Issues with Dad

For the Apple enthusiasts on campus still mourning the death of Steve Jobs, it turns out you had a closer connection to the tech scion than you may have known. Mainstream news outlets from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times have run stories in past weeks about Jobs’ relationship to his estranged biological father, Abulfattah “John” Jandali, a Syrian political scientist-turned-casino manager with whom he never reconciled.

Articles focused on the tumultuous circumstances of the adoption and how Jandali sought to reconnect with Jobs after Jandali learned of his son’s cancer, yet many columnists may not have gotten the full story. Unknown to many, Jandali is a former professor at Puget Sound, albeit one with a complicated past. He spent four years as an associate professor of Political Science, receiving tenure and serving as chair of his department, chair of the faculty senate and adviser to the Associated Political Science Students, the precursor to today’s Political Science Association.

Jandali’s fall from grace was just as quick as his meteoric rise through the faculty ranks, however, as Jandali resigned from his position at the University in the spring of 1975 shrouded in a scandal over his abandonment of a short-term study abroad trip that he was leading. Seattle Met magazine speculated in an article published online on Oct. 28 that Jobs refused to reconcile with Jandali because of the incident. Jobs said in an interview on 60 Minutes, “I learned a little bit about him and I didn’t like what I learned.” It is necessary to note here that as the small number of faculty members who are still working at the University declined to comment, the narrative that follows is based on articles published in 1975 by The Trail, the Tri City Herald, and The Seattle Times.

The trip in question was a travel course called “Egypt Since the 1952 Revolution,” organized by Jandali as a January break option known at the time as ‘Winterim.’ Eleven Puget Sound students, then-professor of education Edith Gifford, a parent volunteer and Jandali left for Cairo, Egypt on Dec. 31, 1974 to spend five weeks traveling Egypt. According to a 2010 article in Bidoun, a magazine focused on middle eastern diaspora, students initially complained about sub-standard hotel conditions and a lack of cultural activities.

On Jan. 11, Gifford called to the University to report that Jandali, along with a large portion of the group’s funds, had gone missing and that she had filed a missing persons report with the local police. Students each paid $1,450 for the trip. According to a statement in The Trail by then-President Philip M. Phibbs, the University wired the group funds to continue their pre-arranged travels. The University considering sending Professor Michel Rocchi to replace Jandali, but Phibbs stated that this option was not taken “for a variety of complicated reasons.”

Details surrounding the disappearance of Jandali and the group’s monies are murky, but enough to prompt Phibbs to call a hearing board to discuss the dismissal of Jandali from the faculty. Jandali chose to resign instead. Bidoun states that “Jandali was spotted gambling away a conspicuously large pile of money at the casino at the Hilton on the Nile.” Jandali returned to Tacoma unannounced on Jan. 13 and according to an article published in The Trail on Feb 14, went directly home under care of a physician and took a leave of absence from the University for medical reasons. Phibbs later said that an insurance company had reimbursed the University’s monetary losses. No criminal charges were filed in relation to the incident.

Student reaction to the incident was swift and led to charges of a cover-up by the administration and The Trail. After publishing the first section of an article dedicated “to deal entirely with the facts, not hearsay,” The Trail called off its coverage a week later. It’s justification was that “in the best interests of all parties involved and for the benefit of all readers, that further coverage of the incident will be halted until all available information can be gathered.” This led to an open letter from the Editor-in-Chief distancing The Trail from the administration and refuting any rumors of a Jones-led cover up. Nonetheless, a letter-to-the-editor from Mark Jury in April took both The Trail and the administration to task for their treatment of the issue. Jury first alleged that members of the trip were threatened with the loss of their athletic scholarships if they pursued the case before going on to criticize the way the University handled restitution of student funds and academic credit.
The issues of The Trail referred to in this article can be found in the University’s Collins Library archives.