Officials at ardently conservative Hillsdale College revealed today that allegations of an affair between its former president and his daughter-in-law were made by the woman hours before she killed herself.

The college has been tight-lipped about the reasons for George Roche III's abrupt retirement Nov. 10. A statement today from acting President Robert Blackstock was the first time the college officially addressed the rumors and their source.

"Allegations of an affair between Lissa Roche and Dr. Roche were made by Lissa just hours before she took her own life," the statement said. "To this day the board does not know if the allegations are true or not."

Lissa Roche, 41, who edited several Hillsdale publications and was the wife of Hillsdale history teacher George Roche IV, shot herself Oct. 17.

Blackstock said George Roche III has denied the allegations of an affair, but said the college's board felt the rumors "had so damaged Dr. Roche's credibility and authority that he could no longer govern."

Blackstock has said the college may hire a law firm to investigate the allegations.

In 28 years as president, Roche turned the tiny school into a beacon for conservative values, and the scandal over the alleged affair has reverberated far beyond the isolated campus 90 miles southwest of Detroit.