In a Wednesday night
broadcast of CBS widely-viewed investigative program, 60 Minutes,
about a story on "Diplomas For Sale," Cessna CEO Jack Pelton was
alleged to have earned questionable degrees issued by Hamilton
University, of Evanston, WY.
The story implies that Hamilton is an illicit diploma mill (and
is no longer granting degrees due to state action) and the degrees
issued by the school may not be all that they claim to be.
The report, by CBS Reporter Vicky Mabrey, contained some damning
testimony, including the claim that "'The campus doesn't exist,'
says Dawn Curtis, who along with Tracy Robirds, once did clerical
work for Hamilton University. She says they were two-thirds of the
entire staff, and they left after realizing the school wasn't quite
as advertised. 'We never saw any faculty advisers at all. We never
saw faculty at all, ever,' says Curtis. 'There aren't any
The university, based in a former motel, has a very small staff
(a total of three were noted at one point) and is allegedly not
certified by any accredited educational program. A CBS visit to the
"Campus" revealed only two cars on the site, one staffer, and no
visible students. When a staffer was asked for a facility tour, the
police were called and CBS left the site.
CBS claims that Hamilton grads get their degrees by, "...filling
out a form on a site that claims to be an independent referral
service. But it really was set up to funnel business to Hamilton.
You’ll then be offered dozens of degrees. If you’re
accepted, and chances are good you will be, it can take as little
as a week or two to get a diploma. Your main assignments are to
write a short paper and a big check."
During the course of the program, CBS listed Cessna President
and CEO, Jack Pelton, as one of it's Graduates, stating that
Hamilton's alumni included "...business executives like Jack
Pelton, CEO of Cessna Aircraft, – who lists two Hamilton
degrees on his resume." Indeed, Pelton's official bio, posted on
both the Cessna and Textron sites, notes that the claims two
degrees from Hamilton University.
The Cessna bio (published 12/11/03) specifically states, "Pelton
holds BS and MS degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Hamilton
University. He is a resident of Wichita and currently serves on the
board of directors for the General Aviation Manufacturers
Association and Wichita’s Habitat for Humanity. A commercial,
instrument-rated pilot, he is Citation rated and flies regularly as
pilot in command."
Caught By Surprise
The accusations against the highly-regarded Cessna boss caught
senior staffers by surprise, but some industry wags indicate
that Pelton's survival as CEO was in doubt. "You rarely take a hit
this public, and this nasty, and remain in control of such a
high-profile company," noted one GA heavy, who spoke to ANN on
Cessna Stands by Pelton
Cessna's Jessica Myers, speaking exclusively to ANN, spoke on
behalf of the company, in response to our inquiries.
"Jack (Pelton) is a very seasoned industry veteran with strong
credentials, an exceptional background and a stellar
He was hired at Cessna on the merits of his experience and
accomplishments and has earned the title of President and
CEO as a result of his continued great work and strong
We thoroughly researched Jack's qualifications and background
upon his hiring in 2000, and his strong track record of
professional success continues to make him an asset to Cessna and
We'll have more information as this story develops.