I Love Numbers

St. John's seniors celebrate at President Nelson's home after turning in their essays.

The day after the Super Bowl, I read in our local newspaper that the Naval Academy ordered 4,500 pizzas for its 4,000 Midshipmen on Super Bowl Sunday—3,000 from Papa John’s and another 1,500 from Ledo’s. Massive! Then it turned out that Papa John’s provided no less than 25,000 pizzas to football lovers across Anne Arundel County between 5 and 7 p.m. Huge! 5,000 pounds of cheese, 500 pounds of pepperoni, 120 pounds of sausage, and 120 gallons of sauce at just one of the Papa John’s outlets alone. (Where were the spinach, onions, and mushrooms?)

But those numbers were peanuts. Nationwide, Domino’s dished out 11,000,000 slices that day, and Pizza Hut served up 442 miles of pizza containing some 14 billion pieces of pepperoni.

And all for 51 lopsided points on the scoreboard.

St. John's seniors celebrate at President Nelson's home after turning in their essays.

St. John’s seniors celebrate at President Nelson’s
home after turning in their essays.

Then I got to thinking about St. John’s College, where the most awaited annual ritual is the party for seniors hosted at the President’s House on the first weekend in February. The price of admission: four copies of a Senior Essay, the students’ capstone project, on which each of them will be publicly examined during his or her last semester at the College. This year, the papers handed in that night had titles such as the following:

The Poet as Hero in “The Waste Land”

Together They Go Astray: The Family of Anna Karenina and Alexei Vronsky in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina

The Security of Liberty: An Examination of American Identity in the American Founding Documents

Finding Home: Man’s Journey in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

Nature’s “One Long Argument”: On the Role of Man’s Ignorance in Charles Darwin’s Origin

Achilles and the Devastation of Learning

Revenge and the Permanence of Tragedy in The Virgin Spring

Intuition and Intellection: A Theory of Parallels

Jesus and Jurisprudence: Love as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses

Harmonizing Souls: An Examination of The Souls of Black Folks

S/He Had It Coming: A Murder but Not a Crime? Seeing Justice Done in Aeschylus’s Oresteia

Number of essays handed in: 105 x 4 = 420. Number of pages in total: more than 20,000. Number of pieces of sushi consumed: 400. Avocados mashed for guacamole: 24. Number of ham and cheese rolls: 500. Pounds of Hummus: 10. Chick peas, tahini, flatbread, and chips: countless. Liquid refreshments consumed: no more and no less than at any Super Bowl Party.

I love these numbers. They show that our students are just as fired up about taking in sustenance for their souls as for their bodies.

On top of that, the entire student body put up some pretty impressive numbers on Super Bowl Weekend, preparing for their Monday-night seminars:

Freshmen: Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics
Books 8 and 9 (1155a1-1172a15)
60 pages x 121 students = 7,260 pages

Sophomores: Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica
2nd Part of the 2nd Part, Questions 1, 2, 4
50 pages x 100 students = 5,000 pages

Juniors: Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason
Transcendental Deduction B (B130-169)
30 pages x 101 students = 3,030 pages

Seniors: Melville’s Benito Cereno
100 pages x 109 students = 10,900 pages

Total number of pages read on Super Bowl Weekend = 26,190

Now double that total to account for our students on our Santa Fe campus! Placed end to end, those pages = 48,015 feet (11 inch page) = 9.09375 miles of Great pages read on Super Bowl Weekend.

All this in the pursuit of learning on the path to some 200 bachelor’s degrees to be awarded in Annapolis and Santa Fe this spring on another Super Sunday!

I just love numbers!


  1. killerbee0925   •  

    How do you say “We work hard and we play hard!” in Classical Greek?

  2. John Moore   •  

    Those “pages read” numbers would be even more impressive if you included the efforts of those of us in the Graduate Institute!

  3. fputnam   •  

    Dear Chris,

    This was entirely too much fun to read–thanks! And may your numbers increase.

  4. rwyckoff   •  

    Between my Liddell & Scott and my Chase & Phillips I get, “δούλομεν σκληρά καί παίζομεν σκληρά.” How did I do, Chris?

  5. Jeffrey Sonheim   •  

    Could these essays be shared with interested alumni? You could even have a “chair” among the tutors at the examination for an interested alumnus. We’ve paid our dues, so to speak. Who knows how the graduating / job seeker to alumnus / job creator relation might prosper with this type of high level connection? And I have a strange feeling that some of these essays would surely be more interesting than the daily pablum of the web. And finally, for my more liberal friends at the College, why are you still killing trees with all this paper? Can’t you make electronic submission the prerequisite for admission to this party? Every student has a computer, and I would guess most tutors have one…even if one famous highly regarded tutor does not…

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