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Brian McGrory

Stonehill College dragged into Yahoo scandal

Of all the critical questions swirling in the public square this week - do we really have to live with Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren for the next five months, would it have been better if JPMorgan Chase just played blackjack with the $2 billion it lost - there is one issue that trumps all others.

Who lies about a degree from Stonehill?

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The answer, of course, is Scott Thompson, the freshly ousted chief executive of the struggling Internet giant Yahoo. Stonehill, for those new to the area, is the quaint Catholic college in sleepy Easton, Mass.

Thompson said he earned computer science and accounting degrees from the school in the late 1970s, when he really only got the accounting degree. And thus ended his short and controversial career at Yahoo, a casualty of what may be the single most ridiculous resume embellishment in the history of human nature.

When most people lie on their CV, it’s to fake an MBA from Harvard or battleground experience in Vietnam. Our hamlet has been lousy with such liars, most notably a celebrated dean of admissions at MIT who claimed degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Union College, and Albany Medical College, even though she had no diplomas from any of them.

There was the Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate who piped a Harvard degree, back in the pre-Scott Brown days when Republicans thought Harvard would enhance a resume, rather than hurt it. There was the best-selling historian who claimed to be fighting in Vietnam while he was teaching at West Point. There was the state elder affairs secretary who lied about degrees from two foreign universities, betrayed when he misspelled the one with more syllables.

There was the chairman of the Boston School Committee who said he helped liberate an infamous concentration camp during World War II, though military specialists later said it was impossible for him to have been there.

On it goes, so much fabricated greatness melting in the harsh light of truth. Against this backdrop, we arrive at Stonehill College and a program in computer science that school officials said didn’t even exist when Thompson graduated in 1979.

Stonehill. Computer science. For this, for the fame of being a double major, a master of Silicon Valley tossed away his career. What exactly did Thompson think Stonehill’s computer science program would involve back then? The intricacies of Donkey Kong? How to use a mouse?

Faking a computer science major from Stonehill in the 1970s is like falsely bragging that you were a star quarterback in college - on an MIT intramural team.

None of this is to imply anything negative about Stonehill. I don’t even mean anything negative in pointing out that Tom May, the $9.2 million-a-year chief executive of NStar (now Northeast Utilities) is among its best known alumni. With a tuition bill just north of $47,000 a year, an amount nearly equal to a day-and-a-half of May’s annual compensation, more than a few parents struggle mightily to send their children there - and for good reason.

Stonehill officials handled this Tuesday with their typical dignity. “The television, press, and social media coverage may give us some wider exposure, but this isn’t the way we would have wished to secure it,’’ a short statement said. They pointed out a recent accreditation for the business program, and added, “Our record is good enough to stand on its own.’’

The same can’t be said for Thompson. His Yahoo tenure was rocky at best. Never trust a CEO with a mustache - or one who poses for a portrait in a zip-up sweater. His ouster led to the revelation that a key Yahoo board member also had an embellished resume. The hedge fund investor who revealed the truth about Thompson did so after, get this, a Google search.

Stonehill is better than this absurd circus. And now we know, people lie just to bask in its name.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at mcgrory@globe.com.

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