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UDM doesn't celebrate these former students

By Jack Walsworth/ VN News Editor
On October 7, 2014

Actor Keegan-Michael Key, author Elmore Leonard, Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick – they rank among the many successful alums whom the University of Detroit Mercy trumpets with considerable pride.

It’s no secret that university officials like to brag about their high-achieving former students.

But not everyone who has attended the university merits a promotional spot in an advertisement or a place on one of the walls of fame.

In fact, some cast dark clouds over the campus.

Here are some individuals you won’t see spotlighted among the university’s “great things”:

 

Jack Tocco

Jack W. Tocco, who died in July at age 87, was a 1949 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in general business, according to the 1949 edition of The Tower, the university’s now-defunct yearbook.

A Grosse Pointe native, Tocco was the son of William “Black Bill” Tocco, who allegedly created the Detroit Mafia in the 1930s.

In 1998 Tocco was convicted by a federal jury for taking part in a 30-year racketeering conspiracy that included loan-sharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice and attempts to gain hidden interests in Nevada casinos.

He served 34 months in prison before being released in 2002.

The FBI labeled him boss of the Detroit crime family.

Tocco also had ties to the person at the center of one of the 20th century’s greatest mysteries: Jimmy Hoffa.

Hoffa disappeared in July 1975.

In the summer of 2013, a tip led the FBI to search one of Tocco’s former properties in hopes of finding Hoffa’s remains but none were found.

 

Richard Wishnetsky

A former University of Detroit graduate student, Richard Wishnetsky committed a horrendous act on Feb. 12, 1966.

According to an Associated Press article from Feb. 14, 1966, Wishnetsky, who dropped out of U of D when he was 23, went to Shaarey Zedek synagogue in Southfield and shot Rabbi Morris Adler before turning the gun on himself in front of 600 people.

Wishnetsky shot the 59-year-old rabbi through his left forearm and behind his left ear with a .32 caliber pistol.

The AP article also noted that Wishnetsky had recently been under treatment for a nervous condition and received some counseling from the rabbi.

Author Joyce Carol Oates, one of UDM’s most famous former professors, got to know Wishnetsky and would later base a story called “In the Region of Ice” off of her experiences with Wishnetsky.

Further, a book titled “Murder in the Synagogue” by T.V. LoCicero was written about the murder.

It said that Wishnetsky considered Harvard, Yale, the University of Toronto, the University of Chicago and London School of Economics before deciding on U of D for his grad work, much to the surprise of those who knew him.

 

Louis C. Miriani

A 1922 graduate of the University Detroit School of Law, Miriani was a Detroit city council member before taking over as mayor following Albert Cobo’s death in 1957.

Detroit’s last Republican mayor, Miriani would serve from 1957 to 1961.

Ironically enough, it was a fellow U of D grad, Jerome Cavanagh, who defeated Miriani in the 1961 mayoral race.

According to The Detroit News archives, Miriani was investigated by the U.S. Attorney for income tax evasion.

He was ultimately convicted for failing to report $261,000 in income in 1969, and served 294 days in prison between 1970 and 1971.

 

Others

Not all alums in this Hall of Dishonor rise to the same level, of course.

But here are a few others whose more recent appearances in the news have brought unfavorable attention:

Robert Ficano: The former Wayne County executive and law school grad was served subpoenas by FBI agents in 2011. According to The Detroit News archives, four of his former aides have pleaded guilty or been convicted of bribing in the ongoing probe of “pay to play” activities in the county. Ficano, though not charged with a crime, was defeated in an August election.

Turkia Awada Mullin: A UDM Law School grad, Mullin was at the center of a controversy involving Ficano when she received a $200,000 severance from Wayne County after she resigned as economic development director to take the CEO position at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Thaddeus McCotter: A former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and a candidate for the Republican nomination for President, McCotter resigned from the House in 2012 amid a petition-signature scandal. However, he was not charged in the case. McCotter received both his undergrad and law degrees from the university.

James M. Cameron: A U of D Law School grad, Cameron was Maine’s top drug prosecutor until he was fired in 2008. According to the Portland (Maine) Press Herald, he was indicted on child pornography charges in 2009. The original conviction sentenced him to 16 years in prison. An appeals court later reversed convictions on six of the 13 charges, but upheld the remainder, according to the Press Herald.  

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