Fredericksburg City Beat

This blog includes news about City Hall, city schools and other 22401 news.

Pamela Gould reports on City Hall. You can reach her at 540-735-1972 or Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or

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A former City Councilman’s Ted Kennedy memory

As you read and listen to all the national coverage of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s death today, here’s a unique perspective from one of Fredericksburg’s own.

George Van Sant, who served on the City Council from 1980-87 and then again from 1996 to 2000, was a graduate student at the University of Virginia from 1953 to 1958. In the winter of 1955-56, Kennedy was applying to UVa’s law school.

Kennedy’s application attracted attention because when Kennedy was an undergraduate at Harvard, he recruited another student to take a Spanish test for him so he wouldn’t fail and lose his athletic eligibility. As TIME magazine has reported in its Kennedy coverage, both students got caught and were expelled, though Harvard offered them a chance at readmission if they could demonstrate, "constructive and responsive citizenship."

At UVa, whose honor code is so sacred it’s drilled into potential students’ heads as they tour the campus, this was not a big selling point for Kennedy as a law school applicant. 

"Some student at UVa discovered that he had been convicted of an honor offense at Harvard and suspended for a year and wrote a letter to the Cavalier Daily," Van Sant said. "There was quite a controversy about his admission to the law school."

Van Sant was elected to the university’s honor committee in 1956. The outgoing honor committee had conducted an investigation of Kennedy and recommended that he be admitted, since he had already been convicted and punished for his honor violation at Harvard.

"As soon as the new honor committee was elected, we were briefed by the old honor committee and were given the whole investigation that the university conducted of Ted Kennedy," Van Sant said. "What was determined was that … under (Harvard’s) system, he had been tried, convicted and punished, he had completed his punishment, so he should be admitted."

Van Sant said the matter was so controversial on campus that the outgoing honor committee wanted to make sure its decision was understood.

After Kennedy entered UVa Law, Van Sant said, "I saw him a few times, but I was never a friend of his."

My assignment today is to talk to local folks who may have encountered Kennedy or have a particularly interesting memory of him. If you are one of those people, or if you want to suggest someone I should talk to, give me a buzz at 540/374-5413.

Look for a story in tomorrow’s paper. 


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