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Finals Week Chronicles

graphic of three students sitting at desks

In the Fall 2023 issue of the IU Alumni Magazine, we asked readers for their memories of the stressful week at the end of a semester. From a massive snowball fight to a mid-exam evacuation to a “victory cigar,” the stories that follow truly capture the uniqueness of finals week.

Late to the Party

My tenure at IU lasted an additional semester simply because I didn’t pay enough attention to the requirements of my public administration degree.

During my senior year, I realized that I needed another required course to graduate. I’m not 100 percent, but V450 comes to mind when I attempt to recall the course number. Regardless, I needed to complete the course. During registration for the Fall 1985 semester, I chose to take human sexuality in addition to V450, because I assumed it would be an easy and interesting class. While very interesting and informative, human sexuality was not an easy class. Cut to finals week—my V450 final was on the first day of finals at 9 a.m. My human sexuality final was on the very last day at 7 p.m.! I was the very last of a core group of friends to arrive at Hooligan’s (if memory serves me correctly) in Dunkirk Square. I was hours (and many drinks) behind the graduation celebration. In the end, it taught me a valuable lesson in attention to detail and planning that has served me well throughout my post-college life.

—Richard Johnson, BS’85

Phone Call Flurry

In December 1984, I was a freshman in Willkie North. There was a snowstorm during finals week, so my roommate (Amy Luker Nagel, BS’88) and I decided we should organize a snowball fight. This was way before cell phones or email, so we went through the dorm phonebook and called every Willkie number on our dorm rotary phone and said, “Snowball fight, Willkie North at midnight,” hung up, and dialed the next number.

So many people showed up, and it was awesome—until the police came! Someone more studious than us must have called them. I don’t remember what finals we should have been studying for, but I remember the snowball fight!

—Cathy Coram DaPuzzo, BS’88, MA’99

Rewarding Experiences

I am a firm believer in traditions! During each of my seven years on the Bloomington campus, I did the following: 1. At the end of every semester, before finals week, I would purchase a nice cigar to lay within eyeshot of my dormitory study desk. I knew it was my reward—my “victory cigar” for surviving finals and achieving successful grades. After completing my very last exam, I would walk outside, step to the side of the entrance, and light up that victory cigar! It was liberating doing that while looking up at the sky and clouds and knowing I was free—at least for a while! 2. At the end of each school year, I would return to my dorm room, open the windows wide, and place my stereo speakers outward—then play a song for everyone outside. It was the song by R. Dean Taylor titled “Indiana Wants Me.” The lyrics, I thought, were a playful statement after an entire school year, before leaving for the summer. The lyrics and main refrain are: “Indiana wants me. Lord, I can’t go back there.” Of course, I kept coming back to IU Bloomington for a total of seven years, but that’s another story!

—Kenneth W. Arnold, BS’79, MBA’82

Night Terrors

I was the exception: Night-before cramming was not my style, and I never pulled an all-nighter. I hit the books hard [in the] days before, but the night before finals, I overviewed the material and wrapped up by bedtime to enjoy a good night’s sleep. That was my reality. But in my dreams, things were much different. Even now, decades later, I occasionally have dreams of finals week in which I am totally unprepared, not having cracked a textbook in weeks, even forgetting entirely that I was enrolled in a class that now confronts me with a final examination. Such is the curse of test anxiety that we carry with us for a lifetime.

—Bennett Hollenberg, MD’81

Tough Times

I was completing my freshman year at IU in May 1950. My roommate was having a difficult time in sociology—she had a D average and needed a good grade on her final. We were taking the same class with the same professor, so I couldn’t understand why she was doing so poorly when I was getting a good grade. I asked to see her class notes and discovered that her notes were nothing like mine—you would think we were taking entirely different classes. I had her throw away her notes and use mine.  She got a B on her exam. I still had one more exam, but then we received the news that Jerry Stuteville, ’50, one of our best basketball players, had been killed in a car accident on his way to the Indy 500. Like all IU fans, I was devastated by this news. I had trouble studying for my last exam, but I was determined to do well despite crying. I had to pull myself together and did end up with a good grade.

—Dorothy Gray Rheinhardt, BS’52

Math Whiz

During my Calculus 1 final in December 1974, a fire alarm went off in the building halfway through the exam. Before evacuating the lecture hall, we were told to turn in our test papers and come back the following day at a designated time to complete the exam. Upon our return, before restarting the final, the professor made an announcement: “Would student Phil Vogelgesang please stand up?” (Whereupon I stood.) The professor continued: “I guess my exam was not challenging enough. As Mr. Vogelgesang had already completed his exam yesterday before the fire drill and received an A, he is excused from the remainder of the exam and may leave now.” I walked triumphantly up and out of the large lecture hall in front of my more than 300 classmates, enjoying my brief 15 minutes of IU fame.

—Phil Vogelgesang, BA’75, JD’78 

Final-less Week

When I read your request for memories of finals week, I tried to remember any as an undergraduate and failed to recall any. I realized why: I was a computer science major. There were fewer than 20 of us in that department at the time, and our grades were mostly based on projects that we had completed weeks earlier. I do remember my then-fiancée (now wife of more than 50 years) being incommunicado during finals. I then went to medical school in Indianapolis where the pressure was just about continuous, so finals week wasn’t that different than any other week. I do remember a lecture at the end of the year where the professor, an anatomist, discussed his two favorite bones (the temporal and the calcaneus if I remember correctly). After he’d introduced the subject of his talk, one of the smart members of the class asked if this was going to be on the exam. When he said “no,” she and about half the class got up and left.

—Steve Jacobs, BA’73, MD’77

Sweet Studies

My favorite memory of finals week at IU is the annual celebration in “Claus’s Lounge,” in the old Music Building, on the Friday of finals week. Helen Claus (and her “elves”) would have tables filled with fruit, cakes, cookies, and all kinds of goodies. I remember my first year at IU, I finished an 8 a.m. final, came downstairs, and was overwhelmed by the beautifully decorated tables and all the food. At that point in the week, all of us were exhausted and the idea that someone would do something so kind for us, I’ll never forget it.

—Lyn Ellen Burket, PhD’01

Written By

Lacy Nowling Whitaker

Lacy, a Bloomington native, earned two degrees from IU Bloomington (BA'08, MA'14) and is the Director of Content with the IU Alumni Association.

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