It was a gloomy New England morning my freshman year at Harvard, and we were sitting around our room in Strauss Hall, recovering from a night on the town in Boston.
Suddenly, the door burst open and a stranger strode in.
“Morgan Smith? Is there a Morgan Smith here?” he demanded.
I stood up nervously and nodded.
“You’re served,” he said, handing me a thick stack of papers and walking out.
My roommates gathered around as I unfolded the papers: a summons to appear in the Superior Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It listed all the things we had done the night before. What was this all about? How had the police known?
I was a terrified 17-year-old freshman, 2,000 miles from home. We all stood there, paralyzed with fear.
Then the door burst open again. It was Don MacMillan, who lived across the hall.
“What’s wrong, guys? You look like someone just died.”
We tried to explain, but MacMillan, who lived in the Boston area, looked more and more worried.
“You need a lawyer bad. This is serious stuff,” he said.
“But I’m from Colorado. I don’t know any lawyers.”
“I’ve got an idea,” MacMillan said. “Let me get Paul Kirk, my roomate. His dad’s a judge here. Maybe he’ll have some ideas.”
At that moment, Paul Kirk appeared in the doorway.
“What’s up?” he asked.
I held out the summons and started to explain. My voice must have sounded like it was coming from bottom of a grave.
Then I noticed the way Paul was nodding at Don. Suddenly, they burst out in laughter.
The whole thing had been a Paul Kirk prank.
His father was a justice on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Paul had gone to his office, taken some judicial stationery, typed up the summons and had a friend serve it on me.
I guess I’ve never been both so scared and so relieved in one 10-minute span in my life.
We lived across the hall that year, and in the same entryway our three upper class years. Paul was a hard worker who was well-respected for his honesty and integrity.
He has had a wonderful career. And now he has been honored by being selected to complete the Senate term of Ted Kennedy.
I wish him well and hope that he still has that sense of humor. He’ll need it.
Morgan Smith is a former state representative, state commissioner of agriculture and director of the Colorado International Trade Office.