Mail Room

By The Editors / November / December 2003
June 21st, 2007

Remembering Laura

Laura Rothenberg was clearly a courageous and mature person. She was afflicted with a horrible disease but moved forward with hope and dignity. Although sad, her story was uplifting, and reminds those of us fortunate enough to be healthy to never take it for granted.

Why, however, did the author choose to portray physicians in such a negative way? “The jackass neurologist,” the rude cardiology fellow, the doctor that was given a foul-smelling pill in a Tiffany box (as if he were responsible for the odor). Laura was probably treated by scores of physicians. Were they all like this? Wasn’t there even one who was kind, polite, and/or compassionate? Some physicians are lacking in basic social skills. All are human, with the same emotions as their patients. Most are deeply concerned and connected with their patients. I am sure that Laura had many like this.

My guess is that if Laura had read the article, she would have been upset by the non-mention of doctors who cared about her as much as her close friends.

Robert Golomb ’78, ’81 M.D.
Lafayette, Calif.

We would like to commend you for your moving article about the life of Laura Rothenberg. However, we felt that this coverage overshadowed the lives of other Brown students who have passed away recently. As good friends of the late Sarah LaMendola ’04, we feel that it is important to commemorate the life of each Brown student that the community lost this past year because each of them uniquely impacted many lives throughout the world. While we understand that Laura’s dedication to raising awareness about her illness should be publicized, we believe that Sarah’s dedication to living life to its fullest deserves public recognition as well. Furthermore, we are sure that the late Mary Interlandi ’05, Michael Archer ’02, and Amanda Fenlon ’00 each had his or her own story to be shared. We were disappointed to see that the BAM did not adequately acknowledge the passing of these other students.

Sarah Prutzman ’04
Jessica Purmort ’04

Elizabeth Ault ’04 submitted a similar letter.

Eating Right

It took almost forty years, but Brown has progressed from providing a “kosher card” that entitled Helene Schwartz Kenvin ’62 to American cheese sandwiches (they probably weren’t even kosher) to offering a full-service kosher meal plan under rabbinic supervision. In about 1994, University Food Services (UFS) agreed to a trial run of a fourteen-meal-per-week plan. It was successful, and to the best of my knowledge it is still offered today.

A unique feature of the plan, insisted upon by the students who helped UFS set it up, was the parallel offering of halal meat products acceptable to Muslim students. It may have been the first kosher-halal meal plan in the country.

Credit for establishing the plan goes chiefly to Nadine Cohen ’97 and Rabbi Chaim Marder, then the Orthodox rabbinic adviser to Brown-RISD Hillel, as well as to UFS and the Brown administration.

Michael N. Rader ’95
Brookline, Mass.


I had to laugh while reading editor Norman Boucher’s column in the September/October BAM (Here & Now). I have also had “student-envy” for many years, but it intensified last fall when my son started college at Clark University. As we looked through the course catalog, I kept wishing I could have several lives so I could satisfy my interest in many different subjects. Even though I’m not a full-time Brown student any longer, I can still take classes there through the Brown Learning Community. I’ve taken several and discovered that not only do I get to be a student, I get to go back to Brown!

Vickie Williams Ancona ’71
Cranston, R.I.

Back to the Future

Your article on Professor of English Oskar Eustis and Professor of Creative Writing Paula Vogel (“The Play’s the Thing,” September/October) mentions Vogel’s practice of “wooing fledgling writers into Brown’s creative writing program and fostering their careers.” I am one of Paula’s fledglings.

Paula attended a performance of a play I wrote and immediately extended an invitation to enroll in the creative writing graduate program. I was (then) a sixty-four-year-old businessman with a lifelong desire to write plays, but when I explained that I was still actively running a company and that my undergraduate degree dated back to 1942, she was unfazed. If I met the requirements for admission, I was assured, my class time would be at a minimum (“We want you to write plays, not sit in class,” she said). When I applied to be included in the class of 1988, my son Steven ’74 wrote a letter of recommendation that contained the finest one-liner ever crafted: “I have known the applicant all my life.”

For two years Paula was mentor, critic, and friend with infinite patience for my efforts. I could not have done it without her. At the 1988 Commencement my son, a Corporation trustee, presented me with my diploma. My other children and my grandchildren were in attendance.

Since that memorable day, six of my full-length plays and several one-act plays have been staged in New York City and London. Thanks to Paula this fledgling writer has enjoyed a most rewarding Second Stage.

George Rattner ’88 A.M.
Kings Point, N.Y.

Wriston’s Words

In the September/October BAM, Zachary Block ’99 cites former Providence mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. as quipping, that “without Brown … Providence would be just another Fall River, Massachusetts.” I heard President Henry M. Wriston express that identical opinion when he addressed an alumni gathering in the early 1950s. I cannot say whether or not the sentiment was original to him.

Doug Snow ’45
Durango, Colo.

Motoring M.D.’s

Finally someone is willing to address a major and long-standing form of medical malpractice: residents who practice medicine while exhausted (“Wake Up, Doc!” Elms, July/August). It is deeply troubling that this issue has not been addressed before, as it surely accounts for many acts of malpractice and much suffering. What your writer did not note is that the standard blood-alcohol limit for commercial truck drivers is lower than that for other drivers (.04 as opposed to .08 percent) and, of course, commercial airline pilots are not allowed to drink at all within eight hours of a flight. So it seems that truck drivers and pilots are held to a higher standard than medical residents, whose work hours, as your story stated, leave them the same coordination they’d have with a blood-alcohol level of between .04 and .06 percent. When will the medical profession rise above the hazing aspect of medical residency and impose appropriate standards of practice?

Robert Lyman ’66

The “Wake Up, Doc!” article states that “new and stricter rules still permit working a medical resident for thirty hours without so much as a nap.” Such rules remain outrageous from the standpoint of both doctors and patients. Is the Brown Medical School helpless to stop the practice? What about state or federal legislators, who can pass laws concerning labor equity and protection of patients? Why not institute the same maximum duty hours as those the federal government now sets for airline pilots? I want a doctor working on me to be in as good shape as the pilot flying the plane I’m on.

William E. O’Connor ’42
Daytona Beach, Fla.

Watch Your Language

I’m relieved to see that the july/ August issue of BAM has reduced to one the number of obscenities quoted from the writings of others. In the May/June issue your inclusion of words and phrases such as “m----r f---ers,” “p---ing,” and “this sh--’s in my head all the time” (without the semicensoring shown here) may not be distasteful to most alumni, but it certainly speaks poorly of the level to which our magazine can sink if nobody cries foul. What can we expect next? Will this sort of language begin to creep into the columns of BAM without being part of somebody’s quote—an open acceptance of the creed that it’s 2003 and anything is okay anywhere? My hope is that you will give greater care to the editing of material chosen for publication, and that you will apply a higher standard that excludes the printing of quotes that contain completely uncensored and flagrant obscenities.

Robert L. Luce ’49
Hempstead, N.Y.

Slavery Reparations

Though it examined, at considerable length, the case for reparations to black Americans, Sasha Polakow-Suransky’s article (“Sins of Our Fathers,” July/August) found room to quote only two individuals who regard reparations as foolish—and the objections of one are mainly pragmatic (such payments, you see, might too easily let whites off the hook). The article also included a couple of facts, interesting in themselves, that taken together are downright fascinating: A mere 4 percent of white Americans favor reparations, it seems; yet when conservative columnist David Horowitz placed an ad in the Brown Daily Herald listing “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery Is a Bad Idea—and Racist Too,” the ad sparked “protests.”

Actually, the ad did more than that. Amid outrage, threats, and recriminations, it was denounced—by a professor, no less—as “hate speech,” a campus speaking invitation to Horowitz was withdrawn, and a coalition of students, fueled no doubt by their zeal for civil rights, attempted to trash an entire press run of the Herald.

What were the terrible, hurtful things that Horowitz wrote and that the Herald had the temerity to print? I don’t recall their having been fully spelled out in the May/June 2001 BAM, which covered the controversy, but you can read them online—and judge their merits for yourself—at,, dailynexus. com, and a number of other sites. What’s remarkable is that Horowitz’s notorious ten points—deemed, in the politically correct world of academia, so controversial, offensive, even inflammatory that many college newspapers refused to publish them, while others were forced to apologize for doing so—are at worst arguable and, for the most part, simple common sense: the sort of opinions, in fact, that 96 percent of white Americans would probably find pretty innocuous.

Ted Klein ’69
New York City

As of this writing, David Horowitz was scheduled to give a talk on campus October 22, too late to be included in this issue of the BAM. We will report on his talk in the January/February issue.—Editor

Football Fumbles The date given for the photo of Homecoming Queen Joan Bennett is incorrect (“Evolution of the Bears,” September/October). The correct year is 1955, not 1953. The future Mrs. Ted Kennedy was chosen by the Brown Key and accompanied by her cousins (and Key members) Webster and Bennett Janssen, both ’57. The Brown students wearing the white hats were also Key members, and John Hoffman ’57, who was in charge of the bear, is holding it in the photo. Ivor Sargon ’57 is at his side. I believe one of the fellows in the raccoon coat is Richard Marcus ’57. I was elsewhere on the field in a bear costume. The real bear kept nipping at me.

Kenneth Greif ’57
Washington, Conn.

The Running Back

Pictured on page 50 of your article on the 125th anniversary of Brown football is not Joe Buonanno ’34, but Bill Gilbane ’33, ’58 A.M. Brother Tom Gilbane ’33, ’58 A.M. is the center in the team photo, and Joe Buonanno is second from right in the back field. Incidentally, Joe Buonanno did not usually start. He was used as a “climax runner.” Joe was a quarterback, as was Bob Chase ’33. Ed Gilmartin ’33, a halfback, did the passing and David Allen ’34 was blocking back.

Raymond F. Noonan ’36
Pawtucket, R.I.

Creating Jobs

While President Simmons has declared the importance of expanding the faculty, it appears that our new president is also busily expanding the bureaucracy. President Simmons has just appointed Brenda Allen, recently arrived from Smith, to the newly created job of associate provost and director of institutional diversity.

According to a brief interview with Allen (Elms, September/October), the new associate provost is focusing on “concerns about the diversity of theoretical perspectives here.” She also says that she wants “to shape the vision and understanding of diversity based upon the community’s beliefs.” I am not sure what all this jargon means, but I would recommend that Allen take a few English courses during her stay at Brown.

James N. Rudolph ’60
New York City

I involuntarily wince each time I see the politically correct code-word diversity in a Brown publication. The latest instance is the news that Brown now has a new administrative position of associate provost and director of institutional diversity. Brenda Allen, the first to occupy the position, is quoted saying that we need a “diversity of theoretical perspectives.” I could say this sounds like gibberish to me, but instead I ask for a plain-language explanation of the term so that I can measure Brown’s future progress in that area.

Maxwell Dyett ’52
Moneta, Va.

Too Much Colson

My reaction to the recent bam account of the visit to campus by Charles Colson ’53 (“Maiden Voyage,” July/ August) is very direct. I’ve heard and read enough. He has received more than his share of space—both in the magazine and on campus.

Colson may have changed the content of his allegiance from the Watergate cabal of Colson, Gordon Liddy, and E. Howard Hunt ’40 to the current triad of Colson, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell, but the structure of his thought remains the same. His current ideology is simply the other side of the same dogmatic and doctrinaire coin. Professor of History Robert George from my era at Brown would have commented that Colson today is like the members of the French aristocracy, the ancient régime that learned nothing and forgot nothing. Or Professor of Italian Walter Schnerr would have said, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

In fact, the Brown I attended was apparently missed by Colson. I recall very clearly the emphasis on freedom of inquiry toward a deepening understanding of the complexity of democratic principles and an increasingly broad and inclusive framework for justice. A few examples come to mind: former Dean of the College Roald Bergethon’s Chapel Talk on the dangers of orthodoxies and dogmatic thought, and professor Guy Dodge’s spirited lecture on the Grand Inquisitor scene in The Brothers Karamazov, with its memorable question, “Do humans need mystery, miracle, and authority rather than freedom of choice and the knowledge of good versus evil?”

Such complexity is not relativism run rampant. For democracy to work, as one of my colleagues at Harvard, professor Gordon Allport, put it, we need to be wholehearted yet half-sure. As our truths expand, we need to remain open to greater understanding. Ethics is not some simpleminded set of absolutes. If Colson had been around in colonial days, he probably would have kicked Roger Williams out of Rhode Island.

Brown should be proud of all those alumni who not only learned the meaning of liberating education but have also worked quietly in their own arenas to actualize democratic inclusiveness. These are the ones who are, as the Brown charter states, “duly qualified for the offices of life.” In the meantime, let’s say good-bye to the Colsons in our midst. They have had their hour on the stage of life to, in Shakespeare’s words, “strut and fret … full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.”

Norman Sprinthall ’54, ’59 A.M.
Caswell Beach, N.C.

Peace, Charlie

During my most memorable undergraduate years, Charlie Baldwin was a premier, formative, and unforgettable influence (“One of the Righteous Few,” Obituaries, January/February). Charlie was remarkably “relevant,” to use a 1960s designation. In his very special, thoughtful, yet practical way, he addressed—at Manning Chapel, in class, and in frequent informal gatherings—all the tough issues of the day. And there were many: the upheaval that followed Brown v. Board of Education, the outcry over the Vietnam War, the controversy over birth control, the appropriate use of nuclear energy, and the moral imperative to die with dignity, to name just a few.

During an extremely turbulent era, Charlie, as chaplain, professor of religious studies, and friend, was an inestimable asset to the University. He made you think and challenged your rationale, but he let you make up your own mind. He understood that personal responsibility required as much.

He also demonstrated, on a daily basis, that to be true to his faith, which was devoutly Christian, he needed to be ready at all times to respond to requests for help from any source. A lot of people talk that talk. I have never met a person who so faithfully and fervently walked that walk.

Peace to you, friend, Charlie.

Terry Walsh ’65
Atlanta, Ga.

What do you think?
See what other readers are saying about this article and add your voice. 
Related Issue
November / December 2003