Mail Room

By The Editors / March / April 2005
August 10th, 2007

Rubida’s Team

“Third and Long” (January/February) was absolutely on target. Everyone should also know the enormous solace that football coach Phil Estes and Frank Sheehan, Lawrence Rubida’s position coach, were to him and his family throughout this ordeal. More than once they interrupted their recruiting efforts to fly to the West Coast or to Washington, D.C., to be with him through chemo sessions and to share in the emotional trauma of having to die so young. It was tough duty, but they took it on willingly because of the quality people they are. In today’s sports and corporate worlds the words team and family are so overworked they’ve become trite. Phil and Frank proved that those values still exist. It is not surprising that Lawrence asked that they be with him the night he died.

Tony Gould ’64
Washington, D.C.

Culture’s cost

It was inspiring to read Emily Gold Boutilier’s memorial to Dimitrios Gavriel ’97 (“Legacy,” January/February). Inspiring, but also a bit surprising in view of our University’s abhorrence of things military.

I firmly believe that a lasting civilization needs a strong backbone to survive through the ages. Dimitrios, the U.S. Marine, joins that fraternity of Brown alumni who have given their lives for their country and for what it represents.

Perhaps our venerable academics have forgotten that the glories of Athenian culture might never have reached us were it not for the blood of those 300 Spartans at Thermopylae many centuries ago.

How very fitting that Dimitrios was of Greek heritage.

William H. McCall ’40

As Good as it Gets

As Kermit Champa (“A Teacher’s Gift,”Obituaries, November/December) began a lecture one morning during the early 1970s, he wrote on the board at the front of the List lecture hall: “Picasso, 1905–1938.” I remember hoping he would end with his thoughts on Picasso’s masterpiece of the Spanish Civil War, Guernica. I was not disappointed. Kermit Champa on Pablo Picasso is about as good as it gets.

With a few minutes left in class, in those years at the height of disaffection with the Vietnam War, he paused for a moment and then ended his lecture with the following words: “The fact that this painting can evoke the incredibly strong emotional response about the horror of war is laudable. The fact that his message still has so much relevance in today’s world is lamentable.”

His words continue to be lamentably true. I’ve never forgotten them. I’m sure I won’t forget him.

Jonathan D. Rogers ’74

Thank you for publishing the essay by Sarah McFarland Taylor ’90 about the profound influence Giles Milhaven had on his students (“CNN Never Had a Chance,” Obituaries, November/Dec- ember). The religious studies classes I took with Professor Milhaven were two of the most inspiring, thought-provoking, and challenging educational experiences I have ever had.

But beyond that, as a twenty-year-old political activist more interested in marching in the streets than sitting in a classroom, I might never have completed my Brown education without Giles Milhaven’s support. His willingness to sponsor my independent concentration in political activism, and his class on anger—the keystone of my concentration—helped me see and feel the connections between action and education. He helped me become both a better activist and a better student, and I am forever in his debt.

Rebecca Hensler ’91
El Cerrito, Calif.

The Talking Cure

Walter A. Brown’s piece entitled “Was Freud Right?” (November/December) hit the right note in highlighting the difficulties in the treatment of depression. I think the psychiatric and psychotherapeutic models can work complementarily and should not be mutually exclusive. Moreover, a protracted emphasis on one form of treatment over another is limiting and isn’t always in the best interest of the patient.

Freud began his career in the 1880s as a physician and neuroscientist specializing in nervous and neurological disorders. His development of the “talking cure” was inspired by his patients, whose desire to speak made a significant impression on him and led to his deciphering the unconscious and its various modes of representation. Freud came to view mental pathology and symptoms as the unconscious literally speaking through the patients, and he demonstrated that the practice of analysis could alleviate anxiety, symptoms, and suffering. In sifting through a patient’s history, Freud was able to facilitate his patients’ identification of structuring moments in the formation of symptoms and in the position taken up by them vis-à-vis the world.

His ideas remain relevant today. The “Freudian slip” has taken a place in everyday discourse, and it usually doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to catch an alternative truth implicit in a slip. Indeed, the slip indicates a different motive at work in the mechanism of speech, a motive that works in opposition to the Descartian model, “I think therefore I am.” A French disciple of Freud, Jacques Lacan, captured the essence of the analytical opposition to a cognitive model of self-understanding when he said, “I think therefore I am not.”

No doubt many will benefit significantly when a cause or constellation of causes of depression is found. Drug treatments have alleviated much of the suffering of those afflicted by depression. In the meantime, a combination of medical and therapeutic approaches is best. Freud anticipated an increase in neurosis as the twentieth century progressed, and he was proven right. My own therapeutic work with patients suffering from depression indicates that medication isn’t always enough: it does not address questions of desire and psychic motivation. And perhaps for this reason, medical intervention in the case of depression may only go so far. As human beings, we are subject, without our consent, to language and to the sum of our history and influences. Ultimately, it is what we make of these influences that shapes the position we take in the world.

Eve M. Watson ’96
Dublin, Ireland

It is extremely distressing to read from a Brown professor a statement that begins, “The fact that cognitive therapy has yet to be proven more effective than a placebo …” (“Was Freud Right?” Faculty POV, November/December). That assertion is absolute nonsense. Further, it detracts from the very important point that no treatment is effective for every person to whom it is administered. There may well be multiple paths to depression and different degrees of responsiveness to multiple paths back out. Readers should resist any temptation to conclude from Dr. Brown’s ill-advised statements that treatments are useless. Instead they should understand that if a treatment that works for some people is ineffective for them, it is simply time to try another treatment.

Charles S. Carver ’69
Coral Gables, Fla.

The author is a professor of psychology at the University of Miami.

Missing Candidate

Not surprisingly your election wrap-up (“Highlights from the 2004 Vote,” The Classes, January/February) missed a high-shooting, if not high-profile, candidate. Richard Campagna ’72 was the Libertarian candidate for vice president of the United States. Given the limited coverage that non-Nader third-party candidates received last year, it’s no shock that no one on the BAM staff noticed. (A few other Brunonians ran as Libertarians for minor offices around the country too.)

Chris Maden ’94
San Francisco, Calif.

Have a Cigar

Congratulations, Sidney Frank ’42, foryour foresight and generosity (“The Giver,” November/December). The photos convey clearly that you are a man at peace with yourself and with the world. My view may be colored ever so slightly by the fact that since 1951 I’ve been a pipe smoker.

Did President Ruth Simmons allow you to smoke that fine cigar in her office while you were working out details of your munificent gift? I sure hope so. Political correctness has its limits.

Tomas Feininger ’64 PhD
Québec, Canada

It is wonderful that Sidney Frank  ismaking it possible for poor students to get a Brown education.

I hope that, along with inheriting an educational legacy lubricated by Frank’s millions and vested with his obvious candor and irreverent humor, these new students will learn at Brown that life is more than business, that government does not exist to serve special interests, that public spaces should not be branded, that commercialism de-grades sex, that bootlicking makes bad public policy, that leisure is empty without the hard work by which it is earned, that net worth is not the first thing one looks for in a mate, that alcohol can de-stroy as many homes as it warms, that what the market wants is not always what the commonwealth needs, and that principle sometimes has to be placed ahead of the perceived dictates of self-preservation.

These aid recipients and all their classmates will know their true benefactors when these foundational American precepts become their own.

Bruce Leichty
Clovis, Calif.

The author is a Brown parent.

I was amused when I read that Sidney Frank introduced Grey Goose vodka to give Americans the option of avoiding Russian vodka during the cold war (“The Giver,” November/December).

My husband and I were planning our wedding in the spring of 2003, at the height of anti-French sentiment in the United States (think Freedom Fries). We were choosing between two reception halls in New Rochelle, N.Y., where Sidney Frank Importing Company is headquartered. At one hall, the caterer proudly explained that they carried top-shelf liquors, including all the best brands of vodka, except—and here he became somewhat apologetic—Grey Goose. When pressed, he explained: “because it’s French.”

Undoubtedly, Sidney Frank could not have had any idea that his vodka might become a pariah in 2003 for exactly the same reason it was created. And in New Rochelle, no less. Needless to say, we chose the other reception hall.

Lisa Davidson ’97
New Rochelle, N.Y.

Sidney Frank has generously shared his largesse with two stupendous gifts to Brown: $20 million for buildings and $100 million for scholarships.

His story, as reported in the BAM and the New York Times, is fascinating and breathtaking. As an alumnus I am thrilled and grateful.

I suggest that his gift for new construction be used to raze Rhode Island and Slater halls and replace them with an academic building symmetrical with University Hall. Additionally Horace Mann should be razed, and a dormitory or academic building be built on its site and the adjoining parking lot, extending to Benevolent Street opposite Keeney Quad.

This would begin to fill Brown’s dire need for functional space while enhancing the attractiveness of the campus.

Earl M. Bucci ’48
Schenectady, N.Y.

No Payload

I heartily support the sentiments Paul Kechijian ’61, ’64 AM expressed (Mailroom, January/February). However his letter contains an error that should be corrected to further buttress his arguments: Brown would not pay ROTC faculty salaries. The service—in the case of Naval ROTC, the U.S. Navy—would assign active-duty officers and senior petty officers to duty at Brown and would continue to pay them.

Robert G. Walker ’45 Destin, Fla.

Still Living; Teaching, Too

My wife recently received a letter from a former student of mine saying how sad he was to read in the BAM of my death. We were surprised, since we both thought I was still alive. I checked the July/August 1998 issue and, sure enough, found the following: “George Springer ’46 ScM, Bloomington, Ind.: November 1997. He was a mathematics professor at Indiana University....”

For the record, I am still alive and still teaching at Indiana University as a professor emeritus.

George Springer ’46
Bloomington, Ind.

Our apologies. The University was incorrectly notified of Professor Springer’s demise. —The Editors


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