This is a mobile proxy. It is intended to visit the IOMfAtS Story Shelf on devices that would otherwise not correctly display the site. Please direct all your feedback to the friendly guy over at IOMfAtS!

Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


Sue had told us to expect her for the evening, and she hoped that she would be welcome to spend the night. Our response was something like, "You have to ask?" She hadn't really given us much background, except that she wanted to get out of Hal's way for the night. Needless to say, as we welcomed her, we also sought a fuller explanation of what was going on.

She told us of the phone call from Phyllis, and of the events of the afternoon. She added that she had gotten a telephone call from Herb not long after Phyllis had called Hal. Herb had told her about Phyllis' planned trip, and what she hoped to accomplish. Then Herb had said, "Sue, I want you to know that I'm very comfortable with the idea that Phyllis and Hal might have sex Saturday evening. I know Hal won't if you aren't comfortable with it, but I want you to know that Phyllis and I have talked, and I'm very comfortable with it. Enthusiastic, really."

Sue had replied, "Herb, I've shared Hal before. Hal wouldn't be the Hal I love had he not explored his sexuality with Charlie. It sounds to me like this is another occasion when Hal will grow as a man. There'll be more of him to love."

"Thank you, Sue. Hal got the most wonderful girl in the world when he got you. And believe me, he knows. He's told me often."

"Thanks, Coach. I love you, too."

Sue said to us, "I'm not sure what's going down at my house, but I'd sure like to get a double fuck tonight."

Tim said, "A double fuck, huh? Does that mean that I use my dick for the first one and my big toe for the second?"

Sue said, "You can put your big toe up Charlie's ass while you put your dick into mine. You can't fuck my cunt, because I'm off the pill and want Hal to be the father of any kid that arrives."

I said, "I wonder if Hal could get his dick into your cunt while I drive my dick into your ass."

Sue said, "I think that Franklin and Phil would be the only ones with dicks long enough to pull that off."

Tim said, "Shall I call them?"

Sue said, "No, I'd like tonight to just be the three of us. You know, I'm well aware that if it weren't for you two, and the rest of the Gang, there wouldn't be a Hal for me to love. He's your creation. Since Hal very much made me, bringing me back after a very serious trauma following my rape, I'm your creation as well."

I said, "We need Carl to remind us that this is getting a little maudlin."

Tim said, "We need to be naked." And he was, almost as fast as he could say it.

On the other hand, Sue took her time and did a very sexy strip tease. Then she came over to me and slowly, methodically, and erotically removed my clothes. Instead of tossing my briefs on the floor with my other clothes, she put them on herself. She said, "That's an odd feeling. Take me upstairs and pull these off."

We did. She said, "Who's going first?"

I said, "Tim's going to fuck your ass, doggie style. While he's doing that I'm going to try to fuck him. I don't know whether we can pull that stunt off, but it's going to be fun trying."

It certainly was. I'm not sure how often anybody got fucked that night, but I don't remember us ever really stopping. We were completely exhausted the next morning and found ourselves being awakened by Hal and Phyllis who had come over very early to see what we had been up to. As soon as I figured out what was going on, I said, "OK, Hal. We all want to see you fuck Sue. He sat on the edge of the bed and put her on his lap, with her legs sticking onto the bed. She wiggled down on his very hard dick and he bounced her on his thighs by flexing his feet. Neither Tim nor I had the heterosexual experience of Hal and Sue, and this was all new to us. We enjoyed watching two obvious experts, as evidenced by their near simultaneous orgasms. Our area of expertise was shower arousal, and we gave it to all three of them pretty good.

That afternoon Phyllis flew back to St. Paul. The next day both we and Hal got telephone calls from Herb. They both went about the same: "What did you do to Phyllis? Her hormones haven't rested a minute since she got home. We hardly slept last night. What do you guys know that I don't?"

All we could say was, "Ask Phyllis."

September was upon us, and that meant Tim's presentation to the Board of Trustees of the University. He spent quite a bit of time tweaking the script, practicing it, giving a formal dress rehearsal with me and the writing team, along with Fred, April, and Lenny. Finally, Tim said, "I'm ready. I'm aware that I can't afford to spend this much time on a single speech, but this one's really important. You might say that all of our jobs are at stake."

As Prexy and I could've told him, he needn't have worried. Prexy introduced Tim and he was off. He dreamed. He detailed his plans. He spoke eloquently of the University, how good it was, and how much better the Trustees could make it if they just had enough money. He pulled no punches, held nothing back. They were carried along on his dream highway, approving the creation of a Development Office, providing for its staffing, moving the Alumni Office to be part of the Development Office, starting the new magazine North Dakota Dreams, and approving the new building to hold it all, to be called the Alumni Towers. Carl's rendering of his tentative plans knocked their socks off, as Tim unveiled a gorgeous, modern eight story building that would be the envy of college administrators and trustees everywhere.

After the last approval vote Tim said, "OK, just one more thing. Trustees have to be giving leaders. We need your pledges toward the Development Campaign that I've outlined. It's all going nowhere if we can't get one hundred percent trustee participation." He passed out pledge cards, and had three hundred and twelve thousand dollars with total participation on the first pass. He'd been prepared to ask a second time if he hadn't made his unstated goal of a quarter million on the first go around. Once again, Tim had hit a grand slam. That night Tim took AAA, Prince and Princess, April, Sid, Tish, Mona, Lenny, Fred, Marty, and me out to dinner. He wouldn't hear a word of Fred's insistence on being host. It was his party. He was floating on clouds. I got kissed so many times I couldn't keep count. So did everyone else.

The rest of the Gang, at least those resident in Grand Forks, having been tipped off by Marty, met us at our house following dinner. They'd gotten the Coca-Cola bottler to set up a tap in our kitchen, and Coke flowed all evening. Tim was the hero of the day, but Sid stole the evening. He had a large easel set up in our living room, with a painting on it, covered with a sheet. He got everyone's attention, turned to Tim, and spoke. "Tim, I've always been told that the way to control your nerves when giving an important speech is to imagine that your audience is sitting facing you with no clothes on. I've tried it; it works. Staring out at an embarrassed, naked audience makes it easy to calm your own nerves and succeed in your speech. I particularly enjoy imagining my speech teacher, Mrs. Thisson, sitting in her chair in the back of the room, stark naked, watching me speak. So I imagined what your experience might've been like this afternoon.

With that he drew back the sheet. There were the Trustees, seated around their big table, without a stitch of clothing in sight, except for Tim's. The table covered their private parts, but here and there under the table, and at the side you could get hints of pubic hair, a testicle or two, and one sort of obscure penis. The women trustees were shielded by coffee cups, a clip board held against a chest, and a couple of other inventions. A couple of female nipples did peek out in places. Prexy was standing to the side, with his back to us, his buns clearly showing. It wasn't a picture that was ever going to go on public display, but it brought down the house that evening! It had been painted from photographs taken at previous meetings which Fred had gotten for Sid, not knowing what they were for.

It was wonderful, but what were we going to do with it? Sid had already figured that out. He'd found a space in the master bedroom walk-in closet that had been created when we turned the bedroom next to ours into our huge shower and closet. The picture hung on the wall in the closet until we found an even better spot for it; but more of that later. We showed it once to Prexy, who laughed and laughed. The only trustee to ever see it was Fred. His was the penis that was partially shown, and he got a real laugh out of it. Sid was fitting into our group better than we might ever have imagined. April and Arlene, the mothers of the three teenage girls that had been present at the unveiling, decided that the girls hadn't seen anything new in the picture, and that it was probably healthy for them to "experience the real world."

Things got crazy really fast following the Trustees' approval of Tim's plans. There was staff to hire, a building to design (all we had from Carl at this stage was a rendering of the proposed outside shell), a state-wide speaking campaign to launch, a magazine to birth, new offices in Fred's building to furnish and occupy, and an Alumni Office to move to temporary quarters in the same building, so their building could be torn down. It could've overwhelmed anybody. Tim simply made a list of priorities and set off doing them one by one. He was unflappable. I couldn't believe that my little guy was not only a super athlete, smart as a whip, sexy as Hell, loveable as a baby doll, but an incredibly able administrator. He created order out of chaos, turning first to the task of finding his staff.

Of course, he'd been a little untruthful to Prexy in his timeline for hiring staff. He'd suggested to Prexy that it would probably take him a year to complete his staff. But once the Trustees meeting had been as successful as it had been, he was determined to complete his staff by Christmas. The two key appointments were his appointments secretary and administrative assistant. Mary Simmons came on board as the appointments secretary by the end of September and Alex Storten became the administrative assistant in mid-October. Tim was on a roll.

One morning in late October Fred came by Tim's office. He was very formal. "Mr. Tim?"


"You've been in this job now for almost two months."


"How many dollars have you raised thus far?"

"None as yet, except the donations of the Trustees. You know that, Mr. Milson." Tim caught on to Fred's formality.

"I've been hearing exciting things about this University and I'd like to consider a contribution to the Development Fund."

"You would?"

"Yes. As I understand it, 10% goes to development overhead, 5% goes to the Alumni Towers Fund, and the rest goes to unrestricted endowment, but will be loaned to the Development Office to cover start-up costs. Am I right?"

Fred knew perfectly well that he was right, but he and Tim evidently had a game to play. "That's exactly the way we'd handle an undesignated gift to the Development Fund today. What size gift are you contemplating?"

"One million dollars."

Tim didn't miss a beat. "Are you thinking in terms of a pledge to be paid over time, or an outright gift? Would it be cash or securities?"

"Cash. Here, I'll write you a check." And he did. On the spot. Then he said, "Tim, I've got money put aside, as you know, to support the university as you and Charlie see fit. Under the terms of the charitable trust I've set up, you and Charlie have to approve this use of the money. I'm assuming that that isn't a problem. You need to start scoring some successes in order to keep up your momentum. This gift will be anonymous, and you should make a big public deal of it, building on the leadership gifts of the Trustees–always stroke their egos; there's a lot of money still sitting there."

Of course, Tim did make a big deal of it, using it as the launch event of the Development/Endowment Fund Campaign. He had another three-quarters of a million dollars by Christmas. The enthusiasm was palpable. Prexy was beside himself. I was so proud of Tim, and happy for him, that I could burst.

Not long after Fred's visit to Tim, Marty came by the house for an evening visit. He told us, "Fred was so excited the evening he came home from giving Tim the million dollar check he could hardly contain himself. He really tested me. He said, 'Marty, I think I'm really a sexual masochist'."

As Marty told the story the conversation had gone on with Marty replying. "I've been thinking that might be the case, Fred, but just how serious are you? You know, I'm not really the sadist that should go with a masochist. In fact, I'm much the same as you; I've always preferred your telling me just what you wanted. I get my jollies out of giving you what you want."

"I know. And now I'm telling you what I want."

"Exactly what do you want?"

"I'm not sure. I'm on pretty unfamiliar ground here. But I'm learning things about myself that I never really understood. I hope you'll help me on my journey."

Marty told us, "I wasn't sure just where this was leading, but I decided to try to go along with Fred, as far as I could. I went down the basement and got a roll of duct tape. I took his hands and taped them behind him, and then taped his ankles together, tight. Then I pushed him over. He fell kind of hard, but didn't complain. I pulled down his pants and took a scissors and cut his underwear off him. I clipped as much of his public hair as I could at the same time. I opened his shirt and pinched his nipples, pretty hard. He screamed a little, but also said, 'Thanks.'

"I wasn't sure where to go next. I'd heard of whips and so forth, but I simply wasn't into that. I couldn't whip Fred. I rolled him on his stomach, reached my hand through between his thighs, and grabbed his hard dick, pulling it down. That had to have hurt, but he didn't seem to mind. With his dick aiming down I sat on his butt, and poked at his ass hole. Then I rolled him over and played with his dick, pretty roughly, but being careful not to let him come. Before too long he was begging me to let him come, and I knew I had him. I lifted him onto the bed, untaped his wrists, took off his shirt, and put tape around each wrist and ran it back to the bedpost. I left it loose enough so that he could move his arms quite a bit, but couldn't reach his dick. I untaped his legs, took off his pants, and tied his legs spread out to the foot of the bed. Then I sucked him a while, and left him hanging. Again he begged me to finish him.

"I kept this up a couple of hours. He had to piss, and I let him up, but taped his hands behind his back so he couldn't touch his dick. I held his dick for him to piss, and then I headed him back to the bed, and retaped him. I sucked him and played with him all night. We did sleep for a while, but I did my best to keep him hard. He begged me to finish him off, but I wouldn't. I ignored his pleas. I said, 'You wanted to be a masochist, I'm giving you your wish.' After twelve hours of this I lubed his dick up good, along with my own ass, and sat down on his dick. I worked it inside me, and bounced a little. He exploded into me with great heaves. I stayed sitting on him and jacked myself off, hitting his face. I let him lay there a while, and then I came back, and gave him a hand job. He came again easily, and I licked it up, kissed him, and shared. Then I kissed him, untied him, and we hugged and kissed for a long time.

"He said, 'Marty, I can't believe you did that for me. It was the most terrible, and the most wonderful night I've ever had. Thank you. Thank you.' Then he cried. We hugged as he cried. All he could say was 'Thank you'."

Clearly Marty had been a little shaken by the experience. He worried that he had enjoyed it. "Charlie, I shouldn't have enjoyed being so cruel to Fred."

Tim said, "Marty, it's OK. Enjoy what you enjoy. Let Fred be Fred. Let it work itself out. Don't be afraid. Fred's a consenting adult. So are you. Be yourselves. When Fred gets in one of these moods, give it to him good. If he can't take it, he'll let you know. I'll give you one piece of advice."

"What's that?"

"If you're going to be a good sadist, you have to be creative. Each time has to be completely different."

"Will you come help me some time?"

"Do you think that Fred would like that?"

"As I understand the game he wants to play, he doesn't have a choice. If I bring you, he has to live with it."

"OK, I see what you mean. I guess I could come."

"Good. I have no idea when the mood will strike Fred again. Since that night he's been incredibly loving, but hasn't suggested sadism again. We'll see."

Tim was away from home quite a few nights that year. He was serious about speaking engagements all around the state, and with alumni groups around the country. His writing team, AAA, almost always pronounced "Triple A" were wonderful. April and Lenny did a solid job of providing support for AAA. Lenny seemed to love traveling around the state ahead of Tim, and seemed able to make friends everywhere.

In fact, Lenny liked the job so much that he stopped looking for a theatre job, and decided to stay with Development Consulting for at least a year, if not more. At our invitation, actually insistence, he continued to live in Felix' old apartment upstairs when he was in Grand Forks. We often invited him to eat dinner with us when he was there. One evening I said, "Lenny, why don't you spend the night with us tonight?"

"Uh, you don't just mean here in the house, do you? You're suggesting something more, right? Like in your bed?"

"You look nervous, Lenny. I'm right; you're gay, correct?"

"Yes, and I have been drooling over you guys for three months now. But I just assumed you were off limits."

Tim said, "If you were still a student, you'd be off limits. But you're not; you're a graduate. You aren't an employee of the university, either, but that might be stretching a point. But you seem lonely, and Charlie and I thought we'd extend the invitation. You certainly are free to turn it down."

"Turn it down? You have to be out of your mind. I don't think there's a gay man in America that'd turn it down."

"I know several," I said.

"Well, I'm not one of them."

"Come downstairs about ten tonight. Don't bother with clothes."

"I wouldn't think of it."

I was hard the rest of the meal. Tim calmly went about his business that evening, getting ready for a speech the next noon at a Rotary Club in Fargo, and planning something or other for the Alumni Office.

Lenny wasn't the most handsome kid in Grand Forks, but he was good looking. He had dark brown hair, darker skin than most of the Northern Europeans we were used to Grand Forks, a trim body but not the hard muscles of an athlete. He stood about 5' 11" and always had a smile. If he was sexy, it was because of that infectious smile. However, his physical looks weren't important in Lenny's case. The word that I would use to describe Lenny was nice. He was a genuinely nice guy. He was always helpful to us when he was around the house, always had something cheerful to say, and was equally nice and helpful around the Development Consulting office. Everyone like him. April, especially, doted on him. I was certainly looking forward to going to bed with him, and I know Tim was as well.

He came downstairs right at ten o'clock. Tim and I were in the shower, and we invited him to join us. Well, we didn't really invite him; when we heard him come into the room we went out and pulled him into the shower. He had heeded our suggestion that he come naked, so he easily joined us under the water stream. There we got our first look at the littlest dick that I have ever seen on an adult man in my life. He had a decent mat of pubic hair, and his dick was almost lost in it. I remember seventh graders in junior high school that had lots bigger pricks. His balls were equally small.

He stood there and faced us, his dick becoming hard. Hard, it was about 2 ½ inches. He let us look a while and then said, "Little, isn't it?"

We both nodded and said, "Yes," or something like that.

He continued. "I used to be embarrassed by it. I avoided showers, and it certainly stopped me from looking for sexual partners early on. But I have come to terms with it. It's who I am."

Tim said, "It looks to me like it's going to be a lot of fun to play with that thing. Will you let me?" Somehow, Tim always knew the right thing to say. And he meant it. He took the loose shower head and moved over to Lenny. With the shower head he sprayed Lenny's dick, moving the little thing back and forth, up and down. His balls got similar treatment. Then Tim used his fingers, and played with it like it was a toy. Then he knelt down, took it in his mouth, sucked hard, and got a load of cum that didn't feel like it was from such a tiny dick!

Tim said, "That's fun. Don't ever be shy about that dick. It's cute."

Lenny hugged him tight, knelt down, and gave Tim a similar treatment. When he finished, I said, "Hey, what about me?" I got the same treatment.

We washed each other, got out and dried, and headed for the big bed. I said, "Lenny, in a world in which people are often judged, stupidly, by the size of their dick, it's been tough sometimes, hasn't it?"

He said, "In elementary school I was about the same size as the other boys, but in junior and senior high school they grew and I didn't. I just came to realize that I was always going to be little. Some time in high school I got up enough nerve to ask our family doctor, and all he could say was, 'Lenny, that's just who you are.' That didn't help much. He did say that I didn't hold any records, that he had two or three patients with penises that small or smaller. And two of them were fathers.' I didn't ask him if any were gay, and how they got along with gay men."

"You're going to get along fine with these two gay men."

"Thanks, guys. But I know one guy I lost because of my size. He told me so. And before our night together I had hoped that our relationship might go someplace."

"If he judged you by your size and not yourself, you didn't want him."

"I did want him. But I guess you're right."

"There's a partner out there for you, Lenny. You'll find him."

As we lay there talking I started playing with his little prick. It was fun. When it was fully hard it was about the size of my ring finger. It was fun to tweak it with that finger and bounce it against his stomach. His balls were about the size of shooter marbles, and they were equally fun to play with.

Tim said, "I want to introduce you to Phil and Franklin. Getting you side by side will be a trip."

Lenny said, "I take it they have pretty big equipment."

Tim said, "I think everything you've got there would fit in one of their testicles. I know that Franklin is a little self-conscious about his size, he might be jealous of you."

"You can believe that I'd be jealous of him. I've learned to accept my size, but I can sure dream of being bigger."

I really don't know how much trouble Lenny might have fucking a man's ass, but since Tim and I didn't go there with anybody, the issue never came up. It was fun to suck Lenny, and fun to use my hands on him. Tim thought so to.

Often Tim and Lenny found themselves in some North Dakota town together. Lenny liked to hear Tim's speeches when he could, as it helped him find more useful material. They got in the habit of sharing a room, and though they always got a double room with two beds, and mussed both up, they always slept together. Neither one liked sleeping alone.

I didn't either. When Tim was away I always tried to find a partner for the night. Often one of the foursome would come by, leaving a threesome at home. Or a couple would join me. Old legs-of-steel liked to join me. He would say that nobody could make love to a leg like I could, and he loved it. Sue sometimes came with him, and she also liked to borrow Amy or Kara from Jim and Andy some of those nights. She told Hal, "I like something other than a dick sticking in my cunt from time to time. Besides, I like to play with a cunt other than my own."

Franklin's parents, Peter and Norma, invited the resident Gang to Christmas dinner. Minneapolis was close enough to be considered resident, and Tim's parents, Hal's parents, and Coach Johnson and Phyllis joined us. By stretching the table across the dining room, hall, and living room, they were able to seat us all at a grand banquet table. They would've included Judy, but she'd gone home to Michigan for the holiday. Franklin's brother, Jerry, joined us, as did Lenny who was living in our upstairs apartment and whose parents wouldn't have welcomed him home for Christmas. Billy and Sara were in town visiting his folks, so the four of them came. It made a total of 28, 26 of which were official Gang members, plus Jerry and Lenny. We had invited April and her family, but they were joining Prince, Princess and their parents for Christmas dinner.

Tom and Nancy would be in our thoughts. Tom was a week away from leaving the Air Force. He and Nancy would take about two weeks to drive to Detroit, where they'd spend a week with their parents. Then they were heading to Grand Forks to go job hunting. By the end of January seven of the original Gang would've fulfilled their dream of living near each other. Who could've imagined it–that summer long ago at Camp White Elk?

Lenny was meeting the Gang for the first time. Since he spent most of his time on the road, he'd been meeting people in other parts of North Dakota more than in Grand Forks. He was mightily impressed. As we sat around and talked after the mid-afternoon dinner he told me that he came from a large family–lots of aunts, uncles and cousins on both sides, but that they didn't get along very well. Large family gatherings were unheard of. He realized that this was an odd mix of family and friends, but they all acted like one big, happy family, and he really appreciated being included.

While we were talking Franklin and Phil joined us. Lenny had met them several times at our home, and they all liked each other. Franklin said, "Listen, Lenny, you're the only one here going home to a apartment by yourself. I know Tim and Charlie are downstairs, but it's not the same. Why don't you join Phil and me this evening? You shouldn't be alone Christmas night."

Lenny wasn't sure just what was being suggested and hesitated before he was ready to answer. Phil picked up on this and said, "He means you shouldn't be in bed alone on Christmas night."

Franklin said, " We won't push you into anything you'll be uncomfortable with. Come on, join us."

Tim said, "Go ahead, Lenny. It's a wonderful invitation."

He went.

As far as I know, everyone else returned to their own homes and their own partners for Christmas night. Tim and I slept in our usual spoon position, and found that hugging was all we needed. The day with the Gang had been wonderful, and we didn't need anything else.

Considering how happy Lenny looked when he came home about noon the next day, it must've been a wonderful night. As he walked in I said, "You should've brought Franklin and Phil with you; Tim and I are eager to see you all side by side, and see what the implications are."

"Any time," said Lenny. "Set it up. It'll be fun."

In January, 1975–just to help you keep track, Tim decided to tackle what he was afraid would be a difficult problem: How to create jobs for at least three theoretical particle physicists at UND. He decided to start with Fred. We did our usual routine of trying to invite Fred out to dinner, and getting invited by him instead. That night it was Jerry's Diner, and Marty joined us, as was usual for any dinner with Fred.

Tim laid out the problem, and it was Marty with the answer: "Hell, that's easy. The university needs to establish an Institute of Advanced Physics. The equipment those guys work with is so massive, and so expensive, that almost all physicists do their thinking at some university, and design experiments to be done at some major facility. Then they stand in line to get a chance to get their experiments done. The resident staff at these major facilities, like the one Ronnie's a part of at Stanford, don't have a lock on all experimental physics. There are bright people all over working in the field. What you want to do is accumulate a critical mass of such people here. The laboratory equipment they'll need close at hand won't be cheap, but it should be doable. Ronnie, Sharon, and Kyle have good reputations. With them here, with Fred's money, with all the other money you'll raise for the Institute, and the grants that Ronnie and company will bring with them, you'll be able to create a leading center. Then you'll just have to wait for Ronnie, Sharon, Kyle, or someone else to do something important and be famous. You really need a Nobel to get on the map."

Tim said, "You really think it's that simple?"

Fred said, "Am I hearing Tim the pessimist, for the first time in my life?"

"I'm trying to be a realist."

I said, "Realist is the term that all pessimists use to describe themselves."

"Stabbed in the heart."

"Yeah, and I'm going to turn the knife, if you don't change your tune."

"OK, OK. Well, then, let's move on this. The Dakota Institute for Theoretical Physics is hereby born. Marty, will you chair its outside advisory board?"

"You do move fast."

"When Charlie threatens to turn the knife, he's really threatening to withhold sex; I have to move."

"That isn't true."

"Deny it all you want; these people will believe what they want. But I know I'd better move my ass on this one. Marty, I'll call you tomorrow as soon as I get an appointment with Prexy. The next step will be to get the Physics Department on board. I'm not sure whether they're capable of thinking on your grand scale, Marty. We'll have to see."

Fred said, "Needless to say you have the full backing of my endowment funds."

"Thanks, Fred. I knew we would, but it's nice to have it confirmed."

Fred continued, "Would you like me to join you with Prexy tomorrow?"

"I don't think so. Prexy won't fight too hard, and I don't want him to think he's being ganged up upon."

Marty said, "He's being ganged up upon every time you walk in his door. And he knows it. And he loves it."

Fred said, "What about Ronnie and company? Are they going to want to rush to Grand Forks?"

Tim said, "The answer, I'm sure, is, 'Yes.' And if it isn't I'll send Charlie out to California to break some arms."

"I'd be delighted, but it won't be necessary."

The next day Prexy's response was, "I haven't got any money for such a scheme, but that's never stopped you in the past. Lots of luck!"

The Physics Department wasn't half that easy. They weren't worried about the money, they were worried about being upstaged as a department by an institute that would get the publicity, student interest, and–most importantly–grants. Tim wisely didn't push things, and simply said that it was a preliminary idea, and he'd be back to talk further when, and if, more specific ideas might be on the table.

To Fred, Marty, and me that evening he said, "I understand the concerns of the Physics Department, and, to be honest, they're right. But if the new institute is just part of the Physics Department it won't be able to attract top people and the necessary grants; nor will it have the independence to follow the latest research avenues in theoretical physics. The department here is much more oriented to traditional physics–mechanics, heat and energy, the stuff we dealt with in high school. That's still part of physics, but it's no longer cutting edge–hasn't been for a long while."

Fred said, "How much do you care what the Physics Department thinks about this?"

"I can't afford to make enemies. I need the faculty behind the changes that are going to occur at this university over the next couple of decades. I can't be fighting a rear guard action with the faculty the whole time. And I can't afford to piss off one department this year, another next year, etc. We have to make this happen with the enthusiastic support of the existing physics faculty."

Marty asked, "Are any of them sufficiently current in particle physics to be part of the institute?"

"Certainly they have people, two that I know of, who're competent in particle physics. It's been part of the curriculum for some time. There certainly isn't anyone in Ronnie's league as far as research and new ideas."

"Could there be?" I asked.

"I don't know. How would we find out?"

"How do we get them together with Ronnie?"

Fred said, "Why don't we plant the idea in the Physics Department to host a symposium on particle physics, here at UND?"

"No one would come here; they go to Stanford, MIT, Cal Tech. There's no basis for hosting it here."

I said, "Yes, there is. You don't aim your symposium at trying to cross the next great research barrier in particle physics. You aim your symposium at the real problem that a school like UND faces all the time: How does a small school, not involved in modern physics research, teach physics? Is it true that to study modern physics a student has to go to one of the top centers of research right from the freshman year? That's an important issue for a lot of schools. They'll come, especially if it's being addressed here by people of the stature of Ronnie, Kyle, and Sharon–whom we know we can get to come–and others whose arms Ronnie and company can twist to come. That kind of exposure will, I hope, excite the present physics faculty, and give Ronnie a chance to tell us what he thinks. And if we can't generate any interest in such a thing from the present faculty, then we know we have a different kind of problem. Again, I'd talk to Prexy first; he knows his people."

Tim said, "He'll be away the next two days, but I'll slip in as soon as he's back. It's nice to have an office so close by."

"That's exactly why you have that office. He wants you to slip in, keep him up to date, and share your latest dreams. That's what he's paying you for."

"I guess you're right about that."

Prexy's return gave Tim a chance to talk with him about the proposed conference. Prexy stewed on the idea for a while and then said, "We need to get this idea to arise from within the Physics Department, not the Office of the President. There is a young guy there, new last year, who I think would be open to such an idea. But the idea has to be planted from outside. And Fred would immediately be tied back to you."

Tim said, "Tell me the guy's name. I'll see if it rings any bells with Ronnie or anybody at Stanford."

"He's Assoc. Prof. J. Willard Carleton; always goes as Will. Come to think of it, I think he did his undergraduate work in California. We might make a connection."

Tim checked the records, and Prexy had been right. Will had done his undergraduate work at Berkeley. Tim was on the phone to Ronnie immediately, and by the next day Ronnie called back to say that he was a good friend of Pref. John Wilson, Will's senior advisor at UC Berkeley. Now, just exactly what did Tim want?

Tim laid out his idea in as much detail as it'd been worked out. The idea was that Ronnie, either directly somehow, or through Prof. Wilson, would suggest that a conference on the teaching of particle physics would be a good idea, but that it had to be sponsored by a small school which experienced difficulty teaching modern physics in a small setting. The idea was to get Will thinking about sponsoring it at UND. Once that got in the wind, Tim could take it from his end. Ronnie asked, "OK, find out what conferences he'll be at in the coming months."

The answer to that question showed one of the serious problems at a smaller university like UND: lack of funds for faculty to attend important conferences. Fred to the rescue. An experimental grant was proposed, and immediately accepted by Prexy, to provide conference expenses for 15 junior faculty over the next year to attend professional meetings and conferences. Interested applicants should apply. As Prexy had guessed, Will was among the first applicants. He wanted to attend a conference on quark theory in Japan in about three months. He was particularly interested in hearing a planned presentation by a team of three at Stanford who'd written some of the leading materials on quarks, starting, Will pointed out, as undergraduates at Wisconsin!

Will was going to have a more interesting trip than he ever imagined! Will's dissertation at the University of Illinois had dealt with some esoteric aspect of particle physics, and had been fairly well received. An article based on his research had been published in an obscure–at least to Tim and me–journal. We shipped the reference to Ronnie. Ronnie read the article, got a copy of the dissertation, and told us that it did, in fact, contain some interesting material, and he'd work it in to the presentation in Tokyo. It was the perfect setup for Ronnie to meet Will, and Ronnie would take it from there.

When Will's work was cited by Sharon, who happened to do the portion of the presentation to which Will's work was relevant, Will almost fell out of his chair. After the presentation he introduced himself to Sharon, who quickly introduced him to Kyle and Ronnie. Dinner was an obvious invitation, and they quickly "discovered" that they had mutual friends in Prof. Wilson at UC and Tim and Charlie at UND! Before the evening was over Will had caught the excitement that Ronnie exuded of a conference on the teaching of physics at small schools not involved in particle physics research. Ronnie assured Will that he was certain that his good friend Tim would like the idea, and Will should be sure to talk to him about it.

The next week Will was in Tim's office excitedly talking about how the UND Physics Department might host a conference on the teaching of particle physics. And he was sure that Ronnie, Kyle, and Sharon would come and be presenters. It would be a real coup for UND. Did Tim see any way that it might be funded?

Tim had to restrain himself from just handing Will a blank check from Fred, but he did allow as how Fred Milson might be willing to support such an idea through the foundation he'd established to support UND. Why didn't Will go talk to Fred?

He did, and got a wonderful reception. Fred thought it was a great idea, and had all kinds of suggestions to improve the plans–all of which cost money beyond Will's scope of imagination. The next stop was the Chair of the Physics Department, Prof. Keane, who wasn't all that creative, but who understood the importance of grant dollars–for anything–and certainly was for a conference that would (1) bring big name physicists to campus, (2) not require him to provide departmental funding, (3) not require his personal labor, and (4) would have his name on it so that it would be part of his professional vita. It was an offer no one could refuse, and Keane, not a complete fool, didn't even consider anything but giving it his full support and lending his name to the planning team.

Very quickly the Symposium on the Teaching of Particle Physics at Other than Research Universities had a life of its own. Well funded, some big names were quickly enlisted, and participants were signing up from many small universities, liberal arts colleges, and even some community colleges. Before the conference even took place UND was being praised for tackling such an important issue for the education of physicists for the twenty-first century. Will proved to be an able administrator, and Fred immediately suggested that they hire a full time administrative assistant for him until the conference was completed. Will confided in Tim, "I've never had a chance to do something like this where money wasn't even a consideration. I can't believe Fred."

Tim replied, "Nobody can, but if he latches onto an idea, it's go, go, go. He's got more money that he knows what do to with, and he loves things like this."

In addition to Will, three members of the Physics Department made major contributions to the planning for the conference, and were slated to give presentations outlining their difficulties in teaching physics away from a research environment. Ronnie flew in twice for the planning sessions, and he told Tim that he thought that the four, including Will, were just exactly the kind of material that could be counted on for support of an Institute at the University.

The conference itself, now called a symposium (who knew the difference, but it sounded grander?), was almost an anti-climax when it was held in October, 1975. It was well attended, well received, led to the publication of several major papers, and was the basis for significant change in the teaching of physics over the next few years.

Tim and I invited Will, Prexy, Fred, Marty, Ronnie, Sharon, and Kyle to dinner on the last night of the symposium. By this time we all knew that we had a tremendous success on our hands, a huge feather in Will's cap, and stars in the crown of the University of North Dakota. It was true confessions time. Tim started it, "Will, we all have a confession to make. You were set up. This conference wasn't dreamed up by Ronnie sitting out in California, but in Fred's head sitting around this dinner table. To succeed it had to come from within the Physics Department not the Office of the President. You took the bait of a free conference trip, we set you up to meet Ronnie, Sharon and Kyle, and the rest is history. And we picked the right man, because you took the idea and ran, and made a huge success of the whole thing."

Prexy said, "The University of North Dakota owes you a great debt of gratitude for your hard work on this project."

Will said, "Wait a minute. What if I hadn't gone to Japan. I could've applied to go to a conference in New York, Chicago, or anywhere."

Ronnie said, "Sharon, Kyle, and I would've been there. The stars were completely aligned by Fred, and it was fore-ordained that we'd meet. John Wilson had already told us that you were, in his words, 'One smart cookie,' so we were determined to meet you."

Prexy said, "Now for our next trick we think we should let you in on the secret from the beginning."

"Next trick?"

Prexy continued, "We want to start an Institute for Advanced Physics here at the University. It needs to be separate from the Physics Department, but fully supported by the department. We're hoping that you'll carry the ball for that idea. Tim and Fred will guide you, and provide funding. As soon as we move it along far enough we'll start a feasability study, and we'd like you to chair that. That would be a three-quarter time assignment. If all goes well, and we get the Institute established, you'd hold an endowed chair as Professor of Physics."

"Is that a question?"

"I guess. We're sort of assuming your answer."

"Assume away."

Tim said, "Ronnie, Sharon, and Kyle will be joining the Institute as well, as soon as we can get it established. But it'll probably take a couple of years."

Will said, "I smell a rat."

Fred said, "We kind of figured you would."

"One of the key goals of this whole thing is to bring these three here, isn't it?"

"You said that, we didn't. There are some personal reasons why they'd like to come to Grand Forks, but they'll make a wonderful contribution to the University as well. We don't think there's anything underhanded in all of this, but we'll admit that we'd just as soon the personal reasons weren't public."

"I understand. I appreciate your being honest with me."

Prexy said, "Look, Will. I'm going to put my cards on the table. We used you a little, but in the process you proved to be an excellent administrator, and we learned that you're also an excellent physicist. The offer we're making now is based on that, and entirely on that. But you're seeing the back side of university politics. I hope it doesn't bother you."

"Not at all. I don't see anything here that isn't fully in the interest of the university. And I still am having a hard time believing that you all pulled this off the way you did. And not only did I get a chance to meet, get to know, and work with Ronnie, Sharon, and Kyle, I now learn that we're going to be colleagues. Don't ever pop my balloon."

It would be three years in the planning, but the arrival of Ronnie, Kyle, and Sharon at Grand Forks was now assured!

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead