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Bad Old Days?

Curiosity was a wasted motivation to visit Penn’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library both in Carole Bernstein C’81’s day as well as mine (Class of 1970) [“Open Treasure,” Mar|Apr]. The librarian there made a point of shooing away anyone who was not working with the materials of the collection.

In fact, the shooing was so robotic, I had to explain my presence in the Lea Library repeatedly. My professor, Dr. James Roser, insisted on conducting his class in medieval literature there. Dr. Roser was a revolutionary in academic disguise.

Touch a Shakespeare First Folio????? Stifle your enthusiasm!

Aldo Buono C’70 Fort Lauderdale, FL

The writer is a self-described “professional beach bum.”

Hope and Pride

I enjoyed the placement of two articles in the Mar|Apr issue: “Digging Routes and “Inside the Cancer-Cell Smasher.” Both are stories of hope, and reading one after the other highlights just how far we’ve come in treating cancer.

I empathize with Nick Spitzer and his triumph over the disease; during my second semester of graduate school at PennDesign, at the age of 25, I was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma, and too embarked on a “brutal” chemotherapy program at UPHS. Advances in medicine over the last few years reduced the side effects I experienced compared to Nick, and I was able to graduate on time. His story gave me hope for what can be accomplished—even after a devastating diagnosis.

I read the following article on the Roberts Proton Therapy Center with extreme excitement, for it represents the opportunity to further reduce debilitating side effects for patients.  Imagine, as William Hanson posits, to be cured through a painless outpatient procedure, while listening to an iPod!

Such stories give hope for the future of cancer treatment. I’m proud that my alma mater is at the forefront of cancer research and treatment, and I look forward to more articles in the Gazette highlighting Penn’s contribution to the field of medicine.

John C. Reinhardt GCP’08 GFA’08 Washington

Spitzer “Walked the Talk”

Thank you for your excellent and inspiring profile of Nick Spitzer [“Digging Routes” Mar|Apr]. At Penn, Nick was not only a gifted radio host, but one of the few people who “walked the talk” about caring for people below him on the status chain and pursuing a career based on values, not dollars.

David Machlowitz C’74 Westfield, NJ

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

I was looking at the story, “Inside the Cancer-Cell Smasher,” in the Mar|Apr issue and noticed something about the illustration that disturbed me. We have, by my count, eight men working on developing what is needed in order to do this phenomenal piece of research, but, with the possible exception of the person lying on the gurney to be treated, who looks more feminine to me than masculine, there is no woman in that picture. I found this offensive because women today contribute substantially to progress in so many fields, and so bring this illustration to your attention.

Julie Meranze Levitt CW’65 Bala Cynwyd, PA

Informative Article, Singular Error

I enjoyed William Hanson’s article, “Inside the Cancer-Cell Smasher.” It was informative and warmly written. However, I noted a grammatical error: On page 51, in the article’s penultimate paragraph, Hanson writes, of prostate cancer, “a disease for which there are already a bewildering variety of alternative treatments.” The verb should be singular—is not are—referencing variety and not treatments.

I enjoy the Gazette and appreciate the quality of the publication.

Jim Waters WG’71 Orangeburg, NY

Second Career Looks Promising

Sean Whiteman’s “My First Career” [“Notes from the Undergrad,” Mar|Apr] had me in the first sentence and kept me reading in the spirit of discovery throughout the entire article. As a Penn grad, English minor, avid reader in my retirement, occasional student of writing classes, I  wish I could have authored such unique lines: “Now standing invisibly in the wings, I feel the weight of the crowd pressing against the other side of the curtain, filling in the space,” and, “The whole theater quiets to a vault-like hush,” and, “At night I stared at the apartment ceiling, wondering how failure had overtaken me at the tender age of 18.”

Keep writing, Sean. You have admirably absorbed the disappointment of your first career choice. The door closed on it has opened another on your real gift.

Nancy Dowdy Merz CW’62 Lake Stevens, WA

Propaganda and the Media

Kudos to you, the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and all the participants in the 2008 election debrief [“Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr].

As pointed out by the participants, “The McCain campaign faced challenges that bordered on overwhelming” and “odds that were well-nigh insurmountable.” I believe that the challenges and odds were in fact absolutely overwhelming and insurmountable, especially after the September “financial meltdown.”

But I believe the backstory is of even more relevance. The infantry tactics on the field in the fall of 2008 carried the day but without the eight- to 10-year propaganda barrage to prepare the ground all could well have gone differently.

It seems to me that all the toxic, corrosive “Orwellian” effect of the propagandists and the media on the collective mindset of a notoriously impressionable electorate contributed in great measure to vaulting a relatively unknown candidate past the favorite, who we all remember was a shoo-in with her $100 million war chest in September 2007.

As we know, the opposition made President Bush the target—and anyone else in his administration that spoke for conservative values or the Republican Party. This was based on fact in a few cases, while fanning the flames of emotion a majority of the time.

The Iraq War was of course the linchpin. The media reported little that was good and basically remains mute to anything positive today.

It’s interesting to boil Iraq down to its basics: We deposed one of the world’s most hated and brutal dictators, who approached Hitler in vileness, and offered the population an opportunity to embrace freedom and whatever form of open government they choose.

As they say, “You can lead a horse to water …” 

No one really knows what the lasting effect of what may well be a seminal event in history will be. A stable, fairly elected “democratic” political entity in the Middle East could well provide the area and the world the peace and prosperity so elusive since the dawn of time.

History aside, I believe the effect of propaganda and the media on this campaign would be a valuable contribution to the country’s knowledge base and could well stimulate some of Penn’s brightest minds to create some memorable doctoral dissertations.

J. Gibb Brownlie W’54 Nokomis, FL

No, Down With Grant!

There is much to complain and criticize about the article “Down With Jefferson, Up With Grant?” describing Alvin Felzenberg’s new “rankings” of presidents [“Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr]. He creates a tremendous brouhaha about “racism” among our presidents and has the chutzpah to award a relatively high position #7 to U.S. Grant. Grant demonstrated the most blatant, unabashed display of antisemitism especially when he unleashed his infamous General Order No. 11 during the Civil War. This order demanded that all Jews leave Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee (Grant’s jurisdiction) under the threat of arrest. Such Hitlerian moves, plus his uncontrolled, chronic, alcoholic, inebriated state (which has been blamed for many battlefield losses), hardly make him a candidate for any glorifying list. 

Benson Krieger C’42 Philadelphia

Call for Coaching Change

I read David Porter’s article, “At a Crossroads, Engine Sputtering” [“Gazetteer: Sports,” Mar|Apr], with interest. It has a very interesting say on what has occurred with Penn men’s basketball during the past two years, but the one thing that is not mentioned anywhere in the article is the extremely poor performance by the present coach.

It is one thing to let someone like Fran Dunphy go, but another thing not to conduct a national search and choose a bright, young coach who has winning experience. What did the present coach ever win at Brown? The problems can be clearly stated, as follows:

1. Recruiting. There has not been a significant player recruited in the last three years. I had hopes for Tyler Bernardini, who had a very good first year, but appears to be just another player this year. The recruits are basically all the same—athletic, 6 foot, 5 inch players who can’t shoot.

2. Lack of inside presence. This leads to lapses in scoring for seven to eight minutes at a time, which dramatically affects the outcome of the game.

3. Poor offensive sets, which do not provide screens or picks to enable players to get clear shots.

4. Lack of continuity in substitution. People go in and out so fast that they cannot get into the flow of the game.

All of this has resulted in some of the worst basketball we have seen at Penn in the last 50 years, as evidenced by the following:

1. Losses to such powerhouses as Howard, Albany, and Florida Gulph (we scored six points in the first half of that game). Noncompetitive in the Big Five, with losses to every team in addition to Drexel for the last two years.

2. Poor attendance by students at some games.

What should be done? In my opinion, and in the opinion of many sincere, faithful followers of the Red and Blue, a coaching change is necessary. The present coach appears in over his head. Can you believe we lost to Brown by the greatest margin in the history of the schools? I am hopeful that the present administration will see the light and make this change as soon as possible so the new coach can start recruiting. 

Arthur J. Marion W’57 Palm Beach Gardens, FL


I cannot believe the sorry state that the Penn men’s athletics program has fallen to. It’s one thing not to be competitive in Division 1 (like basketball and lacrosse) or in Division 1A (like football), but to have losing records within the Ivy League on a regular basis is unacceptable.

I cannot believe a competitor like Athletic Director Steve Bilsky W’71 would permit such an uninspiring performance without doing something about it. No coach has been fired, and it is obvious the current football, basketball, and lacrosse coaches aren’t capable of winning in the Ivy League.

While I am proud of the academic excellence and the leadership of the University in the city, I just do not understand why the men’s athletic program has deteriorated so.

Irvin S. Lieberman C’58 Kennett Square, PA

The writer was captain of the men’s lacrosse team and an honorable mention All-American at Penn.

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