The Most Lucrative Dissertation Defense

“Desperate University” is a college at the foot of a canyon in the Great Plains between Interstates 85 and 212 in South Dakota. The school includes undergraduate and graduate degrees for poor students with very little money. Founded in 1901 by an archeologist who got lost in the desert, apparently seeking old Spanish ruins. According […]



“Desperate University” is a college at the foot of a canyon in the Great Plains between Interstates 85 and 212 in South Dakota. The school includes undergraduate and graduate degrees for poor students with very little money. Founded in 1901 by an archeologist who got lost in the desert, apparently seeking old Spanish ruins. According to legend, only some of the Sioux Native tribe heard the voice of the archeologist who had run out of food and water. As he was dying, he yelled repeatedly “Help me! I’m desperate!”

The Sioux could only understand the word “desperate” or “desperado” because they had learned a little basic Spanish from their ancestors who fell to the Spanish conquistadors. Over the years, the native Americans talked about “Mr. Desperate”. Unfortunately, the man died when the tribe traced his voice. The tribe searched the man’s clothes and discovered the archeologist was carrying over $5,000 in cash.

Over the next few decades, Desperate’s money was used to improve life for local native Americans. Most of the money had been used for schools, including a small college where local native Americans could attend at affordable tuition rates. By the year 2005, American high school graduates with financial problems from across the country enrolled in “Desperate” for their low tuition. Desperate University had done all it could to acquire more money to keep the school open.

However, this all changed when a student studying for his Ph.D. graduate degree in Microscopic Geology, named Steve Gem who had received a basic metal detector from his parents for his birthday. When Steve received the detector, he went out in the desert and began waving his new detector across acres of sand, searching for meteorites. The desert was teaming with many rocks that were in his way. So, he tried to keep his machine from going over them, he accidentally swerved the detector over a small rock, his ears caught an enormous “BEEEPPP” sound.

He lifted the rock and saw a larger outcropping that appeared to be a dirty gray-yellow color. He pulled it out of the ground with all his strength, and the rock reluctantly pulled out of the sand. It looked gnarly and deformed. Steve tried to pick it up, but it was extremely heavy; he guessed its weight was approximately over 20 pounds. Steve spat on parts of the rock and noticed it was a pale, yellow color. Then it dawned on him that the “rock” might be a giant gold nugget!

Steve was so excited that he lifted it and walked back to his truck which was several hundred meters away. Fifteen minutes later, he was so exhausted, he used his last bit of energy to lift it in the truck’s bed and lay some canvas bags on top of it, so nobody would see it.

That night, Steve clandestinely heaved the “rock” with the bags around it, and slipped in the Geology Department Lab. He rinsed it completely in a sink, which revealed a dark golden color. Then he took a metal cutter to take off flake samples from the rock. Then he put them under a microscope and examined them. After an hour, he concluded that mass of rock was indeed a gold nugget and not “Fool’s Gold”, also known as “Pyrite”.

As Steve’s heart raced with joy, he slid the nugget in his backpack, and hid it in his dormitory under his bed until the day came for Steve to defend his dissertation. After years of studying Geology in college and graduate school at Desperate University, this was his day to defend his dissertation about breakthrough in the desert in which he had mapped the area where he had found the 25-pound gold nugget and also discovered more gold.

A week later, he walked into the committee room he saw his professors from the Geology department. He tensed up with his dissertation in hand which he was trying not to clench. He brought his backpack containing the gold nugget and announced his findings. The head of the Geology department Dr. “Rocky” A. Stalagmite and other professors from the department eagerly opened their eyes wide when Steve took the nugget out. When Steve explained his work which reflected in his dissertation in which he mapped the desert area where he found more gold. He exclaimed his research would benefit many people, including himself, of course that would pay millions of dollars for the knowledge on that dissertation.

Then he looked at the greedy faces of his committee, looking at Steve with their eyes wide opened. Dr. Stalagmite asked him, “Now have you talked to anyone about your findings?”

Steve replied, “Well, I have been talking to many companies who would pay handsomely for the gold in the desert.”

“Well, I think we are ready to discuss Steve’s dissertation. Steve, why don’t you go outside and we’ll contact you after we finish discussing this.”

After a few minutes, Steve heard scuffling noises and yelling in the committee room. Inside, all of the professors were trying to grab the map, and all were yelling, “Give it to me!” “It’s mine!” After thirty minutes, the room suddenly burst open with professors shoving each other. Dr. Pebble, a tiny woman had the map-dissertation. Then she fell but got up and ran to the elevator with the entire Geology department professors still chasing her.

When she got to the elevator, it was already open. She ran in and hit the close button. She ran her fingers on the buttons and pushed “Floor 1”. When she got there, all members of the committee had taken the stairs and were waiting for her.

The whole production was a mess, but It can be said that Steve’s dissertation had been “defended” very well. After a few days, the president of the university asked Steve to come to his office. He told Steve that if he wanted to earn his doctorate, he would be forced to “donate” the map to the school, plus half the gold nugget’s value to go to Steve. Steve thought that with an ounce of gold worth $1,700, the price of the 25-pound nugget came to $6,120,000. Steve thought that was a fair trade.

So, it can be said “Desperate University” was no longer “desperate” for money but would be named “Gem University” after Steve Gem’s map made the school rich.

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