Dr. Francis Sharpton often commuted to the campus on his motorcycle.

Dr. Francis Sharpton

All of us could easily see a huge tire print running across the page!

I do not recall the specific subject of the class, but I will never forget one particular morning when Dr. Sharpton returned homework assignments to us at the start of either an engineering or physics upper-division class. Murray Bartlow happened to be sitting near the front of the class that morning, so he got one of the first returned homework assignments.

Murray let out his distinctive laugh, held up his paper and said “What is this?!”

All of us could easily see a huge tire print running across the page! Dr. Sharpton continued returning homework assignments with a slight grin on his face, and several of us also had tire marks on some of the pages, although Murray’s was by far the most dramatic.

Once everyone had their assignments returned, Dr. Sharpton rather sheepishly related how he thought most of us knew he rode his motorcycle to school. The previous evening, while returning home from campus, apparently one of the bungee cords he used to hold things onto the back of his seat came loose. Our homework assignments for that day happened to be the top of pile, and the slipstream quite effectively distributed the pages all over the highway.

He saw the flying pages in his rearview mirror and immediately pulled over, but he said it took him more than a half hour to go up and down the road snatching up papers while dodging the afternoon traffic. Remarkably, as I recall, nobody’s assignment was missing (something that he had not been entirely sure was the case), although a few people were missing a page or two of the total assignment. Those people got full credit for the missing problems, which clearly went over very positively. This story has come to mind when I have heard people make reference to a “tired old homework assignment.”

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