For years, President Donald Trump has said it’s clear that he is “a very smart guy” since he attended Wharton — a school he describes as “super genius stuff.”
Whenever his intellectual credibility is questioned or mocked, Donald Trump is quick to remind everyone where he attended college.
“I went to the Wharton School of Finance,” he said multiple times in a July 11, 2015 speech in Phoenix, Ariz. “I’m, like, a really smart person.”
Donald Trump transferred into Wharton’s undergraduate program — then known as the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce — after spending two years at Fordham University in New York. He graduated in 1968 and has embraced the school’s card-carrying prestige ever since.
In an August 16, 2015 television interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he described the school as “probably the hardest there is to get into.” He added, “Some of the great business minds in the world have gone to Wharton.”
“Why do you have to tell us all the time that you went to Wharton?” moderator Chuck Todd asked. “People know you’re successful.”
“They know it’s a great business school,” Trump replied.
Donald Trump Meet The Press Full Interview on August 16, 2015
Despite Trump’s repeated mention of Wharton, his own classmates hardly remember him, and he even describes the school’s high-flung reputation as overwrought in his 1986 book, “Trump: The Art of the Deal.”
“In my opinion, that [Wharton] degree doesn’t prove very much, but a lot of people I do business with take it very seriously, and it’s considered very prestigious,” Trump wrote.
He added, “It didn’t take long to realize that there was nothing particularly awesome or exceptional about my classmates and that I could compete with them just fine.”
Biographer, Gwenda Blair, wrote in 2001 that Trump was admitted to Wharton on a special favor from a “friendly” admissions officer. The officer had known Trump’s older brother, Freddy.
Trump’s classmates doubt that the real estate mogul was an academic powerhouse.
“He was not in any kind of leadership. I certainly doubt he was the smartest guy in the class,” said Steve Perelman, a 1968 Wharton classmate and a former Daily Pennsylvanian news editor.
Some classmates speculated that Trump skipped class, others that he commuted to New York on weekends.
Trump, who graduated from Wharton in 1968, has also never challenged the fact that he “graduated first in his class,” which various publishers and news agencies such as The New York Times have reported.
Penn records and Trump’s classmates dispute this claim.
In 1968, The Daily Pennsylvanian published a list of the 56 students who were on the Wharton Dean’s List that year — Trump’s name is not among them.
“I recognize virtually all the names on that list, ” 1968 Wharton graduate Stephen Foxman said, “and Trump just wasn’t one of them.”
1968 Wharton graduate Jon Hillsberg added that there was no indication on the 1968 Commencement Program that Trump graduated with any honors. A copy of the program acquired from the Penn Archives lists 20 Wharton award and prize recipients, 15 cum laude recipients, four magna cum laude recipients and two summa cum laude recipients for the Class of 1968. Trump’s name appears nowhere on those lists.
“If he had done well, his name would have shown up,” Foxman said.
Given that there are 366 listed 1968 Wharton graduates on QuakerNet, Penn’s alumni database, the Dean’s List of 56 students represents approximately the top 15 percent of the class. The omission of Trump’s name suggests that his academic record at Penn was not as outstanding as he has claimed.
Penn spokesperson Ron Ozio said the University cannot release the academic records of alumni other than to confirm the date of graduation, degree and major.
“[This] does not change because an alumnus is famous or holds a public position,” he said in a written statement.
Nonetheless, many of Trump’s peers in the Wharton Class of 1968 agree that he did not stand out academically, though many offer mixed accounts of how the 45th president acted in class.
A 1968 Wharton graduate who did not want to be named said that Trump “sat in the front row [of their Real Estate class], raised his hand a lot to answer questions and had a heavy New York accent.”
1968 Wharton graduate Roger Fulton Jr. made similar remarks, adding that he recalls Trump as “very focused on his studies.”
1968 Wharton graduate Edward Pollard also described Trump as “very professional” and “different from the rest of the class.”
“He was really off by himself. He didn’t party or go to football games … [h]e didn’t mingle with the guys going back to hang out and chatting, and stuff like that,” added Pollard, who was, like Trump, a junior year transfer student to Penn.
While some remember Trump as a studious and solitary figure, others remember an individual who was less invested in his formal education and more involved with his future in real estate.
1968 Wharton graduate Louis Calomaris recalled that “Don … was loath to really study much.”
Calomaris said Trump would come to study groups unprepared and did not “seem to care about being prepared.”
He added that Trump’s academic passivity likely stemmed from his passion for engaging directly in the real estate business.
“He spent all his weekends in New York because the residential real estate is a weekend business,” Calomaris said. Five of Trump’s other classmates confirmed this.
“He was not an intellectual man, but that wasn’t what his goal was,” he said. “He’s not an intellectual now, [and] that’s pretty obvious … [w]hat I saw early on was an unbounded ambition that did come to fruition, because it matched his firm’s needs, and that’s how these things work.”
Excerpt from Penn’s 212th Commencement Program
– Rebecca Tan I Alex Rabin I Dan Spinelli I The Daily Pennsylvanian