Bob Schwartz

Tag: University of Pennsylvania

The Still Secret Story of Trump at Wharton

Poor University of Pennsylvania. One of America’s great universities, with one of America’s great business schools in Wharton, finally got a U.S. president. The bad news is that it is Donald Trump, who spent two years at Wharton as a transfer from Fordham.

Normally—that is, when there was a normal—Penn would be proudly crowing about finally matching other Ivy League schools that can claim such an honor, e.g., seven presidents have Harvard degrees. Instead, Penn has hunkered down, maintaining total silence about Trump’s time at Wharton, his admission, his grades, etc. Almost all the information we have is from Trump himself, most of which has been proven false.

Which leaves Americans, journalist and interested alums gathering crumbs of information. The latest is in the Washington Post: Trump has referred to his Wharton degree as ‘super genius stuff.’ An admissions officer recalls it differently.

A few of the questions that still have no definitive answer:

How did Trump get into Wharton?

At the time he transferred from Fordham to Wharton, it wasn’t nearly as hard to get in as it is now—about a 40% admission rate then, only 7% today. Even with that, his rich father Fred went along on the interview trip, and we don’t know whether any financial incentives changed hands.

How well did Trump do at Wharton?

Hard to tell without grades or many anecdotes, but probably average. It appears that he did pay close attention in real estate class, but was known never to read books. As for his claim that he graduated first in his class:

Trump’s name was not among the top honorees at his commencement. Nor was he on the dean’s list his senior year, meaning he was not among the top 56 students in his graduating class of 366. All that is known for certain is that Trump received at least a 2.0 average, or C, enabling him to graduate.

Does any of this matter?

As usual, Trump simultaneously lies about his achievements and hides the facts. So in one sense this is no different than all his other duplicitous concealments. Still, there are thousands and thousands of people who work really hard to genuinely achieve educational excellence, at Penn and at so many other colleges. It is sad to say that the loudest college graduate in the world isn’t one of those.

Ben Franklin: My University of Pennsylvania Should Revoke Trump’s Diploma

“By the way this idiot Woodward who wrote this book which is all fiction said that I said something like that, but he put it in a crude manner…The concept is true, but the way it was said was very…hey, I went, like, to the best college.”
Trump at a North Dakota rally

Trump self-importantly crows about his degree from Wharton (like all the time), the business school of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Trump’s point is that he must be, like, a genius with that Penn degree. Penn, is, like, a very good school that continues to provide its students with an excellent education. Though in some small number of high-profile cases, it appears to be casting pearls before swine.

The bigger point is Ben Franklin, credited as founder of the university. Above is a photo of the Ben Franklin statue at the center of campus, in front of College Hall.

Penn has tried to walk a fine line in its relationship with Trump, and with other members of his family who have attended Penn. Just as the sins of the father should not be visited on children, the sins of the alumnus should not be visited on a college. Penn did the best it could, given what it had to work with.

Ben Franklin is having none of it. Among our American founders, he is the most famous for not suffering fools. That’s why he is asking the University of Pennsylvania—his University of Pennsylvania—to revoke Trump’s diploma. That won’t stop Trump from continuing to say he went, like, to the best college, but it will give the best college a way to say: thanks for the compliment and PR, but no thanks. And it will give Ben Franklin a way to stop spinning in his grave, just a few blocks from Independence Hall. Because this is not what he envisioned for the first-ever Penn grad in the White House. Not, like, at all.