at the university were make or break for your grade. I took a total of six quarters of calculus. My first quarter at Minnesota I took fourth quarter calculus, having already had the first three at Community College. You have to read the finals schedule printed in the daily University campus paper The Daily (what a clever name) very carefully. What screwed me up was the special notes. I thought my math final was one particular day and time because of the hour of the day it met. Nope. The special note said classes that meet five days a week at that hour had their final on another day and time.

It was Tuesday and I was in the dorm lunch line and a guy in my math class was serving food. I asked him if he had studied for calculus yet. He looked at me very seriously and told me the final had been last Saturday. Oh my God! I didn't even eat lunch. I went to the Math building and found my instructor. I told him I missed the final. He told me I would have to take the class over again. He clearly didn't care.

Since it was a prerequisite for some engineering classes I needed next quarter, this would be disaster for me. I went downstairs to the Dean of the Math Departments' office. Only that person wielding supreme power in the Math Deparment could save me.

I told the Dean's secretary I needed to speak with the Dean. She asked me why. I was rehearsing what to say to the Dean in my head - I didn't really want to go over all of this with her. But she dragged it out of me. I told her my instructor wouldn't let me make up the final. I told her he said I had to repeat the class. "He said that?", she asked incredulously. The concern and disbelief in her voice were comforting. Then, to my surprise, she called my math instructor on the phone. You could tell he didn't want to discuss this with her, but she dragged it out of him anyway. "What grade did he have before the final? - a B? - and you won't let him take a final?" They talked some more. Finally, she looked at me. "Meet him on the third floor library and he will give you a final RIGHT NOW".

So I took my final without studying and got a C for the course. Lucky for me, I blundered into the most powerful person in the Math department - the dean's secretary - and she helped me.


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