Amy Bishop and Harvard: A lethal mix?

Bishop’s court-appointed attorney, Roy W. Miller, who has spent three hours over two days meeting with his client in jail, told Hunter that not getting tenure “insulted her and slapped her in the face, and it’s probably tied in with the Harvard mentality.”

That makes sense to me. When Bishop, then 19, shot her 18-year-old brother, Seth, in 1986, both were undergraduates at Northeastern University. Their father taught art at the Boston school. Amy Bishop met her future husband, James Anderson, there when they were undergraduates. (They were a couple at the time of Seth Bishop’s death.) Both Amy and James graduated from Northeastern with degrees in biology.

That bump up from Northeastern to the super-prestige of Harvard appears to have been central to Amy Bishop’s life. Her Who’s Who of American Women entry — the information is provided by the biographee — lists under “educational information” her 1993 Ph.D. from Harvard, but is silent on her college degree from Northeastern.

As an author of biographies and magazine profiles, I am a connoisseur of Who’s Who entries. I’m certain I’ve looked at hundreds, even thousands, over the years, and I remember very few that didn’t list the college degree first. Bishop might have hoped that anyone who looked her up would simply assume that she started at Harvard College, and then just continued to climb the ladder of the nation’s most storied university.

In fact, according to reports in The New York Times, a core reason for her denial of tenure was not the problems she had with students — several had signed petitions complaining about Bishop’s teaching techniques and classroom behavior — but her poor record of publishing papers in respected research journals. One of her articles was published in a journal that the Times’s Gina Kolata calls “essentially a scientific vanity press.” The article is bylined with her name, her husband’s name and the names of three of their four school-aged children. Did she think that this was OK for the University of Alabama; that its tenure rules didn’t apply to a Harvard Ph.D.?

In light of the history of the police work that gave Amy Bishop a crime-free record when she applied for a job at the university in Huntsville, it seems wise to ask if the authorities are taking a close look at her husband, James Anderson. His statements and observations about his wife don’t always compute, and he was also questioned, with her, in the matter of the pipe bomb mailed to a Harvard physician in 1993. Amy Bishop feared the doctor would give her a poor evaluation. No one was ever charged in the case.

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