Rodgerson defends education, work record after Wilton GOP chief’s comments

Harvard graduate Keith Rodgerson shows off his degree in 2001.
Harvard graduate Keith Rodgerson shows off his degree in 2001.
The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 4.
The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 4.

NORWALK, Conn. – Keith Rodgerson, the Democratic candidate challenging Republican incumbent Gail Lavielle for the 143rd District seat in the state General Assembly, fired back at Wilton Republican Town Committee Chairman Al Alper Monday night after Alper made disparaging remarks about Rodgerson’s work and education history.

In an email to NancyOnNorwalk responding to Wilton Democratic Town Committee Chairman Tom Dec’s attack on Lavielle’s endorsement by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), Alper wrote, “Perhaps he’s just trying to hide the fact that his candidate, Keith Rodgerson, has barely worked a day in his life – at least in the real world where you have to perform to keep your job.  Or that Mr. Rodgerson’s claims of a Harvard education really is nothing more than a night school certificate.”

NoN did not publish the claims about Rodgerson’s education until we could ask Rodgerson about them. His campaign website reads, “He was a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard University where he began his career in finance and real estate. His undergraduate BA was in the humanities.  His graduate studies were in urban planning and public administration. Keith is a certified Economic Development Finance Professional.”

Rodgerson said he does, in fact, have a degree from Harvard, but was not a traditional full-time, four-year student.

“I earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Harvard University in 2001, completing all of the requirements for a bachelor’s degree as set by Harvard University,” he wrote. “The credit requirements for a bachelor’s degree at Harvard are consistent for all students.

“I was nontraditional. Older, working full-time at Bank of America and a transfer student. Part of my requirements were fulfilled through transfer credits from previous coursework at the University of Arizona, credits which were vetted and accepted by Harvard University and some of which were discarded. Graduation requirements were also fulfilled by credits at the beginning at the Harvard Extension School, Harvard College, the Harvard Summer School and ending with the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, in that order best as I can recollect starting some 18 years ago.

“I am an alumni of the Harvard Extension School, Harvard College, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. I am a graduate of Harvard University.”

Rodgerson said he did become a full-time student after a layoff from a private-sector job.

“I believe I migrated to full-time status after the Nationsbank merger in which myself and 35,000 other good people lost their jobs at Bank of America Mortgage. My full degree title is “Bachelor of Liberal Arts Extension Studies, Harvard University.”  I don’t recall what my GPA was, but it was either cum laude or summa cum laude. The degree says ‘cum laude.’”

“The only certification that I can imagine Mr. Alper might be referencing is my certification by the National Development Council as an Economic Development Finance Professional.  My re-certification is every three years.”

Rodgerson said Alper’s attempts to denigrate his degree is an attempt to “rake up muck.”

“Mr. Alper is insinuating that working professionals, parents and anyone else who is an nontraditional student somehow is below those or less credentialed than those who can afford to study full time.”

Rodgerson also addressed claims about his work resume.

“We can start with Bank of America Mortgage, Digitas, First American, Prudential … go backward to my stripping paint off of cars at my family’s auto body shop when I was 8 and go forward to my small business now (the non-profit Neighborhood District Economic Development Corporation). Government aside (to which Mr. Alper has clearly has no conception) he would realize very quickly that I may quite possibly have at 39 much more private experience in the American economy than my 57 year old opponent.

“Regardless, most of my government work was helping small businesses and developers. The rest of it was helping the people in Connecticut’s largest city (Bridgeport) that Mr. Alper so disparages. I have, like many in the 143rd, donated considerable time to helping Connecticut’s largest city and its people and am proud of my service. I am also proud of my current service as a Wilton Economic Development Commissioner.”


10 responses to “Rodgerson defends education, work record after Wilton GOP chief’s comments”

  1. Joruh

    These are desperate political moves by a particularly nasty surrogate. No wonder Ms. Lavielle is skipping out on the Westport Chamber of Commerce debate today to inappropriately crash a Westport Rotary meeting. Doing this type of thing just days before the election is totally inappropriate. Skipping the Chamber debate belies just how little interest she has in defending her Koch endorsement, stated experience in the American economy, and right wing voting record. Mr. Alper’s half-cocked comments on her behalf are way out of line. No class and completely tasteless on all accounts is where her campaign has quickly degraded.

  2. Joruh

    I guess I spoke too soon. Lavielle just rescheduled her Rotary date until after the election. Let’s hope that the speech she will give is a reverie of lessons learned by a legislator that thought she could get away with just about anything and got proven terribly wrong. It looks like the ‘telling the truth’ is now a big campaign issue this election cycle.

  3. Norwalk Sage

    Rodgerson’s website says “He was a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard University”, but the blurry image of his degree only says “cum laude”. What else about his past can’t he remember clearly? Is this a photoshop job? Nancy on Norwalk, it behooves you to check with Harvard and confirm the veracity of Rodgerson’s academic claims.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ Norwalk Sage

      Way ahead of you. I have a call in to Harvard.

    2. Mark Chapman

      @Norwalk Sage

      While Harvard did not get back to me, Mr. Rodgerson did. He has redacted the “summa” from his website until he gets confirmation from Harvard on the correct designation. For the record, that was the only place, out of all the places I have seen his education credentials, that made any mention of any kind of honors. In the overall scheme of things, it does not compare with the “never had a job” and “only has a certificate” charges to which he was responding. And lest anyone accuse us of siding with Mr. Rodgerson, I have been defending Ms. Lavielle against ALEC membership charges for at least a month. She went to a meeting and got listed as a member, despite not even staying for the whole event. Mr. Rodgerson can’t remember whether it was cum laude or summa cum laude. Really, I want to know what they plan to do about infrastructure, taxes, education, the environment and other issues, and unless it turns out that Mr. Rodgerson never went to Harvard, or Ms. Lavielle is on the Koch Brothers payroll, I would hope the voters would pay attention to what the candidates are planning to do, where they stand on the issues — and that goes for all the races. (Are you listening, governor candidates?)

  4. Jason Mones

    Its playbook character assasination time for scared republicans. Rodgerson’s experience in the real world and his commitment to the working class is whats most terrifying for Lavielle’s vapid campaign. When i see big corporate money buying a mudracking scheme like this it makes me run toward a candidate like Rodgerson

  5. One and Done

    I have super vision. It says “anti-alec anti-lavielle, cum laude”

  6. Hello I Must Be Going

    We ALL are interested in “what the candidates are planning to do” and “where they stand on the issues.” But talk is cheap–and if someone is going to lie about being a “summa(?)cum laude” graduate of Harvard–going so far as to post a strategically blurred photo of a diploma–then why should I believe he is being honest about what he would do if elected to public office? Honestly, Mark Chapman, I get annoyed with the condescending attitude you exhibit toward your readers.

  7. Oyster

    This is priceless. First accuse the candidate of not having completed any formal education, then, when he produces the diploma, attack him about that too.

    The sanitizing of Rep Lavielle’s ALEC ties is not thorough enough. The letter only confirmed that she wasn’t a member, but didn’t clear up doubts about former membership.

    Sniffing out affiliation with the secretive ALEC requires more than a formal inquiry. For example, if you google ALEX and Lavielle–leaving aside the sites where the formal denial is enshrined (wikipedia and sourcewatch), you find multiple matches for ALEX policy sites on which Lavielle’s name DOES NOT APPEAR. This mean they are indexed to her through the search algorithms.

    The best way to see if it looks like an ALEC duck is to see if it quacks like an ALEC duck. You look for someone who has introduced ALEC model legislation, which Lavielle has done.

    Ultimately, I agree with Mark. We should care about the policies of these candidates. Candidate Rodgersons organic educational and career development will be exactly what is needed to help CT’s middle class get back on its feet. He’s been there and he gets it. What’s more, he has made every effort to give back to whichever community he has lived in.

    Real change begins with Rodgerson in the 143rd.

  8. DJ

    Great link! Someone should ask Rep. Lavielle why she handed in a piece of ALEC model legislation after stating ALEC wasn’t a fit for CT. I expected to ALEC model legislation on the list from her colleague Rep. Piscopo since he is the ALEC National President this year but not from Ms. Lavielle.

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