The Genius on Campus

The King 1

We’ve all met that one kid who was smarter than everyone else. They were better at math, science, spelling bees….you name it.

My first encounter with this type of kid was from a boy named Jeff. We were in the 8th grade and Jeff wanted to be a physicist. Not only could I not spell it I hadn’t a clue what the thing was.

But in college there was a different kind of beast and he went by the name of Rich.


Allow me to introduce The King

Rich was a chemistry major. He lived quietly in my dorm directly across from my room. He was polite, he was private and you’d never see him out much unless a rerun of MASH or Star Trek was playing in the TV lounge.

Rich was a legend in the chemistry world. Not only did chemistry majors come to him with questions but teachers as well. I once heard a rumor he presented a new discovery to the science board.

Yes, Rich was the King.

But one day things changed and for a little while it was me who became the King….well, kind of.

Allow me to explain.


A Frightful Beginning

One day I saw Rich sitting on the front steps outside our dorm. It was an unusual site given how private he was.

His face was white, his eyes staring off into space. It was clear he was sweating. Did I mention it was January?

 Fearing the worst I joined him and asked if he was okay.

“No,” he answered.

He held a sheet of paper in his hand. His eyes watery. It was clear he was in full panic mode.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said.

To meet his academic requirements Rich had to take an English class. What he thought was something minor turned into his own personal hell.


The King is ill

Rich had accidently signed up for a creative writing class. The assignment: 20 page minimum fictional shorty story. To add to the horror he waited too long to change it. 

The man who many called a genius had no idea what to do. How do you make things up? How do you create people who aren’t real?

To add to his nightmare his perfect A from grade school to college was in serious danger. Something unheard of in his world.


I had an idea

I could have wished him luck and walked away but instead I asked if I could help. I explained to him one of my hobbies was writing stories. Not the real kind, I explained, but the made up kind like the one your teacher wants you to do.

For a brief second, or maybe an entire minute, I was pretty sure he thought I was crazy but once he understood I was his knight in shining armor Rich happily accepted my offer.

Rich was no dummy.


Hawkeye and Captain Kirk

Every week for the entire semester Rich and I went to work. Not surprisingly he chose a Star Trek theme with just a sprinkle of MASH.

He wrote a page. Soon two and on the day he completed ten pages you would have thought he cured the world’s ugliest disease.

His strength was plot. His weakness was people but with just the right amount of push he slowly improved.

With the final draft complete we celebrated with his first trip to the campus bar. I saw him unwind a little. His collar not so tight, an actual beer buzz taking hold.

He knew his story was not A material but I convinced him all the teacher wanted was effort and it was clear his story had it.

Back then we got our grades in the mail. I left him my number and told him to call. While enjoying spring break I received a call from a soft happy voice. He passed with an A just like I promised.

When school began Rich went back to his quiet studious self but every now and then I’d catch him with a smile and a sense of ease.

Rich was the smartest person I ever met but for a little while I was able to help the genius on campus.   



28 thoughts on “The Genius on Campus

  1. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. And majors.

    My husband’s father has a cousin (named Rich) who is that genius. Right down to the science major and the legendary grades. I briefly wondered if you were talking about him, but then I realized he’s too old. Regardless, I totally related to this story (even if I was picturing our Rich instead of yours). I love that you helped him out, loved even more that he relaxed just a little. You did that. Kudos, Bryan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The best part was seeing him unwind a bit. He was so focused. It was clear he was going to achieve a goal and nothing else. That included socializing. I remember the following year we were able to talk him into pizza a couple of times.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great story Bryan! Somehow those are the kinds of people that need help with what we think are easy subjects and vice versa. I worked in the department of Civil Engineering at another University for over seven years. I was getting my bachelor’s at the time and math was NOT something I liked or looked forward to. My supervisor was the Associate Director and math came easy to him. He offered to tutor me in “basic” math and one day he just turned and looked at me and said “How do you not understand this? This is elementary school stuff” and that was enough for me to walk away from my tutoring with him for good. We don’t like to be reminded of how stupid not knowing something makes us feel. But later on when my job entailed editing and copy-writing technical reports that the department submitted to TxDOT because they funded most of our research, it became apparent that he nor anyone else that was an engineer would write. They had four of the tech reports returned because of inconsistent and irrational technical explanations, they asked me to help. So after reviewing I made tons of corrections, then they (my Director and Associate Director) read through the edited reports and thanked me for helping them. My supervisor then said “This is so good, how did you do this?” and the snarky smart-ass in me said “How do you not understand this? This is elementary school stuff?” and went to lunch, lol. Only because he said it in a sarcastic tone, otherwise I would have let it be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a great story. Made my day!!!

      This is a perfect example of how we think. All of us have something that comes easy. I could never master chemistry and I’d be a fool to try but something in Rich’s mind clicked. Your story and mind are prefect examples of that.


  3. Having been a chemistry major with an unexpected English requirement standing in the way of my graduating in four years, I can appreciate your help. I wasn’t a genus, but when you need help, it’s nice to find a willing volunteer. Kudos to you for stepping up.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s what I was wondering– what ended up happening to him. Wouldn’t it be something if he kept writing after that class? If he were a bestselling sci-fi author now?


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