Centrepiece Online | Spring 2009
Fun with Forbes 13th Ranking
When Forbes magazine unveiled its "America's Best Colleges" list in August, institutions of all types were combined into one grouping. The editors offered this rationale:
“When choosing a college, prospective students ultimately select only one… It is not as though a high school senior selects one large, public school and one small, private school. The senior picks only one, and our ranking reflects that decision process.”
So in addition to being measured against Amherst, Swarthmore, and Williams, Centre was grouped with Harvard, Princeton, Yale, M.I.T., Stanford and a host of other universities.
The result? Forbes ranked Centre 13th among all U.S. colleges and universities – four slots behind Yale, one above MIT, 10 above Stanford.
Unlike U.S. News which largely measures inputs such as reputation and resources, Forbes focused on the experience and outcomes of students and used such measures as listings of alumni in Who’s Who in America, Web-based professor rankings, the amount of student debt at graduation, the percentage graduating in four years, and the percentage of students or faculty who have won nationally competitive awards.
Reactions around the country were immediate and passionate: They ranged from "no way" to "hooray."
Centre sentiment was overwhelmingly in the later category. When riddles and one-liners began to travel spontaneously around campus, the Communications Office, ever alert to an opportunity for good-natured competition, quickly conceived "The Lucky 13 Contest."
The instructions for this lighthearted look at the rankings were simple: Open to all with a Centre connection. Send your take on the Forbes ranking as a riddle, a one-liner, a tight paragraph, a poem, a picture – beyond the limits of local, state and federal law… no restrictions.
Entries came from around the campus and the country. A sampling:
Jack Smith '79 posed his entry in the form of a question and answer: "Think 13 is unlucky? Five hundred and fifty-six other undergraduate institutions only wish they were that lucky."
Susan C. Brown, parent of David Brown '08 and Laura Brown '12, made a "reverse-field" move in her entry: "Centre: Ranked No. 13 among all U.S. colleges and universities. Luck has nothing to do with it."
The Third Place Award went to Jeffrey Huff '84. A number of entrants made use of the word, "triskaidekaphobia," a fear of the number 13. Huff played off this term in his one-word winning entry: "Triskadeca-forbes-ulous"
Claiming the Second Place Award was Thomas Richards '11. Thomas combined play on the C6 H0 formula with an observation on the changing geography of academic prestige with the: "C13 H3 – Closing the gap between the Bluegrass and the Ivy League."
The Grand Prize was claimed by Jill Hoskins Fritz ’86, parent of David Fritz ’11 and spouse of Greg Fritz ’86. Titled "Lucky Number 13," Fritz's essay began by making the point that Centre College has 13 letters. She then proceeded to point out the lucky significance of the number in question, 13 ways from Sunday. An excerpt:
Lucky Number 13! A Happy number in its Prime! Lucky enough for the Archimedean Solids! Lucky enough to be traditionally associated with transformation, renewal, and regeneration…For the Original Colonies! For the stars on our Original Flag! For the stripes on our flag still today! For the Great Seal of the United States with 13 olives leaves with 13 olives, 13 arrows and a constellation of 13 stars that together form a triangle over our eagle with the number 13 on each point. For the 13 steps on the pyramid! For the 13 bars on the shield. For the 13 letters in E PLURIBUS UNUM. Lucky enough for…our 13 of campus buildings in the National Register…! For the education of 13 U.S. Senators! Lucky enough for the coming year when Centre opens its doors to the Class of 2013! Celebrate our Lucky 13!
Each winner received, of course, 13 fabulous prizes (As the promotional flier noted, some prizes are more fabulous than others.)