- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2002

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass.
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Joseph Ellis returns to Mount Holyoke College this week after a one-year suspension for lying about serving in Vietnam, and students say questions about his motives are certain to arise.
"There will be some awkwardness," said Erica Stock, a junior who is one of 49 students registered for Mr. Ellis' class "The American People," a survey of American history from early European explorers to the Civil War. Fifteen students have signed up to take his other class, a freshman seminar on the American Revolution.
"He'll probably say something to make it more comfortable," said Miss Stock, who is student government president. "He almost has to."
Mr. Ellis, reached at home, declined to discuss his return in detail, saying, "I'm going to be focusing my energy on teaching and my students.
"Eventually, if I do want to tell a version of my story, I'll probably do it in a published form," he said.
Mr. Ellis, 58, who won the 2001 Pulitzer in history for his best seller "Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation," was suspended in August 2001, two months after the Boston Globe reported he falsely told his students that he had fought in Vietnam.
He was in the Army in the 1960s and 1970s and was on the history faculty at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point but was discharged without ever serving overseas.
Mount Holyoke suspended Mr. Ellis after he apologized for "having let stand and later confirming the assumption that I went to Vietnam."
In a statement, President Joanne Creighton said only: "The college is satisfied that Professor Ellis has completed his term of suspension and we welcome him back into the Mount Holyoke College community."
Ashley Kee, an English major starting her last year at Mount Holyoke, said she stands by the school's decision to let Mr. Ellis return to the all-women liberal arts campus of 2,000 students. But as the daughter and granddaughter of combat veterans who served in Desert Storm, Vietnam and Korea, Miss Kee said she had little use for Mr. Ellis.
"It was extremely disgraceful for him to do what he did," Miss Kee said. "I could never justify taking a class with him somebody I don't respect."
Some veterans who were outraged when they learned of Mr. Ellis' fabrication said the professor had paid the right price.
"If a man makes a mistake, he should be forgiven," said Bill Hubbard, commander of the American Legion Post 260 in South Hadley. "That's our system. That's the American way."
Other outsiders questioned the wisdom of allowing Mr. Ellis to return.
David Garrow, a professor at Emory University and Pulitzer winner for a biography on Martin Luther King, criticized the college for putting "someone with this track record back in front of its students."
"Spinning fictional fantasies in class to your students is without argument a hanging crime," Mr. Garrow said.
But some students say they are more interested in learning from Mr. Ellis' scholarship than in examining his personal integrity.
"The mistake he made was a personal mistake," said Cara Cookson, a junior majoring in politics. "But I think he does owe his students a real apology."


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