Diana Nyad’s Academic Freedom

We know that Diana Nyad went to graduate school. But when and for how long? Let’s see what Diana says.

Update, 19 June 2021: Added Nyad’s recent on-camera statement that she holds a PhD. 

A FEW WEEKS AGO [ed: as of July 2, 2019], Diana Nyad hit 25K at newspapers.com. In other words, if you search for “Diana Nyad” (with quotes), you now get over 25,000 matches.

To commemorate this milestone, the Annex plans to publish a series of lists that will consist of quotations culled from articles and interviews. Each list will focus on a single subject important to Ms. Nyad.

We’ll begin with her academic achievements.

<°))̂)̖)><    ><((̗(̂(°>

DIANA NYAD NEEDS you to know that she is the most special person on earth. So she lies about her Manhattan Island swim, about jellyfish dangers, about the Olympics, about the English Channel. To impress us with her epicness, she lies about pretty much everything—including her education.

Nyad received a BA at Lake Forest College in 1973. She then enrolled at NYU for one year. I find no evidence — other than her own statements — that she pursued any graduate degree after that.

For Diana, though, not even a swim from Cuba to Florida would make her more worthy of admiration than having “PhD” attached to her name. Nyad’s remarks about her academic credentials betray how hard it was to let go of the dream of a doctorate—just as hard, it turns out, as it was to abandon the dream of swimming the Florida Strait.

At this point, you may be saying to yourself, “but she never abandoned Cuba-Florida.” Perhaps, but I believe that both quests ended the same way: with Diana Nyad claiming an honor she did not legitimately earn.


1975 (before swimming around Manhattan): “…I came back to New York City that fall [of 1975], still working on the degree in comparative literature….” (Find a Way, p. 63)

I Am Sooo Done

1975: “Suddenly, after the Manhattan swim, a PhD in comparative literature seemed irrelevant.” (Find a Way, p. 68)

Or Not

1975: “Ms. Nyad, a doctoral candidate in comparative literature at NYU recently swam around Manhattan island in record-breaking time” (NY Daily News, 13 Dec 1975).

1976: “She is working on her doctorate at New York University” (Barnard Bulletin, 2 Feb 1976).

1977: “Diana Nyad…is a pretty 27-year-old woman rated the top marathon swimmer in the world and a soon-to-be Ph.D. in comparative literature at New York University” (Minneapolis Star, 19 May 1977).

Tossing In The Towel

1978: “…until recently [she was] working on a doctorate in comparative literature at New York University. No longer” (Cuba to Florida: The Hard, Wet Way, NY Times, 21 Mar 1978).


1978: “She speaks five languages fluently, has studied at the Sorbonne, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Lake Forest College…and is just a dissertation (on the Russian writer Turgenev) away from a Ph.D” (A Free Spirit Tries to Plunge Into History, Miami News, 16 June 1978).

1978: “Why does Diana Nyad, honors graduate of Lake Forest College and doctoral candidate in comparative literature at NYU, want to swim from Havana, Cuba, to Marathon Key in Florida?” (The Daily Pantagraph, 8 July 1978).

1979: “She nears completion of a Ph.D. in comparative literature” (Fort Myers News-Press, 26 Aug 1979)

1980: “The second-ranked women’s squash player in the New York area, Ms. Nyad attended Lake Forest College where she was named to Phi Beta Kappa, and now is a doctoral candidate in the field of comparative literature” (The Pittsburgh Press, 23 Sep 1980).

A Master’s Can Be Epic Too

1979: “Nyad, a Lake Forest (Ill.) College graduate, suspended her pursuit of a Master’s degree in comparative literature at New York University to tackle some swimming challenges and learn to play squash” (Indianapolis Star, 24 Apr 1979).

Who Knew It Was That Easy?

1981: A master’s degree in comparative literature from New York University hasn’t hurt Diana Nyad’s ability to jump into and command conversation” (Pittsburgh Press, 22 Sep 1981).

1981: “She studied at the Sorbonne; has a Phi Beta Kappa key from Lake Forest College ’73, graduate degree in comparative literature” (Ft. Lauderdale News & Sun-Sentinel,  21 Jun 1981).

Still, It Would Be Nice To Marry A Doctorate

1981: “[Nyad] is working toward a PhD in comparative literature” (Detroit Free Press, 20 Nov 1981).

Well I’ll Be, There’s A Dissertation About Turgenev In My Swim Bag

1978: “She is now the 14th-ranked squash player in the country, holds a PhD in comparative literature and can order a meal in four different languages” (Fort Lauderdale News, 4 Jun 1978).

2021: “And on the other hand, who’s gonna tell me I can’t — I can’t do this, that, this, that. And on the other hand, I’ve had many things in my life: a PhD . . .” (Fail it Forward podcast, 26 Apr 2021).

<°))̂)̖)><    ><((̗(̂(°>

Why do I bother listing Nyad’s lies? Because if Nyad was what she claims to be, an “absolutely aboveboard person who never cheated on anything in my whole life” (Celebration Gives Way…, NYT, 8 Sep 2013), then maybe one could overlook some of the many problems with her fifth Cuba-Florida attempt.

But Nyad has lied to the public for decades. She has lied about practically everything, including previous swims. One doesn’t need a PhD to see that she wouldn’t suddenly start telling the truth on August 31, 2013, especially if doing so meant one more humiliating failure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *