Women in sports and STEM, guaranteed income continued, and more.


Thank you to Dave Zeitlin for his fine article, “Century Club” [Jul|Aug 2021]. Perhaps you will be interested in a related anecdote from the early Title IX era of the 1970s. I was having my ankles taped in the Hollenback Athletic Center in the spring of 1974 or 1975, when a tall, fit oarswoman walked into the sanctum sanctorum, the all-male training room. “I need treatment,” was her direct statement as I recall it. Trainer Don Frey shooed a magazine-reading baseball player off a table and invited her to “hop up here. Let’s see what you’ve got.” Meanwhile the other trainer, Mr. Matthews, scurried around the room tossing towels to less than fully clad men. The next day shorts were required in the training room, and the place became coed. Her courage was remarkable.

Also, let me observe that some of us playing sports in the first half of the 1970s knew exactly who Julie Staver was and were in awe of her. She played field hockey and lacrosse with a stunning dominance. She was, in my opinion, the best athlete at Penn, male or female, during that era. Her humility was inspiring.

The hardships were real, and the Penn women overcame them.

Archibald Montgomery IV C’75, Asheville, NC

Upward Trajectory

Century Club” got me thinking about my coach Lois Ashley. I had the pleasure to graduate from the University in 1981. I had the great privilege to play basketball all four years I was at Penn. Lois Ashley deserves recognition for taking women’s basketball on an upward trajectory.

When I started at Penn it seemed there were many enthusiastic players, but basketball was more of an extracurricular activity that could easily fall by the wayside. We did not compare favorably to the teams in the Ivies or to the other Philly teams. My first year we started four freshmen and one senior. Lois helped to turn the program around, so by the time I was a senior we finished in third place in the Ivy League Tournament, which was our season finale and biggest goal.

Lois was a fierce advocate for her players. She championed the cause of the young women athletes. She simply thought that women should have the same support and treatment as their male counterparts.

Lois insisted we practice and play in the Palestra rather than Weightman Hall, and even got the Palestra equipment manager to hand out practice uniforms. She insisted our team travel outside the local area as we progressed. In the 1979-80 season we played at Stanford, where Andy Geiger was the AD after leaving Penn, and at the University of San Francisco. After I graduated, the team was lucky enough to go to the Great Alaska shootout. After my time, Lois oversaw the improvement to our locker room in the Palestra and invited previous players to send in a tile to commemorate their time at Penn.

My favorite Lois memory is this: It was customary when I was at Penn that the captains of the men’s teams got a Captains Jacket. It was a blue blazer with the split P embroidered on the pocket with a gold embroidered bar running vertically along the split P. Lois insisted I have one of those blazers, and she called the tailors that made the jackets for the men. I was, and still am, inordinately proud of that jacket. It is still in my closet all these years later.

I congratulate the women and the coaches who came after us. I just looked at the support staff for the women’s team. It is amazing how much the program has grown. I am happy for the progress today’s young women enjoy. They are the lucky recipients of the efforts of coaches like Lois Ashley who helped build the foundation. I am forever grateful.

Mary Monahan Glynn SAMP’81, Villanova, PA

Just Go Out and Do It

I am a 1962 graduate of the School of Arts and Sciences with a doctorate in chemistry. I do not remember any comments regarding female PhD candidates, though we were in the minority. We did our work and taught our classes (as graduate assistants) and made it through. Our male colleagues were friendly, and we all helped each other.

I entered high school in 1950 in a very small town in New York State. Throughout high school I never had any teacher make comments about the girls taking the math and science courses.

I went to college to major in physics. The first year went well, but on the first day of the second-year course for physics majors, the professor’s first words were, “I don’t believe in girls in physics.” It was downhill from there. I completed the year—squeaked through is more accurate—with the help of an understanding lab partner, a boy, and changed my major to chemistry. I never had another problem.

The writer of “Math League Dropout” [“Notes from the Undergrad,” Jul|Aug 2021] seems to have had misgivings of her abilities. That was never me. My mother wanted me to apply to one of the Seven Sisters for college and I declined. Who wanted to be in a class full of girls when I could be with mostly boys?

Due to family commitments, I had to reconsider my long-term goals to go into research after getting my PhD from Penn. I taught in a division of SUNY for 18 years and then went to law school, on a whim and a suggestion from a colleague. When I graduated in 1986, there were many law firms that would not hire a woman. I am now a patent attorney.

Convincing male inventors that I really do understand their devices has been challenging. However, once the patents have issued, I have been given many compliments, the best of which are second projects from the same inventors.

I have always enjoyed the competition of school and the challenges that went with it. Being in class with mostly boys was fun for me, not a problem—though my mother did tell me once, “Don’t let the boys know you are smart.” The writer of “Math League Dropout” must have been discouraged in other and more subtle ways long before that boy made his remark to her. I hope she has seen the film Hidden Figures. Those women had more than being female to deal with but proved that if you have the ability and the talent to pursue something, others will recognize your abilities.

There is one addendum to the above. Originally, I wanted to be an archaeologist. This was something I wanted from a young age. When I was a senior in high school, I wrote to the Museum of Natural History in New York City inquiring as to the job possibilities for a woman in that field. Much to my surprise, I received an answer. I was advised that unless I had independent means (which I most decidedly did not), the best position I could hope for was an assistant curator in a museum. That ended my digging career. One does have to be practical at some point.

My advice to anyone today, but especially women, is if you want to do something, no one can tell you that women or girls can’t do something just because they are female. Just go out and do it.

Sandra M. Kotin Gr’62, Monticello, NY

To Avoid Ethical Dilemmas, Consider Self-Employment

I found your article about G. Richard Shell’s book, The Conscience Code, to be very inspiring [“Gazetteer,” Jul|Aug 2021]. In addition to the suggestions made in this article pertaining to dealing with ethical dilemmas at work, I would like to add one other suggestion: consider the possibility of self-employment. I was self-employed prior to the pandemic and, had I considered this option much earlier in my career, I believe the rewards of my career would have been greatly enhanced.

You can’t be placed into ethical dilemmas by bosses if you are self-employed and, obviously, you have greater autonomy as well. The one caveat is that self-employment is more difficult in many ways than “secure” jobs, so one needs to exercise this option with eyes wide open, and with a great deal of advice.

Harry Toder G’71, St. Louis

What a Shame

I thoroughly enjoyed “Enforcer on the Ice” [“Profiles,” Jul|Aug 2021] and the laudable achievements of Paul Stewart C’76 being the only Penn grad to play in the NHL and the only American to both play and referee in professional hockey. What a shame that our Ivy League university—in which many other institutions field Division I teams in men’s ice hockey—can’t navigate the return of this sport to prominence! If Penn had a Division I hockey program, I guarantee it would be a top five spectator sport and instill some real interest into the student body for Penn Athletics.

Jeffrey H. Schneider C’88, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Great Reading!

The May|Jun 2021 issue contained some very timely and interesting articles. Dave Zeitlin’s “Fighting Poverty with Cash” was especially interesting because the guaranteed income issue is one that requires careful study to determine if it can be effective governmental policy. While the qualitative/quantitative study design described is on the right track, I have some concerns about the qualitative side. Self-reporting can be problematic, and a gift card reward could influence responders. Overall, the article was excellent, and I anticipate further reports from researchers Stacia West and Amy Castro Baker.

The Vaccine Trenches” by Matthew De George highlighted the persistence required by Penn’s researchers and how their tenacity contributed to the successful development of the COVID vaccines.

JoAnn Greco’s “Webside Manner” put the spotlight on a major change in healthcare, which many of us experienced during the current epidemic.

Great reading!

Michael P. Sawczuk GrEd’90, Nanticoke, PA

Target the Unvaccinated Audience

I read about the amazing work of Dr. Susan Weiss [“The Mother of Coronaviruses,” Nov|Dec 2020] and of Drs. Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman [“The Vaccine Trenches,” May|Jun 2021] studying the coronavirus and mRNA. What I fail to understand is why Penn is not screaming it from the rafters. Call CNN, PBS, specifically Fox, targeting the unvaccinated audience. Get on the news so people who think the vaccines were developed too quickly can be reassured that researchers have been working on them for decades.

Susan Smith Grant GNu’81, Pensacola, FL

Generation Gap

I never wanted to be one of those people who writes a Letter to the Editor of the Pennsylvania Gazette about previous Letters to the Editor of the Pennsylvania Gazette, but here we are …

The Jul|Aug 2021 “Letters” section featured eight letters discussing “Fighting Poverty with Cash,” taking up more than two full pages. With one exception they ranged from critical to hostile toward Amy Castro Baker’s work on providing no-strings-attached income to people facing poverty, and were sent in by authors from the Classes of 1961, 1969, 1960, 1952, 1948, 1976, and 1968 (two letters from this year).

Fellow Quakers, I have two words for you: OK, Boomer.

As a communications major, I don’t have very sophisticated or nuanced thoughts on topics such as a universal basic income, negative income tax, or guaranteed allotment. In general, I think that giving money to people who need it is a good thing. However, I do believe that the generations who graduated between 1948 and 1976 had their chance to address income inequality already, and clearly have failed miserably at that task. Maybe let people who are still paying into Social Security take a stab at improving the lives of the young and poor?

Us spring chickens who graduated college in the 1990s and 2000s have had enough of you olds pooh-poohing creative social ideas and kiboshing them before they have a chance to potentially work. Maybe it’s time for you all to sit back, enjoy your student-debt-free, government-funded retirement and allow a new generation of thinkers to try to make some progressive change.

Michael Silverstein C ’01, Los Angeles

People Want Justice, Not Charity

In his letter regarding the article “Fighting Poverty with Cash,” Michael Pschorr lambastes the concept of guaranteed income, and then as a man of privilege rants on about “throwing other people’s money” to those among us who are poor.

Mr. Pschorr apparently does not realize that what such programs are intended to do is to finally provide in the United States the social, economic, and educational benefits that are guaranteed in all of the Western democracies and Japan—maternity and paternity leave, sickness and disability benefits, mandatory and provided pensions, child benefits until age 18, a living minimum wage, childcare benefits for working mothers, and much, much more.

Mr. Pschorr needs to realize that people do not want charity—they want justice. And justice requires compassion. Perhaps he will dismiss my thoughts as those of a bleeding-heart liberal.

S. Reid Warren III SW’61, Spring City, PA

Some Help From the Government Is Not a Bad Idea

With a Wharton School degree and law school education, I have had a successful career in law and real estate, including investments in properties where immigrants and working-class people live. They are good people and work very hard for insufficient pay. If Mr. Pschorr got to know a brown or Black person, he might climb off his high horse and realize that the deck is stacked against these people and some help from the government is not a bad idea, even if the richest people in the United States were required to pay some income taxes. I do.

The minimum wage in my state is $11 an hour. No one working for that amount can support a family without having two or more jobs, as most of my tenants do in order to survive. If we are going to solve the persistent problem of poverty in the United States, we are going to have to consider new ideas such as presented by Dave Zeitlin’s article in the May|Jun 2021 issue of the Gazette.

Arnold G. Shurkin W’60, Passaic, NJ

Unions Are an Answer to Poverty

Indeed, I support UBI and the $15 minimum wage and all the other poverty mitigation proposals. But first consider this: $15 minus deductions for a full-time job yields $600 a week. We were taught in basic economics that rent ought to cost a quarter of one’s monthly income. Assume a two-parent family with an infant and a toddler so one parent has to stay home. Does anyone know where one can find even a one-bedroom apartment for $600 or even $800 a month?

One of the best answers has always been and continues to be union organization. The ability of workers to organize together and demand better wages and working conditions, including health insurance and on-site childcare, represents the best way of exhibiting “self-reliance, determination to forge ahead, critical thinking, and recognition that life is a challenge.”

Eliot Kenin C’61, Martinez, CA

Vaccination Has Been Offered Equally

I question the author’s thesis in “Shot of Confidence” [“Expert Opinion,” May|Jun 2021] that the reluctance of African Americans to get vaccinated against COVID is due to their historical mistreatment by the US healthcare system. That can hardly be the reason when vaccination has been offered to all Americans equally, regardless of their race. Rather, the answer should be sought in the mindset of others who refuse vaccination, such as many Americans who have conservative political and social views. It seems to me that in considering this problem, the author has allowed his professional background in “healthcare disparities” to overcome his critical faculties, as in the saying, “To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Robert D. Kaplan L’61, Sarasota, FL

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