F&M Stories

60 Years After JFK’s Death, Alumni Author Finds Missing Link

Was the star of NASA’s first female astronaut program linked to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy?

Franklin & Marshall alum Mary Haverstick ’82 set out to create a film spotlighting female aviator Jerrie Cobb. But when Haverstick stumbled upon Cobb’s ties to the JFK assassination, she flipped the script. 

The biopic morphed into a book, and Haverstick celebrated the release of “A Woman I Know” on Nov. 14. It hit bookshelves just in time for the 60th anniversary of the Nov. 22, 1963 tragedy.

“I was trying to go for a patriotic story, uncovering cool history about women who did great things in our country and fought for our rights. But I wound up telling a much darker tale,” Haverstick said. 

Evidence places Cobb within close proximity to JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald on that fateful day. To complicate matters, Haverstick unearthed remarkable similarities between Jerrie Cobb and June Cobb, an American informant. 

“Whoever this June Cobb was, her name appeared in thousands of pages of government files that were part of the investigation into Kennedy’s death,” the author writes.

An accomplished independent filmmaker, Haverstick’s initial plan was to create a film about the “Mercury 13,” a group of female aviators tested to be the first women astronauts. But a startling revelation – coupled with a warning from a government agent – led Haverstick down a 10-year trail of Cold War espionage plots and CIA secrets.

Mary Haverstick timeline board

“A Woman I Know” – Haverstick’s first book – has been named to the Barnes and Noble Best Literary Nonfiction list and garnered praise from the likes of The New York Times, The Telegraph (UK) and Kirkus Reviews. However, she’s bracing for critique. 

“I am expecting pushback,” Haverstick said. “Anytime you put forward something that could be questioned, expect it.” 

Haverstick theorizes that Jerrie (or perhaps, June) Cobb is a missing link in the Kennedy assassination, and has a decade of research and 1,600 footnotes to prove it.

“I did not come into this with a conspiratorial mindset,” Haverstick said. 

Like the trailblazing women she often features in storylines, Haverstick’s path from F&M to filmmaking was equally unconventional. In fact, she majored in geology. 

Haverstick discovered a love of film during a senior year trip to the Yellowstone Bighorn Research Association field camp in Montana. The nearby town of Red Lodge was home to a vintage movie theater. 

“I found that where I wanted to be every week was at the cinema,” Haverstick said. 

From there, she forged her own path into independent filmmaking in the 1980s. Haverstick & Mercure film studio can be found just blocks from campus.  

“You might not think there is a transference [between] telling stories of rock and earth formations versus telling stories of people,” she said. “But there are some actual commonalities in rooting out truisms in either type of story.”

Haverstick’s F&M education played another key role in her new book’s development: access to Shadek Fackenthal Library for research.

“I wound up spending far and away more time at the F&M library with my alumni card than I had ever spent there as a student,” she said.

“Haverstick distills a prodigious amount of research into a fast-moving story… As a fresh history of U.S. espionage, ‘A Woman I Know’ is an absorbing read.”

- The New York Times

Pocket Books Shop (903 Wheatland Ave.) will host a reading and book signing with filmmaker and author Mary Haverstick ’82 on Dec. 14, 6-7 p.m. The cost is $35 and includes a copy of “A Woman I Know.” Register here

Read an excerpt from “A Woman I Know” (Penguin Random House)

Video: Mary Haverstick ’82: From Geology To Filmmaking (2019)

Related Articles

February 20, 2024

Record Number of Fulbrights Earns F&M a Top Producer Spot

For the seventh consecutive year, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program has named F&M a top-producing institution. Eleven recent graduates were awarded Fulbright fellowships in 2023, the highest number in F&M history.

February 14, 2024

Class of '89 Couple Finds Vibrant Community in Lancaster

When Claudia Mandarano Pace and Peter Pace ’89, P’20, P’22 graduated from Franklin & Marshall, they never would have imagined that their lives would bring them back to Lancaster years later, but that’s exactly what happened.

February 7, 2024

'A Perfect Match': Alumni Eye Surgeon on Returning to Lancaster

After graduating from Franklin & Marshall, Wenxin Wei ‘02 found himself on the other side of the country, studying a new form of eye surgery in California. Now, he’s back in Lancaster, helping legally blind patients see again.