Even one of Knox College’s highest profile alumni gets reminders to make his payments to the college.
In June 2014, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and a former White House Chief-of-Staff John Podesta ‘71 received an email from Vice President for Advancement Beverly Holmes reminding him that his final $5,000 payment on his gift for Alumni Hall was due in four days.
This email was one of 133 Knox related emails that have been published by WikiLeaks as of Wednesday, Oct. 19.
The Knox emails leaked are part of a larger hack of Podesta’s email account and mostly contain routine communications between Podesta, an emeritus trustee, and the college administration and other board members.
The hacked emails include briefings from President Teresa Amott to the Board about the Title IX investigation and a discussion of damage control strategy after Ariyana Smith’s ‘16 high-profile protest at a Women’s Basketball game.
WikiLeaks started to release Podesta’s emails on Oct. 7 and over 16,000 emails have been released so far, with more being added daily. WikiLeaks is currently conducting a large scale leak on Clinton’s campaign. The Knox Student was unable to reach Podesta for comment.
Almost a year after Holmes’s first email, she emailed Podesta again informing him that $2,500 remained on his gift. Holmes said that those emails were some of many emails or phone calls to trustees that had gifts still due at the end of the fiscal year in June.
“He continues to still give to the college,” Holmes said. “He would frequently throughout the years ask if his records were right or if he still owed.”
Amott said that her emails are reflective of those that she sends to the Board on a regular basis. She has never met Podesta in person or spoken to him on the phone, though they do have some friends in common. As an emeritus trustee, he is not actively voting or attending meetings, though she wouldn’t be surprised if he was staying in the loop of Knox news, as many emeritus trustees do.
“I think he’s very proud of having been a Knox alum and he cares about the college deeply,” Amott said. “So it would not surprise me at all to know that he had read every single one of those emails, but he’s a very busy person.”
Holmes told TKS that Podesta has remained a loyal donor over the years and has been instrumental in securing some of Knox’s past commencement speakers like Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright.
Holmes has met Podesta in person and said they communicate maybe once or twice a year about gifts or setting up alumni events.
Some emails contained minutes or summaries from Board meetings, which are not open to Knox students, aside from selected representatives from Student Senate.
An email from Chair of the Board Richard Riddell ‘72 sent on Jan. 12, 2016 reminded trustees about hotel room billing procedures. In the email, Riddell told trustees that during Board weekends, trustees must pay for their hotel rooms even if the college makes a reservation for them. He noted that the college had been billed over $26,000 in hotel rooms for trustees during board weekends over the three years prior and that after the October 2015 board meeting, the college received a bill for $4,996 for hotel rooms.
“Typically what happens, is the trustee comes and tells the hotel to bill it to them, not the college, but sometimes that transfer doesn’t take place,” Riddell told TKS.
Other published emails showed communications from students and alumni asking for help applying for jobs with the Clinton campaign or how they could best help support Clinton’s campaign for presidency.
“I was interested in getting involved in the campaign so it was honestly just kind of a hail mary throw to see if I could get in contact with him,” Claire Anderson ‘11, who emailed Podesta on June 2, 2015, said. “I knew that he was involved in the Clinton campaign, but I also understood him to be someone who had been good and helpful to the Knox community.”
Anderson told Podesta that she was passionate about Clinton’s campaign and wanted to help, she also sent him her résumé. She did not hear back from Podesta, though she did not expect to knowing how busy he must be.
Brian Wishne ‘71, also emailed Podesta — who he knew as a Knox student — hoping to become more involved in Clinton’s campaign on Oct. 23, 2015. Though he did not receive a direct response from Podesta, he did some work locally in Wisconsin.
Wishne and Podesta were involved in similar political movements during their times at Knox. He remembers taking a car to Washington with Podesta and other students to protest the Kent State shootings in 1970.
Wishne also participated in a student sit-in during his time at Knox. As he recalls, Podesta was instrumental in planning the sit-in, but may not have participated in the actual event himself.
“He didn’t stand up and make speeches,” Wishne said. “He preferred being in the background rather than upfront. I think he always knew he was going to Washington and was a little protective of his future.”
Amott and Riddell both noted that Podesta is one of the school’s more prominent alumni and that he is looked up to among the Knox community.
“I think everyone can agree that someone who has been operating at that level in American politics is someone who any college would be proud to claim as an alum and we certainly are,” Amott said.
Timeline of leaked Knox emails:
April 30, 2014 — President Teresa Amott emailed the Board of Trustees notifying its members that the Office for Civil Rights would be publishing a list of all colleges pending investigation, including Knox, in reference to an investigation of a complaint about the college’s handling of sexual misconduct that the OCR opened in January 2014.
June 10, 2014 — Duke Petrovich ‘74 emailed the Trustees stated that at the June Board meeting, the Trustees decided to honor President Amott’s leadership of the college with “a one-time bonus paid by trustees.” Petrovich wrote that it was requested that each trustee give a gift of $500 or more. Petrovich is currently an emeritus trustee, according to Knox’s website.
June 26, 2014 — Vice President of Advancement Beverly Holmes emailed John Podesta ‘71 reminding him that his final $5,000 payment on his Alumni Hall gift was due on June 30. Holmes asked Podesta if he needed to change his payment schedule. Podesta replied on July 1, 2014 saying his check was coming.
July 8, 2014 — Professor of English Robin Metz emailed Podesta asking if he could connect him someone in the White House that could shed light on the Don Siegelman case in Alabama. Siegelman was the governor of Alabama and is currently serving a prison sentence on felony corruption charges, a decision that has been greatly debated.
July 22, 2014 — Andrew McCoy ‘09 emailed Podesta seeking advice on finding a career with progressive organizations, stating that he obtained a JD and a Master’s in Public Policy since graduating from Knox.
Sept. 12, 2014 — Eden McKissick-Hawley ‘16 emailed Podesta notifying him that she would be applying to work on the Clinton campaign and asking him if he would be willing to review her résumé. McKissick-Hawley was not able to comment on this email due to the conditions of her employer, the Ohio Democratic Party.
Dec. 2, 2014 — Members of the Board of Trustees received an email from President Amott informing them that Ariyana Smith ‘16 participated in a “hands up, don’t shoot” protest prior to a Women’s Basketball game at Fontbonne University in Clayton, Mo. and detailing the aftermath of the protest. Several trustees responded over the next day with questions or to comment on the situation.
June 2, 2015 — Claire Anderson ‘11 emailed Podesta asking how she could get involved in Clinton’s campaign and he would be willing to review her résumé.
June 24, 2015 — Holmes emailed Podesta reminding him that $2,500 remained on his Alumni Hall pledge.
Oct. 23, 2015 — Brian Wishne ‘71 emailed Podesta asking what he can do to help the Clinton campaign, stating that he does not have money, but has “time, energy and intelligence” and would like to do “something significant.” Wishne did not receive a direct response from Podesta.
Jan. 12, 2016 — Chair of the Board Richard Riddell ‘72 emailed the Board of Trustees reminding them of hotel procedures during Board weekends, noting that trustees are to pay for their hotel rooms after the college books them at a group rate. Riddell mentioned that the college has been billed over $26,000 for board weekends in the past three years, and received $4,996 bill from the October 2015 board weekend.