Hank Clark interview
Wednesday, October 25, 2023 – 10:30 a.m.
Henry "Hank" Clark is one of Alden Pucket's students at Ole Miss.
Detective Beckwith and Magee interviewed him at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.
- Detective P. Beckwith
- Detective J. Magee
- Hank Clark
Detective Magee: We'll need your name and address before we get started.
Hank Clark: Henry Frederick Clark. I live at the Taylor Bend Student Apartments at 401 Taylor Bend here in Oxford. Everyone's always called me "Hank" since I was little. You know, like Hank Aaron.
Detective Magee: All right, Hank. What do you do?
Hank Clark: For a living?
Detective Magee: Yes.
Hank Clark: Nothing yet. I'm just a student at Ole Miss. I don't have any jobs, but my family's doing okay, and they help with the tuition. I have to take loans to make up the difference.
Detective Magee: What year are you in?
Hank Clark: I'm a sophomore, hoping to get out in three.
Detective Beckwith: What are you studying, Hank?
Hank Clark: I'm on my way to becoming a DevOps Engineer.
Detective Beckwith: Come again?
Hank Clark: Uh, a computer guy. It would take a while to explain.
Detective Beckwith: All right. Do you know Alden Puckett?
Hank Clark: Sure. He teaches a course I'm currently taking. Computer Science 223–Computer Organization and Assembly Language. It's a basic course on computer architecture and assembly language programming.
Detective Beckwith: Doesn't sound all that basic.
Hank Clark: Well, a basic course for us computer geeks anyway.
Detective Magee: How are you doing in the class?
Hank Clark: I'm getting a 96%.
Detective Magee: Very nice.
Hank Clark: It should be better.
Detective Beckwith: I don't know. I would think that grade would put you near the top of the class.
Hank Clark: It does, but I thought the last unit exam on the Analysis and Design of Combinational Logic had questions that contained errors.
Detective Magee: Errors on the part of Professor Puckett?
Hank Clark: Yes, ma'am.
Detective Beckwith: When did you take that test?
Hank Clark: Um, let me look at the calendar on my phone … a week ago. Last Wednesday.
Detective Magee: October 18?
Hank Clark: Yes, ma'am.
Detective Magee: All right. When did you have class that day?
Hank Clark: We have a power lecture that Professor Puckett gives every Monday and Wednesday from 3:30–5:15 p.m. and a lab with the TA on Fridays at 10:00 a.m. When we have exams, they replace any lecture that Professor Puckett would be giving that day.
Detective Beckwith: So you took your last unit test from 3:30–5:15 p.m. last Wednesday?
Hank Clark: Yes, sir. That's right.
Detective Magee: Was Professor Puckett present for this exam?
Hank Clark: Yes, ma'am, at the front of the room, like always.
Detective Magee: Did it take you the whole class period to finish the exam?
Hank Clark: Yes, ma'am.
Detective Beckwith: Was Professor Puckett there the whole time?
Hank Clark: Yes.
Detective Magee: You mentioned that you believe he made mistakes on the exam. Did you bring this to Professor Puckett's attention?
Hank Clark: Not during the exam time. It took me some time to use De Morgan's laws to—
Detective Beckwith: So when did you bring the mistakes up to Professor Puckett?
Hank Clark: On Wednesdays, he has office hours right after class. I talked to him then.
Detective Magee: At what time are his office hours?
Hank Clark: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. I tried to speak with him before he left class that day, but the TA stopped me to talk about the Friday lab as I was turning in my exam. The professor left for his office, which is just down the hall from the classroom. When I got down to his office about fifteen minutes later, his door was shut.
Detective Magee: Was he in the office?
Hank Clark: Yes, ma'am, because Linsday Halloran, a classmate of mine, was in there with him, bawling her eyes out about her grade.
Detective Beckwith: If the door was shut, how did you know that?
Hank Clark: Because you could hear her histrionics from the hallway. She's always like that. She thinks she's so smart that she doesn't have to do any studying and then promptly tanks every test she takes. And then, like clockwork, it's the waterworks. It works on way too many male professors.
Detective Beckwith: How long was Ms. Halloran in Professor Puckett's office?
Hank Clark: Like thirty or forty minutes. I was getting pretty upset that Halloran was hogging up the office hours. My issue was more important than her whining, so I waited.
Detective Magee: Out in the hall?
Hank Clark: Yes, ma'am.
Detective Magee: The whole time?
Hank Clark: Yes, ma'am. When Halloran eventually came out, she was smiling, so I'm sure she got what she wanted: a grade change or whatever. So I knocked on Professor Puckett's office door, and he said, "It's open. Come on in." So I did, and he said, "Mr. Clark, what can I do for you?"
Detective Beckwith: What was he doing?
Hank Clark: Watching the news he had streaming on his desktop computer. When he saw me come in, he muted it.
Detective Beckwith: How long were you in his office?
Hank Clark: Well, we haggled over some of the exam questions for about an hour or so—
Detective Magee: An hour?
Hank Clark: Yes, I had simplification approaches to some of the material that Professor Puckett hadn't noticed. I wanted to make sure he agreed with those approaches or if he had confounders for why they wouldn't have worked. This is why I pay all that money to Ole Miss—to pick the brains of the best.
Detective Magee: All right. What happened then?
Hank Clark: I think Professor Puckett was getting a bit exasperated with me. He said something like, "Well, Mr. Clark, that should be enough for you to think about for one day." You know, the kind of thing instructors say when they're trying to get rid of you. I insisted on talking about one more problem, and he reluctantly agreed.
Detective Beckwith: What was his demeanor like during this meeting?
Hank Clark: Now that you mention it, he was pretty distant. He wasn't keeping his attention on my ideas like he has in the past. He kept looking up at the news, even though it was still muted. But, then again, he's always been real fidgety. That's just his deal, so I didn't think much of it at the time. Then, at just before 7 o'clock, the Professor jumped right out of his chair.
Detective Beckwith: Why?
Hank Clark: He saw something on the local news, I think. He told me, "We're done. You have to leave. I'm leaving. It's time to go! Collect your stuff!" That's when I looked at the time. I said to him, "Your office hours go to 7:30," and he cut me off, saying, "Not tonight, they don't! Collect your stuff!" I'll admit I was kind of mad that he would take this much exception to me finding so many errors on his exam.
Detective Magee: Hank, can you remember what was playing on the news just before Professor Pucket made you leave the meeting?
Hank Clark: The crawl at the bottom of the screen said something about a murder. The news reporter was interviewing someone in the rain. He was tagged as "Preston" or "Peter" someone, comma, "COP protester." I guess he didn't like the cops or how the cops were handling the murder or something. Otherwise, why would the news label him as a COP protester? I don't know. The sound was still muted, so I didn't know what they were saying.
Detective Magee: What did Professor Puckett do next?
Hank Clark: He locked his office door behind us and bolted out of the hall. He didn't even say goodbye. I thought he was being a jerk because I showed him up a bit. Professors can be that way.
Detective Beckwith: I think we got what we need from you, Hank. You've been very helpful.
Hank Clark: I'm not sure how, but no problem. Glad to have been of some service.
Detective Magee: Good luck with your studies.
Hank Clark: Thanks, but I probably don't need it. Goodbye, detectives.
Detective Magee: Cocky little guy.
Detective Beckwith: Yeah. What did he say he was going to be? A Defbop engineer? I remember when we all just wanted to be cops and firefighters.
Detective Magee: You're old, Beckwith.
Interview ended – 11:02 a.m.