Aquinas College, GRAND RAPIDS, MI professor Stephen Barrows thought he’d catch his students by surprise on April Fools’ Day with a pop quiz.
Little did he know, the joke of the day would be on him.
A small group of students in his macroeconomics class finalized a plan minutes before walking in the door to prank Barrows with a cell phone call during their April 1 session. Barrows has a policy that any student who receives a call during class has to answer it on speakerphone for all to hear.
So Taylor Nefcy made sure the phone call “confirming” her pregnancy from an out-of-the picture father would be played loud and clear for the class.
The prank went off without a hitch and a YouTube video of it has spurred an international reaction, drawing more than 4 million views by Monday afternoon. It has already been translated into French.
“They got me so good,” Barrows said Monday.
It was hard to keep things quiet walking into class that day, Barrows’ students recalled.
When he handed out the pop quiz, student Bailey Terebinski said the class was thinking: “We’re like, you don’t even know what’s coming.”
Nefcy, a theatre major, thought of the plan for a prank call a few days before but the details didn’t fall into place until that morning.
Nefcy contacted a friend, Ian MacNeil, who would be working in a private office on campus during her 10:50 a.m. class. She arranged for him to call her with the startling news.
It wouldn’t be about a family member’s illness or death — that would be too harsh, she said.
But a pregnancy, he might be able to celebrate, in a way, the students thought.
Walking into class that day, a shaking Nefcy had to text MacNeil that she needed more time — his call would have to come at 11:15 a.m. because she had to take a quiz.
She had already messaged several friends to tell them not to bother her for any reason during that hour. If her phone went off early with the ringtone on, the plan would be ruined.
Half the class had no idea what was about to happen.
Then the call came. Nefcy answered on speakerphone, according to class policy.
“Hi, this is Kevin from the Pregnancy Resource Center,” the caller, MacNeil, said. “Per your request, I’m calling to inform you that the test results have come back positive. Congratulations!”
Barrows said his mind stopped right at the “pregnancy resource center” part. He didn’t notice the students holding back laughter in the row behind Nefcy. She had played the part perfectly — awkwardly shifting in her seat.
“My mind just said, ‘Did I hear what I thought I heard? I can’t believe I did this to her,'” Barrows recalled of the moment.
Barrows’ face was turning red. He said “OK, you might want to shut that down,” realizing the sensitivity of the private news blurted out in an open forum. He covered his face with papers that he was holding while standing at the head of the class.
Then the clincher happened: Nefcy already had a name picked out for the baby, she said. The first name? “April.” And the middle one: “Fools.”
The class – Barrows included – burst into laughter. Josh Weiland, who was in on the joke, was wiping tears from his eyes.
Footage of the prank didn’t make it onto YouTube until five days later. Within hours, the social media shares were mounting.
By Monday morning, millions had seen the video. She learned someone had translated it into French.
“We don’t have professors like this in Belgium,” one online commenter wrote. Wait … Belgium — across the ocean Belgium?
Nefcy was astounded.
Weiland awoke at 8 a.m. Monday morning to a request from Good Morning America. The producers were asking if he and his friends could appear on the nationwide morning show via Skype in an hour.
Nefcy was cooking breakfast when she got the call.
The group made a plan to meet at Weiland’s friend’s apartment, which had a stronger internet connection.
He threw things behind sofas and lit a candle “for ambience” while Terebinski was running with her makeup bag to a friend’s car. She still hadn’t showered.
The group made it just in time. And their video clip appeared on The Today Show too. Not bad for college memories.
Barrows has since heard from someone he hadn’t seen in years, since his Air Force days. The guy recognized him as the professor in the video.
Barrows, in his first year teaching at Aquinas, knows this class isn’t one that will fade from his memory. He still laughs days later, just thinking about that April Fools’ prank.
“I can’t forget anything that perfect,” he said.