If you were fooled by the 3,000-word letter of Gio Managadze, the self-proclaimed University of Maryland valedictorian, then you're in good company. What started as a LinkedIn post grew into several rehashed articles, purporting that Managadze was the university's high-achieving commencement speaker who had intentionally flunked his classes and dropped out two weeks before graduation.
In a post on his Facebook page Tuesday morning, Managadze said he didn't lie on purpose, but used the title of his article to "try and make it go viral like no other."
And it's not just the title. Throughout his letter, Managadze refers to himself as a singular valedictorian, even signing the letter as "Ex-Valedictorian of University of Maryland." But on Facebook, Managadze admits he fibbed.
Does UMD have “a Valedictorian”? Nope.
Managadze asserts on LinkedIn he wrote the message to his parents to explain why he decided to give up his diploma and opportunity to speak at the commencement ceremony. But Managadze was never scheduled to speak at graduation, claiming on Facebook that he could have spoken at his major's graduation if he wanted to.
His letter quickly dissolves into philosophical ramblings cushioned by white space.
Fear is literally not a thing.
Fear is not a thing in peace.
Fear is not a thing in war.
Fear is never a thing.
On Facebook, though, Managadze acknowledged his letter may have offended other University of Maryland graduates.
Public apology and respect to Tyler Good Cohn, Gregory Ridgway and all other Valedictorians who felt in any way belittled by my article. Hurting you guys was absolutely not my intention.
The University of Maryland does not have a valedictorian, nor several, as Managadze suggested. Traditionally, valedictorian is an honor given to the student with the highest grade point average. But at this university, with almost 30,000 undergraduate students and GPAs capped at 4.0, no one receives the distinction. Instead, the University recognizes a medalist who is chosen for a variety of qualities, including a high GPA.
"Even the director of my Hinman CEOs Entrepreneurship Program insulted me and told me that I wasn't good enough to become an entrepreneur because my 3.94 GPA "could be higher." Is that a joke?" he wrote in his LinkedIn letter.
Regardless of the anecdote's authenticity, a few Twitter users recognized the unlikelihood of the situation.
If the valedictorian at umd had a 3.94, then does the mean no graduating senior had a 4.0🤔
— season of spring (@seatedinmajesty) May 21, 2017
I think the most bizarre part about the UMD valedictorian story is that some kid thinks he’d be UMDs valedictorian with a 3.94 in CS — Joe (@jlegg94) May 22, 2017
Nonetheless, the letter circulated Twitter, with notes of praise and criticism and a lot of eye rolls.
Please stop sharing the UMD “valedictorian” blog post thing. It makes me cringe so hard, and UMD doesn’t recognize a valedictorian
— Rachel Romano (@randomrachelr) May 22, 2017
UMD’s valedictorian dropping out two weeks before graduating is stupid and also very inspiring. He a legend. — AD (@KingDanielV3) May 21, 2017
usually dont get worked up like this but i read the letter from the UMD valedictorian who dropped out&now im 7 seconds from dropping out too — agatha phillips (@aggiephillips_) May 22, 2017
y’all don’t understand how much I applaud the ex valedictorian of umd… he literally wrote everything I ever wanted to say wow so inspiring — 🔆joe•cindy🔆 (@__cupofjoe) May 21, 2017
If you haven’t read the Valedictorian Of UMD email to his parents of why he dropped out I suggest you do. It’s really something. — Mike From World Gym (@DjMikeCrow) May 22, 2017
Even former SGA President and 2017 graduating senior Katherine Swanson weighed in.
And as usual, Reddit was ready with the mockery.
(You can read the full Reddit thread here.)
But perhaps most surprising is the number of real news outlets that fell for Managadze's ploy. Local news stations from Baltimore to Milwaukee, as well as GQ and the Daily Mail, reported that the University of Maryland's valedictorian flunked out on purpose, many burying mention of his stretched claims and inaccuracies.
On Facebook, Managadze called the letter an "experiment with a little marketing to try to get my point across to the whole planet."
"Apparently it kinda worked," he wrote. "Apparently I also became a meme."