Hamilton University was an unaccredited institution based in Evanston, Wyoming. According to the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, it was first established in Hawaii as American State University. It has since been closed by court order in Wyoming and has relocated to the Bahamas under the name Richardson University.
Since it had no real students and no faculty and was housed in buildings which had once been a Motel 6, Hamilton was widely thought to be a diploma mill. The school issued degrees based on "life experiences." Candidates for a degree were required to answer a few questions and write a small project of 2,000 words (about seven typed pages). The school issued Bachelor's, Master's, and even PhDs. The presence of a small church built in the parking lot had served to make the activity tax free due to federal and state laws, even though the church building had no pews; people in Evanston had never seen services there.
CBS News reported in 2004 that Hamilton was operated by Rudy Marn of Key West, Florida. Marn, an art collector and philanthropist, has a history of running diploma mills. In 2008, Marn plead guilty to tax fraud and was sentenced in October 2008 by Casper federal court to two years in prison and ordered to pay $620,000 in restitution to the IRS. Marn, Bureau of Prisons # 10728-091, served time in Federal Correctional Institution, Beaumont Low in the Federal Correctional Complex, Beaumont, and was released in September 2010.
Academics and accreditation
Hamilton claimed to be accredited by the American Council of Private Colleges and Universities (ACPCU). The ACPCU, which was "set up by Hamilton, for Hamilton" has no authorization from the United States Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Former FBI consultant John Bear called it a "fake accrediting agency set up by the Wyoming-based diploma mill, Hamilton University."
Criticism and controversy
An investigation by the TV news program 60 Minutes revealed that some people in positions of power actually held phony degrees issued by Hamilton University, such as Cessna Aircraft Co. CEO Jack J. Pelton. A statement by the company did not deny the allegations, asserting that Mr. Pelton was chosen for his field experience more than for his academic achievement.
The most notable "graduate" of Hamilton University was former U.S. government official Laura Callahan, a key figure in the "Project X" email scandal involving the disappearance of thousands of White House emails which had been subpoenaed by Congress. Callahan's diplomas from HU had enabled her to get a high position in the United States Department of Homeland Security. A probe of her claims evolved into an investigation by the Government Accountability Office of Federal employees who had paid diploma mills with taxpayer funds.
When the CBS 60 Minutes video crew visited the campus, there was no evidence of any students or faculty, but three office workers present.
People with Hamilton degrees
- Laura Callahan, former senior director at the United States Department of Homeland Security
- Ben Hanlon, the father and leader of the Wild Hanlons from the NBC television show Treasure Hunters, claims a Masters and PhD from Hamilton University
- Jack J. Pelton, former CEO of Cessna Aircraft Co and current Chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association
- American State University (Moved to Wyoming and renamed Hamilton University)
- Richardson University (Bahamas) (Hamilton University, renamed and relocated again after Wyoming shut the operation down)
- List of unaccredited institutions of higher learning
- List of unrecognized accreditation associations of higher learning
- Unaccredited Colleges, Oregon Office of Degree Authorization (accessed October 14, 2007).[dead link]
- Diplomas for Sale, CBS News, 60 Minutes (2004-11-10)
- Kleinberg, Eliot (2007-12-07). "DEGREES BRING PERKS, BUT COLLEGE RAISES DOUBT". Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 2009-01-17.
- Wyoming Man Sentenced to 24 Month Prison Term for Tax Fraud, IRS, 2008
- "Locate a Federal Inmate: Rudy G Marn". Federal Bureau of Prisons. 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-17.
- .edu FAQ: Eligibility for the .edu Domain, EDUCAUSE website, accessed August 3, 2008
- "Welcome to Hamilton University". Archived from the original on 1998-12-05.
- States Struggle to Regulate Online Colleges That Lack Accreditation, The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 23, 2001
- Paulso, Amy (2000-03-23). "White House officials acknowledge e-mail glitch secrecy, say no threats were made". CNN. Retrieved 2009-01-17.
- Diploma Mills Are Easily Created and Some Have Issued Bogus Degrees to Federal Employees at Government Expense, Statement of Robert J. Cramer, Managing Director, Office of Special Investigations, United States Government Accountability Office, Before the Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness, Committee on Education and the Workforce, U.S. House of Representatives (2004-09-23
- Ben, Wild Hanlons; Treasure Hunters, NBC website (accessed February 11, 2008)
- "EAA Senior Leadership Team". EAA.