It was 1984, spring semester. Kevin Cuddeback (CAS ’87) lay underneath the desk in his tiny Darnall Hall bedroom, etching a message — a legacy. “Oh, kindred spirit lying on your back it is not imagination but originality you lack,” he carved into the dark brown wood. “To me it seemed the most natural thing that a place as old as Georgetown should develop a patina of gentle messages,” Cuddeback said.
At the time, Cuddeback’s roommate Jim McGarrah (SFS ’87) had managed to whip out his camera to capture the moment.
“I have many pictures from our [two] years as roommates at Georgetown — everything from him napping to horsing around with other residents to random shots of our dorm life,” McGarrah said. “As for this particular picture, I actually forgot it was in the mix. At the time I took it, it probably seemed just like another moment of hilarity and the camera was handy. Perhaps I hoped, in some less than fully conscious way, that it would be useful for when or if the story of his note surfaced.”
The note did eventually resurface. It just took several decades for that to happen.
When Brynne Long (COL ’19) first spotted the centipede crawling around in her bedroom, she never could have imagined the incredible discovery it would lead to. “I chased it under my desk. ... When I was laying on back trying to kill it, I saw writing,” said Long.
Long and her roommate Juliet Ivanov (COL ’19) initially struggled to decipher the message, not only because of its illegible script, but also because it was more than 30 years old. The desk had been painted over and moved to a different room in Darnall Hall, so the note was nearly illegible.
In 1987, Cuddeback, now a senior, returned to his freshman room looking for a response to the note. There was none. Since he was getting ready to graduate, he decided to leave another note asking that whoever discovered his message come find him.
“As freshmen in 1984 we hadn’t found many [messages],” Cuddeback said. “But by graduation we had touched many, such as the ones in Healy’s South Tower, but my favorite being ‘T. W. Newton’ diamond-etched on Healy’s quad-side window in about 1900. We didn’t find him in time, so I returned at the end of senior year to be more emphatic that I would like to be found.” Cuddeback probably did not expect that phone call to come nearly three decades later.
It was not easy for Long and Ivanov to find Cuddeback, partly because they had such a hard time deciphering the exact spelling of his last name. After a number of what they called “super-stalkery” Google searches, the girls finally found a promising phone number.
“I knew by her third sentence why Brynne was calling, and I am glad she was brave enough to get past the awkwardness of the initial seconds of calling a seeming stranger,” Cuddeback said.
“It was the most surreal moment ever. I called and he answered saying, ‘This is Kevin M. Cuddeback,’ and it was the name we had been looking for,” Long said. Cuddeback was, understandably, shocked. No one in 30 years had contacted him about that note.
For several minutes, he and the girls chatted. Cuddeback reminisced about his time at Georgetown and asked about the changes to the campus. Ivanov, a physics major, also received quite a bit of advice from the Georgetown alumnus who coincidentally had studied the same thing.
Cuddeback decided to post the happening on Facebook, which led to a virtual Georgetown reunion as other Georgetown alumni commented and chimed in, exhibiting nostalgia over the notes that they, too, had left as young students.
“It was cool because it started out just being about a centipede and ended up being this community outside of us just like these adults that had been here,” Ivanov said. “They were getting back together because of this. And like we don’t know what they’re doing. We don’t know how close they are now or if they talked other than the Facebook stuff, but it still is something that happened that made [Cuddeback’s] week or made his day.”
“They all started talking again. He started talking to his freshman roommate again. I think it’s really awesome that they started talking again because of something we did,” Long said.