Penn has produced its fair share of prolific alumni: signers of the Declaration, a president, billionaire business magnates, and…the greatest bank robber in U.S. history? Evidently, finance careers in New York aren’t the only way Quakers become well-versed in wealth management. Carl Gugasian, who earned his masters in Systems Analysis from Penn in 1970s, robbed over 50 banks in 30 years, accumulating over $2 million and earning himself a 17-year prison sentence.
Gugasian’s life of crime began at 15, when the Broomal, PA native was shot while attempting to rob a candy store (dude, easier way). Following an 18-month stint at a youth correctional facility, Carl made a choice: screw becoming a law-abiding citizen, he was going to become the best damn criminal there ever was — mostly because he didn’t realize juvenile records get expunged and figured he would never get a job. Why not go down in flames, right? Except he managed to get into college, receive special-weapons training in the Army, go to grad school, and complete post-doc work. Typical Penn overachiever, amirite?!
He typically struck on Friday nights, just before closing, donning a customized face mask resembling a horror movie villain (Freddy Kreuger was reportedly a favorite) designed to fit so well his skin color wasn’t visible. He concealed his build by wearing bulky clothes and obscured his height by bursting into the bank and shuffling around in a crab-like motion. Brandishing a pistol (but purportedly resorting to violence only twice), he hopped the tellers’ counter, shoved as much money as possible into his bag and scrammed, the entire ordeal taking less than two minutes. Efficiency!
After a robbery, he would run to nearby woods where he stashed a dirt bike, ride a few miles to an anonymous-looking van, load the bike into the van, and drive away.
Carl’s methods were so meticulous he managed to evade authorities for three decades, until some meddling kids discovered the sealed PVC pipes where Gugasian stored his weapons, ammo, maps and face masks in some woods near their house in Radnor. It wasn’t long before police tracked down the elusive crab-walking burn victim. The mastermind cooperated with the police, revealing his own crimes and taping instructional videos to help law enforcement foil future robberies, reducing his initial 115-year sentence to a mere 17. Now he teaches calculus to fellow inmates (for how could a Penn education go to waste?).
The moral of the story? “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest,” as our beloved founder once said. Except for becoming a notorious robber — that’ll make you BANK.