Duke Dean and Snowball Fight

My first semester at Duke was turbulent: poor grades, demands of college football, and letters from my father that questioned my lack of maturity for dropping NROTC. The Freshman Dean of Students, an ordained Methodist Minister, promised during freshmen orientation to help any student in his southern accent: “Duke is one of the finest educational institutions in the world with a faculty second to none. You are young and inexperienced. Look to your left and right; one of you will not graduate. I will meet with any student having difficulty.” After calling for an appointment, revealing my trouble balancing academics with athletics, I appeared at his office in October. He had my folder containing my SAT scores and transcripts from my three high schools. “It is clear from your background you would have difficulty at Duke. People with your IQ seldom achieve academic success. You barely met our strict standards for entrance,” he said with wrinkled brow looking down at me from his penetrating stare. Tightness punched my stomach and disbelief rattled my mind. Could the Dean, who seemed so cordial, ever say such words? He was not interested in my problem and was rigid. I had not come to him for a repudiation of my intellect. No one had ever questioned my academic proficiency, nor suggested I lacked ability to achieve excellence. Others achieved higher SAT scores, but many of them attended courses to learn how to score high on those tests. My approach to them was nonchalant having achieved an A in 95% of my classes in excellent schools. Bewildered before someone who should motivate students, “What do you suggest?” I asked. “Make rigorous use of your time. Number the waking hours of each day. Fill your schedule with time to, and from class. Study evenly distributing time. If you must continue football, it’ll eat into preparation time. Consider alternatives to academic pursuits and the military. You might make a very good Marine.” His last comment outraged me. My fate did not depend on his advice. My intuition recoiled at the man. However, organizing time made sense. How could an educator say I was a poor candidate for academic success with a record that showed academic superiority except at Duke? I’d take each course more seriously. Soon the weather changed and snow covered the Campus. Snowball fights at Duke could turn dangerous. The snow fell on the campus in January leaving an opportunity to engage in snow ball fights. Some fraternity brothers from KA were harassing freshmen and assaulting them with snow balls. A huge football player, and future All-American, caught my attention as I’d thrown passes to him with the varsity. At 6' 9", two hundred and forty pounds he was also a vicious defensive end. At the fourth floor freshman dorm bathroom with a good view of the quad beneath, I decided to alter the unfair confrontation. From snow that had collected on window sills, I scooped enough to fill half a trashcan and made a pile of baseball-sized snowballs. As the beast attacked a small freshman, and tossed snow down his back, the boy’s books fell in wet mud and snow. My first throw hit the side of the monster’s face and had to sting. “I’m coming to get you, you son-of-a-bitch,” he screamed enraged at my assault. He terrified me. Immediately, with just one throw, I had become the target of a dangerous muscular giant. But, he had to run up four floors to find me. He raced to the second floor raging like a wild bull. In seconds, he would appear on my floor. Streaking to my room, farthest from the stairway, luckily on the left, I hid under my bed listening to the damage he did room by room. He threatened mayhem and falsely accused many. I felt pity for those innocent ones caught in his tirade. He swung open my door, but did not notice me huddled under my bed with a blanket over me. He slammed the door on his rampage. Every dorm freshmen feared his retaliation. While exposing my classmates to a fierce attack, I had made another narrow escape by using my intelligence, natural athletic ability, courage, and sense of justice that diverted a bully from further harming a helpless freshman. Later I learned those IQ tests prevented racial minorities and many women from qualifying for higher education because they were not accurate in predicting proficiency in higher learning and failed to assess multiple intelligences.

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