Real treasure found; lower quad was one hopping place Thursday night

Finders of the Heritage Week treasure were seniors Katherine Hummel, left, and Lindsay Groskreutz.

Real treasure found; lower quad was one hopping place Thursday night

The University of St. Thomas Heritage Week Committee got its money's worth out of this year's annual campus treasure hunt. The treasure wasn't found just once, it was found three times.

Well, sort of. And while the first finders and the third finders are known, the middle finder remains a mystery.

We should start with the first set of treasure hunters, St. Thomas seniors Katherine (Katie) Hummel and Lindsay Groskreutz, who found the real treasure between 9 and 9:30 p.m. last Thursday, March 6. They found it after the fifth clue, and less than three hours before the very specific final clue would be announced at the stroke of midnight that night.

Hummel and Groskreutz, who are roommates in Morrison Residence Hall, met each other on a residence hall photo scavenger hunt just hours after first arriving on campus as freshmen.

"This was a great adventure for our senior year," Hummel said.

"This will be a wonderful memory for us; we really enjoyed it," Groskreutz added.

Hummel, of Naperville, Ill., is double majoring in marketing management and business communication. Groskreutz, of Cedarburg, Wis., is majoring in actuarial science.

They found the treasure hanging on the end of a stout cord in a deep ventilation shaft located just outside the quadrangle-facing doors of Aquinas Hall on the university's St. Paul campus. It wasn't easy to find, and Groskreutz and Hummel didn't just happened to stumble upon it; they worked for it.

Hummel was the first treasure hunter this year to visit the university's Archives, where she studied aerial photographs and documents, hoping to make sense of the clues. She wound up going there three or four times.

"We learned so much about the history and the old buildings here. It was fascinating and a good reason to explore the campus," Hummel said. "We found so many nooks and crannies."

The two went treasure hunting every day last week, and while it was fun, it was a pretty cold week to be outside kicking around in the snow. "I wore about five pairs of socks," Groskreutz said.

They narrowed their search on Thursday to the area generally around Aquinas Hall. "We were looking for anything with hinges or locks or related to doors. We looked everywhere," Hummel said. "We were looking for something unusual, something that would stand out. We'd go back to our rooms and brainstorm about the clues."

They had walked by the ventilation shaft "a thousand times," and it was Thursday night that they noticed the bit of cord tied to the grate, right next to the padlock that secures a small trap door ((in keeping with the "door" theme of treasure hunt and the "Opening Doors" theme of Heritage Week and the university's capital campaign). That looked unusual, so they pulled up the string, about 12 or more feet of it, and at the end was the treasure. They could see it below, with their flashlights, and were more confident they found the treasure the closer they reeled it in.

They didn't turn in the treasure, good for a $300 gift card at the St. Thomas Bookstore, until Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the site of the treasure continued to be quite a beehive that evening.

This next part isn't understood completely, but sometime Thursday night, between 9:30 p.m. and midnight, someone else apparently found the end of the string that held the original treasure. They tied a small, individual-serving-size cereal box to the string, and then squeezed the box through the grate and lowered it back into the ventilation shaft.

Adding to the mystery is that the person who did this removed the Cheerios from the box and replaced them with a full-page essay that touched on topics related to St. Thomas' heritage, to greed, and to understanding "the greatest treasure."

Finders of the mysterious Honey Nut Cheerios box were senior Nathaniel Brandt, left, and junior Lanita Gaworski.

The tone of the essay was puzzling and somewhat disappointing to the two students who, later that night, found the Cheerios box and the note inside. They were junior Lanita Gaworski and senior Nathaniel Brandt.

As noted in an e-mail Bulletin Update that was issued on campus Friday morning, the two were among a host of students in O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library Center late Thursday night. They were waiting for that final clue to appear on the Bulletin Today Web site at midnight, when the new edition of St. Thomas' online publication goes live each weekday.

The treasure hunters assembled at the library were equipped with mittens and scarves and flashlights. As soon as the clue appeared on the library's computer screens, 30 or more students dashed to the Aquinas Hall air shaft.

Gaworski and Brandt spotted the cord, and for the third time that night it would be pulled to the surface. But there was a new problem this time. While the mystery person was able to shove the Cheerios box down through the grate, when Gaworski and Brandt tried to pull it to the surface, the cord tore loose and the box fell to the bottom of the shaft.

Holding the cord with one hand, Brandt used his cell phone to call the St. Thomas Public Safety Department. Officers Terry Pretzloff and Leah Castle arrived on the scene. They unlocked the trap door and made sure the treasure hunters stayed back from the hole. Pretzloff went down a ladder on the side of the shaft and retrieved the box.

There was some joking among the assembled students about the first one to get to the bottom of the shaft would get the prize, but all agreed that the prize would go to the person holding the string.

Gaworski and Brandt, thinking they found the treasure, started reading the essay to the late-night gathering, and at one point someone from the crowd called out, "That's lame."

"Part of the essay makes it sound like the reason someone would look for the treasure is the money," Brandt said Friday morning. "Well there is the gift certificate, but Lanita and I would have looked for the treasure even if there wasn't a prize. It's really fun, and I've enjoyed looking for it every year I've been here. It's a great challenge. The clues this year were not easy."

Gaworski and Brandt, who are dating, are serious treasure hunters. They read parts of Journey Toward Fulfillment, the history of St. Thomas up to 1985, to help them understand the clues. They studied the historical photos that were pa
rt of the clues, and went out hunting nearly every night last week.

"We had fun meeting other students out there hunting too," Gaworski said. "It was fun to tease each other."

No doubt team Gaworski-Brandt bumped into team Hummel-Groskreutz during the treasure hunt.

This was Gaworski's first year as a serious hunter, but Brandt has been looking for it since he was a freshman. "I was in the stadium the year they found it there, and I was close on some other years, too."

"We almost over analyzed the clues," Gaworski said. "You know, there were a lot of number ones and number nines in those clues. We were trying to figure that out."

You might say both are pretty good with numbers. Brandt is double majoring in chemistry and math, holds a 4.0, and has been accepted to graduate school at Stanford, MIT and CalTech. Gaworski is a chemistry major and because of an A-minus in chemical thermodynamics and reaction kinetics, and quantitative analysis, holds a 3.96 g.p.a. She's looking forward to graduate school too.

Several of the treasure hunt clues, as well as this year's Heritage Week, paid homage to the 30th anniversary of coeducation at St. Thomas. It turns out that Gaworski's mother, Cherlyn, received a bachelor's degree in history from St. Thomas in 1983. Her father, Joseph, is a 1985 graduate and majored in mathematics.

Gaworski and Brandt were offered a consolation prize by the Heritage Week Committee, but respectfully declined it.

However one feels about the content of the essay left in the Cheerios box, it was no small feat to draft the message and re-hide the treasure (or what appeared to be a treasure) in such a small window of time Thursday night.

Here is the essay; it has not been edited:

"Good Job! You've found the location of the treasure at last. We hope that you have enjoyed learning about the history and heritage of the University of St. Thomas. Before revealing the final secrets of the treasure, let us tell you a story.

There was a young person who had never really took the time to learn about the history and heritage of her community. But then there became an opportunity to learn about her community -- there was a week of Heritage. To remind the community of its roots, the week of Heritage intended to riddle about with clues to a treasure that would lead to great reward. In the process, perhaps those who searched for the treasure would learn about the community and its past.

But this person never took advantage of the opportunity. Many others searched feverishly for the treasure, but none had found it. Among those who did search, few had took the time to even care about Heritage, insofar that it only directed them towards treasure. This person was not among them; she had no care before and never did she now.

But the last day approached, and no one had found the treasure yet. Soon the final clue would be revealed. The location of the treasure, at last, would be made known. And this person said to herself, "Why don't I just go there around midnight; I'll have my friend call me on my cell phone, telling me about the last clue and the location to the treasure."

And so, this person went before midnight to the general area where the treasure was located. But she was not alone. There was a mosaic of a mess of people, running about, on their cell phones, hoping to be the lucky one that stood nearest the treasure when the final clue was revealed. Mixed amongst the greedy horde were few who had researched all week and searched honestly in days past.

Midnight passed, and soon the crisp whisper of natural silence was gargled and suffocated by the stampede of cell phone rings. The night creatures awoken and guarded their heart of hearts, for they feared that greed one they would drive them as mad as the boisterous display before them.

A huddled mass soon crept upon the treasure. This person was one of them. She had found what she thought to be the treasure. She cashed it in, told a great story of luck and determination, and bought two books and a nice pen at the bookstore.

However, the treasure that you seek cannot be found here, dangling from a string, hidden from view, behind locked, closed, 'doors.'

Instead the treasure can be found within each and every one of you, within the beauty of songbirds serenading the morning sunrise, within the dazzling display of squirrels frolicking about campus, within the trickling stream and soothing sounds of the grotto, within the rustling of leaves dancing across a cool autumn breeze, within the violent crashing and thunder of the waterfalls by the great Mississippi River.

One needs only to open the door to her heart to the world – its past, present, and future – to truly understand the greatest treasure.

Blessed are you who take pride and joy in learning about the history and heritage of your community.

Woe to you who becomes baited so easily by the hunger and greed that comes from monetary prizes. "