Thank you for the article on Bob Schoenberg [“At the Center of It All,” Nov|Dec 2017] and thanks to Bob Schoenberg for his uplifting presence. I laughed at the reference to grandparents because Bob seemed more like an older brother or young uncle to me: 35 years—WOW!
I felt your article focused on negative experiences in the early 1980s and could have mentioned some of the positives: Residential Living had out LGBT RAs, WXPN was a pioneer in LGBT broadcasting, and the top fraternities were quite LGBT friendly. I remember early ’80s Penn and Wharton as being accepting and Philadelphia having a welcoming LGBT community.
Brad Lyman W’84, San Francisco
A Light for Many
I worked closely with Bob Schoenberg, both as a work-study student in the Office of Student Life and as a volunteer staffer in the Lesbians & Gays at Penn (LGAP) office in Houston Hall. Coming out of the closet as a freshman student in the Spring of 1985, I did not fully understand how uniquely supportive an environment Bob had just created there. I experienced many emotions, including concerns about coming out to my family, my fraternity brothers, and others in a world where AIDS and homophobia were significantly impacting gay men’s lives.
Bob was supportive in so many ways, for which I will always be grateful. He helped to arrange a grant-writing internship for me at a community organization called Action AIDS Philadelphia, where Bob served as the first board president. His office contained an enormous lending library of books about LGBT issues. Most importantly, his friendly and smiling demeanor, endless energy, and genuineness were indispensable during many challenging days for me during that time. I’m happy to see the honor of naming the LGBT Center after him and know that even in retirement Bob Schoenberg will continue to be a light for many to follow.
Jonathan Kessler C’88 GEd’88,
Elk Grove Village, IL
Important and Long Overdue
Trey Popp’s article on Simon Patten [“Prophet of Prosperity,” Nov|Dec 2017] is an important and long overdue exploration of Patten’s contributions, as well as a contribution to the history of American economic thought. Ironically, as a doctoral student in economics enrolled in Professor Arthur Irving’s course on the history of economic thought, I do not recall a discussion of Patten as part of the American institutional school.
Economics students were required to take work outside of the department, and I ventured to the sociology department to study the history of social thought. And there is where I first came across Patten. I can appreciate that many of his ideas seem out of place in current times. But it was his scope and focus on understanding how markets operated as the result of human decision-making that is important; this is in contrast to the quantitative approach which provides directions for how we should behave.
In an era where much emphasis is placed on quantitative issues in economics, the discipline is poorer for not including those in what was once called “political economy,” although the works of Albert Hirschman, Douglas North, Elinor Ostorm, and Oliver E. Williamson have revived institutional economic thinking and policy. Among figures such as Adolf Berle, J. L. Clark, John R. Commons, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Wesley C. Mitchell (to name a few), Patten should be included.
Popp and the Gazette are to be congratulated for bringing Patten’s ideas out of the shadows.
Ronald Savitt GrW’75, Portland, ME
Excellent Writing and Research
Excellent writing and historical research on Simon Patten. As a graduate of the College in 1959 I learned much about the story of the Wharton School. Economics is a hobby, and I knew nothing of Patten. Thank you, Trey Popp.
James D. Murphy Sr. C’59 M’63, Tampa, FL
Patten Was an Inspiration
I have been interested in the early Wharton School and the work of Edmund James, Simon Patten, and Leo S. Rowe since the early 1980s. Indeed, the early Wharton School’s civic and community activism was a central source for and powerfully shaped the development of academically based community service at Penn. In our recent book, Knowledge for Social Change: Bacon, Dewey and the Revolutionary Transformation of Research Universities in the Twenty-First Century , six Penn Netter Center colleagues and I write: “[For Lee Benson and Ira Harkavy,] the Progressive Era Wharton School was a source of both inspiration and a practical strategy. Above all, they took to heart Rowe’s 1904 paper on the Wharton curriculum. More than any other source, this paper shaped their conception of academically based community service.” And Lowe, as we note in the book, adapted Patten’s methods for his undergraduate courses.
At Penn, Patten has not been totally forgotten and his legacy is indeed very much alive. And to the extent that the Netter Center’s work has influenced colleagues throughout the country and around the world, Patten’s work continues to have an impact on others outside of Penn.
Ira Harkavy C’70 Gr’79, faculty, Philadelphia
The writer is the founding director of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, which marked its 25th anniversary in November [“Gazetteer,” this issue]. —Ed.
Never Tired of Playing It Again
I enjoyed John Prendergast’s article on Noah Isenberg’s book, We’ll Always Have “Casablanca” [“Everybody Comes to Casablanca,” Nov|Dec 2017]. Several years after I graduated from Penn, I joined the Peace Corps with my husband Neil Sullivan C’63 and headed to an old German POW camp in Colorado for six weeks of training to be EFL teachers in Morocco. We trainees were given $50 to spend on “entertainment,” not that we had much time for that. We elected to purchase strobe lights and a copy of Casablanca. After dinner, we frequently brought out the film and projected it on a sheet tacked to the wall of the dining hall. By the time we left for Morocco, the entire group had memorized the script and would shout out the best parts along with the actors. In the past 50 years, I have probably watched the film 50 times, and never tired of playing it again. I look forward to enjoying Dr. Isenberg’s book.
Nancy Hillenbrand Sullivan CW’64,
Long Live Hill House!
I was so delighted to see “The Return of Hill House” listed on the cover of the Nov|Dec 2017 issue that I abandoned my tradition of checking “Alumni Notes” first thing and instead turned to the piece about the dorm where I spent freshman year [“Hill Rises”]. (Although I remember it as Hill Hall; not sure when the name changed.) In those days, I’d never heard of Eero Saarinen or mid-century modern design; it was just home for a year.
One thing I clearly remember about Hill House was that after dinner, some sort of cart was brought in to the downstairs level so that we could all caffeinate up for a night of studying. I’d never had coffee, much less coffee with real cream, and so I eagerly indulged practically every night. To this day, I blame it for all that weight I gained freshman year (although the yummy breakfasts I had before my 8 a.m. classes no doubt contributed as well). Long live Hill House!
Valerie Pennes Emmerich CW’73,
But What About the Rooms?
The small article and photo essay about the changes at Hill House were interesting. However, how could you do an article and not show a picture of the most important part, what one of the standard rooms look like? Having lived in Hill House, I’m curious to see if any improvements were done there, as opposed to the common spaces. Is there any way to include a link that shows more pictures of the different areas?
Bill King C’93, Collingswood, NJ
The photos for that story were taken after students had moved in, and our photographer Greg Benson wasn’t able to gain access to any individual dorm rooms. But a set of images the design team provided to the media did include an interior shot, which we’ve posted on the web version. Note: room dimensions have not changed. —Ed.
Beauty and Angst
I loved Jacob Gursky’s piece “The Snow Day Kid” [“Notes from the Undergrad,” Nov|Dec 2017]. He beautifully captured the beauty and angst of high school romance. I predict he will go far in life and love.
Bill Bowler W’68, South Hamilton, MA
Not So Sweet
As one prone to sinus infections I was fascinated by your brief article “New Hope for Sinus Infections” [“Gazetteer,” Nov|Dec 2017]. As a lover of desserts, I realized in a flash why my sinus infections cleared up in Asia where desserts only show up in Western hotels. In our society, with its obesity epidemic, the message is clear: give up sugar. Ironically, the medical profession is planning a “work-around” so that we can have our cakes and sweets sinus-infection free!
Jack Gillmar C’65, Honolulu
Sad, Gazette, Sad
Well, “There you go again.” Why does the Gazette feel it needs to bash President Donald Trump W’68 by publishing Julia Klein’s review of Thomas Childers’ The Third Reich in the recent edition of the Gazette? [“Arts,” Nov|Dec 2017]. “Hitler and only Hitler could make Germany great again.” Really?
This is nothing more than making a subtle accusation that Trump and Hitler are one and the same. If this were even remotely true, wouldn’t Penn have to bear some responsibility since he was educated there? How naïve do you think your alumni are? The only thing done here was to give Klein a platform to espouse her own political views and not do a legitimate critique of the book. Sad, Gazette, sad.
Richard Harvey WEv’80, Fort Meyers, FL
Some phrases—Ronald Reagan’s “There you go again” comes to mind—lodge themselves in the culture. Given the ubiquity of President Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, the echo is perhaps inevitable. However, it is also simply a fact that Adolf Hitler rose to power on the promise of restoring Germany’s “greatness” as a nation. In any case, the passage referenced is a direct quote from Professor Childers’ book and not an editorial comment by reviewer Julia Klein. —Ed.
The redesign is wonderful! Printing black on white is so much more readable then black (or reverse) over color. Thanks.
Ronald H Weintraub W’55, Oro Valley, AZ
Kudos and Critique
I am delighted with the new format (as I was with the old format) for The Pennsylvania Gazette. However, there is one change that would be helpful.
The “Obituaries” section has the “Alumni” designation in black followed by a pale gray heading, now only about a quarter of an inch high and on one page only. So, if you miss this minuscule marker, you feel as if you are still reading about alumni doings, which creates an odd feeling when you realize there has been a shift to obits. So many of your readers are older, and the obituaries are important to us. But the blurry line between live alum and dead alum from the magazine does not match the stunning divide between live alum and dead alum as we read …
Dea Zuckerman Mallin CW’64 G’70, Philadelphia
A Story from 1971
Shortly after the recent—and ongoing—series of sexual harassment revelations began to reach the public, I received an email from an alumna headed with the above subject line. Her message recounted in vivid and disturbing detail her abuse as an aspiring student in what was then known as the School of Fine Arts at the hands of Neil Welliver—who was a professor and chair of the Department of Fine Arts from 1966 to 1989 and who died in 2005—and its lasting effects on her in the decades since that harrowing experience.
Her letter appears below, followed by a response from current School of Design Dean Frederick Steiner. Information on Penn’s policies regarding sexual harassment and how and where to report it can be found at http://www.upenn.edu/affirm-action/introsh.html. —Ed.
In 1973, I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BFA. I did not attend my graduation. I continue to receive the Gazette regularly. Reflexively I throw it away, even if I notice an article on the cover that interests me.
Stories of Harvey Weinstein (and others) have been flooding the news. When stories of aggravated sexual harassment/abuse flood the news (Cosby, Trump, etc.), I am also flooded with memories. This past weekend I was with my grown daughters, and I found myself telling them what happened with Neil Welliver so long ago.
They asked, “Did you tell anyone?”
“No. We didn’t have words like ‘sexual harassment’ until after Anita Hill. There was no language, no culture really to deal with sexual aggression. I wouldn’t have known who to go to or what to say. Or what would/could be done about it. Also, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to graduate. People knew what he was like. He was called the Silver Fox. It just was something women handled.”
“How did you handle it?”
“By what I call ‘Pouring Tea.’ I mean, I used all the formal social training I had absorbed from the women in our family; the unspoken training that taught me how to metaphorically pour the tea, engage in conversation, and keep what my mother would have called ‘the unwanted advances’ (and what we now call a sexual predator) on the other side of the tea table.”
“Well, those at Penn have the language now. Write Penn now. They may want to hear. They couldn’t do what was right then, but maybe now they can hear you. Ask them to publish it in the Gazette because you were not the only one, for sure.”
So, I’ve decided to take their advice, and I am writing you now to tell the story.
In late 1970, I wanted to become a student in the BFA program. I was told I needed to meet with Neil Welliver, which I did, probably at the very beginning of 1971. I brought with me my current portfolio, and academic records from Elmira College (1965-67) and The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1967-1969). At the time I left PAFA, I believe Penn and PAFA still had the arrangement allowing PAFA students to earn a BFA at Penn. However, during the year and a half I was out of school and working, that agreement was nullified. Therefore, for admission, I needed to get Neil Welliver’s permission.
Here’s what happened. We met in his office. I spread my portfolio out on the floor. He trashed it. Called it grease. I had had plenty of criticisms in the past. This was particularly harsh. Normally, I could handle it, but I was unnerved, mostly because I thought it meant he wouldn’t accept me into the BFA. Whether I could matriculate or not was entirely his decision. I was trying to check my panic and stay composed when he said, “You don’t have to be such a cold bitch.” I was afraid he could see my chin quivering. At some point he softened and said that he saw some potential. He said what he could/would do is to admit me as a Special Student for the spring term (starting right away). The conditions were that I was to bring him six paintings a week and meet with him on Mondays for an hour and a half. At the end of the term, if he saw improvement, I could matriculate as a regular student in the BFA program. My head was spinning from first the barrage of harshness and now this unexpected reprieve. I gladly accepted the conditions. I was very appreciative. He told me more of what he expected in the six paintings and how he wanted me to approach them. Nothing abstract. “Simple everyday objects. Familiar subjects. Look at it, put it down, and let it stand. Look at it, put it down, and let it stand.” He repeated those words over and over. I understood. Six paintings a week. I could do this. Then he looked at me and said, “You know I’ll sleep with you before the end of the term. Right now I’ll take you to lunch.” Knees still quaking, chin still quivering, all I could think to say was, “Thank you, Mr. Welliver.”
We went to the restaurant on Sansom that was the go-to place for all the art historians, architects, etc. The restaurant served omelets and French onion soup. I knew the restaurant well, as I worked there. As we walked to our table, I felt the eyes of my co-workers on me. They knew something. I wasn’t the first one he had bought lunch for. I felt trapped and ashamed. I was right. Later it was from those co-workers I learned his reputation and his nickname, the Silver Fox. I had been chosen. Sometimes, I learned, he would bring a chosen one to Monhegan Island in Maine to be his model. One of my co-waiters thought it was kind of an honor. He said that maybe I would go to Monhegan. No way was I going to Monhegan.
Somehow I knew I would avoid him sleeping with me, and I was successful at that. But what I had to deal with was an hour and half meeting alone with him every week during which I navigated his sexual advances and his critiques, which were laced with comments like, “Watch your edges. Edges are important. Sloppy edges are like bellies slapping when you fuck.”
“Okay, Mr. Welliver. I’ll watch my edges.”
All the while I never knew whether he would let me into the BFA program … or if sleeping with him would be a necessary condition.
In the end, I did enter the program. Maybe he tired of drinking the metaphorical tea, and, like many predators, moved on to an easier prey. I studied with Rackstraw Downes for the next two years and graduated in 1973. I worked the lunch shift at the restaurant rather than attend my graduation.
(Dorothy) Hope Cannon FA’73, Fernandina Beach, FL
School of Design Dean Frederick Steiner responds:
Dear Ms. Cannon,
John Prendergast from The Pennsylvania Gazette shared your letter about Neil Welliver with me, and I’m glad that he did. I can only imagine it was not an easy letter to write, so I admire your willingness to revisit the experience—especially with people outside of your family and friends.
Quite simply, Welliver’s behavior toward you was completely unacceptable, and I’m deeply sorry that you had to endure such treatment from a faculty member at Penn. Although I was a student at PennDesign in the 1970s and again in the 1980s, I didn’t know Welliver, and I’m hard pressed to understand his behavior, much less explain it. There is no excuse for the abuse of power you describe, and you should know that any form of harassment or coercion is not tolerated at the School of Design.
Over several decades in higher education, it’s been an ongoing goal of mine to ensure that students of all genders, ethnicities, and backgrounds feel safe and welcome. You may be heartened to learn that shortly after my appointment as dean last year, I formed a Faculty Diversity Work Group to advise me on programs and policies to make the School of Design more inclusive. The group has grown to include students and staff members, and we are working together to implement its recommendations.
I can imagine that the publication of your account prompts other readers to recall their own experiences of harassment, or worse. I hope it brings some small consolation that your speaking out helps others move past painful experiences, and helps ensure that current and future students don’t have to.