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A Sylvia Browne College Transcript
Browne supplies a copy of a college transcript. Is it valid? Does it prove her claim to have a Master's Degree?
The transcript (blurred pending permission to post).
More than once, I have mentioned on this site my reluctance to believe Sylvia Browne's claim to have earned a Master's Degree in English Literature.
Most recently, this was mentioned in the article "Interview: Gary & Ree Dufresne". In that article, Mr. Dufresne expressed his belief that Browne had not earned even a Bachelor's Degree, let alone a Master's.
Not long after that article was published on this web site, I received - through a third party - information from Sylvia Browne about her academic career.
This article examines that information.
Browne mentions this claim in many places, particularly in the "about the author" sections of her books.
Here it is, from her web site, on the "About Sylvia & Chris" page:
But, as I have said elsewhere, I find this difficult to believe. Not only because her grammar and vocabulary when speaking sound unlike those of someone with such a degree, but also because she has never (to my knowledge) mentioned when or where this alleged degree was earned.
Obviously, neither of these is proof, but I believe that they certainly cast doubt upon the claim.
If the claim were true, it would be a very simple matter for Browne to prove.
So, why hasn't she?
I Hear From Browne
On March 15 2007, I received an email from Heather Brown, webmaster of the GoSylviaBrowne web site.
In the email, Heather told me that Sylvia Browne wanted to speak with me personally. Was there a number where she could reach me today?
Although intrigued by the possibility of speaking with Browne, I was not anxious to give her my number. I have heard from various people who felt harassed by multiple calls from Browne and her staff, and I didn't particularly want to share that experience.
After thinking about it, I sent a reply several hours later. It read, in part:
But evidently, Browne had gotten tired of waiting for a response, because at about the same time, I received another email from Heather Brown.
The subject of the email was "For Your Consideration," and attached was a pdf document which looked to be a college transcript for Sylvia Celeste Shoemaker (Browne's maiden name).
Heather said that she did not want her site to become a "place for debate," so rather than post the transcript on her site, and knowing that I had offered to post on my site any such evidence that Browne or her staff sent, Heather was "passing it along" to me.
She stated that she believed that Browne had even further college credits earned in California, but that she (Heather) did not have access to them just yet, but was passing along what she had at the moment.
In my reply, I stated:
I had hoped to place a readable copy of the document here for readers to examine, but cannot at this time.
In a subsequent email to Heather, dated March 21 2007, I said the following regarding the document:
After a week went by with no further reply, and no permission received, I decided to go ahead and write this article and put it on the site. I would add a readable copy of her transcript document to it later, should Browne ever send me permission to do so.
The document is a transcript form, with most of the information filled in via typewriter, with a few things corrected by hand.
It shows that SHOEMAKER, Sylvia Celeste (SHOEMAKER crossed off, and "Mrs. Dufresne" added) attended St. Teresa's during the school years 1955-56, 1956-57 and 1957-58, with one additional class taken during what appears to be the summer session of 1960.
The transcript ends with
But was the document accurate and valid?
On March 28 2007, I had yet to receive any further communications from Browne or Heather Brown regarding the transcript. I had hesitated to attempt to verify the document up until this point, because I thought that Browne might have to contact the Registrar's office to give them permission to talk with me about it.
I decided to call the Registrar's office and find out. After explaining the situation, I was asked to fax them a copy of the document, and they would confirm that it was valid and accurate. I sent the fax, and a few minutes later, heard back from them, with answers to my two questions:
According to the form, a student was required to earn 128 semester hours and 128 points (similar to credits). I don't know if that's what was required in order to earn a degree, but this transcript showed she had earned about three-fourths of that, having only attended three years (plus the one class summer session).
Having learned this much I had enough information to write this article. But to make sure Browne had gotten my message, I sent another email, this time to both Heather Brown and Linda Rossi, Sylvia Browne's business manager.
The transcript certainly proves that Gary Dufresne was incorrect in the interview when he stated that Browne had "at the very... very best, one year of education in higher learning." when they left for California. But it would appear to support his statement that, at that point, "she did not have a teaching credential and she did not have a degree on anything."
In the time since Browne sent me this document, I have heard from more than one person that she (Browne) had been telling people that she had sent me "proof" of her Master's Degree.
No. In fact, if the Registrar's office was correct, Browne did not even send me proof of a Bachelor's, or even an Associate's degree.
In a thread on the "Go Sylvia" site's forum, one poster recently said that she would like to start a web site which would post the evidence which would prove Sylvia's claims, and show everyone that this site has it all wrong.
She says, of me,
First, I have never made that claim. I have stated that I have serious doubts about Browne's alleged degree, and that Browne has never backed it up.
But this woman is right about one thing: Browne could easily prove her claim, and refute any doubts about it.
So, the question becomes: why doesn't she?
As I was perusing the Go Sylvia site to obtain that last quote, I noticed a thread all about THIS site. Reading it, I note that the webmaster says the following:
Heather is quite aware that I requested Browne's permission to put the document on the site. I sent her (Heather) both of these requests. Yet she conveniently left that fact out of her statement above.
Also, the document does not prove Gary Dufresne a liar. It proves him to be incorrect about her education. But whether he was lying, or misremembered, or never knew, there is no way of telling.
Heather goes on to say:
She knows the reason for this as well. And the flip-side to her question is one for Browne: "If someone is trying to stop you, and you want to talk to him, why wouldn't you give him a phone number where he could call you?"
And the more important question:
If you say you have a Master's Degree in English Literature, and have been claiming that in all your books for years, why wouldn't you offer up proof of that?
Sylvia Browne, it would be a very simple thing to do. Just mention the college/university, and the year you earned it. I'll research it and write it up.
Or, have Heather put it up on the "Go Sylvia" site, and I'll link to it.
Pretty easy, Sylvia. The ball's in your court.
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