The Edsel of WarsProfessor James Blight's success in pulling off the Hanoi Conference ("Thinking Like the Enemy," November/December) is a success for all humanity. The issues and challenges involved were fascinating to read about, especially as someone whose formative adolescent years were indelibly marked by the pain and turmoil of the Vietnam War.
Now, as a citizen of Israel living on the Golan Heights, I am particularly intrigued and encouraged by Professor Blight's unique approach to post-conflict resolution and understanding. President Assad of Syria can "capture" the attention of a Western head of state for hours explaining his version of Pan-Arab history and not feel obligated to hear the other side. Israelis like myself are so committed to establishing the fact of our renewed presence in our homeland surrounded by a hostile Middle East, we cannot afford to give credence to other claims. If a similar conference could be held on the Golan Heights after two brutal wars have been fought here, a third war might be avoided.
I personally don't think the hatred of Jews in this part of the world can be eliminated or contained without divine intervention. But perhaps intervention by Brown's Watson Institute would be the next best thing.
Leah (Laury) Kohlenbrener Epstein '77
I was most interested in Norman Boucher's article about Robert McNamara's pilgrimage to Hanoi last June. Most of the information had been included in an article titled "Robert McNamara Meets the Enemy" in the New York Times Magazine of August 10. The latter, however, gave no clue as to the involvement of Brown University, the Watson Institute for International Studies, and Professor James Blight.
Since the professor is planning to write a book with Mr. McNamara, I would hope that he does not become an apologist for his coauthor. For those too young to remember, it should be pointed out that Mr. McNamara's war was not an isolated failure. At Ford, he sponsored the Edsel automobile, and early on as Secretary of Defense he directed the development of the TFX airplane - both failures in their respective fields.
Arthur W. Doherty '40
Writers Who TeachI enjoyed Meg Wolitzer's reminiscence of the writing class we took with Jack Hawkes ("What Jack Thought," November/ December). I think it was my senior year, 1979-80. Meg's article brought those living-room workshops back to life. I remember wondering if my attempts at fiction would stand up to those of classmates who'd been writing prose for as long as I'd been writing poetry. (I decided to stick with poetry.)
Jack was, as Meg pointed out, always generous, fair, and encouraging. I regard the writing teachers I had at Brown - Michael S. Harper, Keith and Rosemarie Waldrop, Edwin Honig, Peter Balakian, James Schevill, and Jack Hawkes - as important to my development as a poet as my professors at Columbia, where I received an M.F.A. in 1982.
I've led numerous writing workshops over the last twenty years, and I've often wondered the same things as Ms. Wolitzer: Can writing be taught? Are writers born or made? It is always a joy to recognize the ember of budding talent and a pleasure to help nourish that spark. Jack and his colleagues certainly did that for me. After years of publishing in literary magazines and journals, I am proud to announce that my first book of poetry, The Nightmare of Falling Teeth, will be published this year by Pudding House Press.
Mari Alschuler '80
Pajama PartyI enjoyed the "Queen for a Day" photo spread (The Classes, November/December), but even more remarkable than the 1967 homecoming queen is the memorable spectacle of Ralph Begleiter '71 (now CNN's distinguished world affairs correspondent) tooting his trumpet in his pajamas just a few feet behind her [far right in photograph, above].
The theme of that halftime show was "The Brown Band Pulls an All-Nighter." I was there, pounding my snare drum for Bruno and having the time of my life.
Henri Bulterman '71, '77 Sc.M.
Debunking DowsingAfter reading the profile about dowsing ("A Feel for Things," The Classes, November/December), I would like to remind readers that there are professionals who practice the modern science of locating, managing, and preserving groundwater resources. Recognizing the longstanding tension between practitioners of that science and the "ancient art of locating water," I have several comments.
The profile cites a common experience in which a dowser allegedly divines a specific location to place a productive well. It should be understood that in humid climates such as the northeast United States, the voids in the soil and bedrock are filled with water, and it is rare to drill a dry well anywhere. Given this physical situation, any manner of art can hardly fail to find water with a properly drilled well.
More fantastically, the dowser [Sterling Nelson '31] claims that he "diverted a salt vein away from one well and a good vein into a second" - all in his head, from thousands of miles away. In all my studies in the geological sciences department at Brown, I can not recall a single physical or chemical law that could explain this feat.
There are many important water-resource challenges that communities face these days, and public education can play an important part in meeting them. While we are all enriched by reading about the interesting lives and careers of Brown alumni, the BAM should exercise the critical judgment that professors demand of Brown students in all disciplines. To report fantastic claims and powers over the physical world without asking for an explanation based on scientific principles does us all a disservice.
Matthew Reynolds '82
Good Idea, Then and NowI was first confused, and then amused, by the report that Brown has a "new program" to place graduate students known as "community directors" in undergraduate dormitories ("Neighbors," Under the Elms, November/December). Aside from the title (and the stipend), I could find no significant difference between this program and the resident fellow program I encountered at Brown more than forty years ago.
The resident fellows were mostly faculty members, but there were several graduate students (myself included) who lived in undergraduate dorms. We received free housing and a small stipend to cover weekly refreshments, typically sherry and soft drinks, for the undergraduate students. It was quite popular among students to make the rounds of different open houses, which provided them with a wonderful opportunity to meet informally with faculty and graduate students in a wide range of disciplines.
Whatever happened to the resident fellow program? Does it still exist, or have the faculty fellows been replaced?
William Silvert '58, '65 Ph.D.
Dean of Student Life Robin Rose responds:
Vanity FareA series of coincidences resulted in the February issue of Vanity Fair appearing on my desk. This is a magazine that, unlike the BAM, holds zero interest for me. Yet while idly flipping its pages, I was struck by the headline "School for Glamour: Long the runt of the Ivy League, Brown University has become a magnet for the children of A-list New Yorkers, Hollywood stars, Wall Street tycoons, and European jet-setters."
The article is a most edifying snapshot of the college that Gregorian built - a "must-read" for alums, and a challenge to the BAM staff to put yet another gossipy media exposé in perspective.
I am reminded of the Latin epigrams O Tempora, O Mores and O Quae Mutatio Rerum that were current in the Brown Daily Herald of my undergraduate days.
Defending Dr. KernAs the mother of David Kern ( "Occupational Hazards," Under the Elms, July), over the past year I have become increasingly dismayed by the inept, dishonest, and cowardly manner in which the Brown Medical School administration has attempted to suppress scientific and public-health information. Dean Marsh's vitriolic diatribe ("The Kern Controversy," Mail, November/December) prompts me to finally comment. His charges have already been eloquently repudiated by Kate Hanley Durand '87 in the Providence Journal-Bulletin of September 26, 1997.
My outrage is over the fact that I do not recall the dean of medicine, in all of his statements, including his letter to the BAM, ever expressing concern for patients, workers, or public health. As Michael Fine, M.D., wrote in the Providence Journal on July 18, 1997: "This case is not about academic freedom....It concerns the professional integrity of David Kern, M.D., and his duty to his patients and to society....A great medical school teaches the best and latest hard science, together with an absolute focus on the idea that patient care comes first, public health comes next, and there is nothing of importance after that."
Sybil Blistein Kern '46
Slide-Rule PioneerI enjoyed reading about my favorite classmate, Anne Renzi Wright '47 ("Slide-Rule Pioneer," Looking Back, November/ December). The picture of Anne with her fellow engineering students "circa 1944" was a gem, but there is a slight problem with accuracy. I am holding down the top row, right end, so I know I was there. However, in 1944 many students did not wear civilian outfits; service uniforms were very much in fashion on and off campus.
The photograph was probably taken in 1947. After fifty years, I have no recollection of our very popular instructor, Professor Franklin O. Rose, teaching this group "descriptive geometry." I will, however, defer to Anne's memory of the course material. I could have been enjoying a well-deserved nap.
Anne deserves a lot of credit. We all benefited from her presence.
Lester Karstadt '48
Fumbling for PraiseIf you are falling in love with E. Gordon Gee, here's a caveat. As the president of Ohio State University, Gee described a tie by the Ohio State football team as a "great victory." He will never live that down.
Edward A. Nolfi '80
Tougaloo and BrownIn his article, "The Tougaloo Connection" (September/October), Anthony Walton asks Tougaloo students about "self-segregating" themselves while enrolled at Brown. I enjoyed hanging around with the other European-American exchange students when I spent a semester at Tougaloo in 1965-66. Although I was very self-conscious about it, in retrospect it seems only natural, given our kinship of interests.
The other exchange students at Tougaloo may have been a reference group for me, but I also formed friendships with Tougaloo students that have lasted to this day. By immersing myself in another culture, I gradually came to realize how much I have in common with people of a different background. I don't know any other way to achieve this important discovery, so I was disheartened to read that African-American students at Brown might not feel at home. Generally, I felt at home at Tougaloo. Making it possible for me to go there was Brown's greatest contribution to my education.
One further comment: I have long been impressed by Tougaloo as an institutional force in our society. Tougaloo has made and will make its mark, I believe. History calls upon all of us to support the college.
Paul Hurlburt '67
The Gold Dust TwinsGeri Carr Nelson's letter ("Those Glorious Natives," Mail, September/October) recalls "that old Columbia University football pair," Lou Kussero (sic) and Bill Swiacki, as "the Gold Dust Twins." I was pleased that a Brown alumna remembers our Columbia heroes of years past. However, the Gold Dust Twins were Lou Kusserow and our great quarterback, Gene Rossides. In 1945, 1946, and 1947, they could (and did) score swiftly from any spot on the field with Kusserow's running and Rossides's passing. Rossides's most famous pass to Swiacki was the one in 1947 for a touchdown that helped Columbia upset Army, 21-20, at old Baker Field, breaking the Cadets' long winning streak.
Baker Field is now Wien Stadium. Rossides became Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Kennedy administration and then a partner in the law firm of Rogers and Wells in Washington. Swiacki played professional football with the New York Giants. Except for the years I served overseas as a medical officer in the U.S. Army, I have seen Columbia play football every year since I entered as a freshman in 1938.
Between Fathers and SonsI have also been in the tavernas and on "the rough village paths" of Greece, so the scenes Peter Allen painted ("A Father's Touch," Finally, November/December) evoked deeply personal images, both of a country and a man. My father is a native Greek who sailed to the United States in 1959 to go to college. He stayed for the next thirty years, off and on. In 1989, he moved back to Greece, where he still lives.
Growing up in a suburb of Detroit, I noticed the difference between my interaction with my father and the interaction of my friends with their fathers. My friends were stoic with their fathers. Paternal affection was shown only through a short, curt word of congratulations or perhaps a small gift of money.
My father, on the other hand, was not afraid to touch me. He hugged me after soccer games, kissed me on both cheeks before boarding a plane, and tousled my hair if I did well on my report card. When he felt celebratory, he slapped the lower part of the back of my head; I can still hear the hollow flopping sound his palm made when it collided with the skin of my neck.
But as my father and I have gotten older and moved around the world, we've become a little more formal. Since he returned to Greece, we don't see much of each other. When we do, his embrace is stern and less jovial than it once was. He still touches me, but it is no longer patronizing. His affection, like that of any father toward his grown son, has become less a symbol of praise and more a gesture of pride.
Greg Lalas '94
Praise for Bob ReichleyThis is just a note to express my sincere appreciation to Bob Reichley for his hard work on behalf of Brown. Brown may not have been his school when he started working on the Hill, but no one can question his love for and devotion to the University over the past thirty years. Now he has a right to claim Brown as his alma mater. In retirement he may live with the assurance that he has affected eternity.
All of us who have followed with keen interest Bob's career at Brown wish him and Sara many years of happiness and good health, and we hope he takes advantage of his new leisure to brush up on his dubious golf swing.
John Mars '41
CORRECTIONSDuring the editing process, the word "some" was deleted from a letter by Andrew K. Gabriel '76 ("In Praise of Josephson," November/ December). The following is the sentence as Mr. Gabriel submitted it: "Fortunately, most Brown students are bright enough that, with a little time and experience, their esteemed educators will come into focus, some as raucous emperors clad in the gaudy panoply of their own birthday suits."
A map accompanying a January/February feature about Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Rohde '90 incorrectly designated Slovenia as Slovakia.