PETALING JAYA - The recent expose on Rey Buono's involvement in sex with underage victims decades ago has shocked many, who remember the American performing arts lecturer as a good man.
Buono's supposed dark past was uncovered by the prestigious Milton Academy in Boston, United States, where he was a lecturer from 1973 to 1987.
Equally startling was the fact that he had taught at a few universities in Malaysia and played an active role in pioneering theatre training and arts curriculum development.
Writer, poet and educator Bernice Chauly, who has known Buono for more than 20 years, was shocked to hear the news.
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"I'm flabbergasted. We are very good friends and these allegations are very serious.
"As I know, he is a very kind and thoughtful person. I don't know how to react to this," said Chauly.
Following a recent investigation by the academy, it was found that Buono had engaged in sexual misconduct with students during his time there.
His LinkedIn profile cites that he was employed by Universiti Putra Malaysia (1997-2002), Sunway University College (2002-2006) and Taylor's University (2011-2012).
Actor Ghafir Akbar said he was surprised with the news.
"Sexual abuse is not acceptable at any level. But I can only speak about him as a teacher. He was my mentor and pivotal to my starting a formal education in theatre."
UPM corporate strategy and communications office director Prof Dr Nor Kamarian Nordin said Buono taught theatre studies there from 1999 to 2002.
"We have never received any complaints from the students," she said.
Taylor's University said Buono was under contract with them from 2011 to 2012.
"According to his former colleagues, he was a good staff member. We were not aware of any misconduct," it said in a statement.
Sunway Education Group and Sunway University senior executive director Elizabeth Lee said: "We need to be sure this is the same Rey Buono who was with Sunway University from 2003 to 2006."
She said he came highly recommended by UPM and the Singapore Education Ministry.
"Our Rey Buono was very high profile. How do we know if he was the same one mentioned in the US reports?" she asked.
Lee said the university conducted background checks on everyone employed, including police checks if needed.
"I checked with the staff who worked with him then and those with us now and found no student complaints were ever received about him. It seems like two different persons, the Rey who worked in Boston and the Rey who worked at Sunway," she said.
Academician and writer Prof Malachi Edwin Vethamani said Buono seemed to be a very principled person, conscientious and hardworking.
"I am really shocked," he said.
Local actor and theatre practitioner Chacko Vadaketh said: "He is a very skilled director. This news is quite shocking and coming out now after so long."
Marvin Wong, who worked with Buono in the production A Light In KL City in 2009, described his experience working with him as "educational, enriching and completely professional".
But a theatre exponent, who declined to be named, has this to say: "I am least surprised. But I would rather not share what I heard as there is no way to determine if it is just hearsay," said the 40-year-old.
Nick Davis, a musician and actor, who studied under Buono at Sunway University College in Subang Jaya, was also in shock.
"But I never knew he was such a person until my ex-college mates shared the article.
"I feel sad for him," he said.