Campaign 2000's Other Harvard Man

Tom Ridge '67 began his political career at Harvard. Now, he has a chance to snag the GOP's vice-presidential nomination

Thomas J. Ridge '67 has been a fish out of water for most of his life.

First as a blue-collar, non-Kennedy Catholic at Harvard; then as an enlisted soldier-law student in Vietnam; as a Republican Congressman from a mostly Democratic district and finally as a Republican governor in a mostly Democratic state.

And now, his name is mentioned in the sweepstakes for one of the most powerful positions in the United States--vice president--as an unabashedly pro-choice politician in a pro-life political party.

Ridge was born into a working class family from Erie, Pennsylvania. His mother was a ward committee member and a die-hard Republican. His father was a meat salesman and a staunch Democrat.

It was at home where Ridge was introduced to the political life and where he learned the art of moderation.

Family dinners introduced young Tom to impassioned political debate.

"The table was the center of the house. It's where Tom learned that no one has a stranglehold on good ideas," the governor's younger brother David told the Allentown Morning Call. As for his parent's divergent politics, David says, "Tom took a lot from both of them."

As their father worked extra hours selling shoes to send the children to parochial school, young Tom distinguished himself enough in high school to get accepted to Harvard with a need-based scholarship in 1963.