brassratProfessor Patrick Henry Winston ’65, SM ’67, PhD ’70

For an undergraduate, it’s four and sometimes a little more, and for a graduate student, it’s one to who knows how many. It’s really not a long time, yet somehow we are all imprinted forever, as if we were just-hatched birds.

The Alumni Leadership Conference was this past week, so I saw a lot of alumni in the Infinite Corridor, some young and some no longer young, but all highly imprinted and eager to learn how to be better at running an alumni club, raising money, interviewing prospective students, or expanding the reach of the Infinite Connection.

That brass-rat-infested Infinite Connection has a wonderfully world-shrinking, sometimes surprising effect.

When I was back in East Peoria, in high school, my good friend Allen Johnson and I used to enjoy chemistry experiments, mostly focused on failed fermentation efforts and on improving our not-so-good recipes for making gunpowder.

Allen, whom I haven’t seen since high-school graduation, pitched up as a respondent to my Nightmare at the Center of the Universe piece, recalling the nightmarish occasion when he brought some real gunpower around. Amazingly, we weren’t killed by the experiment we performed, but we did blow quite a large hole in our workbench. Neither of us was seriously hurt, but Allen went into shock and thought he had blown his hand off. I was trying to concoct a good cover-up story when Allen’s parents showed up and dragged him off to the emergency room. Good thing they did; we didn’t know that powder burns call for tetanus shots—explosions can blow the tetanus bacteria on your skin right through into the meat.

Maybe that was the imprinting moment that started Allen off on a path through law school and eventually into an environmental law practice. For me, it was the moment when I put gunpowder and Chemistry behind me in favor of a soldering iron, a few mild electric shocks, and Electrical Engineering.

Anyway, I couldn’t think how Allen stumbled across the piece in the MIT alumni blog. Then, I learned he happens to be married to the evidently imprinted Susan Brody, M.S. in Urban Planning, MIT. World-shrinking Infinite Connection at work.