Founded in 1636 with a grant from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Harvard University is America's oldest and most prestigious institute of higher education. There are larger institutions with more students and faculty, but none awards a degree that carries the reputation and stature of Harvard's. Such a reputation ensures a rigorous screening process for admission into its sacred portals. Indeed, Harvard alumni comprise a veritable who's who of Who's Who, including presidents and prime ministers, judges and financiers, poets and scientists, as well as creators of some of the more successful Simpsons episodes.
But as with any institution, occasional square pegs are chosen for the round holes of higher education. Jury selection continues in Sacramento for the trial of former mathematics expert and alleged Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski. Throughout the extensive media coverage of the case, reporters have dug into every aspect of the man's life, hunting for clues as to why he might commit murder by mail. The answer could just be staring everyone in the face: Kaczynski's degree from Harvard in 1965.
Is there a connection between a Harvard education and the propensity to commit crimes against humanity? Is there something inherent in the education, the campus, the faculty that would compel a student or graduate to take another's life? A Lexis/Nexis search suggests, at least, that a Harvard affiliation doesn't automatically exempt someone from severe criminal tendencies. For the following collection of alumni gone bad, the word "crimson" may refer to something other than a school newspaper:
In 1988 Bai Xiaodong, a graduate of both Harvard and UCLA, ambushed and killed two of his neighbors in Los Angeles, thinking they were spying on him. He spent six years in a mental hospital before being deported to China.
Gen. Hector Gramajo, former defense minister of Guatemala and a graduate of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, was served with a lawsuit upon his 1991 graduation. The suit, filed on behalf of several plaintiffs by the Center for Constitutional Rights, described Gramajo as "the worst human rights violator in the Western Hemisphere," responsible for over 10,000 deaths, as well as countless acts of torture and massacres of entire villages. During his graduation ceremonies, Gramajo was flanked by armed guards, and appeared to be wearing a bulletproof vest under his academic robes.
In 1979, Philadelphia police removed a steamer trunk from the apartment of Harvard fellow Ira Einhorn and found the remains of a cheerleader, missing for 18 months. At the time, the '60s hippie guru, environmental leader, and corporate consultant claimed it was a CIA-KGB frame-up. He skipped bail in 1981 and remains a fugitive.
Harvard Law School graduate Anthony Castelbuono was arrested in 1985, and admitted to federal agents that he'd laundered millions of dollars in a scheme that smuggled heroin into the United States from Italy. An initial arrest in the drug ring, Antonio Turano, later turned up dead, wrapped in plastic and lying in marshlands, just before he was to go to trial.
Former Black Panther Warren Kimbro was convicted for killing fellow Panther Alex Rackley in 1969. He served four years, and later received his master's from Harvard. In 1975 he was appointed to a deanship at Eastern Connecticut State College.
Harvard graduate William Burroughs traveled to Mexico City in 1951 with his wife, Joan Vollmer, and in the midst of re-enacting a William Tell stunt -- attempting to shoot an apple from her head -- miscalculated and killed her.
In 1995, the Harvard Crimson publication received a photograph of Harvard premed student Sinedu Tadesse, with a note warning that a "juicy story" would soon follow. A few days later, Tadesse stabbed her dorm roommate to death, injured another woman, and then hanged herself in the bathroom.
In 1995, Harvard University received a hand-delivery of articles from a South Carolina newspaper, and immediately rescinded an offer of early admission to Gina Grant, straight-A student and captain of her school tennis team. Five years earlier, Grant had pleaded no contest to bludgeoning her mother in the head with a candleholder.
The Return of Jimmy Walker
One recent morning found Jon Fox driving in his car, listening to the new Johnny Steele morning show on Live 105. Being the former comedy booker for the Punch Line, former publisher of the now-extinct Just for Laughs comedy newspaper, and current comedy booker for gigs in Reno, Fox had an interest in checking out the funny folks on the above-mentioned program. He cocked an ear upon hearing a commercial for a new television series called Jimmy Walker, Texas Ranger, in which the washed-up TV comic claimed to catch Texan bad guys and blow them up "with dy-no-mite!" Fox immediately called up the management for Jimmy Walker to congratulate him and see if he'd enjoy a booking in Reno. When informed they'd never heard of the series, Fox realized it was a joke and ashamedly faxed the station with one of those "you wouldn't believe what I just did" letters.