The Daniel Dilemma

“Please know that this isn’t a goodbye.”

Heartfelt and emotional, former president Dr. David Daniel delivered his farewell address to the entirety of the UT Dallas body. Having spent the last ten years in each other’s company, the parting was quite bittersweet, for the excitement for Dr. Daniel’s new position was tempered by regret of his departure.

But how can you say good bye so easily to something that you’ve devoted a decade of your life to? These are the questions that plagued Dr. Daniel as the prospect of leaving his beloved university hit home. “I will return to campus frequently” he told the campus, but how could he return often when so much time would be devoted to his new position? A small part of him even wondered how it would be possible to maintain the same level of influence over the university where he held so much sway.

Dr. Daniel resorted to the only solution he could think of – crying into a bowl of ice cream and watching a montage of superhero movies. Spiderman, Batman, Superman…each living completely double lives, two separate people embodied in a single entity. Then the idea struck him. Why couldn’t he be the superhero the university needs? The superhero the university deserves?

His plan was set into motion. First, he consulted the physics knowledge of Dr. Wildenthal, interim president, to construct a time machine capable of taking him back in time to plant another individual into history. Next, he began construction of a malleable skin suit that he could use to assume his new role in time. It would also dilute time, adjusting his age to the age designated by the suit. It worked because engineering. You wouldn’t understand.

All he needed was a name. What does the university need more than anything else? More money. To be rich. Rich. Richard. What about a last name? Money again. Benjamins! And the university was like a son to him! Ben…son. Benson. Richard Benson was born.

Donning his costume (cape not included), Dr. Daniel – sorry, Benson – dove back in time, relishing the chance to start over. Unwilling to deviate from the importance of engineering, he instead chose a different discipline, mechanical instead of civil. Choosing a new university path, he spun a wheel and threw darts, landing in succession on Princeton, Virginia, and Berkeley. Using the engineering expertise he had already picked up in his previous life, Benson easily climbed through the ranks, achieving dean status at Penn and at his new alma mater, Virginia. Colleagues would notice him turn his head when someone would call out the name “David” or “Dr. David Daniel, Future President of UT Dallas,” but otherwise there were no suspicions.

Finally, Richard Benson had climbed the ranks. His credentials were superb. His status unquestionable. His persona perfected. After decades of waiting, he would be reunited with his love. On the day that he traveled back in time, he immediately went back to his home, zipping out of his Benson suit. With his original self now gone, he once again called upon Dr. Wildenthal to make a cloning machine. One Dr. Daniel stepped in, two stepped out. Dr. Daniel number one resumed his role as Dr. Benson, while Dr. Daniel number two went on his way to assume his new job. The plan was implemented flawlessly. Dr. Daniel would return to campus frequently indeed. This truly wasn’t good bye.

Next came the application phase. Knowing his impressive credentials would make him a shoe-in for the interview rounds, he submitted his resume free of worry. He, of course, knew how this application system worked and how to play the game. Practicing interview questions in the mirror into the wee hours of the night, Dr. Benson woke up the day of the interview fresh and ready to succeed.

Sitting in front of the panel, Dr. Benson felt no sense of nervousness. How could he possibly mess this up?

“Hello, Dr. Benson. First question – are you a time-traveling Dr. Daniel in disguise wearing a skin sut?”

“Why, yes– I mean no! No. Haha. Of course not. That would be silly.”

Dr. Benson started to sweat. He knew they were going to ask that! It’s the first question in every interview after each president resigns! He had practiced that line hundreds of times!

“Glad to hear it! We’ll now continue with the rest of the interview. I see that you and Dr. Daniel have very comparable credentials, which is a good mark for you. Former engineering dean and everything.”

“Yes, that’s correct, and thank you.”

“Are you sure you’re not a time-traveling Dr. Daniel in a skin suit?”

“N– Yes. I’m sure. Sure as can be.”

Damn it! Why did he keep messing this up?!

And so the interview continued, as the interviewers compared university policy and Dr. Benson’s credentials with that of the former president, intermittently checking that Dr. Benson was indeed not an imposter. Eventually, though, the facts checked out, and the interviewers congratulated Dr. Benson on a successful interview.

“Good bye, Dr. Daniel,” the interviewers said as Dr. Benson left.

“Good b– Ha! Good one guys. You jokesters. Nice try.”

They all shared a hearty laugh, and Dr. Benson departed. Leaving the interview room, Dr. Benson let loose a single fist bump a la Breakfast Club. He had created an entire new being. He had succeeded. He would not have to leave his beloved home after all. Forever he would continue the lineage of striving to make the university Tier One. He bought a home next door to the Dr. Daniel clone’s home, and they shared many a hearty conversation. Media reports showed that they had quite a lot of the same opinions about not only the future of education for UTD and the state of Texas but even on favorite ice cream flavors and least favorite M. Night Shyamalan movies. Reports would show that the two were the best of friends, almost inseparable during their downtime.

“Any change in leadership creates uncertainty,” wrote Dr. Daniel in his departure address. That uncertainty would now be mitigated. His future vision for UTD must be sustained. “Just the mention of UTD brings a smile, and a strong sense of gratitude for the honor and privilege of working with the UTD family for the past ten years,” he concluded. Little did everyone know, those feelings would continue indefinitely. UTD would forever be in quite capable hands.

“I look forward to our work together as we become a leading public global force in innovation, research, and education,” Dr. Benson stated in his first message to the university community. The seeds had been planted. The position was set. UTD would continue the path set forth for it back in 2005: unchanged, unedited, charging ever closer to the top, under leadership only he could provide.