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A Jewel

Glad to see the article on Kelly Writers House and Al Filreis [“The House That Writers Built,” July/Aug]. What a wonderful jewel in the middle of campus.

I was an early participant in some of the online book groups hosted by KWH, as well as being close enough to Philadelphia to attend some of the live readings. Wow! The excitement and enthusiasm for all things KWH—and for Al—is almost as tangible online as it is in person. He truly is a dynamo who seems never to forget a name or face, and Kelly Writers House is a great community inside the Penn community.

Even busy with work and two infants at home, I can’t wait to join the next online book group, log on at the end of the day, “lurk” in the background and follow the great salvos that reverberate there, or to watch the great videocasts that document the many live events.

Kudos to all!

Rich Stein W’81 Narberth, PA

Welcome News

Heaven is a Mixed Neighborhood” [July/Aug] brought back many memories for me and my wife, Marie.

I was in the Wharton undergraduate program after WWII. I was a late starter due to some years in the U.S. Navy, and I was already married with two children.

During 1949-1950, we lived in the West Philadelphia area discussed in the article. We had a small apartment on the second floor of one of the rowhouses along the 4500 block of Regent Street. It was a short commute and a longer walk to Penn. The neighborhood was primarily made up of working families with hot-and-cold-running kids. We fit right in. Clark Park was right down the street, and our children loved going there. There was an interesting feature about Regent Street—it had gas-lit street lamps. How Victorian, we thought! Our landlady lived below us. She was Italian and a great cook. At times she would share some of her savory dishes with us. The gnocchi was excellent! We were far from our home in Brooklyn, but we were well pleased with our new digs.

During my last year at Penn, our daughter, Andrea, started her education at the St. Francis de Sales school. Some obvious father-daughter comparisons were often made: “Do you do your homework together?” and “Does she get better grades than you?” Suffice it to say, she was a very good student.

During those years Marie worked as a teller in one of the big banks downtown. There was little time or money for much social life, but on occasion we would have some of my classmates over to the apartment—fellows like George Barrett, Bill Fitzgerald, John McCutcheon, and Pete and Mary Penkala. They were good company.

About the ethnic status of the area, while our street was white, a short distance away was the edge of a large black community. We saw one another in schools, stores, and in other public places. But, typical of that era, there was not much social interaction. Years later, during the 1960s and 1970s, we all heard and read about the riots that afflicted parts of the city. Marie and I were especially concerned for the welfare and safety of our little neighborhood. As we also saw, those conflicts spread to many other cities. I worked for Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey. We were about a half-hour ride from Newark, and we witnessed the riots and arson that plagued that city. Those were hard times.

However, your article brought welcome news: news of the successful and ongoing efforts to regenerate West Philadelphia, and bring peace and harmony to our old neighborhood. Given the scope of the problem and the bleak position from where those dedicated workers had to start, their accomplishments were extraordinary. We sincerely thank them.

I’ve been retired for many years now. Marie and I live in Pensacola, Florida, very near our daughter. Our son, Eugene, lives in Jacksonville. We still talk fondly of our days on Regent Street. It was where we had many good moments as a family, and where we had some important life-beginnings. You don’t forget those times.

Jim Stofer W’50 Pensacola, FL

No Credit

The essay “Hard to Die,” on the Schiavo case [“Expert Opinion,” July/Aug] made no mention of a key party in the case—Terri Schiavo’s family, the Schindlers. Were they not invited, or did they decline to share a platform with Michael Schiavo and Judge Greer? If they refused, and they were denied proxies, ethical questions arise about the conference itself.

Ethical questions also arise about the article’s facile use of the term vegetative state to describe a medical condition. The term is reminiscent of a long, unsavory, repugnant history of the use of abusive and pejorative terms to describe conditions that are now described in objective, medical-scientific language.

Terri Schiavo was not a vegetable or properly referred to as being in the state of a vegetable. She was a human being in a coma, and entitled to human rights even if the courts—which are notoriously backward in scientific matters, thought otherwise.

Penn did not do itself much credit by its role in the Schiavo case.

Lawrence Cranberg Gr’49 Austin, TX

Latta Family Memories I

It was very moving to see the diploma granted to James Latta at the first degree-awarding commencement in 1757 [“Window,” July/Aug]. The original was donated to the University by my wife Paula’s grandparents in 1940 on the occasion of the 200th Anniversary of the founding of the University; it is one of only two diplomas from the first commencement still in existence, and is the only one in the Archives of the University of Pennsylvania. (The other, awarded to Francis Hopkinson, is at the Pennsylvania Historical Society.)

James Latta was the nephew and a student of the Rev. Dr. Francis Alison at his school in Delaware; when Dr. Alison was invited by Provost William Smith to become the first dean of the College, he asked to bring his nephew with him, and James Latta is the first scholarship student to receive a degree from the University of Pennsylvania. The Latta family repaid this kindness by endowing a family scholarship in his honor, one of the oldest family scholarships still in existence, and more members of the Latta family may have attended the University than any other family, including my wife’s late father, John Y. Latta II W’36, his brother, James Latta W’41, my wife’s cousins Jane Latta V’76 and William Latta Nassau ME’48, and the most recent Latta family graduate, our daughter, Anna E. Coyne C’02.

James Latta was the Salutarian at the first Commencement, became a noted Presbyterian churchman, and founded his own school in Chestnut Level, Lancaster Country, Pennsylvania. When independence was declared in 1776, he immediately assisted in raising a company of Lancaster militia and insisted on serving as both chaplain and a fighting soldier, becoming known as the “Fighting Parson.” He was a founder of the independent General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in North America, serving as its third moderator. The University of Pennsylvania awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1799, an honor also accorded to George Washington, who recorded in his diary at Mount Vernon on July 3, 1799, that “Rev. Latta came to visit.”

The Rev. Dr. James Latta, D.D., is buried in the old graveyard at the Chestnut Level Presbyterian Church in Lancaster County. His epitaph reads:

In memory of The Rev. Dr. James Latta 
Who died 29th Jan. 1801 
In the 68th year of his age. 
By his death society has loƒt 
an invaluable member; religion one of 
its brightest ornaments, and most amiable 
examples. His genius was masterly, and 
his literature extensive. As a classical 
scholar he was equalled by few. 
His judgement was strong and penetrating; 
his taste correct; his style nervous and ele- 
gant. In the pulpit he was a model; in the 
judgements of the church distinguished 
by his accuracy and precision. After a life 
devoted to his master’s service, “he rested 
from his labors”; lamented by those 
who best knew his works. 
Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord 

Charles C. Coyne W’70 East Fallowfield, PA

Latta Family Memories II

Thanks for printing the picture of James Latta’s 1757 diploma. I am surprised that you printed it this year rather than next year for the 250th anniversary of those eight graduating.

I am a descendant of James Latta, and somewhere I have a photocopy of that diploma. I am listed still as a member of the Class of 1952, but I actually graduated in 1958 (USAF 1951-56, and two years of part time to complete delayed me). I remember that your oldest living graduate at that time (I believe), Thomas Love Latta, Class of 1887, (my great uncle) led the parade on Alumni Day that year.

Peter W. Franck W’52 Hockessin, DE

Low Grade in Spelling

The reference to the “forward thinking district superintendent” who stood behind Dr. Morton Botel’s ideas early in his career as a teacher [“Alumni Profiles” July/Aug] should be to Charles Boehm instead of Charles Baim.

Tad LaFountain WG’77 (and Charles H. Boehm Junior High, 1962-65)
Princeton, NJ

Bravo (and Amen!)

I read with great interest and a feeling of supreme empathy as a longtime small-business manufacturer struggling in the U.S. market to see that Dr. Wesley B. Truitt C’61 has made the concerted effort to put the U.S. corporation in its proper perspective [“Alumni Notes,”July/Aug]. I applaud his career of “trying to overcome negative misinformation about our business-driven economy propagated by left-wing Democrats.” Amen!

William R. Rumble C’61 Ventura, CA

Motherhood Discussion Misses the Point

I have been quite intrigued with the articles exploring the subject of motherhood in recent issues of the Gazette [“Notes from the Undergrad,” Jan/Feb; the letters that followed in Mar/Apr; and the book review, “Motherhood Is Not For Sissies,” in “Arts,” July/Aug]. I am the mother of two daughters; one is an infant and the other a toddler. I have taken time off from work in order to be a stay-at-home mom. This is the decision my husband and I reached together, based on what we think is best for our girls. Other women choose differently, and surely they are also choosing what is best for their families.

Having said this, I feel as if this discussion that has progressed about motherhood is missing the point. Women, on both sides of this debate, talk as if being a stay-at-home mom, for any period of time, means “opting out” of a career, and hence throwing our intellect and education to the wind. What?! Nothing could be further from the truth!

What a lie society has fed us! Does that mean that raising human beings to be intelligent, thoughtful, kind, and compassionate contributors to our world is a task which, in order to do well, cannot benefit from an Ivy League education? Does that mean that as I spend hours upon hours nurturing my girls, that my money was wasted, and that my education is not being used on a daily basis?

The answer for me is no. I have “opted in” by being a mother. Using my education and intellect, and being a mother, are not mutually exclusive. Success and motherhood are not mutually exclusive. Whether or not one earns a six-figure salary and earns the title VP or partner is certainly not the only measure of one’s success. Without a doubt, these are not the only uses for an excellent education.

Young women at Penn, please do not be tempted to buy into the lie that your only two choices are using your education by entering a successful career, or neglecting all that you were taught in order to be a stay-at-home mom. Please realize that when you are a stay-at-home mom, you integrate your Ivy League education every day.

Michelle Parsons Copple Nu’98 Bear, DE

Risky Advice

Dr. Jeremy Siegel’s address to the Wharton Economic Forum [“Gazetteer,” May/June] discloses a startling flaw in the ambitious retirement plans of the boomer generation—massive asset sales will be required, but there will not be enough buyer demand. His solution: Boomers will have to choose between substantial retirement delays and selling off a large share of the U.S. capital stock (financial assets and business ownership) to foreign interests, mainly in China and India.

Under the approach Dr. Siegel appears to prefer, which he calls the “global solution,” China, India, and other rapidly developing countries will end up owning and controlling the lion’s share of the world’s capital assets, including our own. Dr. Siegel’s recommendation to sell assets to foreign interests appears to be based on optimizing the risk-adjusted return on invested capital. He characterizes the anticipated wave of transactions as “some of the most massive shifts of capital we have ever seen.” Under the alternative approach, the boomers will have to work longer and the assets will stay under U.S. control.

At the level of personal choice in our society, an individual with substantial assets is free to decide when to retire. However, at the national level, earlier retirement for boomers will be paid for by risking lower income and loss of national autonomy for subsequent generations. This distressing prospect will occur merely to pay for additional leisure now. The assurance of independence and personal liberty our nation’s founders bequeathed to us at so great a cost will be discarded for what seems like a self-indulgent pittance.

Professor Siegel invites his audience to disregard the risk by comparing the sale of assets to distant nations to the sale of assets to U.S. citizens living in a different state. However, the risks to future generations are different because the distant nations that will acquire control over U.S. assets live under different political systems that do not recognize our nation’s founding principles and political creed.

The catastrophically risky prospect indicated by Dr. Siegel’s discussion merits a comprehensive and critical analysis—one that encompasses more than just economics. Our nation deserves to know what bad choices (social, political, and economic) left us with such a terrible prospective outcome, what individuals and institutions are responsible, and what corrective action should be taken. I am not satisfied that the apparent inclination of so many boomers to enjoy life at the expense of others should be accepted with passive resignation.

Robert Levine Gr’70 Sierra Vista, AZ

Tales of the Young “Don”

The article about Alan Halpern by Samuel Hughes [“Quiet Goes the Don,” May/June] was not only accurate but quite moving. After reading it for the third time, I resurrected my West Philadelphia High School Yearbook of January 1943 and found on page 64 a photo of the Tribunal; both Alan and I were there in the top row. Alan’s boyish looks continued for years, as attested-to by the photos that appeared in the Gazette, which were taken in 1970.

It is about that “boy” that I would like to relate two stories at this time. Alan and I enlisted together in the U.S. Maritime Service during World War II and went to Sheepshead Bay for training. Coming from Orthodox Jewish homes, we were not accustomed to eating non-kosher food. I got quite ill, but Alan was so sick, physically and psychologically, that he had to be hospitalized! When we completed our training, we celebrated in Atlantic City by taking our dates out on a rented row-boat. We were quite a sight … two young men in crisp white sailors’ uniforms being swept out to sea by a strong current with two hysterical young ladies! It was an even more ignominious moment when the Coast Guard towed the row-boat back to the inlet before the assembled horde of spectators!

Yes, it was true that Alan mumbled a lot and that one did not always know what he was saying … but the fond memories of Alan will always remain.

Julian M. Swiren Ed’49 GEd’50 Broomall, PA

A Beautiful Note

It was such a thrill to read Ami Dalal’s essay, “Expatriate Games” [“Alumni Voices,” May/June]. Her experiences strike such a beautiful note alongside President Gutmann’s Penn Compact and our common goal of “Building Global Bridges” [“From College Hall,” May/June], and also remind me of the words of Pico Iyer. Well-traveled like Dalal, Iyer wrote, “I am simply a fairly typical product of a moveable sensibility, living and working in a world that is itself increasingly small and increasingly mongrel.” Penn is the perfect, dynamic matrix in which we can extend and reinvent ourselves. As a rising sophomore, I feel so very privileged and excited to embrace change and grow at Penn in the spirit of Dalal.

Jing Jin C’09 Philadelphia

Even Moore Ties to Asia

President Gutmann cited numerous examples of Penn’s connections and presence in Asia in her May/June column, but she omitted an important one.

The Moore School of Electrical Engineering had close ties with universities in Xian, Shanghai, and Beijing in the late seventies. My father, John W. Carr III, was a professor in the Moore School from 1963 until his retirement in the mid-nineties. He took sabbaticals and numerous trips to China, helping them acquire computers and teaching them how to use them. He died in 1997, but if he were alive today, he would not be surprised by the strides they have made.

I was fortunate to accompany him on a sabbatical to China in 1979. What an experience! We also visited a former student of his in Bangalore, India. That city is now one of the world’s high-tech centers. Again, my father would not be surprised.

Elizabeth Carr C’77 Bisbee, AZ

Why No Defense of the Unborn?

The heartrending essay, Make the Child the Client,” [“Expert Opinion,” May/June] by faculty member Richard J. Gelles highlights the cruel death of seven-year-old Nixzmary Brown at the hands of her stepfather. What boggles the mind is that none of Dr. Gelles’s colleagues to my knowledge have ever written an article for the Gazette entitled “Make the Fetus the Client.”

Between 1,500 and 2,000 children are “killed by their caretakers each year” we are told. By comparison, recent figures indicate that more than 1.2 million tiny lives a year are snuffed out while still residing in the living and breathing incubators of pregnant females. This number is roughly 600 to 800 times that of youngsters killed in foster situations. And the carnage goes on.

Penn’s brilliant faculty is responsible for teaching its students that, whatever the subject matter, its application must do no harm. This is especially true in medicine but also applies to all endeavors. However, it is obvious that this fundamental principle of the teaching profession is being widely ignored, manipulated, and violated, hence the almost total dearth of pleas like Dr. Gelles’ on behalf of the defenseless. To borrow a phrase from bygone days, have professors no decency, have they no shame?

Cyrus J. Sharer W’44 St. Davids, PA

Holler If You Remember Hill

For research on the design history and social dynamic of Hill House, author requests recollections revealing how the architecture influenced life in the dorm, and any period snapshots of the rooms or common spaces. Especially interested in the early years, when Hill Hall was a women’s enclave. Does anyone remember the table settings?

Please reply to: [email protected].

Helaine Kaplan Prentice CW’71 Berkeley, CA


Our story on interior renovations to the highrises [“Gazetteer,” July/Aug] mistakenly stated that students returning to Harnwell House this fall will find new lounges; construction of the lounges will not actually begin until Summer 2007, in phase two of the project.

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