Revenge of the Nerd Ch. 59byrpsuch©
My final semester was my busiest.
Jeff's trainer helped me develop my own strength training program which I followed with dedication. I wasn't in bad shape but I wanted to show Jeff I supported him.
I called Sandy at least once a week just to chat. Jen and I were getting together regularly as well.
After only twenty-one years I had real friends.
I guess I had to count Sunny in that category too.
I spoke regularly with my mother about wedding plans. Then I would call Sunny to settle me down because it was more my parents' wedding than mine.
The funny thing was, had I not met Jeff and been changed by him I would have been a harridan. No detail of the wedding would have been too insignificant for me not to have my way.
Occasionally I would ask Jeff's opinion. He would always tell me to do whatever made me happy; he was getting to marry me and that was enough for him.
I was pretty sure it was sincere and not just the diplomatic version of, "I don't care."
It might not have mattered if he did care. He had no time to express an opinion.
With his workouts added to his school work, he was exhausted much of the time.
His feelings for me hadn't changed. We cuddled every night. But he rarely had the energy for more than that.
Wasn't this supposed to happen ten to fifteen years down the road when he was fighting to reach his appropriate level of management and I was running around after the kids while trying to have a career?
If this was what marriage was going to be like, I wasn't sure I wanted to be married. How many times had I had that thought lately?
Spring break was approaching and I was reviewing the semester in the kitchen. Jeff was studying in the workout room. I heard the bell ring and went to the front door to answer it.
I was greeted by the sight of Jeff's faculty advisor. He had brought a buddy with him - the president of the university. I couldn't imagine what they were doing here and it made me a little nervous.
"Please come in," I said.
I didn't want to appear unsettled so I thought about how Jeff might handle this. I decided he would do it with humor.
"It's about time," I said. "Three and a half years I've been here and finally you come to see me."
That drew laughs from both of them after a slight hesitation to assess whether I was serious. My acting skills were unparalleled.
"Yes," said the president. "But I can see you've got everything under control. As long as we're here, perhaps we could speak with Jeff as well."
I chuckled. "Please sit down. I'll get him."
"Who was it?" he asked as I came into the room.
"You're in big trouble. You didn't listen to the wisdom of your faculty advisor and not only has he returned to get you in line, he brought reinforcements."
"Who was it really?"
"Your faculty advisor and the president of the university."
He got up slowly with a look of concern and disbelief.
They exchanged greetings and Malcolm, Jeff's advisor, said, "You're welcome to stay, Ashley."
"Like there's any chance you could keep me away."
Malcolm said, "Jeff, we've been trying to figure out what to do with you."
"What to do with me?"
Malcolm looked at Dr. Lloyd who barely shook his head. I understood it to mean he wasn't ready to speak.
Malcolm continued, "After we spoke last time I decided to follow up. You didn't seem to make any changes. The students still weren't that happy with you. The assistants were still complaining and that's in spite of you taking some time where you didn't come to classes.
"It seemed like a good idea to follow up with the professors and I discovered some interesting things.
"For one, there were a few students who had indicated to the assistants that some of the things you talked about actually helped them to understand what was going on. Some asked you questions outside of class and you showed no reluctance to help them."
"Why would I have any reluctance to help anyone?"
"Not everybody is like you Jeff," I said. "Many people see that as giving away an advantage."
Jeff looked confused. He had no concept of normal.
Malcolm wore a bemused smile. "In any event, it seems you were trying to be helpful while you were inadvertently muddying the waters. As you're probably aware, professors regularly check in on the assistants to make sure things are going smoothly.
"A number of them told me you added quite a bit to the classes; not always as much as you detracted, but significant nonetheless. Dr. Lloyd?"
"I talked with all your professors, Jeff. I've never heard anything like it. Each one, on his or her own, said it was pointless for you to take finals. You demonstrated mastery in class far beyond anything they hoped to impart. And they marveled at your finals and papers for the fall semester.
"As much as they knew of you and expected of you, they were awed by your work.
"So, the first part of what I have to say to you is congratulations. You have finished all your coursework for your Ph.D. and all you have to do is defend your dissertation."
"I don't have to do any work or study or anything?" asked Jeff.
"You just have to follow the strictest standard available: do what you think you should."
He got that right. There might be people who groused about how Jeff did things or how it made other people feel when he did things his way, but he had no harsher critic than himself.
"We've assembled your committee and I'm afraid here again you've gone beyond expectations. We have all read your supplemental materials which, in theory you have to defend. The thing is, with the statistics you have provided and the results of the program series you ran on historic disease mutations nobody has any real questions except how the hell did you do it.
"Whether any of that is proprietary information to Second Foundation is irrelevant to that question. Even if you could detail every aspect of your approach, none of us would understand it."
"Amen to that," said Malcolm.
"I've discussed this with the board and, with their approval, this is what I'd like to suggest. First, you have earned your Ph.D. You don't have to do anything further. Second, don't return to class as a student. You're not a student; you're a graduate. Third, we would like you to take on the role of a professor. Pick some subset of the classes you were taking and try to come up with as many lectures as you reasonably can to enhance the students' understanding.
"I believe this will be no problem for you since you have already put in so much effort to assist your classmates when they requested help."
"Dr. Lloyd," I said, "I just want to clarify what you are asking. When you say as many lectures as he reasonably can prepare, you are not telling him to burn the midnight oil as well as the candle at both ends, are you?"
Both Malcolm and Dr. Lloyd had a good laugh at that one.
"Jeff, Dr. Goldberg, I defer to the terms negotiated by your agent. I had no intention of asking you to put in absurd hours. I want to stay on your good side. There's another aspect to this.
"We'd like you to develop a course you can teach here next year. We want you on staff. I know about your contract with Second Foundation. Plan it however you like. You can have it run all day several weekends, a day a week, every other week, any way you like. You can even have some sessions off campus if that makes it possible for you to accommodate our objective. We feel you have something unique to offer our students."
Jeff seemed almost dazed. Any part of this would have been entirely unexpected. All of it together was so shocking it was difficult to imagine how to develop a context for it let alone give an answer.
"That's okay," said Dr. Lloyd. "I understand this was somewhat of a surprise. It must be very difficult to come up with an answer without taking some time to think about it. And you certainly have to talk with your employer to determine if it is feasible. I didn't expect an immediate answer."
"Well, I do have a lot to think about for the long term. With respect to your request that I prepare some material for the remainder of the semester, I would be happy to do that. Thank you for all your generosity. I am deeply appreciative."
"You have earned it all, sir," said Dr. Lloyd.
"That you have," said Malcolm.
Holy shit thought me.
As we saw them out I was thinking about how I was going to explain this all to Jeff.