Donald Trump’s Peers Reveal What the President Was Really Like in College
Long before he was president of the United States or had the ability to yell “You’re fired!” with great aplomb, Donald Trump was a prep school graduate with one goal in mind: take over Manhattan’s skyline and imprint it with his Trump touch.
He started his education at Fordham University to remain close to home. After two years, Trump transferred to University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton Business School. We uncovered what his professors and peers really thought of him during his time there — as well as the one thing he brought to campus that made him stand out (page 5).
He always spoke his mind
Professor Louis Calomaris recalled his first interaction with Trump at Wharton. He told The Boston Globe he asked his students why they chose to study real estate, to which Trump immediately stood up and said: “I’m going to be the king of New York real estate.”
Trump kept up his confident demeanor throughout his entire time in school. His Wharton peers used many words — cocky, boastful, braggadocious, and fun among them — to describe Trump. “He was certainly verbal and unequivocal. If he had something to say, he said it,” classmate Joseph Cohen told The Boston Globe. “He was a confident person.”
Next: Trump wasn’t as big a campus presence as you’d think.
He didn’t join any clubs
Although Trump was outspoken in class, he shied away from joining extracurricular groups. And though you can now see his face plastered on every newspaper and website in the country, he actually neglected to show up for a college yearbook photo.
Trump gave a muddled reply when asked why he didn’t get involved on campus. “You know, I wasn’t Trump then, you understand?” he told The Boston Globe. “I was Trump, but I wasn’t Trump.”
Next: He didn’t swing by these popular parties.
He skipped frat parties to go home and work
Trump doesn’t drink and never has. His older brother, Fred Trump, was “one of those heart-breaking men who could not stop drinking,” according to Newsweek. So needless to say, Donald Trump had no desire to attend frat parties and declined the invitations he received.
It turns out he had more important matters to attend to on the weekends. “He always complained that every weekend he had to go home to New York and work like a dog for his dad,” fellow economics class student Terry Farrell told The Boston Globe. “Every weekend, he’d vanish … I felt sorry for him.”
Next: He didn’t have much school spirit.
He didn’t participate in rallies
Trump was a university student at the start of the Vietnam War in 1964. While he walked a campus “gripped by anger” over the war, he didn’t participate in any antiwar demonstrations. “I wasn’t a fan of the Vietnam War, that I can tell you. But I wasn’t a marcher,” he told The Boston Globe.
Trump received draft deferments while in school. When drafted after graduation, he was granted a medical deferment. Trump has since claimed he had bone spurs on his heels.
Next: He stood out from his peers by bringing this to class.
He dressed the part of a businessman from the start
One thing his peers knew Trump for? The briefcase he carried on campus while other students held their books under their arms. “We were all preppies in our tweed coats and polka dot ties. He was dressed up in a nice sports coat and jacket,” Ted Pollard, a fellow Wharton transfer, told The Boston Globe.
Candice Bergen, a fellow student and future actress, noted how Trump arrived in style during her 1992 Penn address. “He was pretty hard to miss — he wore a two-piece burgundy suit with matching burgundy patent leather boots and … a matching burgundy limousine.”
Next: Trump got an early start on his future plans.
He began buying property under the radar
Trump was set to succeed with $2 million in loans from his father, real estate developer Fred Trump. He began to buy Philadelphia properties soon after he arrived at Wharton under various aliases. “I didn’t want people to know I was buying,” he told The Boston Globe. “… Once they start knowing your name, the price goes up.”
Trump made “a little money during college” by fixing the properties up. “It’s always been a natural instinct. … Fix them up and sell them, rent them and live in them, and do all sorts of things with them,” Trump said.
Next: What his teachers had to say about his study habits
He had little regard for academics
While Trump wrote in The Art of the Deal that he “could compete with [his classmates] just fine,” his professors found him “disdainful of the academic process.” He didn’t graduate with honors and received mediocre marks.
“Don was a bright guy, but I’d say a disinterested student,” Calomaris told The Boston Globe. “What he was really interested in was how to make deals, and leverage financing. He looked with disdain at the grunt work. … Tact wasn’t his strong suit then and it isn’t now.”
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