Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fervent Knox Supporter Tom Wright Seemingly Strongarms Knox High School Into “Honoring” Her

Posted by brmull

One thing is for sure. Not many schools - maybe none, ever - have accepted the creation of a scholarship to honor a convicted felon who, until the Supreme Court signs off, still stands accused of a very cruel crime.

Seattle Preparatory School is a fee-paying Jesuit Catholic school about a mile north of Seattle downtown, on the south side of Portage Bay from the main campus of the University of Washington. See Google Earth image at bottom. The school’s student role is estimated at around 650.

This announcement of a new scholarship in the name of Amanda Knox was recently published: “The fund, established by past parent [and co-founder of the advocacy group Friends of Amanda Knox] Tom Wright, will provide tuition assistance to students in need.”

Early in 2011 Tom Wright [seen reading a statement in a black shirt below] presided over a seriously loopy panel presentation at Seattle University, attended by a sparse crowd of about 35, which garbled all the hard evidence in the case and accused Italian officialdom of a number of crimes. See for example our reports here and here.

Tom Wright apparently had to kick in at least $50,000 for initial fund of the endowment, and he hopes that others will feel impelled to contribute as well.

For him this is certainly a labor of passion, since Knox with her book advance has more than enough resources of her own to set up an endowment if she wished, though to date we have seen no indication that Knox has made any charitable donations. Tom Wright seeks to make it look noble.

Sara [his daughter] and Amanda were good friends at Prep… With this fund our family wants to honor the courage of Amanda and her family. They displayed great dignity and fortitude enduring a wrongful prosecution on foreign soil. During years of unjust incarceration, the school supported Amanda through prayers and letters of support. Prep acted in the Jesuit spirit by seeking social justice and helped to win a fight worth remembering.

According to the announcement applicants should demonstrate the same “moral courage, strength of character under duress and a sincere desire to help others in need” that was supposedly exhibited by Amanda Knox.

Let’s pause right there.

Claims of “wrongful prosecution” and “years of unjust incarceration” are way premature, and contradicted by all these posts here.

“Moral courage” means taking a risk in order to do what one believes is right. Put aside for a moment the overwhelming evidence that Knox did murder Meredith Kercher. To what instance of moral courage could the school possibly have been referring? We don’t have a clue.

“Strength of character under duress” is pretty much expected of any upstanding member of society. But if there’s one person to which it surely doesn’t apply, it’s someone who was convicted of falsely accusing her kind boss of murder and wrecking his business. Billions of people have a “sincere desire to help others in need.” What makes Knox notable here?

Why else might Knox have been deserving of a scholarship in her name? It’s often said that she was an “honor student” but we wonder why she wasn’t wearing any honor cords at her graduation while other students had them. Author and Knox innocence proponent Nina Burleigh wrote that she “almost flunked” a religion class and was made to take summer school.

Knox has also been described as a “star soccer player.” The team she played for, however, endured “four bleak, losing seasons” according to Nina Burleigh’s book.

A few teachers and students spoke up rather listlessly and doubtfully for Knox after she was arrested and put on trial. Several are believed to have said that they were really not too surprised to hear of the mess she was in.

;Above: school president Dr Kent Hickey]

Is there ANY solid reason in the public record why Knox is deserving of this singular honor?

Tom Wright seems to have been motivated above all by his desire to memorialize “a fight worth remembering.” As much as anything else, that fight consisted of himself and a small group of like-minded diehard parents appropriating the school’s good name and resources for the purpose of a nasty, bigoted, defamatory, strong-arming campaign which played fast and loose with the facts.

Dr Kent Hickey [image directly above] became president of Seattle Prep two years after Knox graduated. He didn’t know her at all, and he may not even have met her face to face before the school accepted a scholarship in her name. Nonetheless, he described her to the media as “a good and thoughtful girl”.

He defended the school’s decision to raise funds for her by saying “We can’t pick and choose the graduates we help.”  Yet Seattle Prep DOES indeed pick and choose, all the time. The school routinely punishes and expels students for everything from minor insolence to felonies. We can’t find any other instance in which it has held fundraisers for any alum—let alone a convicted felon—despite 8,000 alums living in the Seattle area.

And so Seattle Prep parents and onlookers might be forgiven for thinking that Dr Hickey is grasping at straws to justify his school’s very strange action.

[Above: scholarship creator Tom Wright]

One angered parent commented on the PR campaign as follows in an excellent investigative report by James Ross Gardner in the local magazine Seattle Met late in 2010:

It is true some of the Seattle Prep families have allowed their students to support Amanda Knox. I do not believe that it is a 100%. A number of families have felt their students were pressured into supporting Knox without having a choice. That is not the Seattle Prep I knew from my years there as a student, nor is it what my husband experienced.

In our years as Prep students we were allowed choice rather than pressure. Because of the pressure, a number of family are not making their annual donations to Seattle Prep. I, for one, will be glad when the verdict in the appeal is handed down so perhaps we can all move past this event. Yes, event.

Seattle Prep has made it into an event and it takes away from the students discussing other news and issues. I do not wish Knox ill but my children did not go to school with her and do not know her. They have no idea if she is guilty. They are more worried about their close friend that is fighting cancer. It is time to un-focus on Knox. That’s just my opinion.

An angered alum of Seattle Prep offered this opinion to the reporter from Seattle Met:

I went to Seattle Prep, and did a full year in Italy. I learned Italian and the culture and saw a lot of Americans and Italians from the South that studied in Central and Northern university towns go a little nuts with all the freedom away from home.

Since I started following this trial, I could totally see how immoral behavior could lead to Amanda doing what she was accused of doing. Drug use, jealous roommates, and illicit sex are not a good mix, especially when people need money to support such habits. Amanda seems to have a lobby of easily-swayed-by-propaganda lab rats who bought in to the PR agency story and don’t bother following the case in its entirety.

I do not know the background of the Seattle Prep Principal, but I think he is getting in way over his head by getting into this case, and as a prior poster mentioned, he is putting a lot of pressure on people to get on the pro-Amanda bandwagon. So sick to sway young students’ minds on what to think.

This sounds like our post-modern decaying American mentality of choosing sides and voicing misdirected-emotions in forming opinions. The Principal does not sound like a well educated, worldly individual to put the Academic Institution and its students, employees and graduates in the middle of this fiasco. It reeks of “We Support Our Troops,” military campaigns to coerce and intimidate people into believing in a “popular” movement.

It’s a cruel joke that needy students who are not in a position to turn down financial aid will be forced to associate themselves with Amanda Knox and an ignominious campaign of bigotry, defamation and intimidation.

It is to them and the real victims, Meredith and her family, that Seattle hearts should go out.


What that alumnus said about Kent Hickey: “I do not know the background of the Seattle Prep Principal, but I think he is going way over his head by getting into this case, and as a prior poster mentioned, he is putting a lot of pressure on people to get on the pro-Amanda bandwagon; so sick to sway young students’ minds on what to think.”

Dr Hickey sure seems to have swallowed the PR narrative hook, line and sinker. A Catholic school in the position of defaming Italy!

Knox seems secure in the belief that she has some talent but such claims asf “honor student” were mde for her rather than by her.

Her two years at the University of Seattle (when she lived near the campus) seem to have been inauspicious, and her study in Perugia was unstructured and lacking in seriousness - maybe a jaunt to get close to cheap drugs for which Perugia once was notorious.

The images below are of honor cords, worn around the neck at graduation, and Knox at her graduation not wearing any.




Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/17/12 at 01:35 PM | #

Pater, remitte illis, quia nesciunt quid faciunt…

Posted by ncountryside on 11/17/12 at 06:37 PM | #

Thanks Brmull, and I strongly agree. It’s morally reprehensible that Tom, a co founder of the FOA, can appropriate the school’s good name and use it as a platform to deliver this self-serving propaganda.

Posted by Spencer on 11/17/12 at 08:53 PM | #

I can’t see how the Board of the school allowed this to happen. When AK is once again found guilty, it will be for murdering a STUDENT, how will the school look then?

The scholarship should be removed and the headmaster and the whole Board sacked and replaced.

Posted by Spencer on 11/17/12 at 09:13 PM | #

OMG ... I am appalled by this latest development !

First, it is a “slap in the face” to Meredith, and her family who are still greiving the loss of Meredith ...

Second, it is a “slap in the face” to the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican ...

And Third, it is a “slap in the face” to Italy and its Judicial System !

While I am not familiar with the heirarchy of the Catholic School/Church system up there in Seattle, I am familiar with it in my area down here in New Orleans ... and all of the Catholic Schools and Churches belong to an Archdiocese ...

So I am wondering IF there is an Archdiocese up there in the Washington state area, and IF they know about this so-called “Jesuit school” condoning a “murderess” ? 

If so, the Catholic Archdiocese needs to intervene and put an END to this madeness !

And the VATICAN needs to investigate this ASAP !  And especially the Vatican because if the Mellas-Knox Klan is not stopped NOW, they will be petitioning for “sainthood” for their “little angel”—I mean “little devil” !

Sorry for the rant ... but as a Roman Catholic, I am mortified that a Catholic school would support a murderer with a scholarship in her name !

Thank You for this update, and Thank You ALL for the great work you do !

Praying for Justice for Meredith !

Posted by MissMarple on 11/17/12 at 10:17 PM | #

Mr. Wright’s action is premature and unwise. He should have waited until the Italian Supreme Court makes the final ruling on Amanda Knox.

If she is not completely acquitted of murder, Mr. Wright’s scholarship will be founded on the name of a murderess and will have to be withdrawn with shamefaced and embarrassing apologies. Seattle Prep will be disgraced. The whole scholarship will be a reminder of hasty and injudicious thinking, not cool for a school founded by the brilliant Jesuits; hardly “to the greater glory of God” as their motto states.

Anybody with brains at Seattle Prep should be horrified at this rush to honor a student who may well be a murderer! If Amanda’s innocence is finally established by the Italian courts, well and good. At that time the scholarship could be established with a clear conscience, at least legally so.

Haste makes waste, the entire scholarship may in less than a year have to be scrapped and the money returned to Mr. Wright or to wherever he got it, if he’s a straw sponsor. Who knows? He may be channeling money from Donald Trump or who knows else to create false prestige for his beloved Knox defendant.

One can only wonder what his real motives are for his obsession with Knox’s supposed courage and innocence, when much has been proven to the contrary. She hardly has shown herself to be a Saint Theresa or Bernadette of Lourdes or Mother Teresa in the making, more like one of the thieves on the cross. As others pointed out, his own daughter, Sara, is more deserving. But maybe the screenwriter of New Jack City movie about gangs and drugs prefers characters under a shadow.

It seems to me like Mr. Wright is pouring money into Seattle Prep either to show off, or as a form of personal penance, or to justify his stance on Amanda Knox. Take your pick. Maybe all of the above. He in his infinite wisdom aided by Mr. Not Jack Bauer Moore and weeping madonna Edda has decided Amanda is NOT GUILTY, so to him it doesn’t matter what the court system will say or determine. He can’t wait for them to conclude.

This ridiculous scholarship is premature at best, cynical at worst, faulty and a caricature. Until Knox’s name is cleared, this fund presumes to honor a young nobody or perhaps worse, a young killer (would he even care if she were a killer?). Mr. Wright and those OKing this scholarship are silently scoffing at the law, impatient with the process of the courts and contemptuous of the final rulings. This is not showing a good example to Seattle Prep students.

Any pressure that’s brought to bear on the student body or the parents and donors pressuring them to join in this rush to judgment and foolhardy action should be resented. A thoughtless scholarship under the banner of a possible murderess’s name is outrageous for a Christian school. “Thou shalt not kill”. Who would want his or her child to accept such a scholarship, to have to thank a killer.

Knox’s legal status still hangs in the balance. Meanwhile this presumptuous pretense of good works honoring her name is a travesty of charity. It is more like a stumblingblock to right thinking, although it is Mr. Wright’s thinking. Mr. Wright is perhaps Mr. Wrong in this endeavor, and Dr. Hickey should think about the mark on Amanda’s neck.

Meredith’s mother is also a Catholic! There’s nothing wrong with praying for Amanda Knox and supporting her and her folks personally if loving Christians want to minister to them but Seattle Prep should officially reserve judgment as to her legal innocence until it has been correctly established by the proper courts. They are walking on thin ice with wishful thinking.

As others above said, Mr. Wright has highjacked the good name of Seattle Prep to try to make Knox innocent by association. It may only serve to tarnish Seattle Prep for blindly elevating Knox. Until this official scholarship, the school has behaved circumspectly considering they were caught in the crossfire of their student Knox’s making.

I hate to think that all Prep cares about is the money no matter who gives it or what label it carries.

Posted by Hopeful on 11/18/12 at 12:15 AM | #

Nice overview of this scandal, if I do say so myself 😊 Thanks Pete for the additional materal you found.

I wonder if the media will ever take an interest. A number of angles, mentioned above, remain to be explored:

1) What is the Church’s official position on Knox? Were the higher-ups made aware of this scholarship?

2) Where did the funds really come from? Maybe Tom Wright has $50,000 to drop on something frivolous like this. But if FOA funds were used there could potentially be some tax issues.

Bottom line: Wright making this gift should have been seen as generous and good, but because of the way he did it (attaching it to the Knox controversy) it comes across as spiteful and nobody wins.

Next time give to the City of Perugia / University for Foreigners scholarship in Meredith’s name. Everybody should be able to agree on that.

Posted by brmull on 11/18/12 at 01:34 AM | #

Readership in Seattle sure jumped in the past two days for brmull’s timely, factual post. The position of the apex Catholic high school seems to resonate only with a small minority of Catholics, certainly in Italy where maybe 95% take the opposite. much better-informed stance. 

The way to get Seattle media interested - the way to get any media interested - is to drop tips off via their websites; and also to place links to this report in comment threads on their websites; and also to email or tweet individual reporters.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/19/12 at 02:48 PM | #

Can someone tell how a student there will feel after getting the “Amanda Knox Fellowship”?

Perhaps he/she has never heard of her name and perhaps will not even bother to find out.

Perhaps he/she will, just out of curiosity, will google the name.

I have no idea how many will feel proud- my guess is none- with that fellowship.

Some may even decline (my guess, but usually my guess is good) to accept the named fellowship. Some really needy will certainly accept but will be too embarrassed to acknowledge.

But brmull has asked the most embarrassing question of all: what is the official position of the church on this matter?

Take a lesson from the whale; the only time he gets speared is when he raises to spout.

Posted by chami on 11/19/12 at 07:43 PM | #

Does anyone know if this claim was correct?

“Amanda Knox received a bogus NAAS certification seal from a school with ties to Northwest Association of Accredited Schools, when in fact said entity was not authorized or licensed to grant such a seal. Amanda Knox has not compensated National Academy of American Scholars (NAAS) and neither has Northwest Association of Accredited Schools, Inc. or The Association of Washington School Principals.

Posted by Spencer on 11/19/12 at 11:32 PM | #

The scholarship gesture seems to be saying two things.  1-if that other girl can have a scholarship in her name, then so can we! and 2- that AK turned out to be the person she is today largely because of the fine education she received in those formative years at Prep.

It would make more sense to have her lecture there on how not to conduct oneself as a young student abroad, but of course it doesn’t seem to have sunk into her consciousness, nor into that of her acolytes, that her terrible choices are what landed her behind bars in the first place.

Having worked in Seattle’s public schools, I am a strong advocate of their ability to produce fine young people. My boyfriend and his closest friends went the Seattle Prep/Seattle U Jesuit route (though two of them are Gay, and none particularly religious). They consider themselves to have received a quality education.

One of them believes that AK got the shaft in Italy (we agree to disagree). May the Seattle Prep parents get what they pay for, if that may mean getting a dose of something more than they bargained for. We didn’t see a rush of students flocking to UW, simply because AK put it in the spotlight. Doesn’t mean anyone should avoid attending because SHE went there. Every infamous person was educated somewhere.

But it would be a notable gesture for some young recipient to turn down the AK scholarship because they did not wish to receive that peculiar distinction!

Didn’t AK herself attend on scholarship?

Posted by mimi on 11/20/12 at 03:34 AM | #

Hi Mimi. Interesting close-up observations. Thank you.

UW acted very differently from the school (which otherwise is a fine place) of course. They chose to keep Knox at arms length after she was put under arrest. They emphasized that she was not on a structured course. They reviewed all their procedures for study abroad.

The student newspaper printed some silly stories and one professor spoke up for Knox. But there was no-one like Tom Wright determined to go the extra mile for her. (I wonder how he and Heavey get on?! Strong competition there.)

Note this phenomenon which seems to lead to some murders in Europe every year including several in Florence and one a few days ago in Rome.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/20/12 at 06:58 AM | #

I agree with mimi that this scholarship may well be because of the scholarship in Meredith’s honor.

Speculating here but could some of the $50,000 be a gift from Amanda Knox from Harper/Collins money. Could Amanda herself be the hidden hand behind Mr. Wright? If so it may be Amanda’s payback to the school for supporting her during the trial. If this is the case she knows she is not fully cleared yet, so she should have waited or given her gift anonymously.

aethelred23, thanks for timely reminder of Meredith’s good education at John Whitgift Old Palace School.

John Follain on page 8 says Meredith “won a scholarship to the Old Palace School…a private school for girls…she took Latin and French…”

Meredith was always associated with higher learning and excellence. I think the scholarship by “Wright” to Seattle Prep is an attempt to compete with this. Since Edda is a teacher, no doubt she approves. Other than the fact Mr. Wright is tying his gift to a very questionable student it would be a kind and marvelous gesture.

John Follain page 9 says, “In the summer of 2007, Meredith won a university grant worth some 2,600 pounds towards her year abroad…”

Follain also said Meredith “thought of becoming a teacher” (p. 9).

Meredith was a natural teacher, she had already tutored her friends.

Now to change the subject but on page 79 John Follain says that Mignini’s father was a teacher, a teacher of shorthand. On page 78 Follain says Mignini was out for a walk with his dog Argos and smoking his pipe when he got the call from detective Chiacchiera at the cottage that they’d found Meredith’s body. 

Mignini met his wife Cristina in his church choir. Mignini sings bass baritone.

Mignini lost his father when he was 4 years old to a car crash. While his mother wept, the police officers took the young Mignini in their arms and comforted him and played with him. His father was only 33 when he was killed but had predicted his son would become a judge.

It is appropriate that Meredith should come to the attention of the excellent Mignini whom Follain calls “placid and courteous”, because she was so excellent herself.

Posted by Hopeful on 11/21/12 at 12:14 AM | #

Like many of you, I find it distasteful that the scholarship fund was established in Amanda’s name.  My guess is that the fund was created in response to Meredith’s own fund, and while the FOA camp may see this as good PR, meant to keep Amanda in the spotlight, it only manages to come across as a petty game of one-upmanship.

The somewhat comforting thing, if I understand this correctly, is that the fund will be used to supplement financial-aid packages for multiple students.  I don’t think anyone will be saddled with the burden of being “The Amanda Knox Scholar,” which I have no doubt is an intentional compromise.  They must have figured out that it would be cruel to the recipients, some of whom may feel deeply uncomfortable with the award, but also unable to refuse it.

I don’t think any of the young people who receive financial aid through this fund should feel ashamed or guilty for accepting it.  Regardless of what the paper says, take it, excel at your studies, and dedicate your achievements to Meredith (even if you do so privately).  Her murderers are being forced into acts of good will, and even if these acts are meant to be primarily self-serving, they are benefiting innocent people out there. Look at it as Meredith’s legacy.

That said, I think that forcing this sort of ethical problem on young people is reprehensible.  If their intentions were truly to help finance the education of less affluent students, the fund could have been set up anonymously.

Posted by Vivianna on 11/21/12 at 11:42 AM | #

Even if the Supreme Court clears Knox of all allegations it remains an inappropriate gift.  It would be similar to creating a shelter for battered spouses named in OJ Simpson’s honour.

Posted by Stilicho on 11/21/12 at 09:05 PM | #

@Hopeful Meredith wanted to become a teacher ? I was under the impression that she was either going to follow in her father´s footsteps and become a journalist or work in Brussels ?
And now that I´ve opened Follain´s book to read up on this question, I am surprised to read that “(Meredith) had no definite career plans.-she thought of becoming a teacher (indeed!) , or a journalist like her father , or using her languages at the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg.”
So her plans for the future were not settled yet, which isn´t surprising at all given the fact that she was very young at the time (21 years old).
However ,all of the career options she was considering were appropriate fields for her since she was a student of both European Politics (highly recommended if you want to become a journalist) as well as foreign languages( her Italian degree would have helped her a lot if she wanted to work as an interpreter , for instance.) She was pursuing a BA Honours degree, I believe, which comprises three years of study. So she would have graduated in 2009 (I assume she started university in 2006) and could now very well be working as an interpreter in Brussels or as foreign correspondent in Italy .

Posted by aethelred23 on 11/25/12 at 10:24 PM | #
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