For an index of articles on the 

Phi Chapter,

click here.


Anchorage Daily News

October 17, 2004

It's Hoya Lisa versus Eli Tony
PROFILE: College years, choices helped shape Senate candidates.

University of Alaska Fairbanks Sun Star story photo
Tony Knowles attended Yale. story photo
Lisa Murkowski went to Georgetown.

Click on photo to enlarge
Former Democratic Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles took a trip to the White House in May 2003, just a week before confirming publicly that he was considering running for the U.S. Senate.

What exactly Knowles, 61, might have discussed with the president is unknown. But it likely had little to do with politics given the nature of their meeting: a Yale class of 1968 reunion.

A few months later in September, a late vote caused U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski to be an hour late for an appearance at Georgetown University. Murkowski, 47, arrived at Riggs Library and spoke to students about Alaska, energy and the environment.

She is the first female Georgetown graduate to serve in Congress, according to the campus newspaper The Hoya.

College was two decades ago for Murkowski and almost four for Knowles. They attended different schools with different crowds and had different experiences. But somehow their paths have found them face-to-face in Alaska's high profile U.S. Senate race.

Murkowski and Knowles' college experiences share only a few similarities. Both graduated with bachelor degrees in economics, and both were part of a Greek social society. They both took time to travel, though under notably different circumstances.

Aside from these similarities, the candidates' paths were marked with different obstacles and choices that shaped who they became.


Where to go for college was not much of a question for Knowles, whose Yale alumnus father had hoped his son would continue the legacy. After graduating from Millbrook School, a New York boarding school, Knowles entered Yale in 1959 at age 16.

He had a "bumpy road," he said, with a tough first year and a problem with authority. "That was sort of what my attitude was when I went to school, and I wasn't really in it for the right reasons in terms of getting an education and working hard."

His attitude led to trouble with the school on a few occasions. He was kicked out of Yale for a period after dropping water balloons from a window, according to campaign spokesman Matt McKenna. Yale dismissed him a second time for academic reasons, Knowles said.

Unable to attend school, Knowles worked for about a year in an oil field, and then joined the Army in 1962.

At the time, he thought enlisting was "the thing to do." Spc. Knowles spent two years with the 82nd Airborne Division, the nation's largest parachute force, and did military intelligence in Vietnam in 1964, studying maps and photos, according to McKenna. He voted for Barry Goldwater that year, the last time he voted for a Republican presidential candidate.

Looking back, Knowles said the army helped him gain the maturity and discipline he had been lacking. "That really helped me get my act together."

Honorably discharged, Knowles said he felt ready to try Yale again.

Knowles says he focused intensely on his studies this second time. "Figured I had three strikes and you're out," he said. He discovered economics, and often gave up entire weekends to studying.

He did leave some time for fun. He took part in extracurricular activities, including intramural sports. He also joined Delta Kappa Epsilon, a sports fraternity that's suspected as being the partial basis for the 1978 film "Animal House."

In what even Knowles describes as ironic, the frat's president was none other than future Republican President George W. Bush. Their brotherhood has been an occasionally noted trivia bit for years, and the two have had no problem making light of it, such as when Bush spoke to an Elmendorf Air Force audience in 2002.

"I don't know whether your governor has admitted it or not, but he went to Yale," Bush joked. "He probably slurs his words so it sounds like 'jail.' " Laughter ensued before Bush wrapped up, saying, "I'm glad to be here with my old friend, Tony Knowles."

Under Bush, Knowles acted as pledge master at least once. And there were parties, of course. In an article in the New York Times online last April, he is quoted as saying, "There were, uh, social activities." Then he lifted his right fist to his lips, according to the account.

Bush and Knowles remained friends after college, usually meeting up at governors' conferences and occasionally talking over the phone. There was even talk after Bush was elected president that Knowles might join Deke brothers Clay Johnson, Don Ensenat and Clark T. Randt Jr. as part of the administration.

Fellow Deke and classmate Gregory Gallico remembered Knowles as a "nice guy." Gallico, a Harvard physician and strong supporter of Bush, joked via e-mail, "I'm sorry his critical faculties have so deteriorated as to be a Democrat."

Still, as much as journalists and politicians play up Knowles' frat days, it "really wasn't that big of a deal," he said. "(The fraternity) was not a central part of life there as it is in some universities," he said. "It was really just a combination of social and sideline activities."

Don Schollander, a Deke brother, agreed. "The fraternities at Yale aren't like the ones on the West Coast," he said. At the time, the fraternity did not even live in their fraternity house.

Knowles may not have been one of the best-known brothers, either. Schollander did not remember Knowles, and Garry Trudeau, who knew Bush when he was at Yale and frequently mocks DKE in his strip "Doonesbury," had never heard of him. Gallico only knew him as an acquaintance.

Despite their friendship, Knowles and Bush have had no problems making distinctions between themselves politically. "He's still got his sense of humor and he can poke fun at himself," Knowles told the Washington Post in 2002, "but he's totally preoccupied by the war."

Women were not admitted to Yale until the year after Knowles graduated. But that didn't deter Knowles and his friends from having a good time, as they would sometimes head out on weekend road trips, the "best way to meet young ladies," Knowles said.

It was during one such road trip to the all-girls Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., that Knowles met his future wife, Susan Morris. The two were set up on a blind date, he said, and hit it off.

They remained college sweethearts afterwards, despite the 78-mile distance between them. They married the summer after graduation, but not without a little surprise: Three days before the wedding, Knowles announced he had found a job roughnecking on the North Slope.

"My parents were aghast," Susan Knowles later told the Juneau Empire, "We were young; it was an adventure."


Murkowski was 18 when she entered Willamette University, a small school in Salem, Ore., in 1975. Although her mother, Nancy, graduated there, Lisa Murkowski said she mainly chose the school for its small size, not feeling ready for a big school after graduating from Monroe High School with only 32 seniors.

Most everybody lived on campus their freshman year, and she got to know people well, she said. She joined the Pi Beta Phi sorority and lived in its Mill Street house.

The future senator originally considered becoming a teacher, but never declared an education major and gave it up after her first year.

She went home every summer to work, she said, bringing her Oregon roommate to Fairbanks after freshman year to be timekeepers for firefighters during the wildfire season. The two got trained and bought steel-toed boots, but she said their plan "fizzled like a firecracker being rained on."

"It was the wettest summer that Fairbanks had ever had," she said. Her friend landed a job at McDonald's while she worked as a cashier at Pay-N-Pack Hardware Store.

As a sophomore, Murkowski enrolled in a macroeconomics class. She struggled with it, and midway through, her professor pulled her aside after class.

"He didn't seem to have a lot of confidence in my ability to pass his course and suggested that, you know, I just drop it," she said.

"I was so incensed that he had that little faith in me and my ability to get through his course that I kind of did one of these, 'Well, I'm going to show him.' "

She dug into her books and passed the course. She declared an economics major later that year.

During her junior year, she became an exchange student for a semester at the International College of Commerce and Economics outside of Tokyo.

"They didn't speak very much English, and I spoke limited Japanese," she said. "So I learned the language pretty quickly."

With the exchange winding down, Murkowski looked at transferring to a different school. She said her high school adviser had spoken highly of Georgetown University, a Jesuit college in Washington, D.C., so she transferred there the following semester.

Her decision had less to do with politics than location, she said. Although Murkowski was politically active at the time, managing Wally Hickel's Fairbanks office during his failed 1974 gubernatorial campaign and interning for Sen. Ted Stevens after high school, she said she moved to Washington, D.C., to break her Western ties for a while and to try the East Coast.

Her credits did not transfer well, causing her to need another year. But she loved the school and didn't regret the move.

"It was exactly what I was looking for," she said. "It was a young person's scene in every sense of the word, but yet it was safe."

The first year, she lived in Harbin Hall in a suite with four rooms and a living room. She shared the space with six others, including her New York roommate.

Her Alaskan heritage was a bit of a shock to her suitemates. Murkowski later wrote in a piece for The Hoya that the Alabaman didn't understand why an Alaskan would travel so far just for school, and it took Murkowski an entire month to convince her that she was from Alaska, not Arkansas.

She moved off-campus senior year with some friends. They would joke that they had "covered all the coasts," Murkowski said, since the others were from California, Rhode Island, and Florida.

Politics entered Murkowski's life in a big way after Georgetown. The year Murkowski graduated was the same year her father, Frank, was elected to the U.S. Senate. She took a job as a legislative aide in Juneau before returning to Willamette for law school.

She remained politically active at Willamette, where she was elected to a student government position and served on the moot court board. Her father also spoke at the commencement.

Doug Luetjen, a Seattle attorney, dated Murkowski during their three years of law school. He said she frequently attended events with him where political figures were present. He remembered her as "very poised" and "comfortable" around politicians.

She took interest in policy topics as well, trading opinions with Luetjen on term paper topics ranging from U.S. banking to natural resources. He remembered that one of her major papers dealt exclusively with Alaska.

She was fairly social, Luetjen remembered, maintaining a careful balance between her schoolwork and extracurricular activities. He noted that in law school, the workload is so heavy that most students, like him, had little time for any social life. She also reserved time to eat with her undergraduate sister, he said.

Their relationship ended with school on good terms, as Murkowski wanted to return to Alaska while Luetjen was headed for Washington, he said. But both consider each other good friends, and Luetjen said he is a big supporter of her campaign.

Yale was more than 36 years ago for Knowles, and Murkowski left Willamette's law school in 1985. Today, Knowles' son Luke is a junior at Yale. Murkowski wrote in The Hoya earlier this year that maybe her sons would enroll in Georgetown someday.

Nate Raymond is a staff reporter with the Sun Star and a registered undeclared Alaska voter. He interned for a month in Lisa Murkowski's Washington, D.C., Senate office after high school after being turned down for an internship with Ted Stevens. He has never campaigned for a candidate.



Delta Pi of ΔKE ~ Illinois    ~    Delta Psi of ΔKE ~ Indiana   ~    Psi Phi of ΔKE ~ DePauw


Post Office Box 813     Greencastle,  Indiana  46135