By Joseph D’Andrea
At the start of the spring semester, Adelphi students were ecstatic when they showed up to campus to be greeted by actor Brad Pitt in the University Center. How often is it that such a big-name celebrity is right where you’re getting your lunch? Or was he?
After rushing to get autographs, only to be told that it was all just a joke and he was a paid actor posing for promotional materials for the university, students started to protest. This led to an exposé done by a local paper that left the administration in the spotlight. Apparently they were planning to claim famous alumni had attended the university in attempts to boost their popularity as an institution.
Founded in 1929, Adelphi alumni over the years have included Public Enemy frontman Chuck D and Jonathan Larsen, the playwright of “Rent” and “Tick, Tick… Boom!” However, as revealed last month by a sweeping amount of headlines, there are some faux Panthers that the university has been caught promoting as Adelphi graduates. Many students have expressed their disappointment, but also confusion in retrospect, asking themselves how did they not realize these falsehoods until the controversy hit the news cycle?
Charles Day, a senior studying aerospace engineering at Adelphi, felt personally let down by the college and spoke on the situation.
“When I was in my junior year of high school,” Day said, “I came across Adelphi’s website and was greeted with a picture of none other than Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins receiving his diploma in front of a big banner that read: ‘Class of 1969.’ Having read countless interviews given by an American of such notoriety, I looked more into Adelphi’s programs and applied. However, as I came to learn more about the current controversy, I realized that not only was I tricked, but somehow didn’t realize that Collins was most likely circling the moon while the ceremony was taking place. I guess by choosing the least known of the Apollo 11 astronauts, they thought they’d get away with it. And apparently they did for over 50 years.”
It’s suspected that Adelphi even dipped into the bucket of fictional characters when promoting themselves. One student reported that he received an email in 2021 that depicted a board member shaking hands with none other than Professor Charles Xavier of the comic book series “X-Men.”
Beyond these photoshopped images, a recent audit of Adelphi’s financial records showed that the university spent roughly $45,000 on services from the Long Island Celebrity Impersonation Company, a business that often sends actors to birthday parties and other celebrations. A look back at past yearbooks reveals several photos in which figures ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Elvis Presley handed diplomas to students, confirming what these expenses were used for.
It is also suspected that at these graduation ceremonies, speeches were even given by the imitation alumni, however few recorded samples exist. A transcript from the 1999 graduation ceremony reads: “My fellow Panthers, today is a day you will remember for the rest of your lives. It’s the end of your college career, but the beginning of your professional one. If I were alive to see all your young faces, I’d wish you the best of luck, and encourage you to follow the advice I gave to the American people all those years ago: Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
The error of not acknowledging the phony speaker of this John F. Kennedy speech in particular has been called “embarrassing” by many Adelphi students over the past week.
Adelphi has yet to issue a formal response to these allegations.