Hong Kong couple sue US professor after sons' Harvard rejection

They allegedly gave educator more than US$2 million to get their two sons into school

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2012, 6:43pm

A Hong Kong couple are suing a US-based college admissions consultant for failing to get their two sons into Harvard University as he had allegedly promised, according to reports.

The couple, who have been named as Gerald and Lily Chow by The Boston Globe, said in their suit filed in US District Court in Boston that they gave Mark Zimny, a former Harvard professor who ran the education consultancy group IvyAdmit Consulting, US$2.2 million to get their sons into an elite American university, preferably Harvard.

Reports said that Zimny agreed in 2007 to help the Chows' two sons, then aged 16 and 14.

He would provide tutoring to the two children while they attended American preparatory schools, and offered to "grease the admission wheels", funnelling donations to elite colleges while also investing on the Chows' behalf.

A detailed written plan states "our target university is Harvard", according to the Globe.

Zimny got to know the Chows five years ago at a ceremony at a Massachusetts prep school where one of the Chow boys was enrolled.

He later met the couple in Hong Kong and Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Harvard is located, including at a dinner with friends who were Harvard professors, the Globe reported.

He warned the Chows against giving donations to schools directly, according to the lawsuit. "Embedded racism" had made development offices wary of Asian donors, he allegedly advised them, and that it would be better to use his company as a middleman.

The couple's lawsuit charged Zimny with fraud and breach of contract, and they want their money back. Zimny has denied the allegations in court papers.

"While it is possible that in individual cases an admissions consultant can be helpful to an applicant, we have encountered no evidence to indicate that is the case generally," Harvard spokesman Jeff Neal told the Globe.

Hong Kong's education sector lawmaker-elect Ip Kin-yuen said admission consultants were popular in the city, but parents should be careful about putting money under their care.

"It is not practical to get your children into university by donation," he said, adding that Harvard or other Ivy League universities were not short of money.

Associated Press