Telling Tall Tales Out Of School

Heather Horn at The Atlantic with the round-up. Horn:

It’s New York Times wedding pages meets tabloids: Adam Wheeler, a tale-spinning student who managed to lie his way through Harvard and part of a Rhodes scholarship application, has the blogosphere equally delighted and horrified. Tuesday’s Boston Globe story detailed Wheeler’s stunts, which included faked resumes, recommendations, SAT scores, transcripts, plagiarized papers, and more. He managed to win grant money and prizes until English professor James Stimson, reviewing Wheeler’s Rhodes scholarship essays in his senior year, smelled a rat. Now, Wheeler’s fakery exposed as he faces criminal charges, the media scavengers are on the prowl.

Xi Yu and Julie M. Zauzmer at The Harvard Crimson:

A former Harvard student was indicted Monday for falsifying information in his applications to Harvard and for several scholarships.

Adam Wheeler, 23, was indicted on 20 counts of larceny, identity fraud, falsifying an endorsement or approval, and pretending to hold a degree. Wheeler was allegedly “untruthful” in his applications to the University and in scholarship applications, according to a statement released Monday by Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone.

As a senior in September 2009, Wheeler allegedly submitted fraudulent applications for the Harvard endorsement for both the United States Rhodes Scholarship and the Fulbright Scholarship.

His application packet included fabricated recommendations from Harvard professors and a college transcript detailing perfect grades over three years. Wheeler’s resume listed numerous books he had co-authored, lectures he had given, and courses he had taught, according to authorities.

Wheeler’s transgressions came to light when a Harvard professor noticed similarities between Wheeler’s work and that of another professor during the application review process for the Rhodes Scholarship. The professor then compared the two pieces and voiced concerns that Wheeler plagiarized nearly the entire piece.

Wheeler’s file was referred to University officials, who decided—upon discovering the falsified transcript—to open a full review of Wheeler’s academic file. Wheeler was invited to present his case at a disciplinary hearing convened by University officials, but decided to await the decision at his home in Delaware rather than attend the meeting, according to the press release.

Maureen O’Connor at Gawker:

He falsely claimed to have perfect SAT scores, to have prepped at Andover, and to have attended MIT. (Why would you lie to make yourself seem even more insufferable? Isn’t the mere fact of being a liberal arts student at Harvard enough?) Wheeler is also believed to have stolen some $45,000 in grants, scholarship, and financial aid by acquiring it under false premises. He even applied for Fulbright and Rhodes Scholarships—and is thought to have lied there, too:

His application packet included fabricated recommendations from Harvard professors and a college transcript detailing perfect grades over three years. Wheeler’s resume listed numerous books he had co-authored, lectures he had given, and courses he had taught, according to authorities.

Wheeler also had some successes: The English department awarded him the Hoopes and Winthrop Sargent Prizes in 2009, as well as a grant for academic research. Brilliant, lying, Ivy League manipulators—is there an alumni club for that?

The New Republic:

This morning the Times had a small item on Adam Wheeler, a Delaware native who faked his way into Harvard who managed to con the university out of $45,000 in financial aid. (He falsely said that he had perfect SAT scores, for instance.) He now faces 20 criminal charges, including identity fraud and falsifying an endorsement or approval. In fact, Adam Wheeler recently applied for an internship at the magazine; specifically, an internship for our literary section. We did not accept him. Click here for a PDF of his rather remarkable two-page resume, in which he claims that (a) he’s contracted to write several books; (b) he can speak French, Old English, Classical Armenian, and Old Persian; and (c) he’s in demand on the lecture circuit.


The most hilarious take of the day goes to the New Republic staff, bragging that they’d recently rejected Wheeler’s application for an internship:

We here at The New Republic are not so easily duped.The line has been excised. A subscriber in TNR’s comments notes that “for the New Republic to boast of its scam-busting acumen makes as much sense as, oh, Mark Souder preening himself on his devotion to family values… in an interview with his mistress.”

Jon Taplin at TPM:

If he only had not gone for the Rhodes Scholarship, he might have landed a great job a Goldman Sachs selling dervatives.

I only have one question. What’s up with Harvard’s application system due diligence?

Chris Rovzar at New York Magazine:

So, what can we learn from this?

1. Obviously, everyone should start lying on their college applications now. Wheeler claimed on his Harvard application not only that he had a perfect SAT score, but that he had attended MIT and Phillips Academy Andover. All things that are very easily checked, but which clearly weren’t in this case.

2. If you have a sketchy friend whose lying you just try to ignore, there might be a deeper problem. You know that pal you have that sometimes tells you stories, like that one about how he kissed Anne Hathaway after getting drunk next to her in first class on a flight to Istanbul, that just don’t add up? Well, he could be lying about everything. Listen to this Wheeler anecdote, from the Post:

A former friend from Bowdoin, Nick Dunn, told the Post that he first realized there was something phony about his pal during a trip the two took to New York City in 2006. “We were walking around New York and ran into an old classmate of Adam’s, I guess from high school. And the classmate said, ‘Oh, Adam, how’s MIT?’ “He said, ‘Oh, it’s great!’ And we were like, ‘What? You don’t go to MIT!’ ” Dunn said, “He’s definitely been disingenuous with people for a while,” noting that Wheeler also bragged that he attended the University of Chicago.

Sounds crazy, right? But if this was your sketchy friend who comes up with weird claims semi-regularly, you might have just let this slide. Don’t! Some of the smartest people are the most shifty. Ask him what dorm he was in at Andover, and see if he knows that football chant that ends with, ” … you’re gonna pump our gas someday!”

3. Handsome men get away with things more easily. Actually, this isn’t anything new, but we just wanted to point out that he’s pretty cute.

4. Know your limits. Wheeler would have probably made it out of Harvard in the clear had he not made outrageous claims on his Rhodes application and plagiarized his essay. You’ll notice it’s only people who have personality disorders who compare themselves to Icarus.

5. Realizing you are about to graduate with a useless English degree can make you do pretty desperate things. Like make up fabulous lies in order to keep yourself in grant money and prestige. Or become a blogger.


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Filed under Crime, Education, Mainstream

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