It's always bugged us that the people who contribute to the class notes section in college alumni magazines always seem to have such perfect lives and families. Call us curmudgeonly, but we've always suspected that behind some of these breathless, Pollyannish reports lurks a much darker reality.
Well, after reading Donald Lee Rife's submission to the Where Are They Now? section for his Yale 50th reunion yearbook, our suspicions have been confirmed.
As some of you readers may know, Donald Lee Rife was a graduate of Yale(class of '57, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and Harvard Medical School ('61). He did his training in child psychiatry at William H. Ayres' old stomping ground, Judge Baker Guidance Center in Boston from 1964-66. (Ayres trained there from 1959-63.)
It was soon after his graduation from Harvard Medical School that Rife began to lead the life of a pedophile, molesting his young male patients in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Florida. By 1993, his medical license had been revoked in all three states for child molestation.
After this, you'd think someone like Rife-whose pedophilia was the subject of a series of articles in the St. Petersburg Times -would want to keep a low profile.
So imagine our surprise when an alert reader whose husband was in Rife's class at Yale told us that Rife had contributed to the class of 57's 50th Reunion yearbook.
In his entry, Rife lists himself as "retired" and his marital status as "single." Then he writes,
Following Yale, I went to Harvard Medical School and then back to Yale for an internship at Grace-New Haven. Then back to Harvard for a four-year residency in child psychiatry. This was followed by two years in Anchorage, Alaska in the US Air Force. I finally settled in Vermont and opened my private practice in child psychiatry and a part-time teaching position at the University of Vermont. After 25 years, I began to migrate South with brief stints in Virginia and Tallahasee, Florida at the University of Florida Psychiatry department. In 1990, after open heart surgery, I started my retirement with part time consulting. In 1993, I got my Coast Guard Captain's license and started a new career as a Charter Boat captain on my 40-foot trawler.
In retrospect, my days at Yale were some of the greatest in my life. The rich education, the wonderful friends and classmates and the opportunities that opened up were treasure to cherish forever. I did spend my four years at Yale thinking I was the only gay student at Yale.
Here's what Don Rife left out of his life story: From the St. Petersburg Times, "Doctor Loses His License for Misconduct" by Carol Gentry, June 7, 1993:
Between 1969 and 1983... Rife treated thousands of children in Burlington, Vt...
In the 1980s, some of his former patients, now grown, contacted authorities.
Three were men who said that when they were boys - one just 8 years old, the others in their teens, Rife used the counseling sessions to perform sexual acts on them. One said Rife took him to his home and allowed other adult men to abuse him.
Rife also did not mention this: In 1986-87, Rife was on the faculty of the University of Florida and was chief of the Student Medical Center. Also, according to the St. Petersburg Times and police reports, he made friends with the seven -year- old son of his next door neighbor. When the mother discovered a photo in Rife's house of her son holding a cloth frog that had human-sized male genitalia to his mouth, she went to the police. That's when the son told her about the games he played with Rife in the Jacuzzi, with and without their bathingsuits.
Armed with a warrant, police searched Rife's house and found incriminating photos and letters, describing his sexual contact with minors. To the police, Rife admitted his past relationships with minors,though he said that none of those boys were younger than 12.
Unfortunately, prosecutors had to drop the case against Rife when the boy's parents decided testifying would be too traumatic.
In 1993, the state of Florida did revoke Rife's medical license. But Rife couldn't stay away from children. Shortly after he lost his license, he started volunteering as a docent with children for the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. In 2004, in a story about the docent program, a reporter for the Petersburg Times who was not aware that her paper had done a series about Rife's pedophilia, interviewed Don Rife. In the story, she wrote,"The painter's fantasy style art also includes deep sexual dimensions, but Rife said the museum avoids having the young docents deal with that part of his work."
Not long afterwards, the paper received a tip that this was the same Rife who had been busted for pedophilia. In a followup story, the paper confronted Rife about his criminal past.
"I'm not a pedophile" Rife told the paper." I've had a long-term relationship with a woman and I'm absolutely no danger to a child."
Although he told Yale a different story about his sexual orientation, we're not going to quibble over that. Straight, gay, we don't care what Rife's sexual preferences are.
But we do want him to stay away from children. Despite the fact that the Dali Museum told Rife he could no longer work with children , we wonder if Rife is still finding ways to be around them elsewhere.
(Note. When Dr. William H. Ayres retired, he began volunteering with boys at a center.)
We wonder what the folks in administration at Yale, and Rife's own classmates would think if they knew about Rife's past.
We also wonder if Ayres and Donald Lee Rife ever crossed paths in New Haven or Boston.
Sources: "Doctor Loses License for Misconduct", St. Petersburg Times, June 7, 1993, by Carol Gentry
"Diminutive Docents Put Child's Spin on Surrealist", St. Petersburg Times, July 25, 2004
"I'm No Pedophile, Dali Museum Docent Says", St. Petersburg Times, February 18, 2006http://www.sptimes.com/2006/02/18/Southpinellas/I_m_no_pedophile__Dal.shtml
See how Donald Lee Rife looks today and back in 1957 in his 50th Reunion Yearbook: