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Profile: Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University was a participant or observer in the following events:
A parcel addressed to the head of the Vanderbilt University computer science department, Patrick Fischer, explodes, injuring Fischer’s secretary, Janet Smith. The package was originally sent to Fischer at Pennsylvania State University but was later forwarded to Nashville, Tennessee, where Vanderbilt University is located and where Fischer now teaches. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 1998] Fischer will later describe Smith’s injuries as “nasty lacerations,” and will say, “She made a full recovery, but it was very traumatic for her.” The bomb itself consists of smokeless powder and a large number of match heads. The package has a false return address, stating it comes from LeRoy Bearnson, a professor of electrical engineering at Utah’s Brigham Young University. Bearnson will later say, “I suppose the guy didn’t care which way it went or who got blown up.” FBI agent Oliver “Buck” Revell, who takes part in early phases of the bomb investigation, will later say: “He might pick out an individual, but the person was still a symbolic target to him. I suspect that once he targeted the university research system, it didn’t matter that much who received it. I suspect he felt the country would pick up the symbolism.” The bombing will later be shown to be the work of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). When Fischer, along with the rest of the country, learns of Kaczynski’s identity, he will try to find connections between himself and Kaczynski, and come up with only the most tenuous of relationships: Fischer studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) while Kaczynski studied at nearby Harvard, and Fischer may have shared a Harvard math class with Kaczynski. He also spent time in Salt Lake City, a city with which Kaczynski is familiar. “The agents made it very clear that I was the target,” Fischer will later say. “I still have no idea why, except my feeling is that he chose names at random with certain associations.” [Washington Post, 4/14/1996]
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