Ordinary Genius Vince Cushing

Topeka Capital Journal
January 1992

When it came time for him to graduate from the University of Notre Dame, John Cushing had a problem. Cushing, who was the father of a friend of ours, didn’t have the money to pay his tuition, and the school had this sticky rule that if your tuition wasn’t paid you didn’t graduate.

He appealed to the priests who ran the place, and they said a rule was a rule. But when he made such a solemn promise he eventually would pay what he owed they relented and sent him out into the world.

Some 30 years later he paid what he figured he owed. He gave Notre Dame a new engineering building that still bears his name. He gave more than that, too.

He sent his five sons to Notre Dame, and one of them was Vincent, who earned a doctorate in physics and taught there for a time. He and his wife, Marie, were neighbors of ours when we lived in the Rock Creek Hills area of Kensington, Maryland.

They also had six sons among their eight children, and five are graduates of Notre Dame. They’re hoping to send their sons to their alma mater, but there is no guarantee they’ll qualify. Heritage alone won’t get you to the Golden Dome.

The school has this idea, and it sticks to it very tightly, that if it lets you in, you should have a reasonable chance to someday get out, and with a degree. Once, the son of the chairman of the Board of Trustees for Notre Dame was turned away. He didn’t qualify, and that was that.

You may be wondering what a PhD in physics from Notre Dame and a BS-er from Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College have in common, and what we talked about. Well, we have a lot of children, and we talked a lot about all the trouble they got into when they were growing up together and, we share a natural distrust in all forms of government.

We talked a lot about their daughter, Joan, who is the featured star of the long-running cabaret show at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington. She’s a singer comedian who writes most of the shows material. She is particularly renowned as Miss Foggybottom, and again this year is running for president on the cocktail party ticket.

I enjoy listening to Vince. He mentioned Sunday that one of his nephews recently gained the distinction of duel full professorships at Notre Dame, adding philosophy to his physics honors. Vince told me about a book this nephew wrote, titled, “The Philosophical Consequences of the Quantum Theory.”

The book, I gathered, is a runaway best-seller among the handful of philosophers in the world who understand the quantum theory. Vince said the book is supposed to be one an ordinary genius can understand, but said parts of it need to be rewritten in plainer language.

I would agree to that without even seeing the book. I will wait for the movie, although I admit I have brushed up on the quantum theory since my visit with Vince. I found it between Quantrill and Quapaw in the World Book Encyclopedia.

The material on Quantrill is easier to read, and has more local interest, but I found the work of German scientist Max Planck, creator of “Planck’s Constant’ to be particularly impressive in my pursuit of the quantum theory. Max started it all with nothing more than a black box with a hole in it. Amazing.

Prepared as I am now, I am looking forward to seeing Vince again so I can ask him a couple of questions. The encyclopedia said the quantum theory has been applied to atomic research, so I want to know if it and Planck’s Constant could account for the loud bang they heard at Wolf Creek.

(Editor’s Note – Dr. Vincent Cushing passed Feb. 1, 2018 in Annapolis, MD surrounded by his family.)

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