The spring semester at Hubbard State University is almost complete, with final exams being administered this week. Marcus Harnack isn’t even required to take the final Chemistry exam due to the fact that he already has enough points to get an “A” in the class. He told his professor that he was going to take the final exam anyway, “Just to see if I can Ace it.” The professor seemed pleased.
This Chemistry course, Marcus’ first foray into academia, has been an eye opener. Initially intimidated by his younger, hipper, I-pod using, cell phone addicted, well-dressed classmates, Marcus lives no more with anxiety. After all, he, Marcus Harnack, is the king of the jungle, with the highest grade in the class. While his classmate competitors have spent their evenings logged on to myspace.com, Marcus has been reading his chemistry book and spending time in the lab. While they have wasted their days sitting around in the student center visiting with friends, Marcus was slaving away at the foundry. They don’t know where he came from, this plaid-shirted, blue-jeaned “Marcus” character, but they do know that he is the “curve breaker.” They are the “pretenders.” Marcus is their master.
While his fellow students are secretly envious, Marcus’ chemistry professor is openly impressed by his comprehension of the material. Last week he called Marcus into his office. “Marcus,” he said, “In my fifteen years teaching at this University I have never encountered a student that has mastered Chemistry the way you have. Quite simply, son, you are destined to a future far from the grinding floor at the foundry. You have the brains to become a metallurgist or a chemical engineer.” Marcus gasped, “But how am I going to be able to afford an education? I’ve got to work for a living, my parents don’t have the money to help me, and tuition is expensive. If I don’t go to school full-time it will take me forever to finish college.”
“College isn’t an expenditure, son, it is an investment,” said the Professor. “They have Pell grants, student loans, and I can help you get some scholarships. I want you to work at the foundry this summer, save up as much as you can, and enroll here next fall as a full-time student. Maybe the foundry will let you work part time and on weekends. You can do this, son!” Marcus was shocked. His life was about to change. He knew that college was the place for him and he had absolutely no fear about succeeding. He told his chemistry professor that he was probably going to enroll full time in the fall. “Great”, said the professor.
Later that week Marcus stopped by Dave’s house for career advice. Everyone knew Dave was rich, but moreover he was the town “Renaissance Man,” knowing more about almost anything than anyone Marcus had ever met. Dave was pleased by Marcus’ news. When Marcus expressed his doubts about the financial barriers to attending college full-time, Dave said, “Marcus, the average male college graduate makes over $1 million more than the average high school graduate over a lifetime. If you’re going into engineering the earnings spread will be even greater. The $50,000 you will have to borrow to attend four years of college is a pittance compared to the additional income you will earn. Go for it, my boy!”
The next morning while work at the foundry, Marcus told metallurgical engineer Paul Kedzic about the success that he had experienced in his Chemistry course at Hubbard State. Paul said, “Why didn’t you tell me you had enrolled?” Marcus said, “Because I didn’t want to disappoint you if I did badly.” “I knew you would do well,” said Paul. “Next week let’s get together and I’ll help you with your scholarship planning.”
After work, Marcus’ buddy Frank Rogers called from Minneapolis, inviting him next weekend for some fun in Uptown. When Marcus told Frank about his decision to pursue his engineering degree, Frank was so surprised and happy that he almost dropped the phone! Later that evening Marcus went to his parent’s house for dinner. When he announced his decision his dad smiled and his mom cried. Timmy didn’t quite know what to think about his big brother going to college, but he could sense Marcus’ happiness. “Maybe I better start studying harder next year in fifth grade,” said Timmy, “I might want to go to college just like Marcus.”