The mystery of Marilee Jones, the former MIT admissions dean who recently admitted to lying about her academic credentials, has deepened.
First, despite having falsely claimed three degrees she did not have, it turns out Jones does have a college degree — from a school she did not list on the résumé she gave MIT when she first applied for a job there, in 1979. The college also does not appear on biographies from her many national speaking engagements. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1973 from a small Catholic college in Albany, the College of Saint Rose, according to MIT and Saint Rose.
Second, an MIT official said yesterday that Jones embellished her credentials a second time after MIT hired her when she added a degree from Albany Medical College to her résumé. The later misstatement appears to contradict Jones’s account last week that she made the false claims at the same time — 28 years ago.
Jones, 55, has not responded to repeated attempts, including on Tuesday, to reach her.
Jones was beloved for her caring, engaging personality and her national campaign to combat the stress of college admissions. Some friends have rallied to her side, eager to forgive her for a one-time mistake made in her youth, an assessment the revelation of the more recent embellishment could complicate.
The news that Jones has a degree from Saint Rose raises the question of whether her past inspired her to lead a crusade to convince parents and students that a famous college isn’t the only ticket to success.
“The truth is that success and happiness are states of mind and have nothing to do with where one goes to college,” wrote Jones in the 2006 book she coauthored, “Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admissions and Beyond.” “Many of us did not go to top-tier colleges and have managed to lead happy, successful lives.”
Last week, MIT disclosed that officials had asked Jones to resign because she had falsely claimed three degrees that she did not have, all from schools in upstate New York: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Albany Medical College, and Union College. She spent a year as a nondegree student at RPI and never attended the other two, according to the schools. She had never mentioned Saint Rose in any of her biographies.
Last week, MIT was not specific about when she made the claims about the various degrees. But yesterday, MIT Chancellor Phillip L. Clay said Jones listed RPI and Union on her original résumé in 1979 when she applied for a secretarial job that did not require a college degree. MIT did not check the listings on her résumé.
Jones listed another degree, from the private Albany Medical College, on an updated résumé at some later point, Clay said. Clay said it was not clear when Jones updated her résumé, which MIT has in its files, because the document was undated. He said he believed that Jones provided the updated résumé at some point before she was named dean in 1997.
“It’s fair to say [her story] changed over time,” Clay said.
The chancellor said a degree from a lesser-known school would not have hurt her chances to become dean — had she never lied — because MIT was familiar with her work.
“I think it wouldn’t have mattered, hopefully, after 18 years,” he said. “I’m not familiar with that school, but there are a lot of schools I’m not familiar with.”
Saint Rose officials told the Globe yesterday that their records showed that a Marilee Jones graduated in 1973, but they could not verify that it was the former admissions dean. MIT officials, however, confirmed that they had learned yesterday that Jones graduated from the school. Jones grew up in Albany and would have been 21 in May 1973. An MIT official said she did not know how the school found out.
A Saint Rose spokeswoman said privacy laws prevented them from saying more about Jones.
Saint Rose, an all-women’s college that became coed in 1969, is best known today for producing a large proportion of New York State’s teachers and for its nationally-ranked graphic design program. It is a respected school with roughly 5,000 students. U.S. News & World Report this year ranks it 68th among 83 top schools in the North with master’s level programs. It tied with, among others, Wheelock College in Boston and City College of New York.
RPI ranked far higher — 42nd among 124 in the top tier of research universities nationwide. When Jones arrived at MIT in the late 70s, RPI would have been a known and respected name, while Saint Rose probably would have been unrecognized, said Michael Behnke, who was Jones’s boss when he was director of admissions from 1986 to 1997.
Jones told the Globe in 2004 that when she first came to MIT with her husband, who was in graduate school, she had thought she would get a job in a lab, where a degree from RPI might have meant more.
Behnke, now vice president and dean of college enrollment at the University of Chicago, said he recalled Jones saying that she had planned to go to medical school and had been a premed student. She was very knowledgeable about science, he said.
Of Saint Rose, he said, “they obviously did a good job.”
The revelation about where Jones went to school could increase speculation about her motivation over the years as she tried to take the stress out of college admissions.
“I think it’s entirely possible for someone who cares about Marilee and is familiar with her message to wonder what the relationship is between her own experience and the way she sees the impact of an unfair system,” said Lloyd Thacker, founder of The Education Conservancy, an advocacy group.