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On not skipping Skeel, border blame, Abner’s history, long runs, and more.

Third Time’s the Charm

Admittedly, the first two times I read through the latest issue I deliberately skipped the David Skeel article [“The Law, The Gospel, and David Skeel,” Jul|Aug 2022]. As a retired attorney and rather tepid Church of England attendee I had no interest in reading an evangelical Christianity essay. Credit to my wife, also a retired attorney and relaxed southern Baptist, who strongly urged me to read it.

I believe this is one of the best writings I have read in any publication. Whilst I never will have his level of faith or commitment, I found myself nodding in agreement with many of the points raised. Particularly poignant is his quote regarding abortion controversy and ensuing social chaos.

Thank you for challenging this subscriber.

J. Peter Marinelli W’76, London

Evangelicals’ Legal Efforts Are Defensive in Nature

Professor Skeel’s scholarship on the perils of legal moralism is instructive and enlightening, but I’m not sure that his charge that theologically conservative Christians turn to the legal system as “the solution of first resort” is entirely accurate. I think many evangelicals and others aligned with the religious right view their legal efforts as largely defensive in nature, as practices they consider morally abhorrent were enshrined by courts as constitutional rights over the last half century. Although the majority of us in the Penn community may not subscribe to the tenets of theological or social conservatism, it is worth considering the perspective that its legal proponents are less theocratic bogeymen than champions of local self-governance by like-minded communities with shared values and belief systems.

Charles G. Kels L’03, San Antonio, TX

Thoughtful Treatment of Abortion Politics

Trey Popp’s article about David Skeel deserves wide circulation. His account of Professor Skeel’s thoughtfulness regarding the politics of abortion should be known throughout our land.

Paul Dry GCP’81, Philadelphia

Clear and Inspirational

Thanks for the great article on Penn law professor David Skeel.

Your exposition on bankruptcy law and evangelical Christianity was clear and inspirational.


Martin R. Bartel L’89, Aliquippa, PA

A Noble Effort

Thank you for the excellent article on this fascinating guy. He seems to be a contortionist in trying to reconcile his evangelical Christianity with a liberal and enlightened approach to modern life, but he’s making a very rigorous and interesting effort. Alas, I fear he is not making much headway with his evangelical colleagues or with the Donald Trump crowd. But a noble effort, nevertheless.

Andy Halvorsen WG ‘72, Summit, NJ

A Catastrophe in the Making

Please don’t blame President Trump for children at the border being separated from their parents and caged [“Crossing Borders,” Jul|Aug 2022]. This was started under the Obama–Biden administration, which had the cages built.

Nothing was mentioned in your article about all of the drugs (deaths), crime, and rape that are coming into our country illegally. Frankly, the border is overwhelmed with no help from the Biden administration and its open border policy.

Let’s be honest and write an article that describes what is really happening at the border: a catastrophe in the making for America.

John E. Murphy GLA’66, Littleton, CO

Jumping the Line

In the article “Nostalgia, Wit Onions” [“Gazetteer,” Jul|Aug 2022], the author mentions Abner’s being in its location since 1981. That’s not correct. I graduated in ’83, and there was no Abner’s at 38th while I was at Penn. Pretty sure it opened in 1984, or after May of 1983, at least at its 38th Street location.

Andrew Goldbaum C’83, New York

Our apologies for the error. The Daily Pennsylvanian’s online archives confirms that Abner’s opened on October 4, 1983, in an article headlined ‘With or Without?’—Ed.

Thank You, Helen Robinson!

I was crushed to learn of Abner’s closing down for good. I lived across from Abner’s at Hamilton Court during my sophomore year (’97–’98). When reading the article, the first thing that struck me was the picture of the unmistakable, unforgettable, inimitable Helen Robinson. Yes, the same woman who made my roommate and me countless hoagies, cheesesteaks, and chicken cheesesteaks 25 years ago, always with a smile and always in style.

I couldn’t believe she was still there at the very end, and that her time had spanned an amazing 38 years at the one-time campus institution! I highly doubt Helen will ever read this, but I can assure you that many others like myself had their Abner’s memories come flooding back with that image in the article. She was as much a part of Abner’s as the cheesesteaks themselves. I wish her the best in her next chapter of life.

Stephen Jasionowski C’00, Lumberton, NJ

Good Humor, Drawn from a Lifetime

I can identify with the subtle foibles of growing older that Nick Lyons wrote about in “Nearing Ninety” [“Alumni Voices,” Jul|Aug 2022]. He brings to us his good humor, drawn from a lifetime, which is reflected back to the reader. I’m also glad to see this declining section of our society—the older senior citizens—receiving recognition. In fact, I am on track to be 90 this September.

My story deviates from his in that my wife, who has been married to me for 63 years, is still alive. She was diagnosed with vascular dementia 10 years ago. Since then, her life has been in a slow downward spiral. She has moved from a memory unit, to skilled nursing (after a stroke), and, several months ago, to hospice care.

This does affect me as sort of a “surviving spouse.” I am lucky to have my son and his family, friends, and church members, to stand by me. With help from them I receive encouragement and find pleasure in my hobby of plein air painting and in writing, including my autobiography and some whimsical poetry aimed at children.

I received my BA (major in economics) in 1972, after 17 years at the Wharton Evening School and the College of General Studies (thanks to the GI Bill and Penn!).

Edwin B. Allen WEv’58 CGS’72, Philadelphia

Reconciling Past and Present

Thank you for publishing Nick Lyons’ beautiful essay “Nearing Ninety.”

I am 20 years younger, but his words really touched me as I absorbed the feelings behind them. How complicated it is to reconcile one’s past with one’s present. But I gather from this essay a wonderful optimism about the joy that the future can hold if a person is able to keep an open mind.

Kudos for the beautiful language in the piece.

Lauren Braun C’77, Havertown, PA

Remembering Riepl’s Run for the Ages

In the Jul|Aug 2022 issue, the obituary for Francis J. “Frank” Riepl W’58 included a line that “he’s best remembered for his 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Notre Dame in 1955.”

That is only part of the story. Notre Dame was ranked fifth in the country and had a record of 5–1, while Penn had lost all six of its previous games and scored only 13 points to that point in the season.

The Notre Dame game was the sophomore Riepl’s first as a starter. The 108-yard touchdown run was the opening kickoff. He continued to lead the Quakers in the first half by throwing a touchdown pass and kicking both extra points. He was responsible for 14 points—one more than the team had scored in its previous six games combined. Penn played Notre Dame even, 14–14, for the first half.

Louis Effrat wrote in his New York Times game story: “No matter what he accomplishes later, no matter how far or how high he will go in his chosen field, the chances are Riepl always will be remembered as the football player who returned the opening kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown against mighty Notre Dame.” Yes, he was!

Notre Dame dominated the second half as expected and won the game, 46–14. However, the first half was the most exciting half of football that I have personally witnessed.

Thank you, Frank Riepl, and rest in peace.

Noah Chivian D’59, West Orange, NJ

More Care with Names Needed

I wish some more care was taken with identifying people in the death notices of the Gazette. I almost missed the notice about the woman that all of us who knew her as a student knew as Helen Conrad, but who was listed as Helen C. Rogoff Davies Gr’60 [“Obituaries,” Jul|Aug 2022]. Yes, I knew that she later married Bob Davies, but I would still expect to see her identified as Helen Conrad Davies, not as Helen C. Rogoff Davies. The latter makes no sense. Assuming her maiden name was Rogoff, it still should have been Helen Rogoff Conrad Davies.

In a previous issue, in the announcement of the death of Doug Butturf C’63, his wife was identified as Diane L. Butturf CW’63. Anyone who knew her as a student would have known her as Diane Livingston Butturf. Again the information would have been useful.

Michael Barr C’59 Gr’62, Mont-Royal, Quebec, Canada

Pennington Monument?

Perusing the brief but remarkable article “Ice Woman” [“Old Penn,” May|Jun 2022] on Mary Engle Pennington Gr1895—the first woman to earn a PhD at Penn and the founder and first chief of the USDA Food Research Lab—my spouse and I independently arrived at the same question: Is there a statue or monument to Dr. Pennington on Penn’s campus or in the works?

In a cursory search, we learned of a promising project by Leidy Lab to make the portraiture, biographies, and scientific contributions—including that of Mary Engle Pennington—more prominent in building displays and part of students’ living memory. On a campus replete with Ben Franklin iconography, as much as we may love it, we would love to see such an initiative extended across campus so that students beyond the sciences can also learn about and cherish her and many others’ notable stories.

Serena Stein C’09, Sao Paulo, Brazil

See “Gazetteer” in this issue for a story on Penn’s efforts to update and diversify the portraits displayed on campus.—Ed.

Swimming Controversy Was Politically Driven

Don Nemerov suggests surveying parents of female athletes regarding their thoughts on the swimming controversy [“Letters,” Jul|Aug 2022]. Well, as the father of a female athlete, I’m happy to say that the controversy was clearly driven by a tiny number of outlets looking to make a political scapegoat out of a complicated situation. And I’m sad to say it clearly worked. That we all know Thomas’s name but almost no one off campus could name a single other Penn athlete, of any gender, is absolute proof of their success. 

Jonathan Rosenblum C’91, San Diego

Voters Are Ignored

In his defense of the Electoral College [“Letters,” Jul|Aug 2022], Morris A. Nunes warns that should the EC be abandoned in favor of a system that elects the president by a majority of all the votes cast nationwide, presidential candidates would not bother to campaign in states such as Alaska, Hawaii, Wyoming, and North Dakota—because they have too few voters to influence the election.

But presidential candidates of both major parties rarely, if ever, campaign in those small population states—or in many large population states, such as California (solidly Democratic) and Texas (solidly Republican)—because of the Electoral College. Since with the EC it matters not how many votes the candidate receives, only that he/she gets more than the opponent, there is little reason to campaign in such states. For recent elections, both major presidential candidates have campaigned almost exclusively in the same 10 or 12 “battleground” states, where polls suggest that there’s no clear-cut winner.

In my solidly blue home state, Washington, we only see candidates when they visit to solicit campaign funds from Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, etc., billionaires. Voters are ignored.

Lester Goldstein Gr’53, Seattle

Senate Is the States’ Voice

In his letter to the editor in the Jul|Aug 2022 issue of the Gazette, Bill Marker criticizes the US Senate as being undemocratic. He writes, “No Taxation with 1.46 Percent Representation!” My understanding of the two houses of Congress is that taxes are the purview of the House of Representatives.

In addition, while Wyoming might be the least populated state, he writes from Maryland, the seventh least populated state. Is he willing to give up his entire voice in the federal government?

Nadine Hackman CW’72 GEd’73 V’80 CGS’00, Center Tuftonboro, NH

Information Wanted

I was a sister at Alpha Xi Delta on (then) Locust Street. After late night studying, we’d repair over to this deli where we had Corned Beef Specials. (Were they $0.65? And were we ever able to be so hungry and digest at that late hour? And was there ever safety in late night jaunts in the area where the Dental School now stands?) Not Koch’s, though that was a gem I discovered later. Hah. Folks do remember this deli, but nobody remembers the name. Do share other bits of lore such as this. Many thanks.

Madeleine McHugh Pierucci W’60, Philadelphia

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