As computers get faster and smaller and technology races to outstrip the limits of our imaginations, the indistinct line between science and magic blurs. Masses of information lie at our fingertips. In under three mouse clicks, we can locate not just the square mileage of Alabama, but its population and state fish.
It seems then that finding out about people should be just as simple and fast. Maybe that’s why crafts like palmistry, astrology and phrenology are so appealing. But there’s one tell-all piece of magical science that stands apart from the rest. It’s graphology – the study of handwriting. It appeals to those who indulge in the fanciful sciences and skeptics alike.
The Statement asked two graphology experts, Jean Weemhoff and Dawn Roberts, to analyze the handwriting of people on campus. Handwriting analysis as anyone will tell you, even Weenhoff and Roberts, is not an exact science. However, that doesn’t stop countless entrepreneurs from trying to hone it into one. That said, while Weenhoff and Roberts aren’t exactly scientists, they do have a masters in graphology. Without knowing who the samples were from, here’s their approximation of the hidden characters of University figures laid bare by their handwriting.
How accurate is it really? You be the judge
Jean Weemhoff and Dawn Roberts have told us what they can about the writers, despite some limitations in length and format. Weemhoff and Roberts, both forensic analysts, have given testimony before courts on fraud and forgery cases. Weemhoff, who graduated from the University in 1987 with a bachelors in linguistics, went on to attain a degree she says she values only slightly less: an MGA, masters in graphoanalysis, from the International Graphoanalysis Society, once the foremost institution of its kind in the country.
Weemhoff has advised businesses about hiring potential employees and has been certified for expert testimony in municipal, district and circuit courts. She was also the president of the Michigan Graphoanalytic Association for eight years.
Roberts cultivated her interest in graphology at an early age. She was turned onto it, she said, when her father, schooled in handwriting analysis, reassured her that her life would turn out alright because he could “see it in her handwriting.” She was hooked and read everything about graphology she could get her hands on. Later, Roberts also attended the IGAS and Handwriting University for a refresher in document analysis. She does handwriting analysis on the side, and even offers students nearing graduation reports they can tack onto their resumes to set them apart from competitors.
Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, 1967 graduate of the University’s Mathematics graduate program
What people don’t know about Kaczynski, the brilliant but murderous mail bomber, is that he’s a very sensitive character, at least according to Weemhoff. The slight loop on his d, Weemhoff said, denotes that he doesn’t handle criticism well. Weemhoff suggested that the writer simply “walked to a different drum beat.” Both analysts mentioned a talent for details, even a passion. And flair for regiment and organization, which is probably not a difficult feat inside a prison cell. Roberts said she thought she detected a fear of empty spaces or death. The handwriting revealed a person, she said, who is hiding something from the rest of the world.
Paul Courant, administrator extraordinaire
Paul Courant served as provost, the University’s second in command, for three years, as well as putting time in as the director of the Institute for Public Policy Studies (now the Ford School of Public Policy), where he currently teaches. In his handwriting, Weemhoff says she sees flexibility and an ability to improvise – a trait that is fairly consistent with the characters of most good administrators. She added that she thought the writer would be able to multitask and think quickly enough to be able to do several things at one time. It may be true. Perhaps Courant does have a gift for multitasking, her summation, though, overlooked Courant’s dynamic personality. With a silver stud in his left ear, accessible teaching style and motorcycle license, Courant is about as close to a rock star as you’ll get within the University administration. Maybe that doesn’t come through in his m’s as well as it should.
Nicole Stallings, MSA President
The entire text of the sample shown here, torn from the back of Stallings’ notebook, reads “It’s great to be a Michigan wolverine!” – a fitting slogan for a wonderful Michigan Student Assembly president. Her traits, as our graphologists see them, could go either way. Stallings’s e, Weemhoff said, indicates an unwillingness to listen to other people’s opinions or at least a mild distaste for dissenting voices. But both analysts agree Stallings is self-reliant and driven, an analysis that’s hard to disagree with, at least based on her resume. Elected vice president of student government, then president last spring in the most brutal election year anyone can remember. Stallings is also a senior in the selective Organizational Studies program. “(She) could be a good leader,” Roberts said. She added the writing could also indicate that Stallings “could be a little self-centered.” However, that may not necessarily a bad thing, she said. “This person doesn’t depend on others for approval,” she said. “It’s just about her and for today.”
Lloyd Carr, Head football coach
Carr is one of the most recognizable faces at the University, and if Weemhoff and Roberts are right, he knows it. Carr, Roberts surmised, feels the pressure enough to be engaging in rigorous self-improvement in all areas of his life. He’s persistent, Weemhoff said – a good trait for a football coach – as well as generous with his time and energy. But there’s something sinister lurking in his past, Roberts said, though she couldn’t define it. Some unresolved issue he’s working to remedy? November’s loss to Ohio State is as good a guess as any.
Rebecca McGowan, University Regent
Both analysts agreed that McGowan has artistic flair, even a verve for culture and a refined palate. Weemhoff noted that her t’s and h’s run together, indicating a fluidity of mind and a propensity for thinking very quickly, if not jumping to conclusions. Roberts said the writing revealed “a secret desire to achieve,” though as a member of the University most powerful board at the University, it’s unlikely her commitment and ambition are as secret as Roberts supposed. She also indicated McGowan may have a propensity toward extravagant generosity. Roberts said there was also a staunch independent nature to her script.
Mary Sue Coleman, University President
“There’s something about Mary,” Roberts said when she looked at the signature of University President Mary Sue Coleman. She repeated the phrase at least three times while analyzing the text. “She’s a wonderful person,” Roberts gushed. “A phenomenal person.” Weemhoff said there was a little artistic talent evident in the M in Mary, and intelligent, quick thinking. She said there was a detachment from emotion in the stokes at the end of her words. Coleman’s deft political maneuvering as president has obfuscated her personal life. She’s an enigma to most of the student body – though she did reveal to a Daily editor last year that she does shop for her own groceries. If her signature is indeed the window to her personality, she’s a wonderful person, as Roberts says. But a signature isn’t always an accurate indicator for graphoanalysts, Roberts said. It’s the calligraphic equivalent of the public face someone wants to present. Coleman’s handwriting could differ from her signature, and it probably does. So there may be untold secrets about Coleman’s character that aren’t readily available in her autograph.
Ralph Williams, English professor
The Facebook.com group “Ralph Williams for President” has 197 members. It’s one of the biggest facebook professor fan groups the University has. His penchant for theatrics and generosity about deadlines have made Williams a campus celebrity. Most English concentrators could tell you that Williams enjoys opera and gospel music, but Roberts has concluded that the enigmatic professor also enjoys singing – at least in private. “Maybe in the car or in the shower,” she said.
Who knows? Williams’s booming basso could be as delightful in song as it is in the classroom. Then again, there could just have been a misread letter or two.
Weemhoff was struck by the compassion she saw in Williams’s handwriting. She said he might be moved to tears by a piece of music or literature. And if he saw a wounded puppy on the side of the road? “Immediately he would do something about it.” Roberts said she saw a love for physical adventure and a sense that Williams was isolated or felt that there was no one quite like him. Although, while no one would question whether Williams was unique, his gregarious personality would suggest he’s hardly isolated.
And though the sample was small, Weemhoff said she detected that the writer might derive great pleasure from the written word. Her analysis, though tentative, seems to be accurate – Williams can deliver beautifully impassioned speeches about Shakespeare, poetry and biblical texts, so it’s likely he would have a tendency to enjoy words when they’re put together well.
“I wouldn’t stand on a stack of bibles and say that,” Weemhoff said. “But that’s what it seems like to me.”