Bernadean University:
A Mail-Order Diploma Mill

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Bernadean University, whose postal address was in Los Angeles, was never been authorized to operate or to grant degrees. Yet it managed to remain in business for more than 40 years. Bernadean's web site stated that it was accredited by the World Council of Global Education and that its College of Health Sciences was accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. However, these entities were not recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and should be considered academically meaningless. Bernadean's "College of Law" claimed to offer a degree "based on the Harvard Law School curriculum, and its "College of Health Sciences" offered courses in acupressure, acupuncture, anatomy and physiology, Bach flower therapies, cancer therapies, herbology, homeopathy, iridology, kinesiology, massage, natural childbirth, nutrition, reflexology, reiki, shiatsu, and weight control. Ten subjects were required for a Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) degree. Completing five more would earn a "Doctor of Preventive Medicine (DPM)" degree. Degrees were also available in "pastoral counseling."

Alumni in Action

Bernadean's best known graduate is Richard A. Passwater, "PhD," whose books include Cancer and Its Nutritional Therapies, Supernutrition, and Selenium As Food and Medicine. Passwater is director of research for Solgar Company, Inc. (a supplement manufacturer) and writes regularly for Whole Foods, a health-food-industry trade magazine. He has also edited a series of "Good Health Guide" booklets (Keats Publishing Inc.) whose purpose is to promote the sales of products sold through health-food stores. Other Bernadean credential-holders include:

Background History

Bernadean's logo dates its founding to 1954. Its founder, Joseph M. Kadans, "PhD, JD, ND, ThD," (1912-1993) claimed to have obtained a law degree in 1943 from Eastern College of Commerce and Law (a nonaccredited law school), and to have earned PhD and ND degrees from the International University in New Delhi, India. However, an investigation by the Nevada State Board of Bar Examiners could not confirm that Kadans had enrolled in the New Delhi School. The investigation was ordered by the Nevada Supreme Court after Kadans petitioned to take the state bar examination, even though he lacked an accredited law degree. The board concluded that he had received a doctor of theology degree from Berean Christian College in Kansas in exchange for a degree from Bernadean to the President of Berean Christian College! [2] Kadens's book, Encyclopedia of Medicinal Herbs, is filled with unfounded advice [3].

Bernadean University was never authorized by the State of Nevada to operate or grant degrees. State investigators reported that it operated out of a small office with no classrooms and had four "faculty" members (who merely helped grade student papers), only one of whom even possessed a high school diploma. The investigators also found that law books Kadans claimed to have written were merely "an incomplete compilation of texts written by other authors" which Kadans had copied on Xerox machines. In 1977, the Nevada Supreme Court turned down Kadans' petition, stating, "We agree with the Board's conclusion that Kadans' operation of the dubious Bernadean University and his misrepresentations concerning the nature of the University cast serious doubt upon Kadans' moral suitability to practice law in this state." [2] During the same year, the Nevada courts ordered Bernadean to stop issuing degrees .

Undaunted, Kadans moved his "university" to Van Nuys, California. Although it was ordered to cease operation by a ruling of the California Attorney General [4], it continued to operate. Besides guiding his new operation as "Dean of Students," Kadans was also executive director of the "International Naturopathic Association," [5] which claimed a membership of 2,000 and had the same Nevada address as Bernadean University [6]. In 1981, the group's name was changed to "International Association of Holistic Health Practitioners (Naturopathic)," but its executive director and address remained the same.

In 1978, Benjamin Wilson, M.D., a surgical resident concerned about quackery, examined Bernadean's offerings and made a series of inquiries. One course that was offered was "Child. 101," which cost $90 and was described as: "Comprehensive course in home delivery, with section on natural birth control. Certificate as Mid-Wife." "Can. 401," offered for $120, was described as "a special research course in cancer theories and therapies. Degree as Master of Cancer Theories (Ct.M.)." Other offerings included a three-credit course in basic nutrition, resulting in a certificate as a "Nutritionist," for $120. A "Cancer Researcher" certificate could be obtained after a two-credit-hour course costing $80. Holders of a bachelor's degree could obtain a master's degree if they wrote a "thesis" or took "some short course with the school." A doctoral degree ("PhD" or "ScD") could then be obtained by taking 36 credit hours (@ $40 per credit) or writing an "equivalent" thesis. "Doctoral" degrees in acupuncture, reflexology, iridology, naturopathy, and homeopathy were also available. The naturopathy course cost $800 or $2,400. Both were said to have the same contents, but the more expensive version included unlimited toll-free telephone calls with Kadans plus "free consultations," a tape recorder, and a tape of a health talk with each lesson. Any student who satisfactorily completed a course could apply for designation as a "school mentor" who then could tutor new students. Mentors were also referred to as "Adjunct Professors."

Kadans was assisted in his California operation by Howard Long, "ThD, DSc," a former health-food store operator who also was executive director of the Adelle Davis Foundation. From 1962 through 1972, Long had been vice president in charge of membership, promotion, education, public relations, and conventions for the National Health Federation. In 1978, Wilson asked whether Bernadean would award him an honorary MD or PhD degree in return for a contribution of several hundred dollars. Wilson stressed that he needed one in a hurry because he was about to publish a book. Long replied that the MD degree "will not be offered by the University under any circumstances," but a PhD was possible—"with the necessary credentials" plus payment of $1,000.

In, 1981, Virginia Aronson, RD, (a real nutritionist) obtained a "Nutritionist" certificate from Bernadean, even though she deliberately attempted to fail the course. On the first "test," she answered the 35 true/false questions in accordance with nutrition facts. Since nearly one third of her answers contradicted information given in the school's lessons, she expected to get a grade of 70 or below. However, the test was returned with a grade of 90, with a letter from the "office administrator" stating: "You may use the book for answers as it is an open book course. I just seem to feel that you put the answers in the wrong column." On the second test, Aronson answered all the questions accurately so that her grade-based on information given in the course-should have been a zero. Yet she received a grade of 100% and an accompanying note congratulating her on the "excellent manner in which you have completed the Nutrition course." Her "Nutritionist" certificate, obtained for an additional $10, contains an attractive gold seal and indicated that she graduated "cum laude"! [7]

In 1990, the Nevada Commission on Postsecondary Education refused to process an application from Kadans to operate a correspondence school to grant law degrees. An official wrote:

Your past history and practices make it evident that you are unqualified to be licensed as a postsecondary school in the state of Nevada. I am aware of your history as Bernadean University and its predecessor.

Pursuant to [Nevada laws], you are required to be of good reputation and character. . . . In . . . 1977 . . . our Supreme Court found that you indulged in misrepresentations in . . . the operation of Bernadean University in Las Vegas and found that you were morally unfit to practice law in Nevada. In addition, we have evidence that Bernadean University issued a diploma in 1986 to an inmate at Leavenworth for the degree of Juris Doctor and Master of Theology without the academic achievement consistent with such diplomas. [8]

Bernadean continued to operate in California for about 12 years after Kadans's death in 1993. In 2002, I became aware that it was using the names Burney Universitatis and Burney University. Its Web site continued to function until 2005, offering a $25,000+ "doctoral" course in naturopathy as well as "certifications in iridology, reflexology, nutrition, oxygen therapies, physical culture, permaculture, homoeopathy
alternative energy, martial arts, and other fields in the natural sciences . . . available upon request." [9]

California Bar statistics show that between February 1992 and July 1996, all Bernadean University College of Law graduates who took the Bar examination failed it.


  1. Yozwick CP. How to Practice Nutritional Counseling Legally Without Being Guilty of Practicing Medicine Without a License. Youngstown, Ohio: Cheswick Publishers, 1985.
  2. In the matter of Joseph Kadans. No. 9838, April 8, 1977, 562 P.2nd 490.
  3. Kadans JM. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Herbs. New York: Arco Publishing, 1970.
  4. Welty RD. Letter to Thomas P. Bartley, June 1, 1981.
  5. Encyclopedia of Associations. Detroit: Gale Publishing, 1978.
  6. Encyclopedia of Medical Organizations and Agencies, 7th Edition, Detroit: Gale Publishing, 1998.
  7. Aronson V. You can't tell a nutritionist by the diploma. FDA Consumer 17(6):28-29, 1983.
  8. Krear ML. Letter to Joseph M. Kadans, Jan 17, 1990.
  9. Bernadean University Web site, Archived on March 5, 2005.

Why Nutritionist Licensing Is Important

This article was revised on June 11, 2011.

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