R Thomas tests college waters

Episode #790
March 23, 2024

Gentle pool of sand
waiting unpretentiously
for the lion’s death.
–R. Thomas Thues


It is the day before registration at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. I have been walking the 1,265 acres of land. What a beautiful campus this is. My wanderings bring me to Saint Joseph’s Lake. There are three girls and two boys sitting on blankets on the shore.
“Hello,” I say.
“Hi,” responds one of the girls. “I’m Wendy, this is Cindy, Mary, William and Fred. We are second years.” I shake their hands.
“What a nice lake this is,” I say in awe.
Wendy says, “When Father Sorin founded Notre Dame there was just one lake. Some years later the state of Indiana tried to commandeer ownership of the lake, since it was more than 1000 acres. Father Sorin ordered his Holy Cross brothers to fill in a shallow area in the middle of the lake. They called the south lake Saint Mary’s and the north lake Saint Joseph’s. Each lake was under 650 acres and so they stayed private. Saint Joseph’s is located on the shore of the power plant and is heated by the cooling towers. It is used year-round by the sailing club and for swimming. Saint Mary’s Lake freezes in the winter and it is used it to play ice hockey.”
“Are you going swimming today?” I ask.
In answer, Wendy and the others take off their clothes and dive into the lake. When in Rome, I think. I strip down and run into the warm water.

The Athletic and Convocation Center (ACC) is buzzing with 1,500 Freshman registrants. I am told that the course of study that I wish to pursue is granted on a first come quota. Fortunately, I arrived early and am close to the beginning of the line for my last name. At the front of the line I am greeted by a nice volunteer. I give her my name and she fishes out the results of a questionnaire I filled out weeks ago.
“This says that you are best suited for science, engineering or premed. What is your preference?”
“Premed,” I say.
There are no computers, so she walks over to a common table where the courses of study are being tabulated. She returns to my expectant look.
“OK Rick. Here is your schedule of classes for your first semester. Welcome to Notre Dame and premed.
“Thank you, Mary Jane,” I say, reading her name tag.

The auditorium is filled with first year Chemistry students. It is the first class of the semester. The clock on the wall strikes the hour when an old gentleman walks down the aisle. I see him dropping some kind of powder onto the ground. As the man takes the lectern a student arrives late and runs down the aisle toward an empty seat. With each step a loud popping noise is heard. The student skips and hops to his seat.
The professor says, “Nitrocellulose powder always knows when someone is late for class.” The auditorium explodes in laughter.

Emil Hoffman clears his throat. There is no PA system. The acoustics are very good in the auditorium and Professor Hoffman’s voice projects loudly.
“There are some ground rules. All calculations will be made on slide rules. Electronic calculators are not allowed in this class. You are all bright young men and I am certain that you might use a calculator to cheat.” He was right of course, we would cheat. A few rich kids in the class look down at their useless HP-35s and groan.

It is said that Father Sorin, the founder of Notre Dame, was leading his brothers across the country when a snowstorm stranded them in South Bend. He was heard to say, “We will camp here until the weather clears.”

South Bend certainly has no shortage of weather. Snow and ice in the winter, rain in the spring, heat and humidity in the summer and colored leaves blown by hurricane winds in the fall are all normal.

In the winter I play ice hockey on St. Joseph Lake. Spring is a time of melting snow and flowers. Summer is humid and I cannot wait to return to California. Fall is a wild and windy time. Last fall I was standing inside the two-story glass wall of the library. A tornado was winding north in the distance. The glass bowed in and out from the wind.

The main quad of the campus features the famous Notre Dame golden dome. The trees are a plein-air painting, perfect in its symmetry and scale. The quad was originally designed and planted with saplings by a Japanese arborist. His artist’s eye saw what I am seeing now. The buildings are perfectly framed. The fall is just beginning and the God Quad is a cacophony of color.

It is the Notre Dame-USC football game. Students around me are dressed in green or blue and gold. The band is playing. Notre dame is set up for a field goal. The snap. The kick. The ball goes through the goal posts. The referee puts up both hands. Behind the goal posts on the face of the campus library the mural of touchdown Jesus confirms the goal. “Score!” Jesus says, arms held aloft, perfectly aligned with the goal posts.

Another building, also called The Library, is a bar just south of campus. When my parents call on a Saturday and ask where I was last night, I honestly say, “At the Library.”

The Observer campus newspaper office is alive with the sound of typewriters and argument. My ability to see and correct spelling errors and typos has landed me the job of the copy editor. I am pouring over an article I have written about professor tenure at Notre Dame. Tenure is based on some minimum requirements and achievements. My interviews with tenure candidates reveal that they must have a PhD, be published and prove their competence as a professor. If candidates have not achieved this level in three years they do not receive tenure and are dismissed from the University. The publishing requirement is the biggest complaint from candidates in my article.

Yesterday the Observer draft was submitted to the University President for review. Today I have been summoned to President Reverend Theodore Hesburgh’s office. His secretary waves me into his office. Father Hesburgh has advised US presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. He has had a profound influence elevating the academic status of Notre Dame.
“Hello father,” I say, offering my hand.
Hesburgh rises from his desk and shakes my hand. His office is a library of legal, political and philosophical books.
“I read your article in tomorrow’s Observer. It is very critical of our tenure process.”
“The article is based on interviews with actual candidates. Some are my professors and are excellent teachers.”
“I saw that, but I must cut your article. It damages the school’s reputation. I cannot have that.”
“What about the freedom of the press, father?”
“Since the Observer is a part of this institution, I reserve editing privileges. Best of luck in your future writing, mister Thues.” With that, I am dismissed.

Joey and I are pouring over the draft of “The Sports Page,” a Notre Dame publication which we have created. I quit my job at the Observer to publish this weekly. Despite the name, the paper is about student activities, politics, education and dorm life, not sports.
“This looks good Rick,” says Joey. “We sold plenty of ads to cover printing costs.”
“Great. I will get it over to the press.”


“Skydivers Know Why Birds Sing” by Ricki T Thues is now available on Amazon.
It is a Love story of Rick and Paula Thues and their 35 years of Skydiving.

Click HERE to buy the paperback or Kindle ebook at Amazon.

Follow Ricki T Thues on Amazon HERE.

“Technically Human” by Ricki T Thues, the iMentor, is available on Amazon.
It is a compilation of selected episodes from this bLog which tell the story of Humanity through the eyes of the iMentor.

Click HERE to buy the paperback or Kindle ebook at Amazon.
The ebook version of “Technically Human” is also available on Kobo. Click HERE.
For you Barnes and Noble Nook readers it is available for Nook. Click HERE.
The “Technically Human” ebook is also available on Apple Books . Click HERE.




  1. Claire Ratfield March 22, 2024
  2. R Thomas March 27, 2024

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