Former Ohio State University fencing coach Charlotte Remenyik was one of the very few school officials to formally sound the alarm about Dr. Richard Strauss during the nearly two decades that he molested hundreds of young male athletes and students, often under the guise of a medical examination, according to an NBC News report.
Remenyik regularly warned her athletes about Strauss and was so persistent that the doctor personally complained about her to the top brass at OSU, according to records uncovered by investigators working for Perkins Coie, the law firm hired by OSU to conduct an independent investigation into Strauss.
In a letter dated Nov. 7, 1994, OSU’s then-director of sports medicine John A. Lombardo dismissed Remenyik’s concerns.
“I have spoken with her and her concerns are based on rumors which has been generated for 10 years with no foundation,” Lombardo wrote in the letter, which was included in the Perkins Coie report. “However, due to the pervasive nature of these rumors, the male athletes do not feel comfortable with Dr. Strauss as their physicians.”
Lombardo did not cooperate with Perkins Coie investigators, according to the firm's report.
“The reason for the persistence of the rumors in the fencing team became clear: a personal and continuous vendetta against me by Coach Remenyik,” Strauss wrote in a letter dated June 3, 1996, to OSU’s then vice-president for student affairs. “Approximately once a year, Coach Remenyik took various members of the team aside and told them to ‘watch out’ for me, citing ‘rumors’.”
Remenyik is the only former OSU coach named in the report, released last year. She appears on page 92 as a person who raised “concerns” about Strauss in 1994 to senior associate athletic director Paul Krebs.
“She was a hero,” said Stephen Snyder-Hill, a Strauss victim and one of the leaders of the drive to hold OSU accountable. “She was the only one who formally stood up.”
Among the fencers who told Remenyik directly that Strauss had crossed the line was her future son-in-law, Kevin Smith.
“He went in to be treated for a torn earlobe and the first thing he said was to drop trou,” Csilla Smith said of her husband. “Kevin refused and told my mother what happened.”
Remenyik, who died in 2011 at age 77, continued to warn her fencers to watch out for Strauss, Smith said.
“My mother would tell her athletes that if Strauss did anything and they were willing to come forward, my mother would be willing to support them,” Smith said. “She would tell her fencers that if somebody had a complaint against Strauss, she would go with them to tell the administration. But beyond telling her, the fencers were too embarrassed or afraid to tell anybody else. So she had no direct evidence.”
In response to a request for comment about Remenyik, OSU spokesman Ben Johnson said, “Ohio State is a fundamentally different university today and over the past 20 years has committed substantial resources to prevent and address sexual misconduct.
“The university’s fundamental failure at the time to prevent or adequately investigate complaints raised by students and staff members is unacceptable."
More than 300 or so Strauss victims have filed federal lawsuits against OSU that are currently in mediation.