Algae Cell

Michael Jordan, basketball star and botany student

a true story about the education of the gifted by the naive

by Craig A. Smith

The year was 1977 and I had accepted a teaching assistantship (TA) with the Botany Department at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Willie Koch Bolette sporophyte

My first assignment was Botany 10 with professor "Willie" Koch. The biological equivalent of Rocks for Jocks, this was "the biggest slide at the university" by the professor’s own admission. Here you could get college credit for brewing your own beer, getting drunk, and describing the experience in 250 words or less.

Karen McDougal Frozen Ivy

The 150 freshmen were divided in half. I got A-M and Karen McDougal took N-Z. The first day of class they told me

"Look Craig! You have Michael Jordan."

"Michael who?" At that time, he was well know on Campus, but had not gained the national recognition he holds today.

inside a dead tree Saracina (pitcher plant) I didn’t see him again until the last day of class.  By then I was well aquainted with his basketball bravado, and so I was wringing my hands asking how could I fail this sports hero?"

"Don’t worry, the coach will fix it for him"

advised the professor.

I was relieved.  But then I started thinking.  What if I were to register for a class, but then not attend and get an F, but then my coach fixed it for me. Why would I take Botany 10? Why not ancient Greek philosophy or high-energy particle physics?   Something that would look good on the resume in case the basketball thing didn’t work out.

Copyright © 2003 by Craig A. Smith

updated 2003-12-28
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