Debate 2012: Ten things you don't know about the University of Denver
On Wednesday, the University of Denver will host this election's first presidential debate -- and the first of its kind in Denver. DU has been getting ready for its close-up for months, and the stakes are high for both the school and the candidates. If the night is a success, no matter which candidate comes out on top, DU will look like a winner -- with an estimated 4,000 media outlets in town to tout the school. With that in mind, here are some lesser-known facts about the Rocky Mountain region's oldest private university that could help fill some empty air time.
10. DU was the setting for one of the biggest UFO hoaxes of the twentieth century In March 1950, a mysterious businessman named Silas Newton gave a lecture to a packed hall full of DU engineering students. He was a guest of the class's professor, who had invited Newton to speak about his personal experience with -- wait for it -- flying saucers and their midget occupants.
"Midget Pilot Killed in Crash of Flying Saucer," reads part of an Associated Press headline from 1950. Newton's name was not referenced in this or any other article at the time, and for good reason: According to declassified FBI files, Newton was a shady oil speculator who had previously been arrested for grand larceny. The agency claimed in official documents that Newton's claims were "hogwash." But, of course, that's what the feds would say in the case of a cover-up.
Newton's DU lecture had legs, though. So much so that his story was prominently featured in an early bestselling book on UFOs, Frank Scully'sBehind the Flying Saucers
. Scully, incidentally, was the namesake ofThe X Files
' Dana Scully. Never mind that there was no proof of said spacecraft or its diminutive pilots.
9. DU was once the home of an avowed Nazi In late 1940, Karl Scheuring was an eighteen-year-old student at the University of Denver. The fact that he was German was nothing abnormal; spend a day walking around campus, and you'll likely hear a variety of languages and dialects spoken. The fact that Herr Scheuring was, according to a New York Times article, an "avowed Nazi" who "has remained here as a student and has engaged in public speaking activities, presenting the Nazi point of view," was a problem, however. So the Department of Justice asked him to leave: "We do not know that young Scheuring is not engaged in subversive activities.... We do know that young Germans abroad, if they are good Nazis, do what they are told."
Interestingly, the same NYT piece highlights another, more notable German who was also being asked to leave: Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe, a close friend of Hitler (!) who also happened to be Jewish spy (!!).
8. DU was involved in Vietnam-era protests In May 1970, National Guardsmen stormed the University of Denver campus, armed with (unloaded) rifles and hellbent on stifling a nascent uprising at what some called "Woodstock Nation West."
"A war protesters' shantytown was torn down for the second time since Monday," reads a contemporary newspaper account of the incident. This was no Occupy-like tent city, though; when law enforcement showed up, they hauled away ten tons of construction materials that had been amassed on the campus lawn. In a large display of force that equaled what today would be one-tenth of the entire student body, a thousand armed servicemen took control of the village and threatened to arrest anyone who tried to rebuild it. Afterward, students planted flowers in the fire pits that protesters had left when their shantytown was demolished.
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