By Ken Johnson, Staff Writer
For just short of a year’s time, Kingsbury Hall, known as the home to Engineering and Physical Sciences students, was the home of one department to rule them all.
Frequenters of Kingsbury Hall might have noticed a new department had shown up, the Department of Ring Recovery, located in N137 — notably a far distance from The Shire. The department is made up of graduate students taking on the names of Lord of the Rings characters.
Exactly how far away the department is is not known since all maps of Middle-earth seem to have sailed on white ships to the West.
What’s the Department of Ring Recovery’s purpose? The ring was reportedly destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom in the land of Mordor at the end of the Third Age. Is recovery of the ring even possible? And what did the Department of Ring recovery do during its almost year of operation?
“I focus on the big philosophical items in life, like does the ring really need to be recovered or is it one of those existential things that really, it’s not a physical item, so does it really need to be recovered, or should it be left unfound?” said graduate student John Turner, a member of the department.
There wasn’t any active attempt to find the rings, said graduate student Nick DeMarchi, another member.
Their fellowship mostly went on philosophical quests at establishments that served alcohol, Turner said.
The Department of Ring Recovery boasts having such notable graduate students as Frodo Baggins, Bilbo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee and Gollum a.k.a. Smeagol.
The sign for the department also boasts notable frequent visitors: Gandalf the Grey and Gimli.
The sign listing the distinguished graduate students hung in the door plaque of department of mechanical engineering graduate students Nick DeMarchi, John Turner, Drummond Biles and Rachel Ebner. All four study fluid mechanics, but that doesn’t keep the alter egos at bay.
Nick DeMarchi is Frodo Baggins within the Department of Ring Recovery.
“Everyone knows Nick as Frodo, based on a, what I believe, a high school nickname,” said Turner. Turner also said the nickname continued through college and into graduate school.
Ebner got her nickname through college.
“My advisor started calling me Smeagol a few years ago,” Ebner said.
“One of our goals in the Department of Ring Recovery is to make sure Smeagol stops calling her thesis ‘my precious,’” Turner said.
With Smeagol and Frodo taken, someone had to take on the role of Frodo’s beloved cousin, Bilbo.
“I said when he first got in the office everyone should know he just kind of reminds me of my dad, so he decided he was going to be Bilbo because of it,” DeMarchi said. Bilbo was a father figure to Frodo, Turner and Ebner pointed out.
Drummond Biles is Samwise Gamgee, for reasons that the fellowship couldn’t agree upon.
Gandalf and Gimli are not members of the office, but stop by on “brief sabbaticals.”
“They occasionally come on sabbatical to the Department of Ring Recovery,” Turner said. “Brief sabbatical, usually on their way down to get beers.”
Graduate student Michael Allard plays the role of Gimli when on his brief sabbatical.
“How I received my name is a good question”, Allard said.
“Without his assistance the department would not carry on,” Biles said. Ebner added that Allard has a beard, and Turner added that Allard is stubborn — both of which characterize the stubborn dwarf warrior in LOTR.
As to whom Gandalf the Grey is remains shrouded in mystery — rather befitting since Gandalf always seems to act mysteriously for only reasons he is knowledgeable to.
Biles said that the mysterious Gandalf is tall. DeMarchi said Gandalf received his name “because he kind of floats in all the time and like hangs out for a second and convinces you to go downtown with him.”
“When you are in an office with no windows, you need to have a little fun,” Ebner explained.
The most recent incarnation of the sign was not the original one that hung outside of N137. The original sign went up last October before Ebner moved into the office; the Department of Ring Recovery was not listed on the original sign.
“We didn’t have a sign and John [Turner] … basically decided we needed one,” DeMarchi said.
“I formatted it to look just like all the other signs in the building,” Ebner said.
“We’d like to say we are all Ph.D. students, and mere masters students would never have thought of this,” Ebner said.
Visitors to N137 will no longer see the Department of Ring Recovery sign in the door plaque.
On Tuesday, Sept. 9, University of New Hampshire’s Facebook page had a post of a picture of the sign with the caption, “Spotted in Kingsbury Hall: Looks like UNH Engineering & Physical Sciences has added a new department and some high profile students to the graduate programs…”
“I think we are all very surprised and confused this is even put on a Facebook page to begin with,” Tuner said.
Biles said that a picture of the sign went up on Facebook Tuesday morning and Tuesday afternoon they received an email from the chair of the department. According to the email, the dean of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences said the sign was funny, but if there are teaching assistants in the office, then their names have to be displayed so students can find the proper office.
“So they promptly replaced the sign,” Ebner said.
“It’s just amazing how quickly it happens when it’s been posted. It’s been up for almost a year,” DeMarchi and Biles added.
The sign was saved and now hangs on the hallway window of the office next to the door.
“The internet totally ruined our sort-of inside joke,” Tuner said.
Ebner said they didn’t get in trouble for having the sign up. The number of people commenting on the sign over the time since it was posted on Facebook was about equal to all the people who commented over the last years, Turner said.
“I think a lot of people saw it in passing and kind of read: That’s funny someone’s name is actually Frodo. Oh wait, this office isn’t real,” Turner said.
Even with the Department of Ring Recovery officially removed, Biles said the department would continue meeting in shadows.
Turner added that the Department of Ring Recovery has gone underground.
“Just because you take down our physical sign or our location doesn’t mean that the idea is gone; it’s a philosophy,” Turner said.