Monday, April 27, 2009

Our Most Patriotic Exam-Season Prank

When tensions run high during final exams, students often seek an outlet in the form of a prank. As last semester’s flash mob at UNC-Chapel Hill ( demonstrated, libraries are frequent targets of such stress-induced mischief.

We’re no strangers to the exam-season prank: Goodson Law Library staff can recall toilet paper decorating the mezzanine and various other garden-variety practical jokes. But one prank stood out from the rest, grabbing a front-page headline in April 1980 (click photo for full story):

Second-year law student and professional singer Mark Clark (JD ’81) performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” from the library’s mezzanine for four consecutive nights at 10 p.m. According to the article, the final performance on Tuesday, April 22 was a black-tie affair that featured musical accompaniment from other law students and even a miniature fireworks display (current and future library users: please don’t attempt to replicate this portion of the prank). Clark said his singing engagement was intended to cheer up law students who were holed up in the library, which he described as “a good place to sing in, but what a pit to study in.” (We hope he would feel differently today, after seeing our beautifully renovated space!)

So whatever happened to this mysterious library patriot? After leaving the Atlanta law firm where he worked after graduation, Clark went on to receive a Ph.D in Medieval History from Columbia University. Dr. Clark is currently Associate Professor of Classical and Early Christian Studies at Christendom College in Virginia, where he teaches Latin, Greek and theological history. Will this trip down memory lane persuade him to give a repeat performance (minus the fireworks) at his Duke Law class reunion in 2011? Only time will tell.