly upsetting that, 30 years ago, such a violation of trust could have occurred in this community," officials said in a statement released this afternoon.

Friends' Central is a co-ed Quaker college preparatory school founded in 1845. The school has two campuses in Wynnewood: one on City Avenue that houses the middle and upper schools; and another on Old Gulph Road.

Wood joined the school after serving as assistant headmaster at Friends Academy in New York.

He grew up in West Chester and graduated from Haverford College. Wood earned his Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham in England. He taught at the Hill School in Pottstown and held administrative positions at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and Athens College in Greece.

Officials at the Hill School say they were unaware of any incidents involving him during Wood's two years as an English teacher, starting in 1958.

During his tenure at Friends' Central, Wood oversaw the construction of the modern Shallcross Hall, the renovation of an 18th-century barn as the Blackburn Library and the purchase of the Montgomery School which now serves as the campus for the lower school.

Wood resigned in 1987 to accept a position as director of consulting for Independent Educational Services (IES) in Princeton. He died in 2007 at a retirement community in Sarasota, Fla., after developing lung cancer and a brain tumor. He was 76.