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Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


Tim and I really enjoyed watching the COGs grow up. Since we weren't parents ourselves, we could watch our close friends be parents, and see the fruits of their efforts. Clearly they were working with some really terrific genes, but the role of the Gang as parents shouldn't be underestimated. Regardless of whether we should credit nature or nurture, the COGs were simply a fabulous group of kids. I'll get back to telling more of their stories as these episodes go forward. One COG, Auggie, will get his due in this one.

But for right now, I'd like to get back to Tim. He is, after all, the title character in this story. It's his story, and I don't want to neglect the simply stupendous job that he was doing as President of the University of North Dakota.

Tim realized that the single most important thing needed in order to create a world class university was a world class student body. Faculties and facilities were certainly important, but faculty could be hired and facilities purchased. Top level students had to be persuaded to choose UND. There were a number of things working against Tim and the university in this effort. First and foremost was the fact that it was the University of North Dakota! North Dakota? There can't be a really good school there, can there? I thought only hicks and farmers lived in North Dakota. Does anyone live in North Dakota? Do they have more than a few hundred students there? Well, you get the picture.

Secondly, students from North Dakota, like students of almost every state (except perhaps California, the University of California being the University of California, and UCLA being UCLA), considered the local state university to be the school of last resort; a fall-back position.

Finally, a lot of the top kids of the Northern Tier looked to leave the Northern Tier to go to school. And in Upper Michigan and northern Wisconsin, they had very fine state universities to the south which they could attend-and these weren't generally considered to be "last resort" or a "fallback position."

That was what Tim was up against. Nevertheless, he believed that he could run the finest university in the Northern Tier, that it could be a world class institution, and that he could persuade a good number of top level students from North Dakota, the rest of the Northern Tier, and the rest of the world that they should very carefully consider UND, and that if they did, a good number of them would come.

You've heard me make reference several times to Tim's telling high school students to put "TTT" at their top of their application in order to get V.I.P. treatment in the application process. This was, in fact, part of a systematic program which Tim and his staff referred to as "Triple T."

As Vice-President for Development, Tim had constantly been speaking throughout the state-to almost anyone who would listen to him-Rotary, Lions, Chambers of Commerce, PTAs, you name it. He was aiming at adults, hopefully influential adults, who could give money to the university, influence others to give money to the university, or direct corporations, foundations, and other groups to give money to the university. As I've already pointed out, he was spectacularly successful. Of course, it wasn't just his speaking; in fact, the speaking was never the most important part of the campaign-well-researched direct contact with carefully selected potential donors has always been THE way to raise money, and Tim's work simply proved the rule.

Things weren't particularly different when seeking top students. Tim shifted his emphasis in his speaking around the state, and beyond, to high schools, and organizations of high school students: athletic groups, YM and YWCA groups, arts clubs, 4H, Future Farmers, and many, many more. As Vice-President for Development he tried to speak somewhere twice a week, but that was, of course, key to his entire job. As President, he could only get out about once a week, but he tried to make sure that a good many of those speeches were directed to audiences of high school students.

His spectacular record as an Olympic athlete made him a most welcome speaker in almost all high school settings, and the audiences were eager to come, not pushed or forced by parents, teachers or other leaders. That was an advantage he had over almost all other college "recruiters," and he never hesitated to use it. His speeches were a pep talk for setting high goals, capitalizing on your God-given assets, practicing hard, never forgetting the importance of academics, and choosing your teams, teachers, coaches, and schools with care. The last bit he sort of slid in without anyone noticing-or at least he tried. And when he was with an audience containing a number of students that he thought would be real assets to UND, he told them, as if it was a secret he shared with very few, the key to getting V.I.P. treatment on their applications was to put "TTT" at the top, or to put it at the top of whatever was their first written communication with the Admissions Office.

It's amazing how people like to get special, personal attention. Over time, they carefully tracked the students that heard his speeches, dividing similar groups into those in which TTT was mentioned and those in which it was not. The Triple-T program would increase responses by 10 to 30%, consistently. And among accepted applicants, those that had received the Triple-T treatment were 60% more likely to attend!

What was the Triple-T treatment? First of all, Tim and the admissions staff kept careful track of all groups and individuals that got the Triple-T invitation. Sometimes it went to entire high schools, more likely to a football team, debate team, or a particular club or group. These were kept track of by group, or by name if the names were known-they tried to get names of everyone who heard Tim speak. When a TTT application, or letter of inquiry, request for a catalog, whatever, arrived, the admissions staff checked it against the names and group on the Triple-T list. If it matched, Tim was immediately personally notified. If the student was part of a large group, they immediately got a personal letter from Tim, thanking them for the interest in the school, and inviting them to call Tim on the telephone (direct line phone to his secretary provided) when he could help in any way. Individuals or members of small groups that Tim had flagged as important got a personal telephone call from Tim, with the same information. The applications were tracked, and Tim was shown the tracking data weekly.

The key was carefully selecting those groups, schools, and individuals who were likely to be or contain highly desirable students. And that meant, first of all, thinking about who were the highly desirable students. Tim had little trouble describing the students he wanted at UND: Kids who would work their butts off. He conceded that everybody wanted the top scholars, the top athletes, the great musicians, champion debaters, and other top students. But they were never Tim's top priorities. He'd much rather have a B student with an IQ that suggested a C student, than an A student who could, and did, get A's with little or no effort. The kid that arrived in high school a little overweight and non-athletic (say an "old Hal") and graduated as a starting linebacker on the varsity football team, was Tim's prime candidate. If he kept his grades up as well, then Tim would have him in his sights as soon as he heard about him.

How to find such kids? Ask. Ask every coach, every principal, band director, theater director, and guidance counselor. Ask them when you met them. Send them regular letters asking them to nominate names. Tell them how to identify such students in the letters of recommendation written on their behalf. Tim kept up a furious communication with the high schools of North Dakota, and the entire Northern Tier. Who are your top students, athletes, musicians, artists? Most important, who work their butts off and perform better than expected?

He found them, made lists, spoke to groups they were a part of, and always invited them to put TTT on their applications.

The top high schools in the state and region weren't on Tim's target list. Their students were always welcome, and the admissions staff courted them just as you would expect. But Tim was much more interested in students in small towns in the UP, or western North Dakota, that didn't usually send kids to college. The students in those schools that rose to the top, and wanted to go to college were exactly the students that Tim wanted. When he spoke at those schools-and he tried to as much as his schedule would permit-he always told the entire school to put TTT on their applications. When students did come to UND from small rural schools that generally didn't send a lot of kids to college, they'd be asked what had inspired them to go to college. Time after time the answer was, "Tim came and talked to our school and he inspired me." When UND freshman guidance counselors, who were the ones who were supposed to ask that question, got that answer, it was reported directly to Tim, who immediately invited that student to lunch or dinner, often at home with me. Tim knew how to inspire, and how to follow-up. It was a joy to watch him operate.

In his own life Tim knew how to strike a balance between a seriousness of purpose and dedication to his goals, and having fun. He worked hard to communicate those ideals to UND students. He didn't hesitate to announce a holiday for a special event. He didn't hesitate to visit a dormitory that was getting a reputation as a "party dorm" and essentially read them the riot act. Over time, long-time faculty remarked that there seemed to be a more serious attitude toward studies on the campus. It couldn't be measured, but quite a few felt it.

Applications increased. And Tim made sure that acceptances were virtually guaranteed for those students whose applications and recommendations suggested that they would "work their butts off." No TTT applicant was turned down without Tim being informed, and the decision justified to him. When he concurred (and he usually did, as he had great faith in his admission staff, and they understood his feelings about desirable students) and a TTT student had to be turned down, it was always done with a personal telephone call from Tim to the student. Only after the call, did the written notification go from the admissions office. And all turn-down letters were personally addressed (and in many or most cases personally written) to the student and signed by the Director of Admissions. Form letter acceptances were permitted, except that TTT applicants got a personalized form letter signed by Tim.

Tim doubled the size of the admissions staff to be able to provide that level of personal attention to the several thousand applications received every year. Tim was convinced it was worth it, because by every statistical measure the quality of the student body improved every year during Tim's tenure.

I don't want to overly toot my own horn, but we had similar programs and similar success in the law school. There were a lot fewer colleges in the Northern Tier than high schools, so I was actually able to speak to some group or other-I liked to get a crack at the entire senior class when I could-at every four-year liberal arts school in the Northern Tier at least every other year. I copied Tim and established communications with department chairs (especially political science), senior faculty advisors, and everybody connected with any kind of pre-law program or campus organization. Like Tim, I was looking not only for the best and the brightest, but also for the "work their butts off" crowd.

One problem we had in recruiting beyond the Northern Tier, was the most likely candidates from outside were those that couldn't get into their first, second, or even third choices of law school. We figured that if Harvard, Georgetown, or their local state university didn't want them, neither did we-even if they had better academic records than other students we admitted. We were looking for students that considered UND Law to be their first choice. We quickly found a simple way to identify such students: virtually every law school required the LSAT exam. It was supposed to predict success in law school, and separate the men and women from the girls and boys. [Do I even need to comment on the updated metaphor?] In my opinion it separated the good test takers from the not-so-good test takers, and I wasn't particularly interested in that distinction. So we didn't require the LSAT. Students that were primarily interested in UND Law, and were good enough to be pretty sure of getting in, didn't bother with the LSAT! I may be telling secrets out of school, but not taking the LSAT, combined with decent college grades, was an almost guaranteed admission to UND Law.

Why did students from outside the Northern Tier want to come to UND Law? First and foremost, we'd taken seriously the need to align our curriculum and graduation requirements with the real world bar exams that all law students were going to have to face. It worked, and UND students had an incredible success rate on the bar exam, even when taken at the first possible time following graduation. And that didn't just apply to the North Dakota exam; we had a last semester course tailored to every bar exam to be faced by our graduates. That final course met as a group when appropriate and broke into state subgroups when appropriate. It worked, and that more than anything else brought top level students from around the nation to UND Law. During my tenure as Dean we had a least one student take and pass (first time) the bar exam in each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia.

We were subject to criticism that we were simply "teaching to the test." In a sense that's true. I would argue, however, that if the test is good, then teaching to the test is a perfectly legitimate pedagogy. If it's a lousy test, and as an educator you can't control the test, then you're stuck. Teaching to a lousy test is not necessarily good pedagogy, but you aren't offered much choice. Frankly, I don't think the bar exam does much of anything to separate those who should be practicing law from those who shouldn't. It is more of an initiation ritual. You can take it multiple times, and almost all eventually pass. So just what does it accomplish? Getting into, and graduating from, law school is where the lawyers of the country are screened. But the bar exam looms large in the life of every budding lawyer, and a law school that can point to a high success rate is at least perceived to be a good law school to attend. I like to think we did a good job of training lawyers as well as teaching them what they needed to pass the bar. The first will remain a subject judgement. The second can be statistically measured, and we were one of the most successful law schools in the country.

Life with Tim was exciting, joyous, challenging, and sexy. He never slowed down, was always exuberant, bubbled over with new ideas, and though I firmly believe that he was a more effective administrator than I was, he never put me down, and always sought my opinions-though he didn't always follow them. While the university was certainly the main focus of our lives, and the Gang was certainly the secondary focus, other things did regularly intrude.

One evening, not long after the Atlanta Olympics of 1996, Tim surprised me by saying, "You know, Charlie, I'm going to miss the celebrity that comes with Olympic medals."

"What? You've never made a comment like that before in your life. You seem to take it all in stride."

"I know, and I guess I do take it in stride. But you'll have to admit that the celebrity that goes with having more Olympic medals than anybody, with getting the tandem diving gold as an 'old man,' with doing that while I'm the president of a university, well, it's fun. How can I possibly deny that it isn't exciting to be called up to be on Good Morning, America or The Tonight Show?"

"Where's this heading, Tim? Or, do I dare ask?"

"Not in the direction you think."

"How do you know what I think?"

"How long have I lived with you?"

"Too long."

"No, Charlie, not long enough."

"OK, I'll agree with that. But what direction do you think I think this is heading in?"

"You're picturing me as trying to head to Sydney in 2000, in either diving or more likely in gymnastics, since I've already proven myself as an 'old man' in diving."

"Well, yes, that would seem to be where this is heading."

"Let me share my thoughts with you."

"You aren't seriously suggesting that I have a choice, are you?"

"Of course you have a choice."

"Then don't share your thoughts; you're scaring me."

"Oh, come on, Charlie."

"I told you I didn't have a choice."

"OK, you win on that. But let me share my thoughts."


"Last night I got to thinking about us. My mind went back to our walking together at the Opening Ceremony in Mexico. We have both had tremendous successes since then. But they've been separate. We'll we're a team here sometimes, the President and the Chancellor. But I got to thinking last night about how we could be a spectacular pair. What venue could we so excel in that we'd get Good Morning, America invitations? How do we get ourselves as a team on the cover of a national magazine? We can sing, but there's no way we're headed to the top of the charts. Gay dancing isn't going anywhere. University administrators aren't likely to make the cover of Time unless they're caught with the endowment in their pockets or their dick inside a bunch of undergraduates."

"All that's true. So what say we take the day off today, take a ride somewhere interesting, enjoy ourselves, reflect on our past glories, and admit that most if not all of that's behind us. You know, Tim, if we never accomplished another thing in this life, we'd be rated as spectacularly successful."

"All true. But I'm not ready to admit it. I got to thinking. Let's win an Olympic medal together."

"Just like that, you and I are going to win an Olympic medal. In what, pray tell."

"Well, I got to thinking, and I listed the sports that have pairs competition."

"And they are?'

"Ping pong, badminton, tennis, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, bobsled, and beach volleyball. I don't think there are any others."

"That is an interesting list. You're suggesting that we just pick one, practice a little (well, since it's you, you'd expect us to practice a lot), become the best in the world, and win an Olympic medal, preferably gold."

"I never talk about the color of the medal."

"Are you trying to suggest that you never think about it?"

"Point for you."

"Were you planning to pick one of those sports at random, or are you going to be realistic and select one that we might actually be able to compete in?"

"Don't be sarcastic, Charlie."

"Why on earth not? Sarcasm seems a fairly reasonable response to where this conversation seems to be going."

"Charlie, Charlie, Charlie. I'm trying to be serious."

"You really are, aren't you? Here we are, ages 49 and 56, and you're talking about competing in competition that's dominated by teens and twenties. And I'm to think you're being serious. Really?"

"OK, I'll admit not all of those sports present serious opportunities."

"Perhaps it'd be quicker to ask if you think any of them actually do present opportunities?"

"You're pushing me. I was going to work through the list, one by one."

"Cut to the chase, Tim."

"OK. Bobsledding, ping pong, badminton, kayaking, canoeing, and sailing would seem to allow competitors to succeed without the brawn and muscle of youth."

"All you've tossed out is tennis and beach volleyball. Surely, you've narrowed the list more than that? Wait a minute, I know you've narrowed the list to one, and are just bringing me along, right?"

"Sort of."

"Sort of, my foot. Name the sport. Right now, or I'm giving up on this conversation."


"Tell me about Olympic sailing. I don't think I've ever really paid much attention to it. Clearly you have."

"I don't know that much. I sailed at camp; so did you. We were both pretty good, but not tops. But that was because we were more interested in other things, not because we couldn't have been tops."

"But the fact that we choose other things should tell you something about our attitude toward sailing. What makes you think that we're likely to have a great change in attitude toward sailing? If we don't love it, we won't ever be world class sailors."

"You are so right, Charlie. It's a long shot. But we have two things going for us."

"And those would be?"

"We love each other and would love to succeed together."

"Is that one or two things?"

"That's one. The other is our secret weapon."



"You're right about that. He's probably one of the best sailors in the country, if not the world. Isn't he going to be Olympics bound himself? Are we going to compete against him?"

"No. There are lots of different classes of boats. We can all be on the US Olympic Sailing Team and not compete against each other."

"Have you talked to Auggie?"

"No, I had to start with you. Are you in, Charlie? Please?"

"This is the most insane answer I've ever given to a question in my life, but, yes, I'm in. I've learned over the years to never underestimate you, so I won't start now. But I'll only join in this mad venture if you'll admit up front that it makes Don Quixote look like a sure bet."

"I'm betting on Sancho, and Tim'n Charlie."

It would've been standard behavior for Tim to have, right then and there, gotten on the telephone to Auggie, invited him for dinner as soon as it could be arranged, and, well, you know the rest. You could write it by this time. But two weeks went by and I didn't hear another word about sailing, the Olympics, or Auggie. I knew better than to think that Tim had forgotten the conversation, but I simply held my peace and waited for the next shoe to drop.

A shoe did drop, but it wasn't Auggie's. Tim got a telephone call from Lizbeth Edison, Prexy's wife. She was calling from the hospital, where Prexy had been taken a short while before. He'd had a seizure of some kind that had knocked him down, and he couldn't get up. She'd called the ambulance and he'd been rushed to the hospital and admitted through the Emergency Room.

We rushed right over and met Lizbeth in the corridor outside of Prexy's room. The doctor joined us. They were fairly baffled by Prexy's condition. At first they'd assumed it was a stroke, but that had now been ruled out. He was extremely weak, but there didn't seem to be any specific identifiable cause, either for his fainting and falling, nor for the continued weakness. He could talk, but not much more than a whisper.

Then Tim, Lizbeth, and I went into Prexy's room to see him. He was lying on his back with his head slightly raised, but not quite in a sitting position. He clearly recognized us and smiled his welcome. "Hello, Tim, Charlie. I hope you've come to get me out of this place."

"The doctors are still trying to find out what's wrong with you."

"How stupid can you get? I know what's wrong with me. I'm getting old. The old carcass is wearing out."

Lizbeth said, "Honey, you're just 80. In today's world that's not old. You have lots of years left."

"Tim has a word for that: Bullshit. I'm wearing out; nuts, I'm worn out. I'll give them till tomorrow to figure out that there's nothing they can do for me, and then I'm going home. Home to die."

Tim said, "Prexy, I think that's a little premature. Give the docs a chance, and tomorrow things will look up."

At that point the doctor came in and suggested that we ought to leave and let Prexy rest. To the extent that his weakened body would let him, Prexy almost exploded. "Get the Hell out yourself. I've got damn little time left, and I'm sure as Hell not going to spend it alone. I want these dear friends with me." He was so upset that we were afraid we might lose him on the spot. Lizbeth ushered the doctor out, and came back in.

"Honey, he's a good doctor and a friend; you've always respected his professional opinion."

"Maybe. But I don't want to hear anymore about my not having visitors, or telling my visitors to leave. Tim, you're the big kahuna in this town, tell this place what's what."

"I think you just told them. He was trying to do what's best for you. I think he got the message that his suggestion wasn't well received."

"You put things so diplomatically. No wonder you're such a good president. You should run for the other presidency."

"I wouldn't consider the demotion."

That got a chuckle from Prexy. It also got a smile as he thought about the implication of the comment for his own place in the national hierarchy. Prexy had enjoyed being Prexy. I'm quite certain that the thing he loved most about Tim was Tim's keeping him around and continuing to call him Prexy-and encouraging everyone to do the same.

I left, leaving Tim and Lizbeth with Prexy. Soon Lizbeth joined me in the little family waiting room down the hall. She said, "I've had a good life with him, you know. But Tim's coming into his life, well you, too, Charlie, changed him. At dinner the day you two first visited his office he told me, 'Honey, you can't believe the two young men that were in my office today. And I'm pretty sure that they're going to be students here next year.'

"'Who were they?'

"'Have you heard of Tim, the diver?'

"'Of course not. Who is he?'

"'I didn't know until Larry brought me up to speed. He's just the best damn diver ever, according to Larry. And he's a champion gymnast too. And as self-assured as Jack Kennedy-and twice as handsome. The same for his partner, Charlie.'


"'They're gay. I'm sure that they think of themselves as married.'

"'How is that going to fly in North Dakota?'

"'I asked Larry. He said that it didn't seem to cause much of a stir when the two of them were introduced to his divers. Larry said it didn't make any difference to him.'

"Charlie, the Tim and Charlie stories were the stuff of nightly dinner conversation from that day to this. He just reveled in watching the two of you. He told me, 'I just have to remember to keep out of this kid's way, he's an ace.' He thought just the same of you, Charlie."

I asked, "He's dying, isn't he?"

"Yes, Charlie, he's dying. I can see it in his eyes, and in the doctor's manner. But he's dying a happy man."

"He hasn't felt that Tim's success eclipsed his own record as president?"

"Oh, no, Charlie. You know, every time Tim opens his mouth about his predecessor, he's saying something like, 'I couldn't be doing this if Prexy hadn't laid the foundations.' Or he'll say, 'Most new university presidents that I meet talk about having to run around putting out the fires started by their predecessor, or cleaning up the mess left to them. I've never had one bit of that, I was left a well-run university, functioning well, and ready to respond to the ideas of a different leader-different, not better.'"

"Yes, I've heard Tim use exactly those words. And, Lizbeth, he meant every bit of it. It was a mutual admiration society."

"I know. And many executives retire and spend the next decade watching the institution that they so lovingly built be messed up by an incompetent successor. Prexy has so enjoyed watching it expand, develop and mature."

Tim joined us. "He fell asleep. We had a nice talk. He's a wonderful man. He's going to be missed."

Lizbeth asked, "You sense that he's dying as well?"

"Clearly that's what he thinks. It doesn't seem to upset him. Lizbeth, he's worried about you. Not that you won't get along, but that you'll be lonely. I assured him that in this university community you wouldn't be lonely."

"He's also worried that we didn't have enough time together. That was one of the two reasons for his slightly early retirement. You were the other, Tim. But since retirement, we've had 17 years in which the important thing in each of our lives was our spouse. It's been a wonderful 17 years, and it made up for the few times of loneliness I experienced as a presidential widow. And it'll surely make up for the times of loneliness that lie ahead."

Tim said, "He made one request. He expects the hospital to be fully functional by six a.m., regardless of whether reasonable people would dearly love to sleep much later. I am to be back here tomorrow by 6:15 and I am to have Billy with me."

"Why Billy?" I asked.

"He didn't say."

"I know," said Lizbeth. But I'll let him tell Billy, and you, in his own way. I'm going to go in and kiss him good night. The hospital's told me that I could sleep here, but I think that's silly. I can't do a thing for him-neither can they for that matter. But I think he's going to want to go home tomorrow and I need to be rested."

"Will he make it through the night?"

"They'd have to kill him for him to not make it through the night-for two reasons. He wants to talk to Billy. And he's determined that he'll die at home."

We drove Lizbeth home, and then stopped by Billy's house to tell him of our evening and of his appointment the next morning. Billy had no more idea what it was about than we did.

First thing the next morning we picked up Billy, then Lizbeth (who actually looked as if she'd gotten some sleep), and then went to United Hospital, getting there by six. We had drinks in the snack bar-coffee for Lizbeth, water for Billy, Cokes for Tim and me-and then went up to see Prexy, almost exactly at 6:15. He was glad to see us, threw the nurse out that was trying to get his vitals, and then threw Lizbeth, Tim and me out. It was an hour later when Billy finally emerged, and Lizbeth let the nurses go back in. Billy looked like he'd been through a wringer. He'd clearly been crying. We couldn't imagine what Prexy had been saying to him. He sat down in the waiting room, but responded to our questions by saying, "Talk to Prexy."

By this time the nurse had finished-clearly quite upset that Prexy seemed to have no respect whatsoever for hospital routine. Tim, Lizbeth and I went in to see Prexy. She said, "Honey, the boys don't have any idea why you wanted to see Billy. Tell them."

"It's really very simple. The single most affirming moment I ever had as President of the University of North Dakota was when Billy Carson told us that he wanted to continue as a student at my university. I wanted to tell him that, and thank him. That was the most important piece of unfinished business that I had to complete before I...died. I don't want to say I'm ready, but the last hour was very important to me."

Tim said, "I know it was for Billy as well."

"He's one of the finest young men I've ever had to deal with. I say 'one of' because I certainly don't want to exclude present company. Billy is special. And I don't think I've every really told him. I know that he doesn't really understand just how special he is. That's where he's different from you two. I don't mean this as a put down, but you do know how special you are. You couldn't function in your present roles if you didn't."

Prexy continued, "I started to say, 'Take care of Billy,' but he doesn't need it. He's hard as nails. That's the only way he could've survived you, Tim. He knew what he was in for when he hitched his wagon to your star, and he knew how to hold on. So I won't say, 'Take care of him,' but I will say, 'Love him; keep on loving him.'"

He looked around the room, slightly rising from the flat on his back position that he'd been in since we first saw him in the morning. "Get the doctor in here. Let's see if he can give me any reason whatsoever not to head home, right now. This is no place to die." The effort of rising exhausted him, and he fell back on the bed. He looked as us and said, "Out, until you can get the doc."

We asked at the nurses' station if they could have Prexy's doctor paged; we were pretty sure that he was in the hospital. Before long he joined us in the waiting room. We told him of Prexy's mood and suggested that he should go in and talk to him. He asked us all to join him as he talked with Prexy.

Doctor Crabb was good. He knew his man, having been his doctor for about twenty years. "Prexy, I'll give it to you straight. We don't know what's wrong with you. We've done a maze of tests, and they show a variety of abnormalities, and but no cause. If you were a different patient, I'd recommend that you head over to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and let them give you their complete work up. It's very possible that they could provide a good diagnosis, and if so, very possibly a reasonable treatment plan. But I'll be honest, I'd put the odds at about 50-50 on a good diagnosis, another 50-50 on the availability of treatment, and at least 30% that any recommended treatment would be, at least in your frame of mind, worse than the disease."

"Jim [Prexy didn't call Tim, President Tim, why should he call a doctor, Dr. Jim or Dr. Crabb], that was refreshingly honest. And you're absolutely right, I have no interest in a trip to Minnesota. Now, can you do anything for me here, or do I head home?"

"If Lizbeth can deal with an ornery son-of-a-bitch like you at home, then by all means go there. The nurses are fed up with you."

"Good. How do I get there?"

"Damned if I know. Walk. Drive. Hitchhike."

With that Lizbeth started giggling. "Honey, you've met your match. But the only way you're going to make it home is in an ambulance. I'm sure that Dr. Crabb can arrange that. He'll also tell me what to do to keep you alive. You know, that's what we all want."

"Only if I can get up and start walking around. I don't want to live in a bed."

Dr. Crabb said, "I'll prescribe castor oil. That'll get him out of bed."

As we stood around the waiting room in the hospital, waiting for ambulance arrangements to be complete, Tim said to Lizbeth, "I'm seeing a different side of Prexy. Have he and Dr. Crabb been carrying on like that for twenty years?"

"Oh, yes. And when they aren't cussing at each other they're playing golf together, but I'm afraid those days are over. Jim Crabb's heard many times that Prexy doesn't want major interventions at the end of life. And he isn't changing his mind as the end approaches, as it clearly is. Thank God it's his body and not his mind that's going. I don't think I could deal with a husband without a mind."

By supper time Prexy was installed in a rented hospital bed in what had been their dining room, since they didn't want him trapped on the second floor where their bedroom was. He was getting nourishment through an IV which Lizbeth had been taught how to maintain. A home nurse would come daily to check him over, and check the IV. He was determined to eat as much as possible, but he had little appetite, and actually ate very little.

The visitor stream was endless. That alone should've killed him, but he insisted that was what he wanted. He wanted to say goodbye to everyone he knew. The word quickly got around the campus, and faculty, staff, and even students who'd never known him as president, came by. Lizbeth welcomed them all, but asked them to make their visits brief. Every now and then Prexy would ask a visitor to return later, and Lizbeth took that as her cue to ask them to come back in the evening for a longer talk.

The Gang joined the procession. Rather than invite each one individually, Prexy asked Tim to bring them back in a group. We did it in two groups, because we included the COGs and a few others we were close to. We spilled out of the dining room and into the living room, with standing room only. Prexy insisted on being propped up on several pillow so he could see at least most of us. With some difficulty he told how he'd watched Tim and me add to our number. From his perspective, the first addition was Felix, whom he'd known for years before us. In fact, we learned then that Prexy had been aware of Felix' difficult situation in his house, and he was ready to look for some way for the university to help him, when Tim and I did the job. "I knew right then that I had two really special people on my hands-not just star athletes." He'd watched the Gang grow, had speculated on our sexuality, been flabbergasted at our Olympic successes, and basked in the glory brought back to his university. Yes, he thought of it as 'his,' just as Tim could now think of it as Tim's. And that, plus a thank you and goodbye, was about all of the energy he had. Every single member of the Gang kissed him as they filed out.

That night he asked us to get Billy and Sara. There were six of us in the room that night, Lizbeth, Tim, Sara, Tim, me, and Prexy. His talk began to ramble, for the first time. He talked of diving, of the wind, Mariah, of walking in his grand green robe, of having sex with Lizbeth (that certainly embarrassed her, but it needn't have), of sledding as a boy in the North Dakota snow, of teaching chemistry (he'd been a political scientist), of presiding over faculty meetings, of mountain climbing (he'd never even considered it, at least not aloud), of loving Lizbeth, of arguing with the Trustees, and of death. He didn't fear death, but he didn't embrace it either. It was just a fact of life. Then he fell silent. After a while he said, "I love you all. Please hold my hand." From his eyes we could tell that he wanted to hold the hands of Billy and Lizbeth. He couldn't lift them, but Billy and Lizbeth could lift his and they did. He repeated, "I love you," closed his eyes, and died. We shouldn't have been sad; he was comfortable, in control, and ready; surrounded by his loved ones. But we cried like babies. A great man had left us.

Tim ordered all campus flags to be flown at half-staff until Prexy's burial, scheduled for four days hence. The university was closed for two days-the day before the funeral and the day of. On the day before he "lay in state" in the main hallway of Twamley Hall, downstairs from the President's Office. There was a constant line of students, faculty, staff, and Grand Forkers (Forkians? take your pick, I hear both) coming through, pausing, touching the casket which was closed, signing the book (which had been divided into eight sections at different signing stations), and moving on. The book was reassembled and given to Lizbeth, but on her death about four years later, it was deposited in the University Archives. It contains almost 10,000 signatures.

Prexy's funeral was in the field house. Tim had the fine arts department design a special green pall, modeled on the President's robe, and made to put over the casket. The entire university community turned out, and there wasn't a spare seat in the house. Tim led the service, Billy gave the eulogy, and Lizbeth spoke briefly, speaking directly to Prexy, thanking him for all he'd done for her, for his friends, his students and faculty, and for the University of North Dakota. He was buried in a grove of trees that'd been hastily designed by a landscape architect on the faculty and planted by the university grounds crew the day before the funeral. It was located near the administration building in a space that was oddly shaped by the buildings near it, and made a perfect location for a small parklike setting. I knew that Tim was thinking that it would be the final resting place for the current president of the university and his chancellor, when the time came.

Our lives had been interrupted by Prexy's sickness and death in the same way that this story was interrupted. But things did eventually return to normal for everyone except Lizbeth. She had a massive adjustment to make. But she had good friends, including the Gang, and she was certainly not limited in any way by her age. Slowly she built a new life, for the few years she had left.

We had many university responsibilities, but in our personal lives the first thing we needed to do was have a conversation with Auggie. It was midwinter, and that meant that sailing was on hold and he was living in Grand Forks. I need to update you on his adventures since we last heard about him.

He was still madly in love with Lynn, by now a college graduate. When she graduated Auggie had insisted that she move to Grand Forks, and Sid and Cathy invited her to move into their guest room. Lynn declined that invitation, thinking that living that close to Auggie would simply be too much of a temptation. But she did accept their invitation to use space in their home studio for her painting. She'd sold a few paintings as an undergraduate, and hoped to be able to establish herself. She, quite rightly, guessed that Sid would be the best mentor she could possibly find. She also enrolled in graduate studio art classes at the university.

She and Auggie were hopelessly in love, and spent as much time together as possible. Of course, Auggie was in school during the day, and at those times Lynn tended to her art. She'd pick Auggie up after school and they'd spend time together, often at his house, but just as often at the university studio where he liked to watch her paint. About half the time their dinner was with Sid and Cathy, and the rest of the time just the two of them-either cooked in her little apartment or at a restaurant.

The one sore spot, at least at first, was money. Lynn didn't have any, and she felt she needed to get a job. Auggie and Sid both insisted that she needed to be painting, not doing some odd job. By this time Auggie had a pretty good income selling photographs, and saw absolutely no reason why that income shouldn't be supporting his future wife, who'd be his wife now if the silly law would only allow it. Eventully Lynn had to concede the point, and she accepted the fact that Auggie paid her rent and tuition.

Having skipped two grades, at fifteen Auggie was ready to be a senior in high school. He marched himself into the office of the Dean of Fine Arts at the university and said that he wanted to work out an arrangement that would allow him to be a high school senior and a college freshman the same year. He'd attend high school in the morning, and the university in the afternoon, emphasizing work in the photo studio, and basic art courses, plus English, which he thought could also count for senior English for high school graduation. The dean asked about his grades (Auggie handed him a transcript-all A's), whether he'd taken the SATs (780+ math and verbal), whether he'd talked to his high school advisor (not yet, he was starting at the university), and why he wanted to do it (high school was boring and didn't have any art courses of interest to him; besides he'd taken both of the high school's photography courses). Auggie could sell refrigerators to Eskimos (remember the bill of goods he'd sold to the Mendota Sailing Club?) and soon had the Dean convinced that this absurd idea was really a very good one. His high school principal, having been previously coached by Tim on how to deal with the Gang, was easily convinced, once he'd talked with the Superintendent of Schools about whether the arrangement was legal. I got brought into that, and we worked out a schedule that met the legal requirements for both high school attendance and graduation credits. On the college side he was enrolled as a "special student." He could accumulate credits, but wouldn't matriculate until he'd formally graduated from high school. That suited the situation perfectly, and Auggie was ready for his senior/freshman year. It would mean that he'd graduate from high school just three days before his sixteenth birthday, which was on Monday, June 9, 1997. That would also be Lynn's and his wedding day! And as he knew, and we knew, and Lynn knew, sex with a boy under 18 was legal if he also happened to be your husband!

But a lot would happen before that wedding! First, was our meeting with Auggie, which started when we invited him, along with Lynn, to Dakota house for dinner-a dinner that would change not just our lives, but many lives.

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