A Strange Game, etc.
As I’ve previously noted, this past spring I managed to post a 4.0 semester GPA. This was as much a function of the classes I was taking as of any academic exceptionalism I may possess, but I was still reasonably pleased with myself. I looked forward to seeing my name on the mysterious and elusive Dean’s List.
Except… as the summer went on, it began to appear that the University does not publish a Dean’s List any more. Or if it does, it keeps the whole thing very quiet, which would seem to be to miss the point slightly. High schools far and wide were trumpeting their honor students in the area newspaper, but not a word appeared about anything to do with the University of Maine. I confess I was a bit disappointed by this.
Then, one day in early July, a letter appeared, all unheralded, in my mailbox at home.
As you might imagine, I found this slightly puzzling. I mean to say, it’s nice hearing from one’s state senator (I had to look him up and determine that he is my state senator – they’ve rejiggered the senate districts so that the senator representing Millinocket no longer has to be from anywhere near here, and indeed Senator Thomas is from somewhere over in Somerset County), but this was the very first I’d heard of the matter. It strikes me as slightly strange that the University evidently makes its Dean’s List available to the state legislature but not the students who are on it.
Whichever, I tucked Senator Thomas’s nice letter away for posterity (my mother wants to start a scrapbook, egad) and went on with my summer, until, almost exactly a month later, a second letter appeared.
I had heard of the Presidential Scholar Award, but I didn’t think I qualified for it because of my uneven performance the previous semester (that inexplicable D in astro lab, which rankles me yet). There it is, though. I understand why this was a little later in arriving, since Paul Ferguson had just started his tenure as university president at that time (he took over from Robert Kennedy in July), and one can hardly expect a new president’s very first order of business to be sitting down and sending notes to students.
So that was a nice surprise. It didn’t come with a check, but one can always dream. There’d be something slightly unseemly about that anyway. Shades of payola. It did come with a little pin I could wear in my lapel, if I wore suits.
(The photo makes it seem bigger than it is because of the lack of scale references. It’s about the size of a dime – a little ostentatious, but it wouldn’t be too showy on a blue suit.)
What I wonder now is, if you win this thing, and then you utterly tank in some subsequent semester, can someone from the university come and take it away again? Does your name get sent to the Legislature on a list of Manifest Disappointments to be chided by their state senators for slacking off and letting the side down? Is there, as it were, a stick to go with the carrot?
Probably not – that would clash with the everybody-gets-prizes mentality of modern education – but I’m vaguely amused to picture it happening.
Also, it occurs to me that through all of this, I never have heard from my college’s actual dean. I’m not even sure if it’s his theoretical list or that of the university’s overall Dean of Students. Either way, not a word. I guess they figured the president trumps whatever notification they might have been thinking about.