Saturday, October 11, 2008

Connect the dots on Bill Ayers

By: Ben Montgomery, Times Staff Writer
In print: Sunday, October 12, 2008

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, trying hard to be the country's next No. 2, lunged for the throat last week by suggesting Barack Obama ". . . is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country."

She was citing a New York Times article about Obama's relationship with Weather Underground co-founder Bill Ayers, which concluded that the two "do not appear to have been close."

Ayers is now a well-respected academic and a distinguished professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He and Obama met in 1995 while involved in the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a foundation dealing with urban education issues. They live in the same neighborhood, sat on the Woods Fund board together, and their children went to the same school. The Obama campaign's David Axelrod said they were "certainly friendly" because of those circumstances.

So we wondered, under the same parameters, who else is palling around with this terrorist?

Here's a short list of prominent people at least as connected to Ayers as Barack Obama. Many of them served on various boards with Ayers, while others consider him a friend and associate.

Susan Crown: Vice president of Henry Crown & Co., the largest single investor in Virginia defense contractor General Dynamics Corp. The bulk of the family's holdings are in manufacturing and real estate. Other nuggets include Aspen Skiing Co. resort in Colorado and stakes in the Chicago Bulls, the New York Yankees and New York's Rockefeller Center.

Patricia Graham: Former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and board member for Houston-based Apache Corp., an independent energy company. She served as president of the Spencer Foundation, which supports research into educational improvement.

Arnold Weber: Past president of Northwestern University and of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, a leading business and civic organization, and director of Chicago-based Diamond Management and Technology Consultants. He has been on faculty at the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a trustee of the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

Diana Nelson: Former Republican Illinois state representative and executive director of Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform.

Adele Simmons: Vice chair of Chicago Metropolis 2020 and president of the Global Philanthropy Partnership. From 1989 to 1999, she was president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Also a director of the Shorebank Corp. and member of the boards of the Field Museum of Chicago, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Richard Daley: Mayor of Chicago, named one of Time magazine's five best big-city mayors in 2005.

Stanley Fish: Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Humanities and a professor of law at Florida International University, as well as dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the author of 10 books.

Ted Sizer: "One of American education's most influential thinkers for over four decades," according to Education Sector, a nonpartisan independent think tank. Author of the Horace trilogy, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and headmaster of Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., where presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush schooled.

Deborah Meier: Author of five books on education, MacArthur Foundation "Genius" grantee, and currently on the faculty of New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.

Alex Polikoff: Lead counsel in the Gautreaux public housing litigation for more than 40 years. Former executive director of Chicago's Business and Professional People for the Public Interest. Was a member of Chicago law firm Schiff Hardin & Waite. Author of Housing the Poor: The Case for Heroism and Waiting for Gautreaux.

Warren Chapman: Vice chancellor for external affairs at University of Illinois at Chicago. Former president of the Bank One Foundation and vice president and national philanthropic adviser for JPMorganChase. Former lead program officer for the Joyce Foundation and member of the boards of directors of the Chicago Historical Society, the Metropolitan Planning Council and Columbia College Chicago.

R. Eden Martin: Executive director of Chicago's Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, and partner in the law firm of Sidley & Austin.

Vartan Gregorian: Former president of the New York Public Library and Brown University. Current president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, trustee of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and member of the editorial board of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Recipient of the National Humanities Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom and honorary degrees from 56 institutions.

Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf: Rabbi emeritus at KAM Isaiah Israel, located across the street from the Obamas' Kenwood home. Taught at Yale, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the University of Chicago and Loyola Marymount University, and author of Unfinished Rabbi.

Sources: major newspapers, business journals and national magazines.

Ben Montgomery can be reached at or (727) 893-8650.

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