First-gen essay strikes a chord, inspiration and gratitude, defending the “Pathfinder,” and more.
More Trailblazers Needed
More Trailblazers Needed
Phyllis Lev Brust’s article, “Confidence Game” [“Expert Opinion,” Sep|Oct 2023], resonated with me because I was also a first-generation college student and a commuter at Penn in the 1970s. My parents were Sicilian immigrants, blue-collar workers with a fifth-grade education. Hardly anyone at Penn shared my experiences. Like Brust, I was a trailblazer who was not “on anybody’s radar” and was pretty much left on my own.
Elite institutions like Penn lack socioeconomic diversity, but I am hopeful that Penn’s recent efforts to assist first-generation students will result in more such students being admitted and that more trailblazers will grow and thrive. Thank you for publishing Brust’s article!
Vincent T. Lombardo C’78, Cleveland
Penn Lessons Mean More Now
Phyllis Lev Brust’s essay reflected my experience at Penn. Growing up in South Philadelphia, I held Penn as the college I wanted to attend my whole life—there was no alternative. However, I joined classmates who landed at Penn disappointed after they were not accepted at some of the then-higher-ranked Ivies. When my sociology professor Dr. Fox talked about the “working class,” I asked aren’t we all from the working class, not comprehending the lifestyle of classmates from the upper-middle and upper class.
Like Phyllis, and like almost all of my high school friends at other colleges, I commuted to classes. I accelerated my studies to complete Penn in three years, happy to leave. I left Penn less confident than when I started as one of the top student-athletes in my high school. As my career advanced, things became clearer and confidence returned. In retrospect, Penn’s lessons mean more to me 45-plus years post-graduation. I am heartened to see that Penn established the FGLI (first-generation, low-income) program to help ensure that first-generation students get to realize the full potential of a Penn education.
Anthony C. Stanowski C’80, Lower Gwynedd, PA
On Mr. Busey’s “Radar”
In response to Phyllis Lev Brust’s statement “First-generation students weren’t on anybody’s radar when I was in school,” I must call attention to the Small Communities Program run by a man we called Mr. Busey; I never knew his first name.
I also graduated from Penn in 1975 and there was at least one other person in my dorm also in the program. While not specifically aimed at first-generation students, I think many of us in the program were just that.
There were social and advising activities at least through freshman year.
Mary Beth Fleeger CW’75, Bloomington, IN
Important Lesson, Inspiring Person
Thank you for your article “A Blanket and a Bond” [“Sports,” Sep|Oct 2023].
I was a very junior member of the Penn women’s swimming team at the same time as Mary Ellen Olcese. I remember her amazing prowess, while the rest of us laboured in her wake. My clearest memory of being on the team is a talk from our coach. She mentioned that Mary Ellen had had a stellar career as a swimmer, she had done brilliantly … now she swam with us.
Her performance encouraged us, it set the pace. Mary Ellen was giving out to the next generation of swimmers—showing huge generosity, sharing her talent and energy. I think that the words of the coach, about Mary Ellen, were probably one of the most important lessons from my time at Penn. She was (is) a truly inspiring person. Thank you, Mary Ellen!
Eve Kirby CW’73, Birmingham, England
Change and Gratitude
I read Margot Freedman Horwitz’s account of her feelings for attending a reunion as a widow, “Second Life” [“Alumni Voices,” Sep|Oct 2023]. Many of us have the same story. I am preparing for my 65th Reunion this coming May. I was fortunate enough to attend my 60th Reunion with my husband, Howard Asher W’54, while he attended his 65th. We celebrated this occasion by endowing a scholarship for a deserving Central High School student. Times change, and we all must be grateful for the experiences we had while attending Penn and to look forward to reuniting with old friends.
Myrna Zeitlin Asher Ed’59 CGS’07, Philadelphia
Kudos on New Curriculum, Lifetime Lessons
Very happy to read the new curriculum emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and environmental, social, and government (ESG) factors for business in your story “New Majors and Concentrations at Wharton” [“Gazetteer,” Sep|Oct 2023]. Kudos to the Wharton leadership for recognition and adjustment toward 21st-century leadership.
I remain grateful for my Wharton education. When I read this article, I reflected on several faculty members I was very fortunate (way back) to have as instructors: Anita Summers, Kenwyn K Smith, Dennis Yao.
In a 1980s Wharton world that seemed to be embracing Friedmanism and earnings per share (EPS) exclusively, Summers, Smith, and Yao offered fresh, multidimensional perspectives on policy, organizations, and priorities (largely pre-DEI and -ESG), and their lessons last a lifetime.
Ken Bariahtaris WG’85, Morristown, NJ
Nothing Will Change
In “Admissions in Flux” [“Gazetteer,” Sep|Oct 2023] we are told Penn’s leaders “joined a chorus of educational leaders around the country condemning the [Supreme Court’s] decision” to end affirmative action in higher education (other than the service academies).
If Penn’s statement amounted to a condemnation, then it’s fair to scrutinize Penn’s other statements about the rulings of public officials. Did Penn condemn public officials in Philadelphia for failing to prosecute acts of looting and mob violence happening in Penn’s backyard?
Rather than promoting failed affirmative action plans, maybe Penn could work to improve elementary and secondary school academic standards and dissuade fatherless young men from joining gangs. Of course, this would meet resistance from the social justice donor complex and foment a faculty revolt. Instead, Penn will opt to develop new methods of “holistic” admissions practices that mask racial discrimination. Nothing will change.
Creighton Meland W’78, Hinsdale, IL
I am 77, and among those progressives who had tolerated affirmative action without feeling much enthusiasm for it. I was willing to endure it for a generation as a social experiment to see if the presumed ends justified the means. The means were unfair, undemocratic, and viewed one as a member of a certain group or sex rather than as an individual.
From the beginning, affirmative action was open to abuse. Among other things, it became a code for quota systems. Over the years, affirmative action had become a pernicious hydra-headed monster that has been manifest in many ways. I will not wear a black tie now that it has been abolished, at least in university admissions. If a group of people from diverse backgrounds have equal qualifications for the same position, the fair way to make a selection is by lottery.
Gary Leiser Gr’76, Sisters, OR
Attack on “Pathfinder” Took Wrong Turn
Dennis Drabelle’s article “American Science’s Promoter-in-Chief” [Sep|Oct 2023] contains the following passage: “Almost as bad was Matthew Fontaine Maury, superintendent of the US Naval Observatory and author of The Physical Geography of the Sea (1855), which Bache cited as containing ‘more absurd propositions than are to be found in any book ever published by a person in such a high position.’ It didn’t help Maury’s cause that Bache saw him as encroaching on the Coast Survey’s work. Along with Henry at the Smithsonian and Louis Agassiz and Benjamin Peirce at Harvard, Bache made the newly formed American Association for the Advancement of Science a vehicle for undermining Maury’s influence.”
Being a dual degree holder from Penn and a descendant of Matthew Fontaine Maury, I am appalled with the fallacies of Mr. Drabelle and his besmearing Maury.
According to his Wikipedia profile, “Maury was an American oceanographer and naval officer, serving the United States and then joining the Confederacy during the American Civil War. He was nicknamed ‘Pathfinder of the Seas’ and is considered a founder of modern oceanography.”
The Hall of Oceanography and Ocean Sciences was named after him at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He was the first to chart the currents of the world’s oceans and his work is the basis of modern oceanography and still used by the world’s navies and merchant marines. He was also renowned for cartography, having mapped Virginia in 1868, producing the first “correct” map of the state, and produced many other noteworthy maps of post–Civil War years.
A statue of him in Richmond has been removed, although he never owned a slave or slaves, but because he felt an allegiance to Virginia and tried to gain financial assistance from France. His name was removed from the hall in Annapolis for the same reason and renamed for Jimmy Carter … one of this country’s most illustrious presidents!
Looking forward to receiving a comment from “another revisionist” and misinformed contributor to the Gazette.
Fontaine Maury Matthews C’70 WG’74, St. Louis
Dennis Drabelle replies: Mr. Matthews’ quarrel is not with me but with Dallas Bache and Joseph Henry, whose opinions of Maury I was reporting. But as a peace offering, let me provide the verdict of the Pulitzer prize–winning historian William H. Goetzmann in his book New Lands, New Men: America and the Second Great Age of Discovery: “Many of Maury’s concepts, such as that of the existence of an open polar sea, proved to be wrong, but in attempting to prove his hypotheses, Maury not only prompted important new discoveries and techniques, he also created, out of his questions, the science of oceanography.”
I am dismayed to read about Penn’s $1.5 billion of current construction projects [“Gazetteer,” Sep|Oct 2023], against the backdrop of Philadelphia being the poorest big city in the nation, with a 24 percent poverty rate, underfunded schools, and crumbling infrastructure.
While it is no surprise that the 14th wealthiest charity in the world can easily and regularly spend over a billion dollars annually on new or renovated buildings, the Penn administration’s position that it is not appropriate for it to pay for city services, including real estate taxes (which fund city schools), to our struggling, crime-ridden, pot-holed city, is dubious.
These new buildings are among most expensive constructions ever built, sit vacant four months a year, and don’t seem to play any role in increasing Penn’s student population. Their construction would not be possible without city services and infrastructure, which Penn uses extensively, but does not pay for.
In 2021 Penn’s endowment increased more than Philadelphia’s entire annual budget. Isn’t it time for Penn to begin to make payments in lieu of taxes, and pay for what it uses, and (as we see) can easily afford?
Hanley Bodek C’77, Philadelphia
Another Wharton Innovation
Your Sep|Oct 2023 issue was exceptionally interesting in its review of the many older subjects, people, and ideas. Butthere is one other uniquely innovative role that Wharton adopted in 1979—the formation of a department that taught (and did research, of course) in the relationship of public policy to business. The department was named Public Policy and Business Management, and is now named Business Economics and Public Policy.
It was the first business school in the country to have such a course. The person who thought of that, who had the courage to make it happen, was then dean Donald Carroll.
One day, while I was working in the research department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, I received a call from Dean Carroll, who I did not know at all. He said he wanted to set up a new department that connected public policy to the private sector, and asked if I would be willing to start it. It would not start as a department, but was connected to the Legal Ethics Department, and I would start as an adjunct. I asked if there was another business school in the country that had such a course. He said, “No, we will be the first!” I asked about the motivation for this, and his answer was one I will never forget: “Everyone going into the private sector should understand the public sector, and everyone going into the public sector should understand the private sector.” I worked for months to develop a basic course that would be politically neutral.
It turned out that, in addition to Wharton students, over the next few years, students from the law school, the medical school, and the social work school took the basic course plus some of our other courses. Three years later it became a department, and I became a professor. We were having four sessions of the basic course a year with around 60 students in each.
Dean Carroll had the insight to see the role of such a department—full applause to him. And now, with Joseph Harrington, the Patrick T. Harker Professor, as chair of the Business Economics and Public Policy Department, we have many courses that reflect the initiative. The department recognizes that while politics make the final choices, we are the ones who make those decisions very well informed.
Anita Arrow Summers, faculty, Philadelphia
Advice on FIRE
President Magill wrote about Penn’s SNF Paideia Program, whose effort is centered “in the belief that democracy doesn’t work without citizens committed to the core democratic values of free thought, robust and respectful exchange of ideas, and the commitment of each to the good of all” [“From College Hall,” Sep|Oct 2023]. How ironic that the Gazette containing the President’s statement came in the immediate aftermath of the publication of the 2024 College Free Speech Rankings by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), a nonprofit organization “committed to defending and sustaining the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought.” In the latest rankings just published, our great University had the dubious and embarrassing distinction of ranking next to last (to Harvard, alas, which was last).
I would urge our president and provost to learn about FIRE and understand what data was employed by FIRE to arrive at their rankings as they did, and why our University was given the ranking placing it next to worst in the universe of colleges which FIRE examined. I would also hope that the president and the trustees enthusiastically and unabashedly endorse and subscribe to the Chicago Principles, [first articulated by the University of Chicago and described by Wikipedia as] “a set of guiding principles intended to demonstrate a commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of expression on college campuses in the United States.” I can’t think of any action that our University could take which would be more forceful and universally understood than the adoption of these principles, and adhering passionately to them throughout the University.
Emilio Bassini W’71 C’71 WG’73, New York
No Apostrophe Needed
Philadelphians of a certain age know that the famous art supply store downtown was called Henry H. Taws, not—as in “The Letter A” [“Arts,” Sep|Oct 2023]—Taw’s. Established in 1897 and finally closing in 2015, it was named for its founder, whose last name had an “s” at the end. As a former art student, I could tell instantly that the apostrophe didn’t look right.
Linda Rabben CGS’74, Baltimore
I was disappointed in your hagiographic portrait of Michael Mann [“Mann in the Middle,” Jul|Aug 2023]. It was a missed opportunity for much needed substantive discussion of complex climate issues. My engineering and economics professors at Penn taught me that effective policy involves making trade offs across multiple parameters. But your article didn’t provide any insights into how Mann suggests doing so. Instead of your focus on the “wars” between people with different perspectives, I had hoped to see at least some elucidation of practical initiatives and their costs and benefits. Doing so would have better equipped your readers to help advance Penn’s mission of “work that bridges the divide between knowledge and action.”
I also found Mann’s critique of COVID-19 criticisms unintentionally ironic. This was an analogous situation in which zealots focused on optimizing only one variable (COVID-19 medical outcomes) and made no attempt to weigh this benefit against the policy’s many harmful impacts (society’s overall mental health deterioration, delays in treatment of serious medical conditions, students’ learning losses, small business survival, etc.).
Brian Suckow GCh’81, Palo Alto, CA
Ira’s Activism, and Others’
I was pleased to read the appreciation of 30 years of Penn’s academic involvement in West Philadelphia through the Netter Center [“Ode to Ira,” Jul|Aug 2023], which Harkavy’d back to the College Hall sit-in, which I participated in. Visiting the Netter Center and talking to Ira was a highlight of my 50th Reunion activities. I hope before it is too late Penn will hold a reunion for sit-in participants where we can share not only recollections of the event, but the role community activism has played in our lives, whether as academics or otherwise.
Since graduating in 1972 I have lived over 45 years in the shadow of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where I attended law school. My activism has included serving as a community association president, representing my community on an umbrella group’s board that also includes UMB representatives, serving on the board of the friends of our regional park, trying to alleviate Martin Luther King Boulevard’s separation of West Baltimore from downtown, running for political office and serving on the Democratic State Central Committee, and serving as the leading citizen opponent to spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new stadiums. I don’t know that participating in the sit-in led to this life.
Bill Marker C’72, Baltimore
The article on pickleball [“Profiles,” May|Jun 2023] brought back pleasant memories of the pickleball court my wife and I had installed in the backyard of our home we had built in 1978. My two daughters grew up on that “Sport Court” (as it was called then), and we all thoroughly enjoyed the game, both singles and doubles.
The game was a creation in 1965 by Joel Pritchard (a former Washington State congressman and lieutenant governor of the state) and two of his neighbors, Bill Beil and Barney McCallum on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound. The name “Pickleball” came from the University of Washington’s crew team. There were three eight-man shells, the first two were for varsity and junior varsity crews. The third shell was called the “pickleboat” for the crew members who were not chosen for the top two crews.
If one is interested to learn how pickleball came to be, KOMO TV, one of Seattle’s local stations, did a story which can be found on Facebook.com/EricJohnsonkomo/videos/birth-of-a-boom/775710600535401/.
William A. Latta WG’65, Olympia, WA