Marc Johnson can recall just three times in his life when the news changed everything: the Friday afternoon in November 1963 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated; the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001; and the Saturday night in August 2017 when he looked down at his phone and saw a wire-service photo of Peter Cvjetanovic holding a tiki torch.

Johnson, late for a dinner party, was just ducking inside when he opened the urgent email with a photo attached.

It was Aug. 12, two weeks before fall classes were to begin at the University of Nevada at Reno, where Johnson is president. The photo, by then circulating worldwide, showed a very angry young man shouting alongside a crowd of equally angry men, all of whom had marched the previous night at the front of the “Unite the Right” rally, which would soon descend into deadly chaos 2,500 miles away in Charlottesville, Va.

Inside Higher Ed