Mail Room

By The Editors / May / June 2003
June 22nd, 2007

The Right Stuff

Thank you for the excellent article about Julia da Cruz (“The Return of Julia da Cruz,” March/April). As a Philadelphia public school teacher, I am acutely aware of how important it is to have intelligent, dynamic, and compassionate educators working in urban classrooms. Unfortunately, too many people view teaching as a surprising career choice for Ivy League graduates. I am particularly impressed by da Cruz’s decision to become an educator, because she does not come from a financially privileged background and could easily find more lucrative opportunities elsewhere.

A large body of research has shown that teacher quality is the single most important factor influencing student achievement. I hope that da Cruz’s example inspires many other Brown students and alumni to pursue careers in the challenging, but extremely fulfilling and worthwhile, field of urban education.

Amy Rosenberg Cohen ’86

Your story about Julia da Cruz was truly outstanding. As one who also grew up in Fox Point, I found it very touching and certainly a reflection of Brown’s inspiring call “to be useful” after we pass through the Van Wickle Gates. Her story is an example of how those with the least value education the most. Bravo Julia da Cruz! Bravo her parents!

Bill Seamans ’49
Spofford, N.H.

Remembering Dave

Like just about every Brown student of the past thirty years or so, I saw a loud, backslapping, gregarious guy at many Brown functions, games, receptions, Campus Dances, Pops concerts, and Commencements, and everyone seemed to know who he was: Dave Zucconi ’55. And Dave knew and enjoyed everyone at Brown. No airs. No high-minded intellectual jousting. Just a lot of energy, charisma, and laughter (“Brown Always Came First,” Elms, March/April). Dave was the most un–Ivy League guy you could meet.

Everyone who knew him has a Dave story. Mine takes place in 1979, during a nighttime bus ride to New York City’s Lincoln Center. I was one of the chosen few from the Brown Chorus to go to China that summer, and the Lincoln Center concert was a pre-China fund-raiser sponsored by the Brown Club of New York.

There we were, about fifty students riding a bus while dressed in formal concert attire. Somewhere between Providence and New York the bus stopped, and a few moments later Dave boarded with a big paper bag filled with McDonald’s food. He then walked down the aisle like Santa Claus handing out gifts from his sleigh, joking and laughing with chorus members who wolfed down hamburgers and cheeseburgers almost as fast as he could distribute them.

Twenty-four years later I can’t remember most of the songs we sang that night at Lincoln Center. But I’ll never forget the thoughtfulness and kindness of Dave Zucconi.

Linda J. Mahdesian ’82
Cranston, R.I.

I appreciate your notice about Dave Zucconi’s passing. Were it not for Dave, I do not believe I would have gone to Brown, an experience that has influenced the course of my life profoundly. The day he came to visit my small school in California back in 1967, I had barely heard of Brown and only signed up for the interview because I had a free study hall and thought the interview might hone my skills for the upcoming meetings with representatives of the schools on my short list. In half an hour, Dave’s vision, as well as his enthusiasm and openness over Brown’s direction, left a deep impression. He suggested that I might want to consider an early-decision application, and to my surprise I was accepted. From that chance encounter I have made decisions and have been offered opportunities that have been reflected in my vocation, avocations, and lifelong friendships. It’s odd how certain people touch one’s life, and I judge that I am not alone in my gratitude that Dave touched mine.

Matt Walton ’72
Los Angeles

Keep it Collegial

In the March/April issue, President Simmons is quoted as telling the faculty, “If we remain the size we are, we die” (“Since Last Time,” Elms). I am not sure I agree with those sentiments. As much as Brown may expand in the future, I hope that it does not become a metropolitan megaversity and in the process lose that collegial quality that, in the eyes of old-timers like me, made Brown Brown.

Allan S. Nanes ’41
Silver Spring, Md.

The Best Neighbors

I am dismayed at the warm reception given to Ehud Barak, the former prime minister of Israel, by the Brown community (“Wake-Up Call,” Elms, March/April). I have always considered Brown an oasis of liberal thinking and intellectual integrity—a precious reservoir in this country marching steadily, ideologically, further to the right. When will America wake up and confront the outrageous brutality perpetrated against Palestinians by Israel?

Also, a word to Mr. Barak: While Canadians may be nice and compliant neighbors, I would feel honored to live near a people as hospitable, kind, and resilient as the Palestinians.

The letter from R. David Coolidge ’01 about Steve Emerson cites Emerson’s charge that Sami al-Arian is involved in international terrorist organizations as proof that Emerson is “an anti-Muslim demagogue” (“Emerson’s Terror,” Mail Room, March/April). On February 20, 2003, al-Arian was arrested by the FBI and accused of conspiracy to murder more than 100 Israelis and Americans in overseas suicide attacks. The fifty-count, 120-page indictment maintains that al-Arian has secretly been a top leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization for years.


Emerson’s attacks on al-Arian over the past nine years do not show Emerson’s bias; they indicate that his research is groundbreaking and provides evidence for why he is so well regarded by the FBI and others fighting terrorism.

Carol Greenwald ’65
Chevy Chase, Md.

The Sound of Music

As a longtime organ-music buff, I was fascinated by your article on the restoration of the Hutchings-Votey organ at Sayles Hall (“Thunders and Whispers,” January/February). I don’t recall any concerts on this instrument during my four years at Brown, but the article did refresh my memory of many wonderful concerts at St. Stephen’s Church, tucked away near the middle of campus.

I met the organist and choirmaster, David Pizarro, when I unintentionally surprised him while he was absorbed in practice one afternoon. I had sat down at the back of the church, then moved closer and closer until I was about two rows behind him, all the time careful to be quiet so I would not disturb his concentration. After he’d finished the piece and the organ reverberations had died down, I said simply, “That was very good.” Poor David was so shocked he just about hit the ceiling. After his heart rate calmed down we began what has turned out to be a lifelong friendship; we even traveled together in the Netherlands and Germany, where he performed on many historic organs.

In my sophomore year David began midnight concerts at St. Stephen’s during final exam weeks. Those concerts were the perfect way to end an evening of studying and left us relaxed enough to sleep well and face the hard realities of the next morning.

David left St. Stephens in 1974 to take a similar position at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. He no longer works there but still lives (and performs) in New York with his wife, Irene Diakoff.

Seth Parker ’75
Newton, Mass.


The letter from K.R. Kaffenberger ’67 reminded me of a similar tale that I heard about ten years after the 1961 perfidy that is called the Bahía de Puercos, or Bay of Pigs (“Turning Back from Cuba,” Mail Room, March/April).

A young business acquaintance whom I knew as a U.S. Navy Reserve pilot told me that he had been in the air, his plane loaded with ordnance and headed for Cuba, when he and his group were recalled. We later learned that President Kennedy had taken some very bad advice from some very bad advisers and had withdrawn promised U.S. forces from a long-planned action. It was then too late to save the brave Cuban patriots who were then slaughtered on the beach. There is also evidence that Castro had near-perfect advance intelligence on the plan.

Clearly, if this betrayal had not occurred, there would have been no missile crisis and none of these on- (and on and on) going discussions about it.

Dick Downes ’45
Atlantic Beach, Fla.

Have Some Respect

I noticed your interview with mc Paul Barman ’97 (“Rapping in Palindromes,” Arts & Culture, March/April). As the music director of an independent community radio station, I think the song “Cock Mobster” on Barman’s Paullelujah is the most offensive, insulting, degrading song I’ve heard since I started working here (“hairy scar of Teri Garr”!?). Barman’s promotion company sent my radio station some copies of Paullelujah for us to give away to our listeners, but I refuse to have this station’s name associated with him. Brown should be ashamed of being responsible for his education, as he clearly has a lot to learn about being socially responsible and being respectful toward women. If BAM needs a copy of Paullelujah to peruse, let me know, because otherwise I’m sending the station’s copies to the shredder.

Annie Rooney ’99
Gallatin Gateway, Mont.

Not My Brand

I read with interest the article on “teen branding” by Alissa Quart ’95 (“Basement Paradise,” January/February). I fully support the principle of “unbranding” but wonder if it extends to removing the college logo from the rear window of the family car.

Ronald G. Whittle ’60
Belfast, Maine

Who’s Number One?

There have been times when, like many fellow graduates, I have read Mail Room and been disturbed by what fellow graduates think. But nothing I have read recently has bothered me more than the assertion by Bob Sweeney ’57 that “as a group there are no better citizens in the Brown community than its male and female athletes” (“Ironic Decision,” Mail Room, January/February). While I respect Brown’s athletes, students involved in nonathletic activities and programs such as financial aid deserve as much, if not more, support.

Is Mr. Sweeney aware of the commitment by President Simmons and the rest of the University to improving undergraduate and graduate education, thereby improving everyone’s experiences at Brown? Athletics will always be a part of Brown. But what is more important for the University as a socially responsible institution: supporting football players or supporting students interested in changing the world?

Stephan Golas ’00

Whoa, Nellie!

I congratulate and thank Dan Detore ’76 (who wore the number 76 on his football jersey, if I recall correctly) and the rest of the “bad bunch” for “resurrecting” football at Brown (“Not So Fast,” Mail Room, January/February). But I feel compelled to remind him that it was the players on the 1972 and 1973 editions who rolled back the stone of adversity to realize that Brown football teams can indeed win.

The sacrifices and the dedication of those players, who survived and improved their game despite only one win over the previous two seasons and a coaching staff heading for the exits, may have contributed to the bad bunch’s winning record in their sophomore season of 1973, as well as to their success in subsequent seasons.

By the time the bad bunch arrived, the commitment and resolve of the veterans, stirred by the inspiration and talents of the late John Anderson and his staff in their first year at Brown, served as the launchpad for the bunch to realize their place—Brown’s place—as champions. That winning season of 1973 set the pace and pointed the way.

So when I read Dan’s letter, I shouted out my best Keith Jackson “Whoa, Nellie!” and thought about all those great players who rode the “bad bunch” to the Ivy League championship. In my opinion, those players on the 1972 and 1973 rosters may have been the baddest bunch of all.

John Lomicky ’74
Powder Springs, Ga.

Correction: The obituary for Robert J. Edwards ’50 in the March/April issue incorrectly listed his hometown. He lived in Phillipsburg, N.J.

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May / June 2003