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Thu, Nov 11, 2004

CBS 60 Minutes Broadcast Implies Cessna CEO Has Bogus Degrees

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.

No Teachers?

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 teachers.'"

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 background.

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 professional reputation.

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 leadership.

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 to Textron."  

We'll have more information as this story develops. 

FMI: www.cessna.com, www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/11/08/60II/main654319.shtml, Textron Bio, Cessna Bio

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