New York magazine
The Most Gullible Man In Cambridge Image Credit: New York magazine
The Most Gullible Man In Cambridge Image Credit: New York magazine

The Most Gullible Man In Cambridge

A Harvard Law professor who teaches a class on judgment wouldn’t seem like an obvious mark, would he?

Kera Bolonik

IT WAS JUST SUPPOSED TO have been a quick Saturday-morning errand to buy picture hooks. On March 7, 2015, Harvard Law professor Bruce Hay, then 52, was in Tags Hardware in Cambridge, Massachusetts, near his home, when a young woman with long reddish-brown hair approached him to ask where she could find batteries. It was still very much winter, and, once the woman got his attention, he saw that underneath her dark woolen coat and perfectly tied scarf she was wearing a dress and a chic pair of boots—hardly typical weekend-errand attire in the New England college town. When he directed her to another part of the store, she changed the subject. “By the way, you’re very attractive,” he remembers her saying.

“Sorry, I’m married,” he responded impulsively. It wasn’t exactly true—Hay has been legally divorced since 1999, but he lives with his ex-wife, Jennifer Zacks, an assistant U.S. Attorney in Boston, and their two young children. The woman quickly apologized, Hay recalls. “I didn’t mean to bother you,” she said. “I’m just here on business for a few days. I don’t really know anybody.”

Hay, a Francophile, noticed the woman had a French-sounding accent, and he asked if she spoke the language. She told him her name was Maria-Pia Shuman, that she was born in France but her father was the American songwriter Mort Shuman, and that she was in town from Paris, en route to New York.


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