May 23rd, 2008

It was with a bittersweet mixture of sadness and warm memories that I noted the passing of Professor of History Bryce Lyon (Obituaries, January/February). As legions of history majors will attest, he was a wonderful lecturer and teacher who made medieval history come alive vibrantly. In addition, he was a great scholar, directly linked to the chain of America's great medievalists, from Charles Homer Haskins to Carl Stephenson, who himself taught Professor Lyon at Cornell and named him his literary heir. Ave atque vale.

Andrew C. Halvorsen '68
Summit, N.J.


I had the good fortune and pleasure of working with Charlotte Lowney Tomas '57, '65 AM as a graduate assistant while completing a PhD in philosophy. In the lingo of Guys and Dolls, Charlotte was "one classy dame." She would have laughed at this characterization, and it was fun to make her laugh.

She had a good sense of humor, even though on first impression some might mistakenly have found her formal in manner and dress. But for those students and professors who got to know her, the apparent formality was a matter of dignity, class, and a strong commitment to standards of excellence in dress, manners, thought, and expression—a touchstone to a tradition in which one is reflected in the way one conducts oneself.

And that applied not simply to her Pembroke and secretarial past, but to the young men and women of Brown. She once remarked to me her dismay that a student in a meeting had not been taught that certain perfumes were designed for outdoor rather than indoor use—a seemingly inconsequential concern until you're stuck in a room breathing the effects of inconsiderate behavior.

But Charlotte was no prude. She married Brown philosopher Vincent Tomas, after all. As anyone knows who has had dealings with philosophy professors—as my own wife will attest—marriage to one requires a strong constitution, quick wits, a taste for irony, and a toleration of curious and sometimes bawdy ruminations on the human condition.

Thanks to her early secretarial training, Charlotte was a gifted and strict editor. She studied a document for proper grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and style. She was just as critical in her appraisal of arguments, and no slouch in debates. Gracious and kind, yes—but firm and determined, too.

Deans are a competitive lot, and I sometimes felt that Charlotte's Pembroke background and lack of a PhD were viewed by the powers that be as an anachronism rather than an asset. Such is the lot of pioneers.

Goodbye, Charlotte. Thanks for your advice, example, and support. You made a difference in my life and in the life of Pembroke and Brown.

Peter A. Saltzstein '88 PhD
Conway, S.C

What do you think?
See what other readers are saying about this article and add your voice. 
Related Issue
May/June 2008