Jim Robertson ’69
In my senior year, I was privileged to be among the first to study in the new Life Sciences Center and to take “Biochemistry” from the newly acquired faculty member Dr. Richard Crawford, who was universally admired by his students.
During the year, we had six exams in biochem, and as I recall, they each featured a series of essay questions. One of my classmates and dorm suite mates (Joe Connors) and I developed a little challenge and pre-test ceremony where one of our biochem classmates would open an unabridged dictionary and either Joe or I, blindfolded, would insert a finger onto the opened reference book. Wherever the finger landed, Joe and I would be obligated to insert that word into the exam. Informally, our wordsmanship would be judged afterward by our fellow premed biochem classmates.
We went through the first five exams without Dr. Crawford discovering our little contest. I’ve forgotten most of the obligatory words, but two I remember were “hyson” (even my Apple spellchecker doesn’t recognize that) and “ostracize,” neither of which seems likely to find itself at home in a discussion of biological chemistry—but we managed.
Back in our dorm, before the final exam, Joe and I lamented the unplanned non-discovery. Joe had introduced me to what was at the time one of his favorite novels (along with Dune), Joseph Heller’s dark-humor-laden Catch 22. Hoping to awaken Dr. Crawford’s consciousness to the unexpected and irrelevant, we decided to recruit Captain Yossarian’s oft-repeated antihero lament “Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?” to duty in the final exam. Joe’s execution was far superior to mine, with each word, proper in sequence and context, one per question, also circled and underlined and surrounded by arrows pointing to the circles’ contents. Dr. Crawford noticed.
And, as we’d expected, he was amused, not troubled, by our little game.