May 23, 2007 — -- Rejected by Harvard? Not a problem. You're in good company.
The fabled university and some of its well-heeled wannabes will take a lighthearted beating in the press next week, when a magazine created by two of the school's alumni plans to publish a list of American industry leaders whose applications for admission Harvard reportedly rejected.
The list is, well, impressive. Investor Warren Buffet, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner, NBC "Today" show host Meredith Vieira, former "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw, New Yorker magazine editor David Remnick, CNN founder Ted Turner, folk rock legend Art Garfunkel, Matt Groening, creator of the animated television series "The Simpsons," Sun Microsystems chairman Scott McNealy, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center president Harold Varmus, and Columbia University President Lee Bollinger round out the list.
"Rejected is such a strong word,'' Kerry told ABC News' through a spokesperson. "I prefer to think of it as crimson-challenged … besides I never would have fit in at a total jock school."
"It's Harvard that should be embarrassed, not the people on the list,'' said Bom Kim, founder of the independent magazine 02138 and a Harvard graduate himself. The Harvard admissions office "accepted [convicted Unabomber] Ted Kaczynski and rejected Warren Buffet. The process is not even close to perfect.''
The magazine is not affiliated with the university, whose spokesman Robert Mitchell declined to comment on the upcoming magazine story. Kim said that every name on the list of rejected applicants was confirmed by the magazine "either through public record, previous reporting or from confirmation through the subjects themselves.''
"They were very open about it,'' he said, referring to people like Kerry, who also spoke without a hint of crimson-faced embarrassment to the 02138 magazine editors.
"These are people who are very confident in what they've accomplished,'' Kim said. "People put so much stake in the admissions process," he said, conceding that there is value in a Harvard acceptance but adding, "being one of the chosen doesn't necessarily mean that you won't turn out to be Ted Kaczynski -- or Warren Buffet.''
But it's unclear precisely how funny the list's members felt it was when a publicist leaked word of the story and its subjects to the New York Post's Page Six gossip column for Monday's paper. The reliably irreverent column ran an item on the story under the headline "Look Who Harvard Blew Off." ABC News contacted every person on the list. With the exception of John Kerry, no one would comment. At least one publicist was clearly angry about receiving such a call.
The young magazine, named for a zip code within Cambridge, Mass., has come under fire from its collegiate colleagues over at the he Crimson, which published a scathing opinion piece about 02138 last fall, titled "Not in My Zip Code."
"The publication is about as subtle as a falling brick,'' wrote Lucy M. Caldwell. "It prattles like a man suffering from a midlife crisis who wishes he were still in college …
"The real trouble with 02138 is that it doesn't understand what makes Harvard great. It embraces jewels and jet setters; it rejects the eccentric, the nerdy and the badly dressed. In 02138, the frumpy physics concentrator who doesn't know a Manolo Blahnik from a Birkenstock is tossed aside in favor of the Hermes-toting development admit from Greenwich. It celebrates those who parasite upon the Harvard name instead of those who contribute to it."
The magazine is targeted at Harvard alumni. Its editors sent out the first issue to 50,000 Harvard graduates for free in September 2006.
The new 02138 appears to be an equal opportunity offender. It previously published a similar list of Harvard graduates who got themselves into public trouble or professional embarrassment.
That list includes one-time "chick-lit" sensation Kaavya Viswanathan, who was accused of plagiarizing sections of her debut novel; former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned from his post at the head of the Boston Archdiocese in 2002 amid the priest sex abuse scandal; and L. Paul Bremer, former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority at the start of the Iraq War. But one Harvard University official pointed out to ABC News that 2,000 high school valedictorians are rejected each year among the more than 22,000 who apply for approximately 1,700 spots in the incoming freshman class.
ABC News' Lauren Pearle and Laura Davis contributed to this story.