Happened to meet Chris Kennedy once or twice back in the late 80s. Nice enough guy, if a bit aloof. His wife and my wife were law school classmates. I recall thinking that it was a good thing the Kennedys weren't still around when Northwestern hired Bernardine Dohrn in 1991.
Dorhn's father-in-law, Thomas Ayers, and his close friend Howard Trienens, both sat on the board of trustees at Northwestern.
Trienens had been the honcho at Sidley Austin, your basic gold standard Chicago area law firm, when the firm hired Ms. Dohrn in the early 80s, despite the fact that the Illinois ethics people refused to grant her a law license.
Trienens was willing to overlook details like that, as, like I said, he was dear dear golf buddies with Dohrn's father-in-law, Tommy "The Big Hitter" Ayers.
The reason the Illinois legal community didn't want Ms. Dohrn in the club, was her previous criminal record.
Back in the late 60s and early 70s, Bernardine Dohrn was part of the Weather Underground.
It was during that time, those Days of Rage which she herself led, when Ms. Dohrn met her to-be husband.
Fella by the name of Bill Ayers, who is now a "distinguished professor of education" at the University of Illinois Chicago.
I recall news items from the late 70s about Ayers and Dohrn being on the lam, and they were very much hiding out. Dohrn was at one point on the FBI's Top Ten List of People The FBI Hates.
In the late 70s, the Weathermen split into a couple of groups, the May 19 Coalition and The Prairie Fire Collective. The latter group was in favor of turning themselves in to the law enforcement community, while the May 19s wanted to stay underground.
Dohrn and Ayers were Prairie Fire Collectivists. They'd had enough running. They had kids.
They turned themselves in in 1980, the year I got married. They received probation.
Shortly after that Trienens hired her at Sidley.
Anyway, after her time at Sidley Austin, Dohrn was hired as an "adjunct professor or law" at NU, which in Northwestern lingo means " a professor who was hired without faculty approval" and which in the case of Bernardine Dohrn meant there was no vote. That was in 1991, same year as the Burris/Nicarico fiasco.
Trienens insisted that neither himself nor Dohrn's father-in-law Thomas Ayers, Bill's dad, both Northwestern Law School trustees, had anything to do with the hiring of Ms. Dohrn as an "adjunct professor of law" at the Northwestern University School of Law.
No influence whatsoever.
Hey what can I tell you? Call me a cynic, but I was skeptical.
I smelled a rat, and I was very relieved to know that Sheila and Chris Kennedy had moved on, because their presence in the same legal circles as Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn could have possibly caused some cocktail party tension. Ya know, because of the whole Sirhan Sirhan book dedication thing.
Anyway, we spring forward to 2008, and right in the midst of the Obama/Blago/Burris/Durbin/Reid "Don't send us a senator" thing, some people around here, myself included, speculated that it might be a good time for Chris Kennedy to jump into Illinois politics.
Chris cut everyone off at the pass by accepting a position on the the board of the University of Illinois, a job that he did while running the Merchandise Mart. In short order, Chris was named the Chairman of the U of I board.
And that, is not a good thing if your name is William Ayers, and you want the University of Illinois to grant you emeritus status.
“I intend to vote against conferring the honorific title of our university to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father, Robert F. Kennedy,” he said.
“There is nothing more antithetical to the hopes for a university that is lively and yet civil, or to the hopes of our founding fathers for their great experiment of a self-governing people, than to permanently seal off debate with one’s opponents by killing them.”
The vote was taken and William Ayers' request to be granted emeritus status, usually an informal thing that gets rubber stamped, was shot down,.. by a unanimous vote