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Minutes, and a World, Away

I read the wonderful article on the appointment of Rev. Charles Howard as the University chaplain [“Gazetteer,” Sept|Oct]. I too, was exposed to the University as a young student in high school, when I participated in PRIME, a summer program designed to introduce minorities to engineering. Even though my family lived minutes away from Penn in the Mantua section of West Philly, it was a world away to me and many others like me.

From that time as a 10th grader, my goal became to attend the University, and I matriculated there in the fall of 1983. Penn was a stimulating place for me in many ways, and I was exposed to ideas and experiences that would pave the way for me to receive an outstanding liberal-arts education. I met many wonderful students and teachers who would help bring out the best in me as a student and as a person. But as a student struggling at times to mesh the two worlds of my inner-city community and the Penn campus, I was most affected by University staff that supported and encouraged me. I am grateful for the PennCap staff and the staff in the School of Engineering’s assistant dean for minority affairs office. But I am also grateful for those whose names I never knew—cleaning staff, security staff, and office workers—whose proud glances and occasional comments encouraging me to “Hang in there,” reminded me that I was not there for myself or by myself.

Finally, I came to embrace Christian faith as a freshman student, and was then buoyed by the community of believers on campus who relied on the knowledge that we were accountable to each other, and that someone greater was capable of sustaining us. People like Rev. Gipson and now, Rev. Howard, are so vital to the health and life of the University community, and I am delighted about the continued legacy of support for the student body around issues of faith and life.

Karen J. (Key) Hamilton C’87 Philadelphia 

Princeton was Presbyterian

As always, I enjoyed the Sept|Oct edition of the Gazette. However, there is an important correction to be made to your article on our new chaplain. You note the Ivy schools that were founded in “direct affiliation with a Christian sect” and do not include Princeton.

This is unfortunate, since in 1746 the College of New Jersey was organized by the Presbytery of New Brunswick (Presbyterian Church). In fact, until the most recent three presidents, all of Princeton’s presidents have been themselves Presbyterian ministers or the sons of Presbyterian ministers.

Charles Kalmbach L’75 Princeton, NJ 

Memories of a Chaplain’s Child

I enjoyed reading of Charles Lattimore Howard’s appointment as Penn’s seventh chaplain in the Sept|Oct issue. I am pleased that Penn is retaining the position President Gates founded and has selected such an impressive person to fill it. 

My own father, Edward Harris, was chaplain during the 1950s and early 1960s. At that time, the chaplain had an office in Houston Hall and a university house located at 3805 Locust Street (now the Kelly Writers House). One of the chaplain’s responsibilities was meeting and welcoming the entire freshman class in a series of buffet dinners. As a boy I recall the buzz of excitement each week as voices and footsteps on our front walk heralded the students’ arrival and the doorbell started to ring; however, my siblings and I could not be part of these occasions and were expected to retire to the second floor as soon as the first guests arrived. I remember doing my homework, listening to the sounds of laughter and smelling the pungent odor of cigarette smoke as it wafted upstairs, knowing I was missing something really exciting.

Dad is now 91 and lives at Kendal at Longwood in Kennett Square. I think his time as chaplain was the happiest period of his life. I’ll enjoy showing him the article.

David B. Harris C’66 Cambridge, MA 

Godspeed, Rev. Howard

In addition to the “five of the eight Ivies” you mention as “founded in direct affiliation of a Christian sect,” you rightly say that “Christian tradition has been a heavy influence here [at Penn] as in the rest of the Ivy League.”

Princeton pays homage to its heritage with a plaque at the entrance to Nassau Hall. The plaque tells of its and the Ivy League’s roots reaching back to the Log College founded by Presbyterian Rev. William Tennent (1673-1746). There are more than 60 American colleges and universities that blossomed from the ministry of this remarkable Bucks County clergyman. A Route 309 roadside monument (with the names of these institutions), a local high school, and his gravestone at Neshaminy Presbyterian Church honor this incredible man.

The University of Pennsylvania Medical School might well be added to the list. It was co-founded by John Morgan and William Shippen, students of Pastor Samuel Finley. Finley was an alumnus of William Tennent’s Log College located in Warminster, Pennsylvania.

The University itself was the outgrowth of the Great Awakening that reached its zenith in 1740. Supporters of Reverend George Whitefield began a “house of public worship” and a charity school where “useful literature and the knowledge of the Christian religion” were taught. Within 10 years the church, with Gilbert Tennent as its pastor, broke away from the school. The school quickly enlarged to a university, with the aid of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin, who did printing for the Tennents, wrote in his The Pennsylvania Gazette in 1740 of the impact for good, of the “Awakening” in Philadelphia. He later recorded in his Autobiography, “It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless and indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious.”

I wish Rev. Howard Godspeed in the awesome task before him.

John W. Whitehead Ar’58 Williams Township, PA 

Marriage Is Different

In “The Problem with Marriage—Straight and Gay” [“Expert Opinion,” Sept|Oct], Nancy Polikoff offers a politically correct “solution” to the benefits issues that beset unmarried friends/lovers both straight and gay. Every relationship should, in law, be treated the same as marriage.

She rejects all the reasons people give for the “defense of marriage” as so much hype, and dismisses “the decline of lifelong heterosexual marriage [as] responsible for every conceivable social ill” as being a bogus use of social science.

However, she does not support this assertion at all. Why? Because the social science is not bogus. The ills she lists—including poverty, crime, violence, substance abuse, illiteracy, homelessness, and chronic illness—are linked to the decline of the heterosexual marriage.

Further, heterosexual marriage has lasted for thousands and thousands of years as the building block institution of society because it was created as an institution by Almighty God. Faithful, lifetime-committed married couples are drawn upwards towards the Godhead. They are examples of stability and bedrock respectability that no other “relationships” can duplicate.

E. Jeffrey Ludwig C’62 Brooklyn, NY 

Without it, Nothing Else Matters

Nancy Polikoff may demonstrate her great legal knowledge of the topic but little if any wisdom regarding her proposals that would lead to the total demise of marriage and the traditional family.

She notes that “the early gay-rights movement … emerged at the time when feminism and the sexual revolution were transforming family life [and] loosening the iron-clad grip of patriarchal marriage on social organization …” She adds that “[e]liminating marriage as the bright line between relationships that count and those that don’t … would solve the problems [legal consequences] faced by same-sex couples and by scores of other family configurations.”

She fails, however, to explain why, historically, certain relationships have counted while others have not. The answer, of course, is obvious: procreation, maintaining the great chain of life within marriage. That’s what counts. Without it, nothing else matters. The other relationships can be likened to an equation where 1+1 never equals more than 2 and winds up equaling zero. Down through the ages procreation has been the keystone of great societies and civilizations.

Western civilization has developed and flourished ever since the creation and spread of the Judeo-Christian world vision that was captured so eloquently in America’s Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident … that all men are … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, … [of] Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The Signers ended with: “As for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence [not the state, France, or the UN], we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.” True principles, I’d say.

By the time this issue of the Gazette arrives, readers will be girding their loins in anticipation of voting for or against religion in the war that now seethes in America. The stakes will be awesome to say nothing of perilous. Will the culture of life survive a while longer or will the culture of death based on “the pill,” abortion, and homosexual lifestyle carry the day? This will be no small matter for anyone whose cup of tea and purpose in life abjures a fate headed toward self-extinction/suicide.

Sorry, Professor Polikoff, I can’t go along with you on this one. Leftist, liberal proposals, once espoused by “Uncle” Joe Stalin, Mao, and der Führer, of a godless workers’ Paradise on Earth still lurk in our midst and remain too close for comfort. They simply do not pass life’s smell test, especially if one happens to be blessed with progeny.

Cyrus J. Sharer W’44 St. Davids, PA 

Great Coach, Good Friend

It saddened me to read of the death of Doris Dannenhirsch Beshunsky, founder of the Pennguinettes synchronized swimming team [“Obituaries,” Sept|Oct]. She was not only my coach but also a good friend during my years at Penn and long afterward.

Your obituary failed to mention that she was also the coach of the women’s swimming team for many years. She was a great coach of a creditable team in addition to being a champion competitive swimmer herself.

Ellen Nelson Fisher CW’56 Sudbury, MA 

The writer was captain of the women’s swimming team and the Pennguinettes in 1955 and 1956.

My Mentor and Inspiration

I was deeply saddened by the death of Doris Dannenhirsch Beshunsky. Dorrie was my mentor and inspiration during my days at Penn from 1962 through 1965. I was proud to be a member of the Pennguinettes. Dorrie taught me self-discipline, perseverance, and, especially, to believe in my own capabilities.

Thanks to Dorrie, I still swim 60 laps a day in a 25-meter pool. At 63, I recently won the silver medal in the Senior Olympics in Green Valley, Arizona, where I live with my husband, Mort (we will be married two years in December), and our seven-year-old retired Pekingese show dog, Snickers, as well as our new future champion, Lambchop, a four-month-old Bedlington Terrier.

Margot Marx Einstein CW’65 Sahuarita, AZ 

Setting the Record Straight on Piazzolla’s Hometown and Peter Viereck’s Reputation

Two casual references contained in articles in the Sept|Oct Gazette “All Things Ornamental” cry out for elaboration, to wit:

In “Beyond Tango,” Mar del Plata is referred to as “the seaside village where [Astor] Piazzolla was born.” When Piazzolla was born (1921), Mar del Plata was indeed a small town. But in 1939 a major casino was built and Mar del Plata became a tourist destination. After 1945 it became the biggest summer resort in the country. Now it has half a million people, and is no more a “village” than Atlantic City is.

In “The Revolution Will Not Be Canonized,” Dennis Drabelle asks “[who] ever heard of Peter Viereck?” The answer is, two whole generations of Americans who took seriously the notion that ideas matter in politics! Viereck was a visionary who tried to redefine American conservatism, first in reaction to fascism and later in reaction to McCarthyism and the rise of the know-nothing Radical Right. Conservatism Revisited (1949) and Conservatism Revisited—What Went Wrong? (1962) are well worth revisiting today, when the current leadership of the Republican Party has corrupted the whole notion of conservatism almost beyond recognition. On the other hand, Viereck’s reputation as a poet is less than incandescent.

Arthur M. Shapiro C’66 Davis, CA 

Not to Worry, Mr. Sheller

Stephen Sheller’s laudable accomplishments speak for his legal acumen [“Alumni Profiles,” Sept|Oct]. He shouldn’t feel regretful that he didn’t fight harder in Bush v. Gore.

To say if there hadn’t been a President Lincoln there wouldn’t have been a Civil War, or if there hadn’t been a President Truman there wouldn’t have been a Hiroshima is beside the point. The fact is that eventually there was going to be a confrontation and it wasn’t going to be pretty.

If 9/11 never happened, more than likely there wouldn’t be the Iraq War. However, sooner or later there had to be some forceful action against escalating terrorism organized across many borders. Economic sanctions, diplomacy, and general shunning by the Western World doesn’t work with an incorrigible faction any more than counseling works with a psychopath. Whatever military measures any administration would have initiated in response to 9/11would be scrutinized, even if initiated after a possible ensuing terrorist attack on the U.S. As to what led up to 9/11, and would 9/11 have occurred if stronger actions were taken in response to terrorist events prior to 9/11, no one can say for sure. Maybe we wouldn’t have long airport lines, or, if no military action had been taken after 9/11, maybe we wouldn’t have airports. However, a different outcome of Bush v. Gore wouldn’t have had an influence on the intentions of Osama bin Laden and his kind.

The more successful Mr. Sheller is as an advocate for consumers’ privacy rights, and any inroads he makes against those who would mishandle or misuse our sensitive personal data, the more thankful we can be.

Peter Rockett, staff 
School of Engineering and Applied Science 

Hard to Swallow

Before adopting the advice to drink water only when you are thirsty espoused in “Findings,” [“Gazetteer,” July|Aug], you may want to check with your personal physician. Extra fluid may not clear the skin or prevent migraines, but it can be beneficial in other ways, such as reducing the risk of urinary tract stones. Relying on thirst to insure adequate hydration in some age groups, particularly the elderly, runs counter to the experience of many clinicians. Until Goldfarb and Negoianu’s thesis has been further evaluated and time-tested, I would be inclined to take a wait and see attitude.

Wendell Whitacre GM’60 Tucson, AZ 

Oil and Evolution Mix Pretty Well

I read every issue of the Gazette almost from cover to cover, but the Sept|Oct issue was outstanding. Thank you, in particular, for the articles about the PIK professors [“Proof of Concept”] and the one on Arctic travel [“Elsewhere”], which I enjoyed because I spent the summer after graduating from Penn working on an ice floe (more correctly, a tabular iceberg) at approximately 83° N, 165° W.

Thank you also for publishing the letters in support of evolution, especially Mr. Siberz’s. I would add to his letter that the fact of evolution is fundamental not just to biology, but to geology.

Mr. Myers is correct in that many scientists do not answer attacks on evolution, not just because it is like stating that the Earth is round, but because we know that we cannot win an argument with people whose minds are closed. I would like to point out, however, that a knowledge of evolution has been fundamental in finding much of our oil, since paleontologists and micropaleontologists use the progression of living forms in the rocks to correlate strata from one well to the next and from one basin to the next around the world. It would need thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of separate acts of creation to explain the variations in the fossil record without evolution.

Much of our oil is formed in rocks that were deposited in ocean basins that lacked oxygen because of the proliferation of planktonic organisms to the point that the decay of their dead bodies used up all the oxygen in the water column. A side effect of this was the local or global extinction of all the marine species that required oxygen. 

We know that the evolution of life on Earth has controlled the physical evolution of the planet itself, from the manufacture of an oxygen-rich atmosphere two billion years ago by blue-green algae to glacial epochs due in part to the depletion of atmospheric carbon dioxide by photo-synthesizing plants.

At a period of human history when we will need all the science and technology we can get to evolve our civilization in a direction that will allow it to survive on a changing earth, it is sad that such a large number of people in the world’s largest consuming country are not just ignorant of science, but opposed to it. 

John Berry C’63 Austin, TX 

Read My Book

Your enlarged and leading words conveying the idea that supporting evolution would be like supporting a round Earth is silly [“Letters,” Sept|Oct]. Essentially all Americans affirm a round (i.e. spherical) Earth, but a small minority affirm, without reservations, godless, molecules-to-man evolution. Penn grads questioning evolution are not ignorant, as your chosen heading might suggest.

My book, Evolution Exposed, documents much of evolution’s weakness, as does my booklet, “Reasons to Reject Evolution.”

Paul G. Humber C’64 GEd’65 Philadelphia 

Huxley Had It Right

I’m frankly annoyed at the lack of eighth-grade scientific knowledge about evolution contained in the “Letters” section of the Sept|Oct issue. The letter writers lump micro-evolution in with macro-evolution. Micro-evolution is fact and is scientific and it is testable and provable and is the basis for all sorts of beneficial scientific endeavors. There is no argument whatsoever raging between evolution, intelligent design, or creationist-leaning scientists concerning the validity of micro-evolution.

On the other hand, macro-evolution, i.e., billions of years, is a theory and not fact and is considered as theory in most other countries of the world. 

Thomas Huxley, who was perhaps the most vigorous supporter of Darwin in the 19th century, admitted that “evolution was not an established theory but a tentative hypothesis, an extremely valuable and even probable hypothesis but an hypothesis nonetheless. It is not universally accepted.” Huxley’s statement is still true today.

Bob Leithead WG’77 Westmont, NJ

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