Only at Emory: Skeletons, the Secret Service, and Me

What did you do at Emory that you could not have done anywhere else?

My rational mind knows that this essay should include references to many of the wonderful classes I took with fabulous professors. But the truth is, anywhere I attended was sure to have wonderful classes, maybe even fabulous professors. The truth is I could have received a good education just about anywhere I went and I am sure I would have enjoyed the experience.

But would I have had the chance to literally bump into a former president? Would I have had the chance to write for a radical humorous magazine that was threatened with lawsuits on a regular basis—or stolen in a futile attempt to prevent distribution? Or to hear an administrator respond to an activity that could only have been called “vandalism” with the words “How wonderful?” Or to watch a world-class museum being created? Or wondered why I couldn’t escort the skeleton around campus? All of this and much, much more could only have been done at Emory.

In the wee hours of the morning, a group of my friends and I descended upon the Quad, armed with a helium tank and almost eight hundred balloons. Working feverishly, we inflated the balloons and tied them carefully to the chain that ineptly protected the grassy areas of the quad. We finished as the sky was lightening and were congratulating each other and ourselves for our beautiful work (the work of EGAAD, the Emory Group Against Apathy Dominance) when we heard a bright, syrupy voice say, “How wonderful!” I turned to see Dean [William H. Fox 79PhD] Fox beaming at us. “This is just wonderful!” he repeated. And smiling, he headed off to his office in what was then the AMUC. Emory security was not quite as happy with us and suggested we return later to clean up the remnants. There weren’t too many, however, as many students—and possibly faculty, staff, and administrators—took balloons with them, wherever their day would lead.

The Spoke was another story altogether. Apparently, it had been created not too long before my arrival on campus. The current editor was a Russian major, which I had never even heard of before, and was a rather melodramatic character. I loved him at first sight with all of my little freshman-year heart. Our first edition was sure to offend, and I had never written to deliberately offend before in my entire life! I had written for the school newspaper and the yearbook in high school, but never for anything even remotely like the Spoke. And we met after the Wheel staff had finished, because we did not have equipment or a work space of our own. Oh sure, now everything is probably done on computers and students can write whenever and wherever they feel . . . but then, we met late at night, at hours my mother had assured me would lead to all kinds of sin and depravation—and she was right!

The best Spoke, or at least my personal favorite, was the copy, the first one on which I worked, that parodied the manuals handed out to help students survive their first year anywhere—high school, college, new job. I don’t think any group on campus was ignored or neglected or left unscathed. So we never knew who removed hundreds of copies from the dozens of places we had placed them for distribution. But to know I was a part of that still makes me snicker to this day.

Then there was the day (my, was all of this just in my freshman year?) that I called my mother in a panic, sure that I would be arrested at any moment. “Mom,” I wailed when she finally picked up the phone.

“Hi, honey! Why are you calling in the middle of the week?”

“Mom, it’s horrible! I bumped into President Carter.”

“How nice, sweetheart!”

“No, Mom, you don’t get it.”

“Of course, I do, honey. I’m not that old. I know what your slang means.”

“Mom, no, really, I bumped into Jimmy Carter.”

“Oh, and he was such a good president. Is he a nice man?”

“No, Mom! Literally!!! I BUMPED into, my shoulder, his chest, the former president of the United States!!!!”


“Did you remember to say, ‘Excuse me’?”

“Of course I did, Mom. And he said, ‘That’s all right, you mustn’t be late for class.’ But the looks the Secret Service was giving me said something entirely different.”

“Well, dear, if President Carter says ‘It’s all right,’ then it must be all right. He is, after all, a former president.”

I felt ever so much better after that conversation.

What couldn’t happen at Emory?

I helped to organize the Hunger Feast at the Newman House, sometimes known as the Wayward Home for Current Catholics. I had done this in high school but never would have imagined the response I received in college to the idea and, then, to the event itself.

I danced with students from a dozen different countries at the International Festival outside of White Hall in what was known as the Rudolph Courtyard.

I walked an artist’s sculpture down through a ravine and back up.

I watched a building of classrooms and offices turned into the now world-renowned Michael C. Carlos Museum, to which I take my high school students every year.

I watched the Spirit of Emory come alive every year in the form of a well-dressed skeleton named Dooley.

Now there’s something you can’t see or do ANYWHERE other than Emory.

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