Adam Wheeler faked his way into Harvard. Then he went a step too far.
(page 3 of 3)
Stanford accepted him as an incoming junior. The acceptance was later revoked, with Stanford—obviously embarrassed—issuing a vague statement about investigating “misrepresentation of facts.”
Yale was more diligent. According to Kevin Fitzgerald, the Caesar Rodney District superintendent who was the high school principal at the time, a Yale official contacted the school to check Wheeler’s transcript. “He claimed to have taken AP courses that we did not have at the time, and that he had been involved in some activities—setting up a mentoring program—that did not exist,” Fitzgerald says.
Wheeler’s parents apparently were unaware of their son’s deceptions until Yale contacted them. They cooperated with officials. Delaware State Police took Adam out of the home in handcuffs on May 10.
Fitzgerald was most surprised by the revelations. “Adam was an A-B student and appeared to be a good writer, and he did honest work in high school,” he says.
What prompted Wheeler to swerve off the straight-and-narrow? Wheeler, his parents and his lawyer aren’t talking to the media. But Dr. Brad Wolgast, a psychologist in UD’s Center for Counseling and Student Development, has a theory.
“He sounds like he fits into a category of people we see rarely who get away with things and they get good at it, and they just keep going until they are caught,” says Wolgast. “I bet it was thrilling at first when he got into Harvard and he started getting all those scholarships. And then he couldn’t help himself.”
Cheating has probably reached an all-time high in colleges. In 1940, 20 percent of students admitted to cheating during their academic careers, according to NoCheating.org. Today, according to the website, that number is 75 percent to 98 percent.
Wheeler has taken cheating far beyond the standard answers-scribbled-on-the-palm crib sheet. In doing so, he has apparently achieved minor cult status. At Harvard, his booking photo spawned some “Free Adam Wheeler” T-shirts.
Even his former Delaware buddies are somewhat in awe. In a not untypical reaction, Brent Porter admits that, besides being shocked, he found Adam’s exploits “neat, in a way.”
“Honestly,” says Porter, “my initial reaction was impressed, more than anything, that this quiet guy I knew in high school was able to dupe one of the top schools in the world.”