The blog post I was hoping never to write

I never wanted to write this post. Honestly, as I sit here typing, I’m hoping this thing never sees the light of day. If you’re reading it now, please bear this in mind: I’m not a monster. On the contrary, people who know me find me to be rather funny and delightful (for the most part). It has never been my desire for the mere mention of my name to give anyone acid reflux. 

But here we are.

Today’s topic has to do with the undated, anonymous, single-page write-up that I found inside a folder in University Archives during one of my trips to Oxford. The document summarizes an interview that had taken place with Carl Knox’s former secretary about the university’s investigation into Ron Tammen’s disappearance. It’s my belief that the interview took place relatively recently.

Here’s why:

The document was produced after Fisher Hall was torn down in the summer of ‘78

In bullet #4 of the document, Knox’s former secretary had described some of the steps officials took when Fisher Hall was torn down in 1978, including checking the underlying cisterns and wells for signs of Ron. The year 1978 was 43 years ago, therefore, we know that the document is 43 years old or younger. That’s our baseline.

The document was produced with relatively recent computer technology

The document itself looks as if it could have been printed yesterday. Its paper is clean and bright white, the font appears to be Times New Roman, and it was printed on a laser printer. Also, it looks as if it was written using a relatively recent version of Microsoft Word on a desktop or laptop. 

For readers who weren’t around in the early days of office computers, I’d like to present an informal, abbreviated, highly personalized history for you now. 

  • At least from my experience, desktop computers weren’t a ubiquitous piece of office equipment until at least the mid-1980s, and, in those days, they weren’t anything like what we have today. The computers were clunky. The screens were black with blinking cursors. The print-outs were rolls of paper with punch-out edges. There was no actual “font” per se—just dots in the shapes of letters. The printers themselves were unbearably noisy.
  • In 1985, when I started my first real job out of grad school, there was one computer in the entire office for everyone to use, and, to be perfectly honest, it didn’t receive a lot of traffic. At that time, computers seemed to be more for “numbers” people, as opposed to the rest of us, who were joyfully churning out our communiques on IBM Selectrics and word processors. 
  • But advances were being made at that time. In 1984, Apple’s Macintosh computer came out, which provided an approachable interface for non-computer types like me. A year later, Microsoft Windows was released, which aimed to provide the same type of user-friendly experience for PC users. They weren’t anything like what we have now, but they were off to a good start.
  • I think things really took off in the 1990s—first with Windows 95, a vastly improved operating system for PCs, and then the iMac, Apple’s colorful all-in-one computer released in 1998, which especially appealed to the writing and graphic-design crowd. 
  • These were exciting times and we reveled in them. Phrases like “desktop publishing” and WYSIWYG (pronounced wiz-ee-wig, short for “what you see is what you get”) were our newfound jargon. We began throwing around the word serif when describing our font choices, both when we opted for them (as with Palatino or Times New Roman) and when we went “sans” (as with Arial, Helvetica, and the like). We learned the importance of bullets and bold type to break up walls of grey text. The documents we cranked out took a noticeable turn for the better—not just in communication offices, but in offices everywhere. (You can view a progression of the various Microsoft Word versions throughout the years to see how things have improved.)
  • Finally, although the laser printer was invented in 1969, it was at least the 1990s when laser printers became affordable enough for a typical place of employment to purchase one, often for staff to share. 

So, based on all of these factors—the font, page layout, and printer—I think we can conservatively say that the document was produced sometime after the mid-1990s (and probably later), shaving off at least another 17 years from our baseline. We’re now at roughly 26 years ago or less. 

The author of the document avoids using the word “secretary”

As I described in “Proof of a cover-up, part 2,” another giveaway of the document’s age is how the writer chose to use a different term for secretary, even though that was the person’s title in 1953. The title of secretary fell out of favor roughly 20 years ago, and was replaced with job titles such as administrative assistant or administrative professional. The interviewer refers to Knox’s secretary as the “Assistant to the Dean of Men,” which reflects a sensitivity to modern times. 

So that’s my answer: I believe that the interview took place 20 years ago or less, which would also mean that it took place in 2001 or later. Why does it matter? It matters because 2001 wasn’t that long ago. Although the university hasn’t been able to produce any record of the full interview, there’s still a chance that whoever conducted the interview is still walking around with first-hand knowledge of what was said. Of special interest to me are the words that Carl Knox’s secretary wasn’t permitted to say in front of news reporters.

When I first wrote about the summary on this website, I chose not to identify Knox’s secretary by name, referring to her as AD (assistant to the dean) instead. I will continue to do so out of respect for her family. The highly-regarded woman who personified a “life well lived” passed away last October, and her family is still grieving. But I am now going to share some additional information with you so you can better understand why I’ve been pursuing this lead with the exuberance of a Rottweiler whose favorite tennis ball has been yanked from her slobbery jaws.

AD and her husband were a big deal at Miami

AD’s husband was an esteemed professor and dean at Miami, and, after retirement, a professor emeritus. AD and her husband were also big donors to the university. The university’s library houses a large collection in her husband’s name. AD had assisted him with his research. So, it makes perfect sense that someone with the university would have an interest in interviewing her. What’s more…

AD was well known at the library

After working for Carl Knox, AD was employed by Miami University’s library as a cataloguer. She also worked as a volunteer in Special Collections, which oversees the University Archives, the place where the interview summary sits in a box. Employees in Miami’s library knew her for many years and remember her fondly, including the current university archivist, Jacqueline (Jacky) Johnson. It would make sense for someone within the library system to want to record her vast institutional knowledge for posterity—I mean, good grief, she’d begun working for the university in 1952 and she even had an inside track to the Tammen story. She was perhaps the oldest living Miami employee from that era, which means that she was quite possibly the oldest living Miami employee from any era. 

The first person I contacted was Jacky Johnson in University Archives to see if she could provide me with AD’s full interview. Johnson let me know that she didn’t have the interview, so I contacted Carole Johnson (presumably no relation to Jacky) who was serving as the interim director of University News and Communications after longtime director Claire Wagner had retired in March. I wanted to find out if someone from the news office could help me track down the interview. 

After getting no response, I went higher. I contacted Jerome Conley, dean of Miami University Libraries, and Jaime Hunt, who’d recently been hired as vice president and chief marketing and communications officer, and who oversees University Communications and Marketing. I hoped that, in their senior positions, they would have a better idea of where I should turn. Both were responsive, and the note from Dr. Conley was especially gracious. He knew AD too and let me know that she “…was indeed a very special scholar and lover of libraries. Yes, she recently passed and the world is indeed a tad darker. She was a kind person.”

This was consistent with everything else I’d read about her. If anyone from the library had conducted the interview, I couldn’t imagine them tossing the source materials. 

By way of a cc from Dean Conley, William (Bill) Modrow and Jacky Johnson entered the conversation. Modrow, who heads up Special Collections, promised to work with Johnson in conducting a thorough search of the archives and to get back to me. I’ll cut to the chase: the answer that came back on February 1 was no, we don’t have the interview. I asked more questions: can you at least tell me when was the interview conducted and by whom, and what was the source of the document I’d found in the archives? He sent responses, though no clear answers. Feeling frustrated, I asked about their protocol, trying to better understand how something like that could just disappear. His responses reflected his frustration with me too. We were done.

That’s when I did something that I save for only the most desperate of times. I filed a public records request with Miami’s Office of the General Counsel seeking all related emails from the library and communications offices for the period of December 5, 2020 (when I first approached Carole Johnson) to the present. As I mentioned in my Facebook post, this isn’t considered the friendliest of gestures—in fact, it is decidedly unfriendly—but sometimes you need to take these measures to break free from the usual boilerplate and get to the kernel of truth. Perhaps most dissatisfying for me was how I was now in a war of sorts with the two areas of specialization that have always been near and dear to me. For practically all my adult life, I’ve worked in communications offices at universities and in government, and as for libraries—good Lord, who doesn’t love libraries?

After initially pushing back, the OGC asked me to whittle down my request to specific names and to resubmit my request, which I did. About a week later, I got the emails.

I’m not going to lie: I wasn’t all too excited to dive in. For readers who haven’t met me in person, I’m a human with feelings inside. I like people to like me. If someone is saying mean or snarky things behind my back, I’d rather not know. However, after staring at that unopened email in my inbox for a little while, I put on my bullet-proof bathing suit and I dove.

I’m posting all of the pertinent emails in chronological order with some added narration from me, if needed. Some of the conversations were with me, some were about me. I’ve blacked out AD’s real name as well as the name of one retiree whom I’ll discuss in a second. I’ve also blacked out everyone’s email addresses as well as other library staff members’ names, since they’re really not involved. Lastly, I cut off most of the email closings—the polite words of sign-off that occasionally ran counter to what was said in the email—to help speed things along. So let’s all grab a favorite beverage and get reading, shall we?

Whew! Fun, right?

If you were expecting to read someone’s full confession admitting that they’d conducted the interview, then destroyed it, and, by the way, the forbidden words were X, Y, and Z, well, you’re probably disappointed. But don’t be. Admissions of that sort are pretty rare to see in print, I’d imagine.

However, even though specific words weren’t typed out, an underlying message did come through. It’s subtle but noticeable, and it has to do with human nature and how we respond when we don’t want to answer a question directly. 

You see, for some time, I’d felt that the one key person who might know something about the interview was a long-time employee of Miami University’s library who’d retired fairly recently. More than once, I asked Modrow and Johnson if they’d asked that person about AD’s interview. In response, they informed me how much the retiree had done for me when he was employed by the university, and they also let it be known how much they or their staff had done for me. Of course I’ll always be grateful for their customer service, but to be honest, it’s not relevant to the question. 

Do you know what no one said in response to my question? No one said that they’d reached out to the retiree—who still has a university email address and is therefore ostensibly quite reachable. That, for me, was telling. These are the university’s archivists. These are the people who, according to Modrow, don’t discard materials held in their special collections and archives. Wouldn’t you think that they’d want to know the answer too? 

And so, I emailed the retiree myself. Here’s what I wrote:

Click on image for better view

Look, I can totally see how a situation like this could happen to a good person, and I let him know that in paragraph 2.

In paragraph 4, I promised anonymity, not only to him, but to anyone affiliated with the library if they happen to know who conducted the interview.

Chief of all, I told him that if he didn’t know who’d conducted the interview, all he had to say was “no,” and I would never ask the question again.

My tone was sympathetic and even collaborative, not confrontational. Let’s work together, I told him. 

You know what he did?

Nothing. He didn’t do a thing. I’d even cc’d Modrow and Johnson to keep them informed of what I was promising him. I thought they might have an interest in what he had to say and I also thought they could give him a heads up to alert him of my email, if need be.

No one responded to my email.

Studying the words, listening to the behaviors

Throughout my research into the Ronald Tammen case, I’ve occasionally found myself in situations in which someone’s words may tell me one thing but their behavior is saying something else. And you know what? I’ve discovered that there’s a world of information available to us when we listen more intently to a person’s behavior. In my experience, if the words and behavior don’t match up, behavior always wins.

Here are five warning signs I noticed when I paid closer attention to people’s behavior as I read their emails:

#1: They didn’t answer my question.

Again, in my mind, if anyone knew something about AD’s interview, it was the retiree, and I’d asked Modrow and Johnson repeatedly if they’d contacted him. But instead of answering, they would tell me how much work Jacky and the retiree had done for me over the years. Those are true statements, but they’re beside the point. No one answered my question—directly or behind my back—even though I do believe he was consulted, possibly on January 25. If someone had just said, “I checked with him, and he said that he’s not aware of the interview,” I would have taken them at their word and walked away. Their evasiveness is harder to walk away from. 

#2: There were signs of worry and an effort to batten down the hatches.

The email I’d written to Jerome Conley and Jaime Hunt was nothing special. In fact, it was pretty routine. I didn’t give them a deadline and there wasn’t an ultimatum to be found anywhere. I was seeking help. But one person stands out as being noticeably concerned about my request. Sometime on December 14 (we don’t know what time), Johnson had left a voicemail message for Carole Johnson of the news office. In an email to her staff the next day, Carole speculated that it might be about my inquiry, and then, in a follow-up email, Carole confirmed that the two had finally connected and Jacky had filled her in about my ongoing interactions with the folks in archives. That’s fine, but it’s also a little weird. Why did Jacky feel the need to contact Carole by phone? Why not just shoot her an email? And when did she call?

At 12:30-ish the following day, Jacky Johnson sent library staff an email asking them to be on the look-out for any contact from yours truly, and if I were to reach out to any of them, they were to contact her. On January 22, I emailed Modrow asking for a status update on my request, and he followed up with Johnson, who told him the following Monday that she was unable to find anything else. Modrow didn’t get right back to me though, which makes me wonder if he’d asked Johnson to do some additional checking, perhaps with the retiree.

Several hours later, Johnson emailed two of the same staff members as before, referring to the retiree’s past work with me, and instructing them, once again, to contact her if they should ever hear from me. As you may have noticed, none of the staff members ever needed to alert Johnson about me, because that’s not how I roll. I play by the rules, and by that time, I was only talking to Modrow. However, even that bit of journalistic courtesy seemed bothersome to her. When Modrow mentioned to her that I’d been in touch with him “twice since yesterday,” she asked him to keep her informed of whatever I was asking for. (I had no additional requests—just the same old questions that I’d repeat as needed.) With the safeguards she was putting into place, Johnson appeared to be most concerned with controlling all communication with me. 

#3  The location where the summary document is housed, which may provide a clue to its origin, was never mentioned in emails.

The first time I saw the document, I was sitting in the main study room of University Archives, on the third floor of King Library. But that’s not where the document usually lives. Its home is in the “Ghosts and Legends” folder, folder 18, which is located in the Western College Memorial Archives in Peabody Hall. Someone had kindly delivered the folder to King Library ahead of my visit so that it was there waiting when I arrived.*

In an email written February 2, Johnson told Modrow that she and the retiree had given me the summary and she thought it had been scanned by two assistants. But that’s not consistent with my records. To the best of my knowledge, I hadn’t seen the contents of folder 18 until August 2019, five years after the retiree had left his position. Also, no one had made a scan for me—I’d snapped the photo with my iPhone. That shadowy shot of a tilted sheet of printer paper is mine all mine, people, ©2019, all rights reserved. 

Interestingly, the two staff members whom Johnson had mentioned as having scanned it were the same ones she’d sent a second cautionary email to on January 25, and it was one of these staffers who’d helped retrieve folder 18 for me prior to my 2019 visit. 

Why is the location of folder 18 important? One tidbit worth noting is that AD’s interview might have been conducted by someone affiliated with the archives housed in Peabody Hall. Coincidentally, Jacky Johnson was the head archivist there from 2005 to 2015, prior to her becoming head of University Archives. 

#4 They showed virtually no interest in obtaining AD’s interview.

As I mentioned earlier, an interview with AD should have been of significant interest to people in University Archives. My original email seeking help in finding source materials should have been met with genuine curiosity. You’d think they’d want to find out if they had source materials or at least where the summary came from.

When I filed my public records request for emails, I’d at least hoped to see an email trail of staff putting their heads together and brainstorming or consulting with other staff. That behavior is evident with the news and communications folks, but not on the archives’ side, who could be described as defensive from the get-go. 

The search itself appeared to be conducted by Johnson alone, who would send meager updates saying “I looked” or “I looked in the collection,” but nothing more in-depth than that. The most detailed response she’d provided was that she’d looked in AD’s husband’s faculty file. There was never any mention of databases searched under keywords A, B, and C, or however else she might have conducted a thorough search. From what I can tell, she didn’t reach out to anyone else to see if they might have information about the interview, unless, as I mentioned, she checked with the retiree but never said so. 

#5 The retiree didn’t answer a simple yes-or-no question, even when I told him that I’d go away if his answer was ‘no.’

When I sent my email to the retiree, he didn’t answer my simple yes-or-no question about whether he knew who conducted the interview. If the answer was “no”—that he didn’t know—all he had to do was say so, and I would go away. I promised him as much. That would have been the easiest thing for him to do. Instead, I heard crickets.** 

An early behavioral clue from the retiree

The last time I saw the retiree was in 2013, one year before he stepped down from his post at Miami. During that visit to Oxford, I was interested in learning more about Miami’s psychology department in 1953, particularly Everett Patten and St. Clair Switzer. As usual, the retiree was helpful. I remember him sitting in his office and asking me for one of their names. 

“Everett Patten,” I said.

As I stood outside his office, he began typing on his computer. And then he stopped. 

“Oh…,” he said. Or maybe it was “hmmm.” It was a small but audible reaction.

 “What?” I asked.

“Hypnosis,” he said. He was looking at an old article on Patten in the Miami Student, which he probably printed out for me. But that small reaction from him had always stayed with me. It was a signal of recognition, as if it wasn’t the first time the topic had come into his field of view.

And that raises another point. The retiree was practically a walking, talking search engine when it came to Miami University history and AD was a longtime friend of the library. I’m sure he knew her well. If anyone would have known she’d been Carl Knox’s secretary, I’d think he would have. And yet, when he also knew I’d been working for a while on a book about Ronald Tammen, he never mentioned that there was a person who still lived in Oxford who could provide a first-hand account of the university’s investigation. You’d think he might have told me about her. 

Miami University’s response

The two people whose behavior I found most perplexing throughout this whole process were Jacky Johnson and the retiree, and I said so to the university. I approached Carole Johnson with a draft of my blog post plus the email documentation, and asked her for a university comment or, if possible, a confidential conversation, since it appeared to me that the individuals knew something about the interview. 

Today at 5 p.m., Carole Johnson sent the following comment. (Note that I am redacting AD’s actual name as well as the retiree’s.)

“The University’s response remains unchanged. The University staff that you keep contacting, including myself, Jacky Johnson, and William Modrow, do not know who conducted the interview with XXXXX nor do we know anyone who does know the answer to that question. We do not know what was said in that interview beyond what is reflected in the document previously provided to you. We have thoroughly searched our Archival records and they have been provided to you. XXXXX retired from the University. We will not contact him on your behalf. I know that this is not the response you were hoping for but your repeated inquiries will not change the answer. There is nothing more that the university can do to assist you in your search for information.”

Thank you very much for this response. And because I’m the blogger here, I get to comment on the university’s comment:

I kept contacting the university staff because they wouldn’t answer my questions. It’s my general practice—maybe even a little personality quirk of mine—to stop asking a question once it’s been answered. Modrow and Johnson never answered my question about whether they’d consulted with the retiree. Ne.Ver. They still haven’t answered it. It took several back-and-forths before they addressed my questions about whether they knew who conducted the interview and when.

As for Carole Johnson’s remark that “I know this is not the response you were hoping for,” the response I actually hope for—and what I’ll continue hoping and working for—is the truth. And I will seek the truth about Ronald Tammen even if the university has apparently moved on.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

— ERRATA —

*Since writing the above post, I’ve learned that the Western College Memorial Archives is now located on the third floor of King Library, along with the other archives. The three archives were brought to the same location in 2015–first to Withrow Court Annex before that building was torn down, and later to the present location at King Library: https://miamioh.edu/news/top-stories/2015/02/archives-all-together.html. Sorry that my original info was out-of-date. When I was asking staff members for the “Ghosts and Legends” folder in 2019, I’m pretty sure no one told me of its new location. (In fairness, it probably seemed like a minor point to them.) Also, no one corrected this blog post when I ran it by them for comment. Nevertheless, the fact that the folder had been housed in the Western College Memorial Archives is still pertinent. Hold that thought, OK? I’ll tell you why in the 3-11-2021 update below.

**Under warning sign #5, I’ve revised the last sentence and removed a second paragraph because they implied knowledge on the part of the retiree, when in fact we still don’t know if he has read the email. Silence can have many meanings. My apologies for not stating that more clearly.

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UPDATE (3-11-2021)

As you know, one question I’ve been asking repeatedly is where did the summary of AD’s interview come from? Who donated it to the archives and when? If we can track down who donated the summary, we may be able to find the person who conducted the interview. Who knows: maybe the donor and the interviewer are the same person. Also, now that we know that the Western College Memorial Archives were moved off of Western Campus in 2015 (see above, next to *), that potentially adds a “no later than” date to our timeframe. If folder 18 was moved out of Peabody Hall in 2015, then I think the chances are good that the summary was typed up sometime in the 2001-2015 timeframe.

I consulted the website of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), the professional society for archivists, and discovered that it recommends that university and college archivists have a policy in which donations, called “accessions,” are documented. Furthermore, the SAA recommends that the date and the transferring office or donor’s name are recorded, among other information. Consequently, I filed a public records request today with the Office of the General Counsel for Miami’s accessions policy. Once I understand Miami’s policy, I’ll be able to submit a second public records request for the specific documents that would be tied to folder 18 and, hopefully, AD’s interview summary. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Dear Miami University Office of the General Counsel,

I am submitting this public records request under the Ohio Open Records Law, §149.43 et seq. I am requesting an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of the policy by which Miami University’s University Archives creates and maintains its accession records for its archival holdings.

For your background, the Society of American Archivists, an organization to which the University Archives of Miami University is affiliated, has set standards for the creation and maintenance of accession records. According to SAA’s Guidelines for College and University Archives: “Archivists create an accession record—noting the records’ date, title, bulk, condition, transferring office or donor, conservation needs, and access restrictions—when records come into the archives.” [See: https://www2.archivists.org/node/14804.]

I am seeking Miami’s policy for all aspects related to the creation and maintenance of its accession records. If there are any fees for searching or copying these records, please inform me if the cost will exceed $50.

I am currently writing a blog and book on the Ronald Tammen disappearance, and this request is part of my news-gathering efforts. I would appreciate a prompt response to this request.

If you expect a significant delay in responding to or in fulfilling this request, please contact me with information about when I might expect copies or the ability to inspect the requested records.

If you deny any or all of this request, please cite each specific exemption you feel justifies the refusal to release the information and notify me of the appeal procedures available to me under the law.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Wenger

50 thoughts on “The blog post I was hoping never to write

  1. How frustrating for you! It does seem like the library/university staff are trying to prevent you from delving further into finding the information you seek (or possibly just trying to protect the one living retiree that could have information)…all which raise the question of why? Hoping you can find out (and let us know)!

    1. Good to hear from you, Deb! And thanks for your kind words. I do feel that *someone* must know and I think they’re still walking around with that knowledge. Hopefully, they’ll find this blog site and get in touch.

  2. It’s great to see posts popping up again, I’ve missed them!

    This may be a bit far fetched, but I was thinking perhaps the actual interview wasn’t done by anyone at Miami, is it possible that summary was AD’s notes to prepare for it? Is it possible the interview itself was for a local newspaper or historical group?

    I was just thinking they would most likely have typed up that summary if they were disposing of the actual interview for some reason, or if they didn’t have the actual interview to begin with.

    Were any of the newspaper guys that had focused on Ron still active as late as 2001?

    1. Thanks so much–good to hear from you too! These are interesting thoughts. I’ve done some searching for her name in articles, but mostly in university publications. I can check into others. Joe Cella was the most tenacious of all of the reporters, and, unfortunately, he died in 1980. Gilson Wright died in 1998, which is closer to our target. All other reporters would just write an anniversary article, and they’d be done. But you’ve given me some ideas–thanks!

  3. A cover up is just that. Doesnt matter who does the cover up for whom…its still a cover up. You would think that in 2021 we would be past cover ups. Someone always outs it. Keep going Jennie. Someone knows something.

    1. Thank you! I agree…someone knows something. I’m just glad they typed up the summary sheet. Otherwise, we’d have nothing.

  4. Hmmmmm. Before reading the emails, I’m quite taken aback at the appearance of Miami circling the wagons. Every single time-every single time-an important point is raised, Official Miami stonewalls.

    I swing back and forth on the whole case. A couple days ago, I reread some comments I’d made about Chuck. And I still wonder. He estimated Ron had “10 or 11 dollars” upon his disappearance. WHAT?! There’s something massively wrong there. Regardless, I suppose I’m the least convinced of any of the AGMIHTF regulars to the conspiracy view. Then this update and Official Miami acts exactly like you’d expect them to act if they WERE hiding something. And I swing back to the conspiracy side.

    That said, presuming the conspiracy theory is right, it seems reasonable to me that not everyone involved knows that. Most workplaces have understandings you don’t talk about something if your boss says not to, no matter how little you know. This might be another example.

    FWIW, I am offended by them appealing to all they’ve done for you. That’s their job! I don’t wish to be insulting, so I’ll leave it at that.

    FWIW2, I bet the retiree said before he left, “Call me if you need me for anything.” I simply don’t buy their pretension they don’t wish to bother him. It’d be snarky but amusing to ask them if he made that offer.

    Okay, reading the files next and I’ll probably have more to say.

    1. Thanks for these thoughts. Re: it’s their job to help people: Agree. Likewise, I didn’t argue with their estimates of the numbers of scans they’ve done for me, but as long as you bring it up, the “tons” figure seems excessive. And seriously, while there was a flurry of activity recently, I’m not hounding them for materials all of the time. Only periodically will I pop in. This was the most intensive period in which I’ve ever interacted with them, and I felt the need to do it because I didn’t feel my questions were being answered.

      Something else: I’m not just a researcher or a wannabe author. I’m an alumna who also happens to be a small donor. I realize it’s a pittance compared to other alums, but I give them $240 a year. I mean…it’s not nothing. I’m not nothing.

  5. As if my admiration for you couldn’t grow any deeper—then, this! THIS! Your tenacity is what previous investigations have lacked. The truth is there and you’ll find it! ❤️

  6. Well. Reading the emails was hardly uplifting. Jacky Johnson comes off very poorly. Her admonition to Bill Woodrow to copy her on emails to supposedly avoid duplication of effort when she was clearly making no effort is the low point. I’ll sleep on it and see if any more thoughts come to mind.

  7. Miami university is a great school. I’m proud that my undergraduate degree is from Miami. That said, Miami has a very long history, 1809, and reputation to protect.

    This is like any decision tree. Either something is known or it’s not known. One branch is at the “nothing here to see” end point. Miami is telling you that is the answer….
    The other branch is that something is known…and currently, transparency is is the null set. You have been given the run around. The issues that might be considered: Whether whatever information exists can be released; will be released; manner in which and to whom it will be released; who actually possesses that information.
    If the university is not the “problem” in releasing the information, what entity is? Perhaps the hold is not at Miami university.
    I suspect that you may already have taken this tact, but, address to the highest level of contact you have the acknowlegement that you’re getting run around. Why? Where should you be addressing the questions other than Miami? Who knows, maybe to get rid of you, they’ll give you another lead. Naive as that sounds. It’s the next contact you’re after. Clearly, you’ve hit a dead end, real, one created by fear or institutional stonewalling.

    Miami takes seriously, its responsibility for its students. A 19 yr. disappeared from campus, on Miamis’ watch. A stain on any university’s reputation. Perhaps looking at what changes were instituted following the disappearance will shed some light on what the university knew or was shared with them by other authorities that were involved.

    It’s hard to remember you’re there to drain the swamp when you’re up to you a## in alligators. It seems that Miami is working to keep your eye on the alligators.

  8. I was searching for the phrase ‘in loco parentis’ to describe how Miami views its role in students life. The phrase alluded me until just now! Miami takes that roll seriously.

  9. You’re right in that the summary was written to indicate the Fisher Hall reference was part of the interview. Three points stand out:

    1. The header “Additional Information on Ron Tammen Jr.”

    2. The introductory statement “From an interview with _______”

    3. The bulleted points.

    This isn’t debatable. And still, a Miami rep wants to claim differently?

    1. I agree there’s no question that it was part of the interview. I think she was concentrating more on the first sentence, which is confusingly phrased to sound like the interview happened at the time of Ron’s disappearance, when it was saying AD was Knox’s secretary at the time of Ron’s disappearance. But that was in December when she suggested that interpretation and I haven’t communicated with her since then. She may think differently now.

  10. Another off the wall thought…have you contact either of the senators from ohio. Sherrod Brown (D) or Rob Portman (R), either that fits your style.
    Miami falls in their realm of concern. Just a thought.

    1. Interesting–not recently. I’d contacted Sen. Brown’s office in 2016 when I was trying to get an answer from the FBI on whether they’d confirmed Ron to be dead. A staffer in Brown’s office sent a request on my behalf to the FBI’s head of congressional affairs. The FBI immediately escalated my question to their number two lawyer, who said that they wouldn’t be answering any more of my questions, and if I wasn’t satisfied, I should “pursue resolution through the proper legal avenues.” Someone else who may have an interest is Gov. DeWine, a Miami graduate. I’ll give it some thought. I thought I’d let the dust settle for a little while.

  11. Always interesting to be treated as an annoying gnat. Makes ya wonder if it’s me, the question, a woman who doesnt know her place, the topic, …if they have nothing to hide, you would assume the question could have been answered with a simple yes or no. ( recognizing the difficulty with the word “ass/u/me”).
    Love the deflect…please use the proper legal channel…remember to fill out the proper form and submit it via a left handed sky hook….yeah that doesnt actually exist.
    I’ll go back to my original statement of cover up. If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck…quack quack.
    If the FBI is quacking, one would assume (again that word) that Miami is simply a bit player.

  12. I’m sure you’ve thought of this, but I strongly suspect Jacky Johnson is in hot water for releasing the summary to you. It all fits.

    1. I can’t really ‘like’ your comment, because I don’t want anyone to be in hot water, but I’m just really glad I saw it. The interesting thing is that, at the time I saw it, it didn’t really hit me what I was looking at. I just kept snapping photos. But this pandemic led me to go back to those old photos. I was looking into whether there was tangible proof of a coverup at the time and then I reread the summary.

  13. Okay, read the post again. My random thoughts.

    Have you tried to contact Claire Wagner?

    It’s possible the retiree doesn’t read his Miami email account, so to say he ignored you may be unfair.

    I don’t want anyone in hot water either. Nor do I want them to come off poorly in a public way. Sometimes things happen.

    The retiree didn’t mention AD in 2013? I think that reflects poorly on him. It’s tough to offer the benefit of the doubt on that point. I mean, look at the posse’s suggestions. More than you can deal with at times, I expect. And such a possibly crucial/foundational witness, Miami has nothing to say. It seems everyone except Official Miami is eager for the truth to come out.

    I have another point to make, but will do so in a separate post.

    1. Re: Claire Wagner — I’d been in touch with her in the past. I don’t plan to reach out to her again.
      Re: not knowing whether he’d read the email or not — Very true. That’s why I added the paragraph at the bottom. But you’re right, “ignore” could be an unfair depiction. I will edit and make a notation.
      Re: not mentioning AD in 2013 — Correct. And I know she was active the previous year based on something I’d read.

  14. Commenting on a few of the emails:

    12-14 Jacky Johnson asks if you’re assuming Carole Johnson’s office conducted the interview. That strikes me as an insincere question.

    12-14 You ask an innocuous question about AD’s start and retirement date and don’t even get an answer to that. Really?

    12-15 Jacky Johnson states “I think her purpose is to publish a book.” That “I think” grates on me, probably more than it should. I personally know she has known about the book project for years. Anyway, “…book project” was part of the subject line of the email you sent and she changed!

    2-2 Bill Woodrow references “Many materials…arriving without any more information than what is included.” You should request 3 of the many that exist. 😛

    3-5 Carole Johnson states “Nor do we know anyone who does know the answer to that question.”

    Well, she does know the retiree but won’t verify that he doesn’t know. So she really can’t make that statement in good faith.

    She further states, “There is nothing more that the University can do to assist you.”

    Change “can” to “will” and it’s an accurate statement.

    One other point. Most people are extremely reluctant to brazenly lie. I see that in this case. Ignoring points, stalling for time, spinning/shading the truth, but avoiding the Big Lie.

    Was just about to send and remembered Jacky Johnson told me all of Miami’s copying is done in house. Perhaps that sheds a little light on the summary copy.

  15. I still find it very odd that she referred to a call from New York which had nothing to do with Ron, and it just so happened that he was supposedly seen in New York. And although it’s not stated specifically, it kind of comes across as if that call was what prompted the buzzer.

    Keeping in mind that if the University had nothing to hide, a rumor that Ron was in New York wouldn’t have hurt the University in any way…so why would they care? But if they knew he was in New York and didn’t want him found, I could see why that might prompt a buzzer.

    1. Yep, agree. Another idea is that they told her the buzzer was installed because of the NY rumor so she wouldn’t have her suspicions raised about the real reason, which we can only imagine at this point.

      I just had a horrible thought. What if the person who interviewed her is writing a book about Tammen and plans to reveal everything she said and he’s just being super low-profile about it? I’d be sooooooooooo bummed………

      1. I highly doubt that, I think anyone who even had an inkling to write a book about Ron Tammen would quickly see how much you’ve already done and know they could never compete. You’ve gone so far beyond what even the most well known true crime authors do.

  16. Hello! I stumbled upon your site a couple years ago and have been an avid reader ever since, but have never commented before now. This post has been tumbling around in my head for the past day, and I have a few thoughts that I want to share. Hopefully something will be helpful.

    Jacky’s comment to Bill about people sometimes giving them materials without any source information stuck out to me. This was an internal email—either she was telling the truth, or she wanted to suggest that that happens (even if it doesn’t, or hasn’t in the other person’s experience). The fact that Bill later emailed you and said that sometimes materials “appear” in their archives without source information after people retire/leave leads me to believe that it does happen…or that he has run with Jacky’s suggestion, and perhaps that’s his personal theory about how the list showed up in the archives. I can only begin to guess upon whose absence or retirement the list may have “appeared” after, but I’m sure your guesses will be better than mine.

    Another thing that stuck out in the emails: Jacky’s statement about who she believes scanned the document for you (when it was never scanned for you) strikes me as an attempt to deny any blame for you seeing something she knows—or now knows—you weren’t supposed to see. Bill’s comment about the “sensitive nature” of the topic reinforces that in my mind. It seems like the University is trying to keep a tight handle on what the story is, and I strongly suspect that the list was never supposed to be publicly available. In fact, I don’t think that they knew that it was publicly available until you asked questions about it. That makes me think that the list was placed in the archives fairly recently. To go with Bill’s possible theory: perhaps it “appeared”/was mistakenly placed there after someone’s recent retirement (the “recent retiree”)?

    Regarding the list itself, I agree that it seems to be a recently created document. It seems to me that it was either created by the person who did the interview for the purpose of summarizing it for others, or it was created by a third party (likely at the direction of someone else) for the purpose of summarizing the interview before destroying the source material. There are a few possibilities that I can think of immediately: perhaps a student did the interview and created the list as an addendum to a paper they wrote (in which case, the paper itself would not have been of as much interest as the summary of the interview, as it’s unlikely that there would be more information in the paper than is readily available in public sources), or as notes for a story in the school newspaper (and I would bet that such a story would have never made it to publication…), or perhaps the interview with AD was a broader one about her time at the school, and the list was created as a summary of what she said about the Tammen case before that part of the interview was redacted. I wonder if the school has any record of any interview with AD?

    One last note, and this is likely a red herring: Steve Gordan’s comment about searching for two old Miami films that have gone missing also caught my eye. Any chance those films involved interviews with faculty/staff?

    1. Hi KRT! Thanks so much for these insightful comments. I just have some thoughts to add. Regarding the source: I’ve wondered if maybe President Shriver might have conducted the interview. Dr. Shriver passed away in 2011, so that would be right in our timeframe. But I think he would have told me about any interview he might have had with AD when we spoke in 2010. Or, at the very least, I do believe he would have given me her name as someone to contact. I truly do. Also, if Dr. Shriver had donated all of his Tammen research to the university, I would think they’d go to the main archives as opposed to one of the satellites.

      If a student had conducted the interview, that would be a lot harder to trace, but I also don’t understand why the author didn’t give himself/herself a byline. Other students had written papers on Ron Tammen throughout the years, and they are all listed as authors. This seems…I’m gonna say it….intentionally deceptive.

      I’m still trying to wrap my head around the Archives’ “unknown donor” issue. That’s why I’d love to understand their protocol better. As a writer, I consider an information source to be extremely important. If a retiree donates boxes of papers to the Archives, clearly someone needs to go through every paper before filing them in their system. Why can’t the source be documented somewhere at that time? Of course, I’m obviously out of my bailiwick, but it’s just a lingering question I have. Thanks again for your thoughts!

  17. I am another first time poster who has enjoyed reading your website for a few years. You have done excellent work! I first learned of the Ron Tammen mystery when I was on the Miami University faculty from 1990 through 1999.

    The thing that stood out for me most about the e-mails was the “sensitive nature of the topic” comment by William Modrow on February 2, 2021. Why would the disappearance of a student almost 68 years ago be “sensitive” today? I think that it is unlikely that a Miami library staff member of today, such as Mr. Modrow, has knowledge of what actually happened to Ron Tammen. Also, just a routine disappearance multiple decades ago couldn’t possibly reflect badly on the Miami U. of 2021, even if the missing student had been the victim of foul play. In my opinion, the only reason that Mr. Modrow would have called this topic “sensitive” is because some Miami higher up at some time told him that it is “sensitive.” That suggests to me that someone still at Miami now (or employed there in the recent past) knows what happened to Ron and knows that it is “sensitive,” as opposed to being something “mundane” like his running off, being murdered, etc.

  18. Okay. Per your information request, SAA guidelines or not, I don’t believe Miami would simply dump unattributed documents into their archives. Sorry, in this day of legal requirements of releasing it upon request, there’s simply NO WAY.

    Again, in for a penny, in for a dollar, I suggest you ask Bill Woodrow for 3 of the “many” unattributed documents he affirms Miami has accepted.

    1. Thanks…I agree with you. I may do that once I have their policy in hand as back-up. Also, even though I didn’t use the correct vocabulary word, the fact that he didn’t send their accessions policy to me when I asked him directly for their policy on “how staff members catalog and process information that is donated to University Archives” is interesting. We’ll see what happens.

  19. I just want to know why the university is so dead set on saying they don’t know something when they very obviously do. What does it benefit them, or who benefits from their continued silence?

    I’ve never been one for conspiracy theories, but something is rotten in Oxford and it’s coming from the library. The one place that should be a bastion of information and truth has pivoted to be the university’s bastion in the ramparts against this one case (that might be a slight over exaggeration, but you get my point).

    I guess my questions are:
    1. Is there someone or something telling the university to keep quiet?
    2. If not, why not hand everything over? Or do they stand to take that much damage over “losing” a student?
    3. What do they, the university, gain by staying silent?
    4. If someone else is pulling the strings, what do they stand to gain?
    5. If they can’t answer a simple yes or no question, why? That’s the annoying part.

    Ugh, I’m annoyed!

  20. Some great comments on this thread. I see I’m not the only one thinking that there may have been some trouble for Jacky Johnson. I hope not, but as KRT noted, the subsequent actions suggest it. If you want to succeed in rooting out mysteries, always ask yourself, “What would a reasonable person do in this situation?” Or alternatively, “How would a reasonable person act in this situation?” And when someone acts differently, there’s something to focus on. As one example, I still have a hard time buying Hi Stephenson’s claim he saw Ron in a restaurant and didn’t say anything to his wife while sitting there. What reasonable person would act like that? The hard part is sometimes reasonable people act unreasonably!

    Great point Carolyn raises about “sensitive nature of the topic”. Plug that into the Magic Question, “How would a reasonable person act in that situation?” and for sure you don’t get someone calling a missing persons report from 60 some years ago as “sensitive”.

    And the series of questions by KW about Miami’s actions. Again, “How would a reasonable person (or institution) act in that situation?” and for sure you don’t get a college circling the wagons for no readily apparent reason. I’ll note that when people engage in a legitimate coverup, they in fact tend to illuminate the specific points that they most want to hide! Perhaps they aren’t acting reasonably, or something else is going on here, but their actions in fact would be reasonable if there WAS in fact a coverup! Look at KW’s questions again with the presumption Miami knows about MK-Ultra and want to hide any mention of it. The answers to all 5 of those questions ARE reasonable in that case.

    I see I’m not alone in not being one much attracted to conspiracy theories. But when I look at most of Official Miami’s actions in this entire case, they are in fact pretty reasonable in the situation that there was in fact a major coverup. I really enjoyed the 3 people I’ve mentioned and some of the other comments on this topic. This has been an outstanding, thought provoking thread.

    1. I agree — these are awesome, awesome comments. I also have to believe that, at some point, someone affiliated with the university is going to examine their own actions or non-actions and say “Good grief, what am I even doing?” I’m currently working on posting something permanently on my blog site that asks current or former employees or students with knowledge of the interview to come to me anonymously if they need to get anything off their chest. These are good people. It’s time.

  21. I wish more people were like the dead fish guy. I liked him and could tell without question that he was being honest. In response to your last post, in my eyes he was a great example of how a reasonable person would react to questions.

    And he wasn’t even in the business of archiving and providing information, as far as I know.

  22. I wanted to post this on the “April 19, 1953” log on the homepage, but comments are closed. Can I suggest you open a live comment page link on the homepage for discussion of older posts? I stumbled across an amusing comment made regarding falling under full time student status long after one of your posts was made and realized I could have easily missed a pretty significant point raised. As it is, we sort of have to post unrelated stuff on the last entry.

    In any event, 2 things from the Carl Knox notes jumped out at me:

    1. “Madeup Bed all except putting pillows in Pillowcases”. That strikes me as simply meaning the pillows were laying uncased on the bed. More important might be if the pillowcases were there. And that statement really doesn’t say either way.

    2. “Follow up re Check Book” That strikes me as really important, and for the life of me, I don’t remember any mention of it. I do understand there was no activity in his account, but where did the checkbook go between Friday and Sunday?

    1. Oops—I didn’t realize comments were still closed on some pages. Thought I’d opened them up site-wide. I’ll look into it. Thanks!

      Re: the pillowcase, yes, the description doesn’t say if it was still there—just that it didn’t make it onto the pillow. I blame the ambiguity on the photo captioner. I’m not looking at the article—doing some cleaning—but I think that’s the only place in the article where the pillowcase is mentioned, right?

      Re: checkbook, good question. I don’t think it was listed among items left in his room. Hmm. I’ll look into that too, though I’m not sure we’ll be able to find an answer. I think that’s the only place it’s mentioned in Knox’s notes. Back in touch later.

    2. In response to your requests, I’ve reopened comments for all of the static pages (under Backgrounder) plus I’ve added a “Putting Things Together” page at the bottom of that list. The new page is for those times when a question or comment transcends a specific topic or blog post. Consider it a catchall area for broader questions and comments or whenever you’d like. As for your other points:

      I misread your question about the pillowcase earlier and thought you were referring to the 1954 Hamilton Journal News article. I’d forgotten that Carl Knox had included that ambiguous line in his notes. Here I was blaming the photo captioner in the HJN article, who’d written “ROOM LIKE HE LEFT IT…..book, freshly made bed without pillow case.” My only correction to your comment is that the term “pillow case” is singular in Knox’s notes too. But I agree with you…where the HJN caption sounds more like the pillowcase is missing, Knox’s notes sound as if it’s there, it’s just not on the pillow. Still, we likely won’t ever know for sure.

      As for your comment about his checkbook, it’s so interesting that Dean Knox didn’t write it down as being in the room. He mentions various checks cashed, etc., so he knows all about Ron’s banking activity. But it’s weird that he didn’t write down that the checkbook was on or in the desk, when he’d mentioned his wallet and IDs, fraternity pin, toothbrush, etc. I do see that the “Follow up re Check Book” note is written on the bottom of a page in which Knox is talking with a family member of Ron’s–either one of his parents or perhaps his Aunt Mary, who was a high school teacher. You can tell this because the information is all very personal about his bad eye, how he was fond of model airplanes, his jobs, etc. Perhaps the “follow up” was a request coming from the family–that they’d like Dean Knox to send them Ron’s check book? Just a guess though.

  23. Here’s the page where Carl Knox wrote “Follow up re Check Book.” Sorry that it’s so small. For a larger view, go to the homepage, scroll to the bottom, click on Carl Knox’s notes, and then scroll some more till you find it.

  24. Per the checkbook, maaaybe the followup referenced watching the account after the disappearance. A sloppy choice in language if so, but possibly. Sloppy language drives me crazy, and 58 years later, it rears its ugly head.

    If he meant “Follow up to see where the checkbook is”, well then, we have a serious problem. Where could it be? His desk, a dresser, maaaybe his car. In 1979, I carried mine in my pocket like a wallet, and that wasn’t uncommon. But he left everything else, so him carrying that off doesn’t seem likely. We’re told no activity was on his account, but I’m not sure we have documented evidence of that. That’s it. How could it be missing?

    If it was never found, I’d love to see his account activity before the disappearance. I doubt 70 year old bank records exist, but who knows? Maybe some fool investigator lost it, but that hardly seems possible. There might be something interesting in the register, and I suspect Ron was very meticulous in keeping it.

    So, would the surviving Campus Owl remember if Ron carried his checkbook? Can you get his account activity for the year before his appearance? Does any inventory of the room mention the checkbook?

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