Bringing it to Life
Thank you for the brilliantly presented article by Dave Zeitlin recounting Penn’s 1965-66 triumphant men’s basketball season and its aftermath [“March Madness Missed,” Mar|Apr 2016]. Frankly, I was unaware then, and until reading this article, of the NCAA imbroglio. However, what I was well aware of was that we could never win the Ivies when Bill Bradley was at Princeton despite our having one heck of a spirited and talented team.
Zeitlin’s article helped me relive those Palestra moments, and even remember driving with Penn supporters to Princeton for Bradley’s last home game. Pawlak and Neuman were quite the pair. Wideman, what with his becoming a Rhodes Scholar, made us all proud.
That final season for me, too, as a senior graduating in 1966, was all emotion and all absolutely fantastic.
Thank you for bringing it to life once again.
Gary Charlestein W’66 Plymouth Meeting, PA
I really enjoyed Dave Zeitlin’s fine article on the 1965-66 Penn men’s basketball team. I will never forget being escorted to the Palestra by Charly Fitzgerald and Stan Pawlak when I made my visit to Penn as a senior in high school. I enjoyed Penn’s run to its first official Ivy title and clearly remember the fiasco with the NCAA’s 1.6 GPA rule. Hopefully, you will continue to honor other great athletic teams of Penn’s past as these teams celebrate their upcoming 50th anniversaries.
John Oetting EE’69 GEE’71 GrE’73 Columbia, MD
Way to Go, Ben! (Not Really)
Perhaps it is poetic justice: Ben Nelson thinks he can create a university—and give his graduates good jobs with a secure economic future—built on the backs of faculty and tenure and without its own research facilities, research libraries, etc., while still relying on staff and administrators whose education (including K-12) and careers were built on such infrastructure [“Readin’, Writin’, Revolution,” Mar|Apr 2016]. But Penn itself, with its flagship school Wharton, has been selling this idea of laissez-faire capitalism and anti-government support for building and maintaining such infrastructure for decades, while taking millions in government contracts.
So let Nelson destroy Penn and all the other Ivy League schools, but we still need land-grant, public research universities, such as the University of California and state universities all over the US. They built the internet and the infrastructure, and hold the research facilities and libraries that are still relied on to this day. They should be getting more public and private support.
Way to go, Ben!
Sharon Vance Gr’05 Bellevue, KY
In the Weeds
As a Wharton grad and a former member of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, I was very disappointed in the article about Matthew Rader WG’11 taking the helm of PHS [“Alumni Profiles,” Mar|Apr 2016].
There was nothing in the description of Mr. Rader’s background that makes him appear to have any knowledge of horticulture. I never viewed the PHS as responsible for urban planning or being a typical money-making enterprise, so you have failed to sell me on why he was put in the job and why it is worthy of an article.
I was extremely disappointed in the treatment of [former PHS head] Jane Pepper. I don’t know the woman, but the goals of the organization were achieved under her leadership, and the Flower Show was always a great success, both for PHS and the city. I think the commentary about it being run as a “garden club” was very snide, both in relation to garden clubs and certainly to the size and scope of PHS.
Perhaps it could have been run more like a business—except that it isn’t. PHS is a non-profit. This is not to say that non-profits don’t have goals of raising money, but that is not the mission of the organization as the writer, JoAnn Greco, seems to imply. Turning the organization into a business does not necessarily mean that it is any better for the members of PHS or the City.
I can’t imagine why Greco would think that adding a pop-up beer garden to the flower show is a wonderful accomplishment. From a business perspective, I would judge a flower show more on attendance—which doesn’t appear to have increased. I have not seen the show improve in recent years, nor have I heard about more activities from PHS since Jane’s departure.
As an added note, the title of the article, “Gardens of Earthy Delights,” is also rather strange, leading one to assume that there would be some connection to the 500th anniversary of the death of the artist Hieronymus Bosch, the painter of The Garden of Earthly Delights. The celebration is occurring this year.
Wynne Edelman WG’79 Media, PA
“Ghosting for Gerald” has to be one of the most cliché-ridden pieces ever presented in the Gazette [“Alumni Voices,” Mar|Apr 2016]. A drug-addicted black man who has spent most of his life in prison is adopted as a pet by a mature, stable, white liberal who guides him as the adult overseeing his child-like, drug-influenced behaviors. What Susan Orlins has written is the R-rated, hard-core version of the Seventies television-sitcom Diff’rent Strokes. A better title for the book would be “Confessions of a Squalor Buff.”
Jim Scott G’98 Mount Laurel, NJ
Does that Sound Right?
Rebecca Tan’s essay, “Accent Adaptation,” was interesting and well written [“Notes from the Undergrad,” Mar|Apr 2016]. Having worked my entire life with people of many accents, I enjoy the different rhythms and cadences. However, trying to adopt a new accent is difficult and best left to professionals like Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger. The difficulty for amateurs is exemplified in the suggestion that can’t should be rhymed with ant rather than aunt, since in standard American English (the first pronunciation in your dictionary) ant and aunt are pronounced the same.
Jeffrey Myers C’53 Medford, NJ
Whatever the dictionary may say, ahnt is the common pronunciation of aunt in Philadelphia these days, so Rebecca got that right if the goal is to sound like the natives. Also, nothing against Kidman and Zellweger, but I bet they’d have a hard time finding their way around Singaporean speech. —Ed.
Warming to Hill House
Reading the article about the planned renovation of Hill House [“Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr 2016], I was reminded how, back in 1961, as a recent graduate of Penn’s architectural program, I thought Eero Saarinen’s building was pretty dumb. It was just a simple brick-block building with a textural pattern of windows. However, time has been kind to the building—or perhaps my assessment of architecture has matured a bit.
The program of wrapping dormitory rooms and other support facilities around a great court has a compelling logic. The rooms may be a bit small, but they were probably a necessary accommodation for a complex program within a limit of square footage and/or budget. And the court is indeed a rewarding space, generous in size, rich in configuration, with fine views from the surrounding upper spaces.
The exterior may be simple, but it has a kind of welcome toughness with some clever relief of the delicate metal “cornice” at the top. The bricks were an excellent selection.
Interestingly, Saarinen and Louis Kahn were at the same time considered for two major projects of the University, a laboratory building and a dormitory. Penn officials made the right choice. Although Kahn’s Medical Towers have received greater critical acclaim, I believe the University should be proud of Saarinen’s Hill House as well. Sadly, Saarinen died shortly after this project. He was the victim of a brain tumor. He was only 51.
David Karp Ar’59 San Mateo, CA
Why No “Challenging” Questions?
The article on the University’s Muslim chaplain [Kameelah Rashad C’00 GEd’01, “Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr 2016], was both interesting and informative for her views on the Muslim student experience at the University and elsewhere, as well as the important need for all of us to combat discrimination against Muslims.
However, there were apparently no challenging questions asked of the Muslim chaplain or even any context for actions of Muslim students themselves against other religions on campuses. Is discrimination by Muslim students as important as discrimination against them? Does she publicly discourage acts of intimidation and fear against Jewish students whether at Penn or at college campuses all across the country? Is Christian persecution by Muslim countries and groups sufficient to be discussed by her?
Can we at least expect the Gazette in the absence of hard questions in the referenced article to soon give an opposite view platform to a professor or other informed person at Penn?
Robert Chait W’62 Carefree, AZ
Only one religion preaches that Christians and Jews must be subjugated, converted, or killed. Those values are immoral and (it should go without saying) indefensible. Yet Muslims have been preaching those values—and acting on them—for 1300 years.
The Gazette ignores these facts in “Islamic Chaplain: Fight Hatred With New Narratives.” It talks instead about alleged hatred of American Muslims as if that is the problem.
I’m sorry if Kameelah Rashad feels people are staring at her. I just can’t work up much sympathy. If American Muslims are uncomfortable, perhaps they should demand that their co-religionists abandon their uniquely hateful and violent ways.
Michael Steinberg L’77 Bethesda, MD
Sadly, the above letters strike me as emblematic of what people like Rashad are up against. It is simply wrong that blameless individuals should feel discriminated against or threatened in this country because of the way they look or their chosen faith. That members of the Penn community feel this way should provoke sympathy in all of us, as Rashad’s constructive, positive response—described at length in the article—should provoke our admiration. —Ed.
Karp Doesn’t Understand Lalvani (or Kahn, or Bucky Fuller)
I write as a Penn graduate with multiple degrees. I attended the school during Louis Kahn’s tenure; I wrote a book on Kahn ( Between Silence and Light: Spirit in the Architecture of Louis I. Kahn); I have taught a course on Kahn for more than 40 years; I have lectured at many architecture schools about Kahn; I have co-authored an unpublished book, “The Philadelphia School: 1955-1965, A Synergy of City, Profession, and Education,” for which I interviewed and taped all of the key figures at Penn’s then Graduate School of Fine Arts during the 1960s.
And I write as someone who followed and taught Bucky Fuller’s work over the decades.
And finally I write as a colleague of Haresh Lalvani at the Pratt Institute, School of Architecture, where we are both professors, and whose work I have followed for 40-plus years.
I hope that anyone who reads David Karp’s letter regarding Haresh Lalvani in the Mar|Apr Gazette will go back and read the original article by Samuel Hughes [“The Shapes of Things to Come,” Jan|Feb 2016]. The article does a wonderful job of providing an overview of the work of Lalvani, which I might try to summarize as a new kind of mathematics to more fully comprehend form and, in so doing, to find more general understandings of morphology, geometry, logic, computer science, numbers, chemistry, etc. Lalvani’s work is so fundamental, with implications for so many fields that it is almost impossible to summarize, but Samuel Hughes does a brilliant job in his article, so again, do read or re-read it.
It is unfortunate that the only letter published in response to the piece trivializes Lalvani’s work as a means of generating sculptural form and attacks his award-winning apartment building, “Project X,” as a giant sculpture. In fact, Project X contains major structural and morphological innovations as well as insights into urban life.
I am afraid that in invoking Kahn, and Bucky Fuller, in attacking Lalvani, Karp has indicated a lack of understanding of all three. To imply that Kahn’s work is about being “civic,” “inhabitable,” and “environmental,” is to entirely miss what Kahn was about. It also misses the relationship between Lalvani’s Project X and Kahn’s City Tower Project, done with Anne Tyng. And to imply that Fuller’s work was limited to “Spaceship Earth” is to entirely miss his work in mathematics and morphology. One need only read Fuller’s comments about Lalvani quoted in the original article to see how favorable Fuller was toward Lalvani’s work.
Highlighting Karp’s statement, “I doubt Bucky Fuller would be impressed by Project X,” on the opening page of the “Letters” section is a disservice to Lalvani and Fuller, and to the Gazette. It is also a disservice to Samuel Hughes who so thoroughly presented Lalvani’s work.
John Lobell C’63 GAr’65 GAr’66 New York
Medical Truth’s Temporal Nature
I really enjoyed reading about the work of Dr. Robert Aronowitz [“Our Labs, Our Health?” Jan|Feb 2016]. When I taught residents, I always tried to temper my recommendations based on the current scientific evidence with a caveat discussion of the “temporal nature of medical truth.”. I am certain that the physicians of the next century will laugh about the heresy of chemotherapy the same way we laugh about the heresy of bloodletting.
I am reminded of the quote attributed to Sir William Osler (the father of modern medicine and past chair of clinical medicine at Penn’s medical school), who once stated prior to a lecture to medical students: “Gentleman, forgive me, I have bad news and worse news. The bad news is fifty percent of what I am about to teach you is false and the worse news is that I don’t know which fifty percent that is.”
Barry Fabius C’79 Phoenixville, PA
Wrong on Enbrel
As someone who was intimately involved with the manufacturing and quality control of Enbrel as a biological treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, I beg to differ with a comment in the article “Our Labs, Our Health?” Although Enbrel can stabilize the course of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, it is not the first line of treatment and is not used for treatment of people who “don’t actually have rheumatoid arthritis,” but might develop it, as the article states. It has never been marketed as a risk-factor medicine and it is wrong to imply that the pharmaceutical companies are pushing it for that. Otherwise, I thought the article pointed out some important insights into today’s medical practice.
Carol Worman Nolan GCh’75 Allentown, PA
Dazzled by Gleitman
I was saddened to see the announcement of Professor Henry Gleitman’s death [“Obituaries,” Jan|Feb 2016]—but also glad to learn that he lived to the ripe old age of 90.
I took his Psych I course as a first-semester freshman in the fall of 1962 in a large lecture hall with well over a hundred students in attendance. I always sat in the front row, dazzled by his high-energy and enormously informative lectures—delivered with a distinct German accent (I still recall his heavy rs and ks when he spoke of the rods and cones—rrrods and kkkones–involved in visual perception). He had a way of keeping his undergraduate audience spellbound with his brilliant—and seemingly unrehearsed—presentations.
Eugene Stelzig C’66 Geneseo, NY
Measuring Mentors’ Influence
It is said that death triggers a cascade of memories where “your life passes before your eyes.” While I fortunately do not have direct personal experience in that regard, I can attest to the fact that something very similar does indeed happen upon learning of the death of a friend or loved one, or a colleague or mentor. And so it was for me, reliving my days as a Penn undergraduate physics major, when I read about the death of Professor Howard Brody, a long-time faculty member in the department [“Obituaries,” Nov|Dec 2015].
While I did not actually have Professor Brody for a class at Penn, he was instrumental in helping the physics students resurrect the Penn Physics Club in the mid-1970s, and he graciously served as the faculty advisor for this student organization. It was in this capacity that I got to know him quite well, and we often shared our mutual interest (and common frustration) with the game of tennis. One of my favorite lunch-hour pastimes was to grab a sandwich and sit on the stands overlooking the tennis courts next to DRL, watching players of all levels pound tennis balls back and forth across the nets.
In 1977, Professor Brody told me that he was trying to explore some of the physics aspects of the game by taking measurements of tennis racquet vibrations to characterize the “sweet spot” of a racquet. With great enthusiasm, he showed me his makeshift lab in the basement of DRL where he had clamped a brand new Prince tennis racquet and was observing the vibrational frequencies of the strings on an oscilloscope. Little did I know at the time, but I was actually witnessing the start of a long and illustrious career for Brody as the world’s foremost expert in the physics of tennis.
I greatly enjoyed my interactions with Professor Brody, and his recent death prompted me to reflect upon other Penn physics professors who have passed away in the decades since I graduated. I can clearly recall my very first physics course with Professor Alfred Mann, who was a very nice guy, but nonetheless rather intimidating for a new incoming freshman. Even before coming to Penn, I had a friendly meeting with Professor Herbert Callen, who regaled me about the benefits of coming to Penn (not that I needed convincing!). The British charm and sophistication of Professor Kenneth Atkins helped me get through my sophomore Electromagnetism class. And Professor Fay Ajzenberg-Selove, whom I only actually met rather late in my senior year at Penn, was personally and almost single-handedly responsible for my subsequent choice of graduate school (University of Washington), which changed the trajectory of my life and launched my pursuit of a career in physics.
So, how did things end up? As it turns out, I am a physics professor myself, at The George Washington University, and in many respects, I imagine that my current routine as a faculty member is very similar to the academic experience of these past Penn mentors and advisors. Going about my teaching and research activities, I sometimes wonder if I have managed to touch the lives of any of the students that I encounter, just as the professors in the mid-1970s touched my life. I am not sure, but it is nice to dream about it. My own memories of Penn are quite vivid, and as I recall those days, I am saddened by the news of Professor Brody’s death, and hope that this will serve as a testament to his memory.
Jerry Feldman C’78 Fairfax, VA
In “March Madness Missed,” the pictures of Jeff Neuman (#22) and Charly Fitzgerald (#33) on page 41 are mislabeled with each other’s names. Our apologies for the error—and thanks to Marty Weiner W’65 for catching it.
We misspelled the name of a New York DOT commissioner quoted in the story, “Street Fighter,” on “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz GCE’70. She is Janette Sadik-Khan, not Kahn. Our apologies to her.
Our “Gazetteer” story on Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda being this year’s Commencement speaker incorrectly stated that his first musical, In the Heights, won the Pulitzer Prize; in fact, it was nominated but didn’t win.