Meeting Notes: January 8, 2020 – The Unabomber and his ties to Ann Arbor

The Club’s first meeting in the new decade found a full room of Rotarians and guests filling their plates with salads, do-it-yourself Dagwood sandwich fixings, and soup of the day that wasn’t the usual black bean. There were more surprises to come. The singing of our National Anthem was followed with inspirational thoughts prepared by Jody Tull de Salis. She thanked members for their demonstrated service and reminded all of the everlasting power of kindness. Song leader Don Duquette got us ready for the days’ program with new lyrics for two old tunes as a sort of gentle roast/warm up for our own retired G-man past president, Greg Stejskal, the scheduled speaker of the day. President Rosemarie recognized the day’s set-up team and did a little sly recruiting for more volunteers to assist with our meeting projector set-up and operations. She also noted possible historical April Fool’s activity recognizing 11 members celebrating early January birthdays. Members were reminded that only three more meetings would be at Weber’s and all were encouraged to make reservations for our special Re-Union dinner scheduled for our return to the Michigan Union on February 5th. The Re-Union speaker will be John Hewko, Rotary International’s General Secretary and Executive Officer. Shelly MacMillan reminded all that reservations for this year’s Wine Women & Song Rotary performance on January 23, should be made soon.

Norman Herbert followed with an introduction of past president Joe Fitzsimmons as the Club’s newest Emeritus Member. During Norman’s listing of Joe’s multiple professional and non-profit association service above self activities it caused one to wonder how Joe ever found time to be our Club President in 2003-4. Club members recognized Joe with standing ovations both before and after his brief thank you remarks. Norman’s remarks will be added to the online archives featuring past Emeritus presentations, and can also be accessed here.

Peg Talburtt, Community Services Director, introduced Jennie Hale, from the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, who thanked the Club and described how our grant for their Kinder Concerts was used. Helen Starman from Food Gatherers described how their grant helped support food pantries that were established in 7 area schools to provide families in those school areas access to needed food, especially fruits and vegetables. Peg reported on behalf of Catholic Social Services’ President, Peg Bravo, and their use of grant funds to provide personal hygiene supplies to needy youth in the area.

President Rowney then introduced Greg Stejskal, retired Senior Resident Agent of the Ann Arbor FBI Office, who then presented a condensed version of the private dinner talk he made following the Golf and Tennis Outing. In typical Greg fashion, he noted that anyone complaining about any part of today’s presentation should remember that they were not paying for it, as had those who enjoyed a great dinner at Paesano’s prior to his full presentation on “Ann Arbor’s Ties to Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) who for 18 years alluded arrest. Greg outlined Kaczynski’s life prior to arriving in Ann Arbor, to attend the University of Michigan for PhD studies in theoretical mathematics. Ted had tested as a genius in grade school, and skipped 6th grade, but was reported as being socially awkward. He entered Harvard at the age of 16 on a full scholarship in 1958. He started study in physics and switched to math. He also participated in part of a psych study sponsored by the CIA that was looking at mind control.

He chose UM over Chicago and UC Berkley and worked for his PhD from fall 1962 to the spring of 1967. He was remembered as socially inept and unusual in that he always wore a coat and tie to class. He kept a personal journal that was found after his arrest. Greg read different entries from the journal. One was from UM times where he wrote about wanting to kill someone and had even thought he should transition from male to female as a possible way to enjoy sex with himself. After receiving his PhD, he accepted an assistant professor position at University of California Berkley in 1967 but left that position after only 2 years. With the help of his brother he purchased land outside of Lincoln, Montana where he built a one- room cabin. It had no running water, plumbing or electricity. His support came from odd jobs and selling produce from his garden.

The actual bombings began in 1978 but the FBI did not get involved until later. Favorite targets were university faculty who’s research he had apparently read about. One of bombs actually exploded in the cargo hold of an airplane and luckily wasn’t strong enough to bring the plane down, but it was then that the FBI got involved and coined the UNiversityAirlineBOMer name from the involved targets. Greg and the Ann Arbor FBI became involved when UM Professor James McConnell received the 10th bomb hidden in a hollowed out textbook that exploded when being opened in the professor’s home.  The UM and Ann Arbor ties to the case were brought very close when Greg recognized Karen Kerry’s luncheon guest, Nick Suino. Nick, an Ann Arbor resident, was a student of McConnell and was present when the bomb exploded. Luckily neither he nor the professor were killed or severely injured.

Greg then outlined how Ted’s twisted mind had somehow forced him to mail copies of his 35,000 word manifesto, promising to cease the bombings if the manifesto was published in the New York Times and Washington Post. The FBI and Department of Justice convinced the papers to publish the long document with the hope that someone reading it might recognize a segment or wording that they had previously read or heard from an individual. This tactic worked and it was Ted’s brother and his wife who recognized similarities and initiated attempts to contact the authorities and negotiate some leniency for Ted should their information lead to his arrest.  At the same time investigators studying the manifesto had identified some common threads and were making local inquiries at Harvard, Michigan, and Berkley. Greg reported being contacted by FBI Headquarters and asked if he could get some info from the UM and went direct to his friend, the UM’s Director of Public Safety asking for some local records research. Kaczynski’s name appeared high on a list that the UM’s investigation produced. When that was shared with the attorney who was trying to negotiate leniency for Ted, the information match was enough to start the preparation of a 200-page search warrant that was used for surveillance of Ted at his cabin and eventual arrest. The actual search of the property produced Ted’s journal, two bombs, and the typewriter that had typed the manifesto. The evidence led to a plea and a sentence of 4 life terms for Kaczynski who is now at the Florence, CO, “Supermax” prison. The program also included a great example of member appreciation to our own G-Man, Greg , when member Bob Dascola donned a grey hoodie and dark glasses, during the presentation. Greg acknowledged the appearance of a Ted’s impersonator in the audience, but in his signature style noted that the dark glasses made Bob look more like “D.B. Cooper,” the infamous fugitive who jumped from a hijacked airliner with ransom money, than Kaczynski. .

For more info on Kaczynski, Greg recommends you check a WNYC Stakes Program.  Here’s the link, scroll down all 3 episodes are there together.


This mostly non-fake news was prepared by:

Downs Herold   Cub Reporter


Big Turnout for the First Meeting of the Year!
A total of 119 members attended the initial meeting of the decade. We also had eleven guests and ADG Anne Nauts of Chelsea. On top of that, 38 members, one potential candidate and one Rotaractor participated in various committee meetings before and after lunch: International Humanitarian Projects, Membership, Rotaract, Rotate Your Food, Social and STRIVE. Wow! A great start, to be sure. Maybe we need to hear more of G-Man Greg’s extraordinary exploits.

John White, Retired Club Administrator