Alumni Stories

Computer and Information Science Alumni — An Anecdote from Richard C.S. "Doc" Kinne, '87

Oswego was the best four years of my life. Its teachers are not only knowledgeable and tough about teaching their craft but also fair and very human. They were not afraid to take a joke.

One of the best people in the Computer Science Department is Professor Doug Lea. I have many, many stories about Doug. From a professional point of view he is dedicated to a fault. It was he who usually let me into Snygg Hall on Sunday morning.

On a human level Doug also knew how to take a joke. For example, there was the time I convinced the entire Algorithm Analysis class that we didn't have to take the final exam.

The exam was scheduled for 2:00PM and a few of us had gathered in Snygg Hall to study for it beforehand. I needed a break and so I got up and strolled down the hall to Doug's office. As usual he was there, feet up on the desk, busily typing at the keyboard nestled in his lap. "Doug," I said as I approached the door, "you grade on a complete curve, right?"

He looked up at me. "Yes," he said, "you know that."

A gleam came into my eye. "OK, that means that if everybody got the same grade on the final then everyone would have the same grade coming out of the final as they had going in. Right?"

"Uh huh," Doug agreed.

"That means that if everyone got a zero on the final we'd all have the same grade final grade coming out of the final as we had coming in."

Doug was beginning to see where I was going with this. "Yes," he said a bit more cautiously.

"That means if everyone - EVERYONE - agrees to take a zero on the final we'll all have the same grade coming out of the final as we had going in."

Doug smiled. "I don't think you'll get everyone to agree to that."

"But if I could?" I asked.

"Well...yes."

"Great!" I smiled at him and went back down the hall to the rest of the study group. "Do you want to take this final?" I asked them as I approached. They looked at me as if I'd lost my mind. I related the conversation I'd just had with Doug Lea. A couple who didn't believe me went and confirmed what I'd told them.

As classmates wandered in to get ready for the final we pounced on them and related our story. Readily they agreed to the plan. As final time approached we had gotten everyone except two people to agree. Dejected the class walked into the exam room...and found the two people we hadn't been able to talk to sitting in the room waiting for the exam! The class pounced!

Now this was a joke to me, I never expected it to come off. I went back down the hall to get my customary danish and Coke. When I came back down the hall the entire class was clustered around the outside of Doug's office door. As I started moving through the crowd I heard Doug talking...

"Now it's true," he was saying, "that I grade on a complete curve and under such circumstances it's also true that if everyone got a zero on the final that would mathematically mean that you'd all get the same final grade coming out of the final as you did going in." I moved through the crowd, getting closer and closer to the front. Doug continued. "However, as the teacher, I would consider everyone getting a zero on the final..." I was almost at the front of the crowd... "...to be a very good indication that you should all..." I was at the front. I looked up at Doug. "...FAIL!"

I looked up at Doug. "See what I did?"

He looked down at me. "I'm going to kill you," he smiled.

A week later I stopped by Doug's office. "You know," he said, "you got a better final grade because you took the final than if your little scheme had worked out." I just smiled.