This week I read a New York Times item about Marilee Jones, author of Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admissions and Beyond. As dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Ms. Jones is certainly qualified to speak on that topic: she is legendary on the school’s campus for having created one of the most accessible, creative and progressive admissions offices anywhere. She was awarded the institution’s highest honor for administrators, the M.I.T. Excellence for Leading Change and, says the Times, is “widely admired, almost revered, for her humor, outspokenness and common sense.” Indeed, she is a credit to the three schools from which she took her academic degrees: Albany Medical College, Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Except for one thing: two out of those three have no record of a Marilee Jones, and the third says she attended for a year “as a part-time nonmatriculated student.”
No degrees. Turns out, she’s a fake. Oops.
Ms. Jones, needless to say, is history at M.I.T. And that’s a serious shame. Because the warmth, admiration and gratitude from all those students and teachers is real. This is not Kenneth Lay or Clifford Case we’re talking about here. When Marilee Jones first applied for an entry-level job in 1979 she fudged her résumé—and as the years ticked by and she rose through the ranks, what was she going to do? Come forward and say, “By the way, you know those degrees . . . ?”
Her tenure brought genuine value to many, and her leaving is M.I.T.’s loss as well as her own.
Here’s the irony: that first job? According to M.I.T. chancellor Phillip L. Clay, the position didn’t even require a degree. Could Marilee have gotten the job and risen to higher posts purely on merit? Or filled in the gaps in academic qualification needed as she went along? What if she had told the truth in the first place? Alas, we’ll never know. — J.D.M.