Neglected Nobelists, praising Shulman(s), teacher tribute, and more.

Why Not Nobelists on the Cover?

After reading the Nov|Dec 2023 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette I am disappointed in and frankly embarrassed for your publication.

There are many deserving people associated with the University of Pennsylvania who may deserve to be on the cover, but in my opinion two Nobel laureates should be placed in that position over just about anyone.

Drs. Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman, who won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, are not just deserving scientists but the two whose research led to the mRNA vaccine against COVID-19 “that saved millions of lives” [“Gazetteer,” Nov|Dec 2023]. They have not worked for recognition but to have the results of their research be a tool against disease to be shared globally—and not just any disease, but one that has killed close to seven million people.

Surely such an accomplishment should be recognized sooner than page 14 of your publication. Dr. Weissman’s quote, “We need to encourage our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors—everybody—that science is what moves the world forward,” in my opinion should have been on your front cover.

Sadly, Penn lost an opportunity to recognize these two heroes of humanity as they truly deserve.

Maria Salvaggio VMD’87, Searsmont, ME

The Gazette also wrote about Drs. Kariko and Weissman and their long research collaboration toward the discoveries that led to the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 and their much-deserved Nobels in “The Vaccine Trenches” [May|Jun 2021].—Ed.

Particular Joy of Life

The story of Amanda Shulman and Her Place Supper Club [“Fake Simple,” Nov|Dec 2023] illustrated a particular joy of life. Albert Einstein wrote, in a remarkable (but perhaps apocryphal—Ed.) letter to his daughter, about a most powerful unseen force. He wrote that this universal force was love. I sense in this story Amanda Shulman’s love of personal development to benefit others and her love to promote the interactive activity of persons. Thank you, Gazette, for presenting this manifestation of love in a time of such hate in our own nation as well as abroad.

David Karp Ar’59, San Mateo, CA

Forgotten Father

I enjoyed Trey Popp’s well-deserved paean to Philadelphia’s newest restaurant doyenne, Amanda Shulman. I have just one small quibble.

I write as a member of a little-known minority group: parents who’ve been overshadowed by their children. For example, my journalistic career has periodically been celebrated (see “Professional Contrarian,” Sep|Oct 2022).Yet the minute people learn that one of my daughters wrote for Sex and the City and its current TV sequel, they lose all interest in me. I could cure cancer or eradicate global poverty, and the reaction would be the same: “Yes, but your daughter wrote for Sex and the City!”

A similar fate seems to have befallen Amanda Shulman’s father, whose name is not mentioned once in Popp’s long profile or in John Prendergast’s extensive editor’s note. Please permit me to rectify this oversight.

I was among the 34,746 adrenaline-charged spectators who flocked to Franklin Field on November 13, 1982, to witness the titanic battle between Penn and Harvard that determined that year’s Ivy League football champion. That thrilling contest was not settled until the final play, when a clutch field goal kicked by David Shulman W’84 turned a seemingly certain Penn defeat into victory and gave Penn its first Ivy League title in 23 years [“Old Penn,” Nov|Dec 2022]. That kick was actually Shulman’s third field goal of the game, earning him Ivy League Player of the Week honors. And he continued his kicking feats the following season, as as Penn won its second of five consecutive Ivy football titles.

Dave Shulman might justifiably have coasted on these triumphs for the rest of his days. Instead, as an adult, he fathered, helped raise, and presumably inspired a daughter who is now revitalizing Philadelphia’s culinary life.

To Dave Shulman, I say: You are not forgotten. You’ve earned a place in at least two pantheons. Now, take the rest of the week off!

Dan Rottenberg C’64, Philadelphia

Even Better Than Usual

Thank you for an even better issue than your usual high standards.

The cover story, “Fake Simple,” and “Poisoned Gifts,” “Field of Dreams,” and “Out of the Box” [“Alumni Profiles,” Nov|Dec 2023] were all exceptional. (I’ve already ordered some wine). Keep up the great work!

George Fern C’51, Oceanside, CA

A Teacher’s Dream Fulfilled

You have a recurring dream when you are a teacher: You dream that someday one of your students, maybe decades after you have taught them, will stop and say, “I get it. I understand what my teacher was trying to teach me; and I appreciate what they did for me.”

Bridled Wit,” Daniel Akst’s gracious and warmhearted recollections of his English Professor Daniel Hoffman [“Alumni Voices,” Nov|Dec 2023] demonstrates that Hoffman’s dream was fulfilled. 

Edward C. Halperin W’75, Chapel Hill NC

Root of Recruitment Problem May Be Gen Z’s Grandparents

I want to offer a simple explanation for the Gen Z military recruitment problem cited by Matthew Weiss in his article “Beyond Boot Camp” [“Expert Opinion,” Nov|Dec 2023]: Gen Z’s grandparents.

For many of us, military service in the Vietnam Era was the worst experience in our lives. I started college five years after graduating high school in 1963. I was drafted in 1965. I don’t want to itemize my grievances, but they entailed all of the injustices that are today acknowledged for Vietnam Era conscription, and then some. Even though I never saw combat nor heard a shot fired in anger, I came home suffering from what I have since self-diagnosed as mild PTSD. (It interests me that a very large number of contemporary veterans are being diagnosed with PTSD, also without any particularly traumatic experiences; apparently military service itself can be trauma enough.) For years I had nightmares, in which I would have been drafted again. As decades went on, it would be for the third or fourth time. Some part of me was whispering the absurdity of the premise, but they still were nightmares.

When my grandchildren question me about my military service, I try to answer objectively and dispassionately, but I suspect it comes through that I had no enthusiasm for the experience, and no pride in it. About the only suggestion I can make is, wait for the Vietnam Era to be forgotten, after my generation moves on.

Andrew E. Barniskis ME’72 GME’74, Levittown, PA

Racial Playing Field Has Never Been Even

I was disheartened to read the arguments against affirmative action from Creighton Meland and Gary Leiser [“Letters,” Nov|Dec 2023]. These sound like alumni who are not from minority or marginalized groups. If they were, they would understand that the racial playing field in this country, and in education, has never been even, hence the need for affirmative action.

I am pleased that Penn has been, and still is, interested in maintaining campus diversity and offering a hand up to deserving students who are not in the white legacy group. The other letters in support of first-generation, low-income (FGLI) students indicate how much this is needed and valued.

Karla Werninghaus C’79, Reno, NV

Affirmative Action Is Essential for US

As a Black Class of 1957 graduate and a Penn admit prior to the Supreme Court school desegregation ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, I take extreme exception to the bigoted statements contained in “Nothing Will Change” [“Letters,” Nov|Dec 2023]. The outdated prejudicial slogans focusing on looting, fatherless young men joining gangs do not recognize the extremely heavy burden that Blacks have faced over our entire painful presence in the United States. My undergraduate Class of 1957 included a minuscule total of approximately eight Black graduates (three in Nursing, two in the College, one in Wharton, and two in Engineering), relative to a total class size of 1,812. Employment opportunities were also horrendous. I personally took employment interviews with the Class of 1958. It was not until 1964, when I received a graduate engineering degree from Columbia University owing to the great sacrifices rendered by the civil rights movement, that I received numerous job offers. In summary, for the US to prosper and to remain relevant in the 21st century, support and implementation of affirmative action concepts and programs must continue and receive universal support.

Henry Coshburn ChE’57, New York

A Beautiful Story

Thank you, Penn Gazette. I am a February 1954 graduate of the Illman-Carter Unit, and I was so happy to see your review of that area [“Old Penn,” Nov|Dec 2023].

The picture doesn’t show the colorful, industrious, crowded classrooms. A wonderful project always underway. I student-taught at the Illman School, kindergarten, under a master teacher, Miss Watson. At that time, in addition to our daily routine, the nursing students observed our classes because this was their opportunity to see the “well” child.

On graduating I was fortunate to get a full-time position with a suburban community—teaching two sessions a day in kindergarten. Three years later my husband and I moved out of the area. On announcing my departure the superintendent of the school district told me that I was the first Penn graduate and from now on they were only going to Penn for their openings. Do tell the story of the Red and Blue, it is a beautiful one, and this comes from a 70th-year alumna.

Evelyn Hymowitz Brown Ed’54, Allentown, PA

Hooray for Fabulous Stories

Trey Popp’s article,“The PZ Project” [Sep|Oct 2023], about Penn Libraries’ expanding and diversifying their collections of children’s literature awoke a pleasant memory for me.

When I arrived on campus in 1991, a voracious reader of all things, I went straight to browse around Van Pelt. I was hoping to find a new Stephen King novel or pick up an old favorite by my favorite children’s author, Daniel Pinkwater. I’d assumed a university library would closely resemble my local public library (simply with a lot more academic texts crowding the stacks). Imagine my surprise when there was no carousel of new fiction arrivals awaiting me! Happily, I did track down a few older Stephen King novels in Van Pelt, and subsequently got directions to the nearest Philadelphia Free Library branch.

After many career twists and turns, I eventually became an author of children’s books, and currently work in a children’s library. Perhaps this would have happened faster if the PZ collection had been started up 30 years prior. At any rate, hooray for fabulous stories Penn readers of all ages can now access right in the center of campus!

Christina Uss C’95, East Longmeadow MA

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