“It’s always refreshing to ﬁnd there are people out there whose work—and attitude toward life—can put a smile on our faces.”
Be Like Alisa
Thanks for publishing the fascinating piece on Dr. Alisa Kauffman [“House Dentist,” May|June 2017]. It’s always refreshing to find there are people out there whose work—and attitude toward life—can put a smile on our faces. I hope the writers of the endless letters—pro or con—about our fellow alumnus, Donald Trump, read the article. A good many of them could stand to put a smile on their faces.
Louis R. Sernoff C’62 L’65 Delray Beach, FL
Kauffman’s Example, Penn’s Challenge
Alisa Kauffman travels the urban frontier alone. She brings attention to a need for the coordination of comprehensive dental/medical services for the elderly. As the population continues to age, these critical services need to be readily available for non-ambulatory patients.
The challenge is for Penn—the national leader in geriatric care for over 150 years—to better utilize its resources in dentistry, medicine, and research to help the elderly and often home-bound community.
Marcia Witlin-Basickes GrEd’85 Philadelphia
An Eye Towards Service
I enjoyed reading “House Dentist.” I appreciate that you highlight the good work that Penn alums do in their professions, with an eye towards service and helping underserved communities. I hope you write more articles like that in the future, and thank you to Alisa Kauffman and Steven Lin [who was profiled in the sidebar article, “The Protégé”].
Michael Chen C’11 San Francisco
Terrific! (Just a Few Edits)
The article “House Dentist,” regarding Dr. Kauffman’s work, is terrific and makes folks aware of an individual who is helping to fulfill a major need. My reason for writing is the following: The Gazette is a polished publication. It is always apparent that you make a continued effort that it be the best one out there. Here are several suggestions for future articles of this type.
Page 36: “She reached into Johnson’s mouth with a pair of dental pliers and yanked out a crown spanning three molars,” should read something like, “She reached into Johnson’s mouth with a dental instrument and removed (or extracted) a molar leaving three roots that required additional removal.”
Next, “the raw force it takes to pull teeth”: Dentists do not “pull” teeth. They are removed or extracted! The “queasy” comment [regarding the reaction of the patient’s daughter to the extraction] could be left out.
Next, “She packed up her tools”: They are not tools. They are “instruments.”
Page 37: “She cares for them in a setting that’s even more unusual for dentists than for doctors: their homes.” In this sentence, the dental profession would certainly prefer “unusual for dentists than for physicians.” They are all doctors.
Page 38 & 40: Dentists don’t work on patients. We “treat” patients.
Page 40: “She put together a tool kit” should be an “instrument kit.”
Please understand that I am taking time and effort to write this because I read each issue of the Gazette. It is a classy publication. You obviously put much effort into each article. I am a retired Penn orthodontist. I take great pride in the dental school and the University. This publication is an extension of the University. Thank you very much.
Stephen Rogow D’67 GD’72 Flemington, NJ
Life-Giving Work, with Flair
Congratulations on the fabulous article regarding the life-giving work and the comic adventures of Alisa Kauffman. Such a tremendous understanding of the needs of our elderly, and the ability she obviously has to deliver that care, is quite admirable.
I am proud to note that there are many institutions scattered throughout North America, Israel, and beyond, that cater to the elderly and particularly to Holocaust survivors—but none perhaps with the flair of Dr. Kauffman.
Thank you for bringing this all to our attention. May Dr. Kauffman, and those like her, continue their sensitive and so vital work in good health, good strength, and good spirits.
Gary Charlestein W’66 Plymouth Meeting, PA
Annenberg School Dean Michael Delli Carpini is about 56 years late in repeating to a Penn/Annenberg audience the comments about the impossibility of truly objective reporting [“When Lies Go Viral,” May|June 2017].
When I was a student at Annenberg, we had heavyweight speakers from the media—the real heavyweights, one of whom was Henry Luce, founder and CEO of Time-Life. He said that truly objective reporting was impossible because simply by virtue of choosing what to report or write about one was showing a bias. The press can help offset this bias by eschewing adjectives and adverbs—probably foreign terms to too many reporters and editors—and juxtapose opposing viewpoints either as news reporting or editorials. The likelihood of this happening is nil as long as the majority-liberal press gets its jollies from bashing President Trump. (And Nixon thought the press was kicking him around!)
Lewis R. Elin ASC’61 Chicago
Choosing to Live
I’m responding to the “Not Here” article written by Nick Lyons [“Alumni Voices,” May|June 2017]. I found it deeply moving. You see, my wife, Vijay Dalton-Gibson was struck and killed in a pedestrian crosswalk on December 17, 2013. She was on her way home from the grocery store with our Jack Russell dog, Cassie. It was clear and sunny that day. (That is noteworthy in western Oregon during the winter.)
Vijay graduated from the University of Southern Oregon. She spent a year in France. She was a writer who worked with developmentally disabled adults. She was a special person.
There was no time to say goodbye. I was called to the accident scene. I’ll spare the details.
I too felt nothing but shock when I learned the news. The police officer informed me that she “didn’t make it.” That phrase echoes with me every day. I will say that the Portland police handled the situation in a professional way.
I was in shock. For a time, I could not understand why I didn’t cry. The tears came later. I too would wake at night and wonder: “Where’s Vijay? Why isn’t she home?” Then I would remember. Those are hard, lonely nights.
Today, I work with public officials on pedestrian safety in Portland. Philadelphia also has a “Vision Zero” project to protect people crossing the street.
The crosswalk where Vijay died now has a blinking sign system. I’ve seen it save lives. They cost about $100,000. Drivers don’t like it. It is inconvenient. It works.
Nothing will bring Vijay back. However, if my work helps save lives, that is my way of choosing to live after losing my wife. Mr. Lyons, my heart goes out to you.
Scott Dalton C’72 Portland, OR
Don’t Sympathize with Putin
In the article “How to Think Like Vladimir Putin” [“Gazetteer,” May|June 2017], Professors Mitchell Orenstein, Rudra Sil, Joseph Kolodny, and Phil Nichols all want us to sympathize with Russia’s attitude and actions under Vladimir Putin since 1999. Russia has been acting out, they say, simply because Putin feels beleaguered by the West. The West, with NATO and the European Union as the main actors, has acted against Russia’s interests. Certainly, this is true. And for good reasons—none of which our academics (whom the article implicitly praises) give any attention.
Russia under Putin since 1999 is largely a murderous kleptocracy and invader of free states. The West would do well to cordon off this Russian cancer from the rest of the world.
Robert D. Kaplan L’61 Sarasota, FL
The article on Putin and Russia was the best in-depth analysis of how Russians perceive themselves and their history from the time they were ruled by hordes from Siberia to Westernization and the present day. Their word gordyy—which equals proud and bare-chested tough—covers the population’s attitude and thus Putin.
Oleg Dudkin ME’48 Berwyn, PA
The Price of Critical Thinking
I enjoyed Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s article, “The Power of Play,” about high achieving career people and their need for “deep play” to contrast their high-intensity careers [“Expert Opinion,” May|June 2017]. The example of Britton Chance’s need to sail to offset his scientific studies is a good one, but this revelation is not rocket science. There are careers and, don’t get me wrong, they are important to our well-being: however, equally critical is the development of our “whole-self,” be it found in sports, art, adventure, or even sailing.
The question is this: with annual tuition, room, and board at private colleges now set basically at $70,000, how does one justify the cost of a “liberal arts” education, important as it may be to critical thinking, at such a price? I have no answer to that question, but I do see higher education splitting into the camps of education as a trade and education for the development of a more complete self. Without getting mired in this debate, I do postulate that, above all, including the emphasis on career success in our consumptive society, nothing in an individual’s formative development is as important as being “whole,” which requires the development of the academic, athletic, artistic, and spiritual being. Any education short of that is not. The gauntlet is down. Can our colleges and universities rise to this important ideal—because if we can’t, not much is achieved.
Peter Helmetag GLA’88 Pawlet, VT
Cuba Won’t Change Until the System Does
Your brief article on Cuba, “Political Graffiti,” was well received [“Notes From the Undergrad,” May|June 2017]. Having recently returned from Cuba, let me add to the discussion. As the article related, the CUC (convertible peso) is used almost everywhere for most of what has value. The Cuban people are not paid in CUCs; they are paid in Cuban pesos: 25 of which can buy a CUC. The salaries are so low, no one can afford to make that exchange, since a CUC is only valued at US $1.17. My visit was depressing. The deterioration shown in the Gazette is everywhere. The people indeed do sell CDs and anything else they can … for CUCs. The ration stores are where most Cubans get basic foodstuffs, since those are subsidized by the government. There are only five TV stations in Cuba, and all news comes on the one government news channel. CNN and the BBC are banned. In every hotel in which I spent time, there were very few Cubans. They were full of foreigners.
My Cuban guide told me that US businesses were sure to come to Cuba but that no Cuban would be able to afford a Starbucks coffee, as an example. I went to Cuba to see it before it changed. I am convinced it will not change until the system changes, not for many, many years.
Ernest Price C’63 San Diego
Three Words for Penn
I’m sure President Gutmann’s three-word challenge [“From College Hall,” May|June 2017] will inspire many responses.
As a nervous 17-year old freshman moving into the Quad, being at Penn Opened My Eyes. Now, nearly 50 years later, I proceed through life, and through my career in transportation planning, where I am always looking at the future, with Eyes Wide Open, thanks in no small part to my Penn education. I am hopeful and satisfied that many other Penn grads and current students are doing the same.
Steven Gayle C’71 South New Berlin, NY
Or How About These ?
Our controversial University president, Amy Gutmann, wants to sum up Penn in three words. OK, I’ll take the bait: Penn, embarrassingly liberal, or Trump, our alumnus.
Not even dear Ben Franklin was elected president of the US, and while Harvard has many such alumni, this is Penn’s first and only.
Any Penn alum who travels into Grand Central station can thank Donald Trump for showing the guts and vision of turning the run-down, vagrant-infested Commodore Hotel (as a boy, I was not allowed to walk near that hotel) that sat above Grand Central station in the 1970s and turn it into the Hyatt Regency. This was Trump’s great moment, and he was in his late 20s. Credit probably also goes to Penn and Wharton for giving him the moxie and vision to take on the heart-stopping project that changed midtown Manhattan in the late 1970s for the benefit of literally millions of Americans.
Steve Gidumal W’79 New York
Put Rosenstein on the Cover
In the May|June “Letters,” Barry Casselman made the statement: “Like all institutions of higher learning, Penn is of course openly proud of it most distinguished graduates.” He is upset that Donald Trump was not accorded accolades because he was elected to the presidency. Well, our alma mater has every right not to be proud of his “accomplishment.” He is an embarrassment in so many ways.
The Penn graduate who does deserve to make the Gazette cover might very well be Rod Rosenstein W’86, who on May 17 made the decision to pick a Special Counsel to investigate whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. And his decision, picking former FBI Director Robert Mueller, was unanimously praised.
Our wonderful president used his fellow Penn alumnus by asking for his recommendation to fire FBI Director James Comey … then made it clear that he was going to fire Comey, anyway. He made Rosenstein a foil for his own purposes. But Rosenstein didn’t lose his cool and stayed the course.
It is clear that Rosenstein is highly respected by both sides of the aisle. He is someone of whom Penn can be proud. Trump? Not so much.
Michael Groothuis W’64 Hempstead, NY
“Ivy League Colleges Get More Selective” in the April 1-2 Wall Street Journal provided the following percentages of accepted applicants: Harvard, 5.2; Columbia, 5.8; Princeton, 6.1; Yale 6.9; Brown, 8.3; Penn, 9.2; Dartmouth, 10.4; and Cornell, 12.5. So, what is all the adulation about President Gutmann? Her memorable accomplishments seem to be declaring the University a “sanctuary campus,” inviting Cory Booker to speak at Commencement, and endless newsletters extolling the “diversity” achieved at the school.
Take it from someone who has never missed an annual giving contribution and who served as county chairman for secondary-school recruitment: whenever you see the word diversity or its derivatives, substitute the word mediocrity. The University appears to be sacrificing excellence to achieve that goal, as it appears in the acceptance percentage. Or maybe the word is out about Penn.
If and when the current University president (who is a Harvard alumna, by the way) is at last out of office, why not replace her with someone like Samuel Alito, only with a University of Pennsylvania undergraduate degree.
J.M. Leone W’70 Toms River, NJ
Gutmann Should be Praised
A relationship with Penn is a gift that keeps giving: initially, a world-class education and, later, readership of its excellent Gazette. Its publication of a spate of letters in the wake of our recent national elections has revived a lively debate on the fundamental charge of a great university. Some alumni have set their sights rather low and are content with having acquired at Penn some specific technical expertise. Their letters reflect that satisfaction but, surprisingly, are unappreciative of Penn’s president’s stance. Sadly, the odd one even condemns it as being “too liberal” and “ill-inspired by political correctness.”
Fortunately, however, other letters reflect that Penn has conveyed that other major component of an Ivy League education: namely, internalizing the belief, shared by Ben Franklin and its Enlightenment founders, that moral progress should keep pace with technical prowess. True—or just truly idealistic? Now that our elected representatives are more preoccupied with serving the powerful (in order to enable future reelections) than the majority of their constituents, such a debate is welcome.
The beauty of Penn’s motto LEGES SINE MORIBUS VANAE is that is covers both aspects of education. Translated literally, the Latin phrase narrowly means, “laws without morals are useless.” However, the founders’ meaning encompasses today more than just jurisprudence. The point of it, maybe sometimes over-stressed by the odd teacher, according to some letters, is that soulless technical savvy alone does not rise to the challenge of an Ivy League education. It has to be complemented by humanistic or even just humane content; so, a less literal translation may be “formalism without substance is meaningless.” In plain English, merely posturing doesn’t cut it!
Many programs at Penn had managed to balance this dual mission. (To cite my personal experience, the doctoral program run at the School of Arts and Sciences, and later Wharton, by Silberberg Professor of Social Systems Sciences Russell Ackoff, thus aimed at a full education.) But, these days, Penn’s community seeks guidance. Against this backdrop, President Amy Gutmann should be praised for her searching honesty, her mindfulness of Penn’s enlightened tradition, and for striving to tailor her stance to the substance of Penn’s motto and legacy. Under Dr. Gutmann’s leadership, the University of Pennsylvania will remain a beacon of enlightenment worldwide.
William Acar Gr’83 Petaluma, CA
It would have been a travesty to put Trump’s image on the cover of the Gazette except as a cartoon showing the man as the buffoon he is. Look only to the motto of our revered institution: “Laws without morals are empty.”
Allan L. Daniel W’55 Park Ridge, NJ
Go President Trump!
The only way that the tone deaf, no free speech colleges will change is if all frustrated alumni do not give a penny to these bigoted sore losers.
Next step, hopefully, is the government will no longer give a penny to these jackasses!
Go President Trump! The winner!
Mary Gedney CW’64 Darien, CT
Immigration Policy Misinterpreted
Misinterpretation best sums up President Gutmann’s criticism of Trump’s immigration policy [“Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr 2017]. In an attempt to protect the American public, this administration wanted prospective immigrants—no matter how old, nor where they are from, nor what their religious persuasion—to be properly vetted to determine that they will not cause harm to people in this country. There have been tragic crimes committed by immigrants who were not properly screened. Some 22,000 illegal immigrants who had committed felonies have already been deported. To imply that this administration’s policy is to deport all illegal immigrants is not true. I believe it will come to pass that those willing to register and apply to be welcomed into this country as legal immigrants will have to go through a waiting period while they are vetted, but with patience they will eventually be assimilated into our society.
S. Waud C‘63 New York
Delve Deeper on Climate Change
Melissa Jacobs’ opening statement in “Data Defenders” [Mar|Apr 2017] that the “fundamental reality” of climate change “is a matter of near-unanimous agreement among scientists” is flawed in many ways. This is because many—especially college graduates, including journalists—don’t practice critical thinking and often have no knowledge of their subject matter. Jacobs is guilty of just repeating what she has heard and read without delving deeper.
If there is anything that is not a democracy, it’s science. Science is proved by the results of the experiments; there is no vote. Jacobs would have believed that the world is flat, that the sun revolves around the earth, and that ordinary metals could be turned into gold, just to name a few “scientific” beliefs of the majority. And what percentage of scientists who supposedly believe in man-made climate change would it take to have doubts? Would it be 80 percent, or 70, or 50?
I say supposedly because of the too-often repeated canard that the majority of scientists believe in man-made climate change. I’m sure Jacobs and everyone else—including government officials—have no idea where this falsity originated. As was clearly explained in a May 26, 2014, Wall Street Journal article by Joseph Bast and Roy Spencer, the sources and methodology are highly flawed. Some of the data they reveal is: one frequently cited source only reviewed abstracts of published articles and not the actual articles where the abstract was not substantiated. The same source refused to cite any prominent climate scientists who dissented. Another source cites 97 percent consensus but without asking whether human impact is enough to constitute a problem, conveniently leaving that out. And that commonly cited number of 97 percent is based on only 79 respondents who listed climate science as their area of expertise out of 3,146 who responded to a survey.
Bast and Spencer also reveal in the same WSJ article that over 31,000 scientists signed a petition in 2009 stating that, “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide is causing, or will cause catastrophic heating of the Earth or disruption of the Earth’s climate.”
Why are these facts and many others not disseminated by journalists? Because they don’t fit the dogmatic narrative and might just be an inconvenient truth.
Ken Bendik D’84 Beverly Hills, CA
Right to Keep Distance from Trump
I read the letters regarding our infamous alum with interest. Students come to Penn from a wide variety of cultural and economic backgrounds, and the University does its best to educate them. Unfortunately, being a son from a rich family does not guarantee intelligence or humanity.
This alum ran for office on a platform of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia and made promises only the ignorant could believe. His election by a minority of voters was aided by Russian interference, so could be termed illegitimate. A recent Gallup organization analysis of 125,000 voters in the election found the one common thread binding his supporters across all classes was … racism.
I believe it is appropriate for the University (and the Gazette) to distance themselves from this man. It would be far better to try to counter the hate and intolerance generated by his election.
Mark Spohr EE’70 Tahoe City, CA
No Cause for Celebration
Thanks for publishing such a wonderful alumni magazine for so many years.
I have read with great interest the recent letters published in the Gazette from alumni with regard to the election of a Wharton grad to the presidency of the United States. Of particular interest are those letters that question why the University has not made a greater effort to make a fuss over the fact that one of its graduates is now our president.
Frankly, I can understand why the University has made so little of this. Donald Trump is, of course, a graduate of Penn’s internationally respected business school. I would not want that publicized in light of many facts that could, perhaps, reflect upon his Wharton education. I would not brag about a graduate who managed to lose $950 million in his business roughly 20 years ago whereby he has since paid little or no tax due to the loss carried forward. In the process he declared bankruptcy, failed to pay his suppliers and vendors, hired illegal alien workers and then failed to pay them, and has made a career of having to fight off lawsuits. He created Trump University that had to make a $ 25 million settlement payment to students who brought suit for fraud. Not a good idea to publicize Trump’s Wharton degree.
Did he take any management courses at Wharton? If he did, he must have learned nothing, as his incompetence in managing the White House and the entire executive branch is remarkable. I would love to see his student transcript showing the courses he took and the grades he achieved. He obviously did not read his own book, The Art of The Deal, because, if he had, he may have been able to determine how to compromise in negotiations to get a new health care bill through Congress. I can hardly blame the University for being a bit quiet about his election.
In the process of a mere “First 100 Days,” Trump has achieved record low popularity ratings for a new president. I can hardly blame the University for not being celebratory about his election.
The American public will enjoy the day when we can say to him, “You’re fired!”
Bob Stein W’71 New York
As a double alumnus, I cringe every time I see a connection between our ignoramus of a president and my alma mater. The less said the better.
Marvin Podolnick MD, ChE’56 M’60 Margate City, NJ
Show Trump Some Love
Thank you, Penn, for live-streaming the 261st graduation and celebrating the Class of 2017 [“Gazetteer,” this issue]. This event was a pleasant “hurrah” during my day here in Vermont. I particularly enjoyed the motivational remarks various speakers opined regarding contributions to communities and seeking to help invisible people. Cory Booker’s address featured six words spoken by his precious mentor—“I see you. I love you”—and were prophetic. I truly wished the graduates would have taken up his chant.
As a practicing funeral director for almost 70 years, I remember similar words at my commencement and have tried to follow that guideline. Although the commencement was beautifully choreographed, as our administrators and faculty deans spoke about what each division would contribute in making our world better, it was obvious that several folks missed a wonderful opportunity to showcase our institution and to give enormous credit to a beloved graduate.
Yes, this man accomplished almost the impossible in reaching the highest office in the land. As one of the nation’s deplorables, who does not like the thought of resistance yet treasures options, I wish our school would acknowledge and salute a loyal alumnus who also sees the invisible/forgotten people and, in donating his service, is also trying to restore help for those seen and unseen. In my opinion, he attempts to emulate some of the themes of “what social classes owe to each other,” a concept some of us learned in Professor Frank Parker’s finance class in the 1950s.
Oh, our president is not only a famous graduate, but three of his children also have University histories. Perhaps we could remember the old schoolhouse motto as we strive to not just resist but also contribute: “Good, better, best. Never let it rest, until our good is better and our better best.” Yes, regardless of our politics, our Penn heritage does suggest “we see you and we love you.” Thanks, Senator Cory Booker. Here’s my “toast to dear old Penn.”
Richard J. Klofach W’54 Rochester, VT
“Rendezvous with Destiny” Missed
I do understand the passion on both sides of the controversy over the coverage given—or not given—in the Gazette to Donald Trump as the first Penn alumnus to be elected President. To my mind, however, what is important is not the fact that Donald Trump attended Wharton for two years, or that he has his degree from Penn, but rather what he has done over the past 49 years.
When he ran for President last year, Donald Trump repeatedly referred to having graduated from Wharton. However, I don’t believe he once mentioned that Wharton is part of the University of Pennsylvania, only Wharton. OK, fine. Perhaps that’s just an excusable slip—like his undocumented claim that he graduated at the top of his class.
Donald Trump claims to be a billionaire—and yet I have not seen any reference to any contributions to his alma mater during nearly a half-century since he graduated. Maybe he gave anonymously. Despite his love for having his name on everything he touches (Trump Towers all over the place, Trump golf courses, Trump steaks), we don’t have any buildings at Penn that bear the Trump name. An oversight?
I am proud of being a Penn alumnus, and yet I believe that what truly matters is what a person has done with the advantages a Penn education and Penn degree provide. Donald Trump has his Wharton degree, to be sure; but his career over the past half-century has been marked by a total unwillingness to accept the responsibility that such enormous wealth calls for. Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed it best—here in Philadelphia 81 years ago, as he accepted his renomination as the Democratic candidate for president in 1936: “To some generations much is given. Of other generations, much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.”
On the evidence before us to date, Donald J. Trump has failed that test. His destiny has left the station, and thus, despite his billions, he is truly impoverished.
I hold with those who choose to wait until President Trump accepts the mantle that both his Penn degree and his wealth have placed on his shoulders. Let him truly embrace that—then he will have earned honor both for himself and for the University of Pennsylvania.
Stuart A. Friedman C’66 Cleveland OH
Present Both Sides
I read with interest the recent letters to the editor concerning the absence of publicity for Donald Trump and that of Amy Gutmann’s stance on undocumented student sanctuary. It’s a wonderful thing that we graduates can voice our opinions on these two contentious subjects. However, I sense an alarming trend on campuses towards a one-sided approach emanating from the faculties and administrations.
In my mind, there should have been some publicity honoring our recently elected president, not because I like or don’t like him, but because he’s a graduate and was elected to the highest post in the land. You can bet if Abe Lincoln had been a Penn graduate he would have been plastered all over the magazine! And then there’s the issue of sanctuary towards undocumented students. This is not a situation with an easy answer, but for a university to defy US law—is this a good thing?
As an undergraduate at another prestigious college during the seventies I witnessed the banning of alt-left speakers. Now, I’m looking at the censorship of the alt-right. It is the place of a college and university to present both sides of the political spectrum and this is not now happening. Today, “conservative” has come to mean politically right, while “liberal” now means left. What happened to the days when “conservative” meant to conserve and “liberal” meant to consider all sides? Thank goodness Penn graduates are voicing their opinions.
Peter Helmetag GLA’88 Pawlet, VT
Check Your Figures
Regarding Edgar H. Hendler CE’50’s statement: “I belong to the 50 percent of Americans who voted for an unconventional Republican” [“Letters,” May|June]. This is inaccurate, as the figure is actually 46.1 percent, and precisely why many of us do not want the association of Penn and the “unconventional Republican” to be acknowledged. Facts and truth matter!
Katherine E. Mackay Robertson Nu’68 GNu’71 Black River, NY
Forget PC and Be Proud
I loved reading the letters in the last issue. Bottom line is: in 277 years, Trump is Penn’s first US President. And Amy has the nerve to instead highlight Joe Biden—a nice guy, but didn’t go to school here and had some ethics issues in some law school. So here is the message: Penn should be proud if they can forget their PC culture for a minute and look at what makes us great.
President Trump represents what we should instill in our sons and daughters. He took on the status quo in his own party, did things his own way, and was disruptive (very). One by one he took down all his opponents before fighting the status quo for something he believed. He made mistakes but came back time and time again. Unlike his opposition, he was his own person and not beholden to anyone.
In the end, with a third of the money, he did what no one thought possible as he worked non-stop while others slept. A true story of David beating Goliath, or today’s Penn alumni-founded Warby Parker taking on the eyewear monopoly. That should be the takeaway, as Penn should place a red Make America Great Again hat and Warby Parker glasses on Ben Franklin’s statue saluting disruption everywhere. Ben would be proud, and Amy should finally take note.
Tim Martin WG’86 Houston, TX
Misuse of Alzheimer’s in Trump Comparison
In the May|June 2017 “Letters,” Lorrin Philipson Willis commented that Trump “has the intelligence of a person afflicted by Alzheimer’s.” I have met a number of people with Alzheimer’s who are extremely intelligent. Unfortunately, there are times when those who have the disease cannot make use of their intelligence.
I have spent more than 1,000 hours in the lobby of an excellent memory care facility here in California. All the people there have Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, but you can see when they try to solve a problem that there may still be some intelligence stashed away in their deteriorating brains. Philipson should base her opinions on facts, not on rash assumptions.
Frankly, I could not become particularly enthusiastic about either of the candidates this past election, but it had to be Donald or Hillary.
Steve Fabeck GME’54 Palm Desert, CA
Why Praise Trump?
I am astonished by the number of letters scolding the Gazette for not treating Trump as one of “its most distinguished graduates,” as May|June 2017 letter-writer Barry Casselman put it. However, not one of these letters gives a cogent reason for doing so. Instead, the Trump supporters are engaging in name calling, accusing the Gazette of subscribing to “political correctness,” of dispensing “liberal political propaganda,” of being blind to the “hilariously ludicrous” and “silly” words of President Gutmann, of spending an inordinate amount of time “to accumulate so many negatives … regarding Donald Trump,” of being unfairly influenced by its “political persuasion,” of endorsing a “monotonous liberal (and unacademic) prejudice,” of not being “genteel” and “objective.”
To defend Trump, his supporters should specify why he deserves praise. Was he honest and forthright during his campaign? Has he been honest and forthright since his election? Do his policies benefit the greatest number of Americans? Is his healthcare plan more comprehensive, more humane, and more affordable than the Affordable Care Act? Does he exhibit intelligence? Has he assembled a team of qualified subordinates? Has he improved relations with other countries? Does he respond properly to countries like the Philippines being run by murderous fascists? Does he deserve praise for his firing of FBI director James Comey? Has he divested himself sufficiently enough to avoid charges of conflict of interest and using the Oval Office to enrich himself? Has he demonstrated an understanding of the importance of separation of church and state? Has he treated minorities with respect? Is his Mexican wall idea the product of an educated mind? Is he correct to dismiss the findings of scientists that the world is warming up? Has he behaved with dignity? Are you proud of the way he has conducted himself? Does his performance so far suggest that this country has a bright future?
So, what exactly is praiseworthy about Mr. Trump? His election certainly is not, tainted as it is by the Russian influence, Comey’s interference, and the embarrassing fact that Hillary Clinton ended up with nearly three million more votes. Therefore, why should the fact that he is “the only Penn graduate ever to be elected president” (Casselman again) obligate Penn to be proud of him? The question remains: what has Mr. Trump done so far that is positive enough to enable somebody to write an adulatory article about him, one that will satisfy the Gazette’s critics?
Don Z. Block Gr’77 Malvern, PA
Just One Donald Trump (Fortunately)
For 65 years, I have been a Penn graduate and reader of The Pennsylvania Gazette. Over those years, I have noted the continuing improvement and growth of this publication. I look for its periodic arrival with marked anticipation and pride in the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton school of finance and commerce. (I read the Gazette with perhaps the critical ally of someone for whom journalism has been a second career for more than 50 years.)
I regret the letters from alumni complaining that the Gazette failed to exult over the election of Penn graduate Donald Trump. After all, the Gazette is the alumni publication of one of the USA’s finest universities with an understandable and expected predisposition to the use of the mind, over the intestinal tract.
My first impression as Mr. Trump occurred quite some years ago when I happened upon an episode of his television program—the name fortunately escapes me—and was shocked when it ended with Mr. Trump’s snarling, explosive condemnation of a contestant: “You’re fired!” It was obvious that he immensely enjoyed that role. (I write this during the week when President Trump similarly said the same thing to FBI chief Comey.)
It was several years later that I read in the newspaper that Mr. Trump and I had something in common: he, too, was a graduate of the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce! As I remember it, it was in that same article that it was reported that Mr. Trump insisted he “never learned anything in the Wharton school.” I assume that took a load of embarrassment off both Penn and Wharton, as well as myself.
I don’t know how many people have graduated from the University of Pennsylvania since its earliest years, but I count it fortunate that there has likely been but one Donald Trump. Thank you, Pennsylvania Gazette.
Lawrence W Althouse W’52 Dallas
Uncommon Honesty and Introspection
Having read Fateful Odds: A Memoir of Vietnam and Its Aftermath, by my Class of 1967 classmate, Chuck Newhall, I found “Taking Casualties” [“Profiles,” Mar|Apr 2017] equally as candid and crushing as the book. Newhall describes his combat experience and his crumbling marriage with uncommon honesty and introspection.
The war never ceased for Newhall. He approached his hugely successful business career as a series of skirmishes that demanded extreme discipline and single-mindedness. His marriage suffered—as he readily admitted in his book and the Gazette interview—from his intense desire to succeed, regardless of the personal consequences.
His wife’s suicide changed his life. He accepted responsibility for contributing to her death. He sought therapy. He confronted Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and struggled to control his demons. He learned that many veterans, lacking his financial means, have battled PTSD with limited success.
Chuck Newhall fought bravely and fiercely in a wildly unpopular war. He belonged to the 101st Airborne Division, one of the US Army’s elite combat units. Fearful Odds offers an unvarnished view of a war fought well by its troops and executed poorly by our nation’s political leaders.
Chuck was a college friend. I attended his wedding. We have kept in touch sporadically. His book and the Gazette interview portray a person with a warrior mentality that kept him alive in horrific combat, motivated in the venture-capital world, and blind for a time to the demons that drove and mentally incapacitated him.
Newhall dared to reveal himself. I applaud his gutsiness. His book was riveting, sharply and tightly written.
Howard Freedlander C’67 Easton, MD
Love Story Without Kisses
As I finished reading the article about the Palestra [“Good Ghosts,” Mar|Apr 2017], I said to myself, “Wow, it’s a love story without kisses. Beautiful!”
Paul Kessler G’56 Notre Dame, IN
But with Dancing (and Maybe Kissing, Too)
I will become a centenarian this year. My fond memories of the Palestra aren’t just the games. It was the fun of the dancing that took place on the court floor after the games. I can remember who my dance partners were. I even married one of them!
Judith (Kurtz) Kershbaum Jacobs Ed’39 Philadelphia
I was a student of Nina Auerbach’s [“Obituaries,” May|June 2017], when she taught “Women in Literature” for only the first or second time. I was a History major at Penn, but that course—and that teacher—made an impression on me that’s lasted. In the mid-1970s I signed up for the course naively certain we’d be reading and discussing women and the literature they wrote. I was astonished and soon overworked through a syllabus that began with Milton and stopped at Virginia Woolf, with some doorstop-sized novels (most by men) along the way. Listening to her was a grand experience for me.
But the person who really taught me how to write an English paper—when I was almost 50—was Dr. Nancy R. Norris-Kniffin Gr’71, who earned her PhD at Penn. She was a completely outstanding teacher and a kind, gracious woman whose passing deserves an appreciative note in the Gazette [“Obituaries,” this issue]. I got to take a course with her in the Master of Liberal Arts program at Johns Hopkins University, which she directed. She was still all about “form and theme” in an imaginative way that remained open to new ways of reading and inhabiting fiction. I’m sure everyone who remembers her will recall her with similar fondness.
Eileen O’Brien C’76 Baltimore
A Great Teacher
Truly a great teacher, Dr. Riasanovsky had a profoundly positive impact on many of us [“Obituaries,” Jan|Feb, “Letters,” Mar|Apr 2017]. He opened our minds to the fascination of the intricacies of Russian history, thereby to interest in all history, and (one would hope) the lessons to be learned if we delve into it. He welcomed questions and would linger in the hallways discussing with us, whether we were “mere” undergrads attending an intro course or graduates or other professors. He was instrumental in igniting, reigniting, and feeding the light of learning in so many of us that his impact extends beyond us through us to further generations. I am so fortunate and so honored to have learned from him.
Jill Gale de Villa CW’66 Muntinlupa City, Philippines