News & Politics

Former Wharton Professor: 'Trump Was the Dumbest G*ddamn Student I Ever Had'

Surprise, surprise. The president came to business school thinking he knew it all.

Photo Credit: Nicole S Glass / Flickr

The late professor William T. Kelley taught marketing at Wharton School of Business and Finance, University of Pennsylvania, for 31 years, ending with his retirement in 1982. Kelley, who also had vast experience as a business consultant, was the author of a then-widely used textbook called Marketing Intelligence:The Management of Marketing Information (originally published by P. Staples, London, 1968). Kelley taught marketing management both to undergraduate and graduate students at Wharton. Dr. Bill was one of my closest friends for 47 years when we lost him at 94 about six years ago. He would have been 100 this year.  

Donald J. Trump was an undergraduate student at Wharton for the latter two of his college years, having graduated in 1968

Professor Kelley told me 100 times over three decades that “Donald Trump was the dumbest goddam student I ever had.” I remember his emphasis and inflection — it went like this: “Donald Trump was the dumbest goddamn student I ever had.” Kelley told me this after Trump had become a celebrity, but long before he was considered a political figure. Kelley often referred to Trump’s arrogance when he told the story that Trump came to Wharton thinking he already knew everything. 

This has relevance now because as recently as this week, President Trump challenged the Secretary of State of the United States to an IQ contest. This came within two days after NBC reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the President a “moron” or a "f**king moron." The president has frequently bragged that he was a great student at a great school (Wharton). Thus, the public is entitled to a contrary view from somebody who was there (Dr. Kelley), and I faithfully report it here.   

Bill Kelley was one smart cookie. His textbook was standard in his time in the then-new field of “marketing intelligence” and the necessity of using computers and databases to manage it. (See onlinelibrary.wiley.com which credits Bill for coining the quoted phrase.)

Kelley’s view seems to be shared by other University of Pennsylvanians. See thedp.com, from the Daily Pennsylvanian, stating: 

Another 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. . . . 

* * * 

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.”

Thanks and R.I.P., Bill Kelley! The words still ring in my ears: “Donald Trump was the dumbest goddamn student I ever had.” 

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
[x]
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Activism
Drugs
Economy
Education
Election 2018
Environment
Food
Media
World