the short but happy life of eric humphrey gordon
July 13, 2003 3:38 PM   Subscribe

the short but happy life of eric humphrey gordon Forget "Do not call" lists - a better way to get your alma- mater to stop soliciting you. The Harvard Magazine obituary section had to print their retraction in the July/August 2003 issue.
posted by Voyageman (16 comments total)
An interesting piece, if not for the main story, but for the Harvard/Ivy League school related anecdotes. $100,000 for a diploma.. jeez. I have been tempted to tell people that I've died (as someone else, obviously), although the closest I got was telling my car insurance company I was moving to Iceland. Such an excuse is better since you don't have to prove it...

I wonder what Harvard ultimately wants the money for. It's not like there's one Bill Gates style guy raking it in for himself. They're never going to run out of money with their sky-high fees. What are the donations really for?
posted by wackybrit at 4:01 PM on July 13, 2003

"Mr. Gordon is alive and well in New York City. We apologize for the error."

posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:10 PM on July 13, 2003

The mail harrassment sounds like a situation in my own mailbox: 9 years ago I lived with (in this very apartment) with a girl who had a passing relationship with this idiotic organization.

To this day, they send junk mail here addressed to her. I have informed them of her departure. I've done it by mail, email, telephone, fax, and "return to sender" / "no one here by that name" copies of their crap. They refuse to stop sending stuff. They are without a doubt the dumbest group of people I've ever tried to deal with. For a group that claims to believe in god, they sure as hell don't mind needlessly cutting down his trees and sending them to people (NINE YEARS!) who don't want it. The Lord knows (heh) how many countless things they send out to people who've moved/died.
posted by dobbs at 5:27 PM on July 13, 2003

Once while fundraising for a student organization, we received a reply to a solicitation with a copy of a guy's death certificate. We were so amused that we conveniently forgot to drop him from the mailing list.
posted by PrinceValium at 7:39 PM on July 13, 2003

It's kinda weird that there are two Harvard-related posts on Metafilter in a row. This link was really entertaining, though. Thanks!
posted by Tin Man at 7:46 PM on July 13, 2003

I went to Washington University in St. Louis - which likes to style itself as "the Harvard of the Midwest". I got a friend of mine (who didn't go there) into a job at the Alumni/Developement office, and he now runs the phone-a-thon. He's tried to get me off the beg lists, but it's apparently well-nigh impossible.

Wash. U has the second-largest endowment, second only to Harvard. The used to justify tuition increases each year (usually more than twice the inflation rate) not via the expected tack of being able to afford better facilities or faculty, but instead that they wanted to have the same tuition as the next-highest school in the rankings, so that appearance of prestige would attract better faculty, etc. Screwed up.

And they still call me - the University, the school of engineering, and seems to me some other department - at least five times a year, begging for at least 5 dollars, just to have a higher participation percentage. Funny, that great fucking education or reputation *snort* hasn't helped me find a job in the past eight months I've been laid off.

Bitter? just a pint, please.
posted by notsnot at 8:28 PM on July 13, 2003

a great way to go

The thing that really amazes me about harvard is the reason thier endowment is so insanely high is htat they own half of cambridge...oh, and they don't pay taxes as far as i've heard (a pretty sweet deal).

After finishing undergrad at tufts i went on to funded grad school in the same department. I would get calls from the alumni people asking for money and saying that i could give it directly to the department of choice. So basically i could give money to fund myself. My reply of course was "i'll just go in tommorow, hand paula a $10 bill and she can hand it back to me."
posted by NGnerd at 9:17 PM on July 13, 2003

wackybrit: Actualy, with havard's bank account, they could fund the school indefinetly from the intrest alone. Without charging a dime in tuition.
posted by delmoi at 11:03 PM on July 13, 2003

they own half of cambridge

nowadays they're busy buying up allston...

be interesting if they took over BU but I bet we'd still see idiots getting hit by the T every year.
posted by dorian at 12:17 AM on July 14, 2003

Oh, the trick is to move overseas -- then they just can't bring themselves to spend the extra 50¢ or so on shipping you their spiel. It worked for Tulane (the "Harvard of the South"), but they now send it all to my grandmother's house, where I lived before I went to Tulane.

My high school was on a college campus, and we were able to take courses at the college while we were still in high school. Of course, this also meant that even though I was in high school and listed as such, they still hit me up for money.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:31 AM on July 14, 2003

PrinceValium - what a fucking charmer you are.

I have a friend who works in the endowment office of a college. She and I have several ongoing arguments about fundraising, because I have very strong feelings about the subject.

To paraphrase the article, I also did not like my school, not one bit, even while I was there. In fact, I hated it. And still do. Just visiting the campus is enough to give me a crippling headache.

But they didn’t get that for the longest time. Every time they called to shake me down for money, I told them to stop calling. But, of course they didn't. Ditto for the mailings.

Last time they called, I demanded to speak to their Benefactor administrator and demanded that she flag me as a "DO NOT CALL EVER" alumnus and to make sure that any donation my wife might make (she also attended the same school, but doesn't share my feelings about the school) did not activate my account again. She assured me that I was all taken care of.

We will see. If they call again, I will go all the way to the top of their fundraising food chain and threaten to sue them for a campaign of harassment extending over several years.

Which is probably an over-reaction. I should really let go of this, but I've sent my blood pressure up just typing this post.


If you can't sort through the marketing speak, Benefactor is a semi-relational database product that colleges use to track people and the money they give. It's used to create call-lists and so forth. A thoroughly vile example of the kind of surveillance that can already be used to find you.
posted by Irontom at 4:52 AM on July 14, 2003

We will see. If they call again, I will go all the way to the top of their fundraising food chain and threaten to sue them for a campaign of harassment extending over several years.

A friend of mine found himself on the alumni fundraising lists of a small midwestern college that he only attended for two years. It took a letter to the college president with a strongly worded threat of a lawsuit to get him off the rolls. He wouldn't have felt the need to make such a stink, but he had dropped out of the school after the murder of his father and after 18 months of struggling financially and trying to help keep his family afloat, the school sued him for the $1,000 Perkins Loan that he owed them. It was fairly unbelievable that they thought it appropriate to solicit him, but it was pretty clear that where money was concerned, the school had no scruples whatsoever.

The school that my husband and I both attended has been hitting us up at least six times a year by phone or mail, a frequency which has been increasingly over the last decade or so. Since it's another one of those Very Old Schools with more money than the deity of your choice and annual tuition which could purchase a nice family sedan, our inclination has always been to fund our own kids' educations first and foremost.
posted by Dreama at 9:07 AM on July 14, 2003

The two consecutive Harvard posts even relate -- this is a quote from the Conan O'Brien Harvard commencement speech linked in the next thread:

There's also sadness today. A feeling of loss that you're leaving Harvard forever. Let me assure you that you never really leave Harvard. The Harvard fundraising committee will be on your ass until the day you die.

This is true. I know for a fact that right now a member of the alumni association is at the Mount Auburn Cemetery shaking down the corpse of Henry Adams. They heard he has a brass toe ring and they aim to get it. These people just raised $2.5 billion and they only got through the Bs in the alumni directory. Here's basically how it works. Your phone rings, usually after a big meal when you're tired and most vulnerable, and a voice asks you for money. Knowing--you've read in the paper--that they just raised $2.5 billion, you ask, "What do you need it for?" There is a long pause, and the voice on the other end of the line says, "We don't need it, we just want it." (Sinister laugh).

The perseverence of these schools that already have so much is stunning. I hope you've escaped, Irontom.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:06 AM on July 14, 2003

Damn! IronTom blew my cover...

I can't answer for a school with a multi-billion dollar endowment. I work for a small, private college with a very small endowment which was painfully hit by the drop in the stock market.

My employer does solicit alumni and parents several times each year. The funds raised help support the running of the institution. Because we are not state funded, we have to cover everything from salaries to the power bill through tuition and fees, earnings from the endowment, and contributions.

Every institution has different policies regarding how they handle requests to be removed from the solicitation pool. My employer has established a policy for all solicitations to be pulled from only one database. Between one source of information and proper coding we can respect our donors' wishes for how we contact them or recognize their generosity.

Unfortunately, many schools do not tightly regulate how many databases are maintained on their alumni and other donors. If you've asked your alma mater time and again to stop soliciting you and you still get contacted, then you need to take an additional step. Look at the solicitations themselves. Are they coming from an alumni foundation which functions as a separate entity from the university? Are they coming from a specific department? Once you identify the source(s) of the unwanted solicitations, contact that group directly to request your file be properly coded to prevent further solicitations.

Believe it or not, your alma mater isn't trying to anger you.
posted by onhazier at 6:10 PM on July 14, 2003

No. They just don't care if they piss you off. What does it matter if 2% of the people they call get angry? The other 98% give because the nostalgia makes them feel good.

ps - I didnt blow your cover. I said "a friend of mine".
posted by Irontom at 4:28 AM on July 15, 2003

They're never going to run out of money with their sky-high fees.

The actual cost of a Harvard education well exceeds the full price of tution, room and board, etc. This holds for most colleges of that caliber.
posted by oaf at 6:23 PM on July 15, 2003

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