Graduation: Who could it be?

Lee St. John, a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, is a No.1 Amazon ranked humorous author. Look for her on Facebook, Twitter (@LeeStJohnauthor), and her blog at Her new release, “SHE’S A KEEPER! Cockamamie Memoirs from a Hot Southern Mess” can be found on

Area high schools have finished with their pomp and circumstance or in other words: graduation. This formal name might have been taken from Act III, Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s Othello:
Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump, The spirit-stirring drum, th’ear-piercing fife, The royal banner, and all quality, Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!
I was a high school English teacher. I know things like this.
So you’d think I’d be reputable, right? Let me tell you a story which I heard about in the 1960s. Take your pick: A fabrication, a myth, or an urban legend. Whatever it is, this story was told to me as truth. And when it came to extremely smart, bored, mischievous students’ hi-jinx in the early 1960s at the University of Georgia, I believed it.
UGA is the flagship school for the state of Georgia. It is big. BIG! It’s always had a huge enrollment. In Fall 2018, its enrollment was 38,246. (When Georgia State University added Perimeter College, their enrollment as of Fall 2018 shot up to 52,814. Even Kennesaw State University’s enrollment for Fall 2018 was 35,420. So, there’s Georgia’s Top-Three largest learning institutions.) You had better have some self control to attend the University of Georgia. It could eat you up and spit you out if you weren’t disciplined enough.
I’d always known that the really, really smart genius type of students had their own kind of pranks. Today they might hack into computers, but in the 1960s they were pulling different escapades. Still shocking but in this instance not harmful to others.
And here it is: A group of boys created a phantom student, a non-real, yet class-attending, test-taking undergraduate. Now I can’t tell you specifics as this story happened before my time there, but this made-up pupil enrolled, was accepted, paid tuition, and graduated in four years. I don’t know who these devil-may-care creators were, I don’t know how many were involved to pull this prank off, but I heard that at the end of four years, this student, whose name I forgot but very similar to the name, Alfred E. Neuman from MAD Magazine, was this figment of their imagination.
They could get away with it at the time because enrollment and test taking was all done with a #2 pencil and scan sheets. If one enrolled in a general education core class or a popular major where the classes met in large auditoriums, the professors at the time were not able to identify students or track them as easily. This ruse went on for four years. The guys pooled their money and paid for this hallucination’s education.
The tricksters may have duplicated their efforts if they themselves were in a certain major, let’s say a general business major, to pull this off. Take two tests at one time with a student number they made up from the beginning. It was possible.
And when graduation came, a diploma was waiting for this mirage. His name was called and called and no such person responded on stage to receive it. Those who initiated this spoof had a grand time knowing they pulled it off.
You don’t have to believe it if you don’t want.




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