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Invigorating example, one woman’s choice, presidential presence.

Hope for the Future

Kristine Connor’s piece, “The Kindness of Strangers” [“November/December”], celebrating the successful bone-marrow donor drive on behalf of Ruthie Spector W’82, was even more poignant for me, since I had responded to her husband Les’s plea for donor testing. The tens of thousands of new potential donors developed during the drive can only increase the hope that others will experience the same wonderful benefit in the future.

Fredrick K. Orkin GM’72 WG’76 Hummelstown, Pa

Vitality Permeates Spector’s Life

Ruthie Spector’s incredible experience with leukemia is truly a fascinating story. It highlights the importance of a positive outlook, perseverance, and a will to live. I read this insightful article with great interest, especially because Dr. Spector was an anesthesia attending-physician while I was an ob/gyn resident at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

What the article does not convey, however, is the vitality which permeates the way Ruthie lives her life. She has such a magnetic persona, invigorating all those around her. She has always had such boundless energy, a fantastic smile, and a way of making all those around her feel like one of her closest friends.

The amazing thing is that she was this way both before and after she was diagnosed with leukemia. I remember vividly every resident and attending in our department volunteering to be typed for the bone marrow registry. Each day that passed with an unsuccessful match was met with dismay by the entire hospital staff. But Ruthie never strayed from the path of positive thinking. 

Ruth Spector’s roller-coaster ride with leukemia, in my opinion, is every bit as much about the power of perseverance as it is about the miracle of modern medicine.

Jason S. James C’95 Miami

Balanced Discussion

Annelise Goldstein’s essay, “Who Was I and What Did I Want?” in the November/December Gazette [“Alumni Voices”] was the most balanced discussion on a woman’s tautology between career and family that I have ever read. To be sure, it is only one woman’s view, but it was very nice to see that the Gazette believed that an essay that was essentially on lifestyle satisfaction was important enough to print. Other persons might make different and equally correct lifestyle choices but clearly Ms. Goldstein’s children are blessed to have a mother who is so satisfied with the choices that she has made.

Thank you for printing such a thought-provoking essay.

Cornelius D. Helfrich W’61 Bel Air, Md

Relevant and Insightful

I was impressed by Ms. Goldstein’s patient self-reflection over a decade, and heartened by the powerful meaning that she discovered. As someone in a similar life-stage (thirties, young children), I found her lessons to be relevant and insightful. I look forward to enjoying more of her writing in the future.

Chris Duston C’87 Tokyo, Japan

Penn’s Next President

At a small dinner party in Washington in the early 1980s I discovered that all of us were either graduates or former students at the University of Chicago. We were, although not known to each other, extremely congenial. When someone asked what position we aspired to, the answer was chancellor of the University of Chicago.

None of us has yet achieved that position, but the point is taken: no one except those who have a close connection with the University of Pennsylvania should be considered for the next president. That is one of the prerequisites for the post [“Gazetteer,” November/December].

There are two others: the person must be extraordinarily bright. While it is true that the president of the United States is probably better off if he or she is not terribly bright, there is no such leeway for the president of a major university. The reason is that the person must enjoy talking with other bright people, be they faculty, students, or others.

The third prerequisite is that the person understand the nature of the position: it is to nourish learning within the University with a ruthless hand while competing for monies to support such learning.

There are, undoubtedly, thousands of people who are well qualified to become our next president. Many would be eager to become so. Others would be willing if the price is right. A few could be persuaded if pressed. None of them will be ideal.

To those of us who grew up, intellectually, at the University of Chicago, the template for a university president is Robert Maynard Hutchins, who was Chicago’s president and later chancellor from 1929 through 1951. During his tenure, a special academic march honoring the visit of Albert Schweitzer to the university was made. Standing close to both Hutchins and Schweitzer, a spectator only, I was able to observe both men at a long delay in the procession.

As they made small talk I was struck with the overwhelming presence both men had. Not pomposity, indeed just the opposite, not arrogance or false modesty. Presence. If you wish to do better than adequate, look for that.

Edwin T. Haefele Emeritus FACULTY, Alliance, Ne

Article Kept Quiet on Justice Talking

I was pleased to read the cover story on the National Constitution Center and about the vision of its founding president, Joe Torsella [“The House That Joe Built,” November/December]. As a “museum of ideas rather than artifacts” the Center offers a powerful reminder of the incredible resiliency of our constitutional democracy.

Missing from the article, however, was any mention of Penn’s important partnership with the Center to further both academic scholarship and citizen education on the Constitutional controversies that confront us today. One of the more visible pieces of the partnership includes NPR’s Justice Talking, a nationally syndicated weekly radio production of Penn’s Annenberg Public Policy Center.

It is also one of the ways the Penn community can participate in the partnering programs. The Penn community is invited to attend the tapings of Justice Talking, which involve debates between some of the nation’s leading advocates. For those who have not yet been to either the museum or a taping, both are well worth a trip. 

Kathryn Kolbert Senior Researcher, APPC
Executive Producer, Justice Talking

Pssst, Looking for a Fellowship?

I was delighted to read in the November/ December Gazette about the number of Penn students receiving prestigious scholarships such as the Fulbright, Marshall, and Rhodes [“Gazetteer”]. This is truly a testament to the continued success of Penn graduates. I wanted to make the Penn community aware of another fellowship available to its students—the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholarship, which provides full academic and living expenses up to $50,000 per year for graduate study in any field.

I am the grants manager for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and would be happy to speak with any student, faculty, or administrator at Penn interested in learning more about the scholarships. Information is also available on our Web site ( 

R. Cory Cresiski C’98 EAS’98 Arlington, VA

Bring the Middies!

With Penn’s football team doing so well with members of the Patriot League [“Sports,” November/December], when will Navy be invited to fill up Franklin Field again? Bring the Middies!

Oleg N. Dudkin ME’48 Berwyn, PA

Needlessly Insulting Responses

As I read the recent essay “Hi, My Name is Josselyn” [“Notes From the Undergrad,” September/October], I wondered about the propriety of the writer’s attending the AA meeting she described and pretending to be an alcoholic so that she could write an essay. I wondered about the role of the writer’s professor. I also thought about how a relative of mine—a long-time and successful member of AA—would react to this story. Clearly, there are real, and painful, issues about whether the author should have attended the meeting under those circumstances and whether the Gazette should have published the article.

However, some of the letters in the November/December issue written in response to the essay were needlessly insulting, and replaced discussion with ad hominem attack. For example, one writer called the essayist a “fraud and [a] phony” and suggested that she “try to infiltrate MENSA and pretend she has intelligence.”

When I see that sort of personal attack in the corporate world, it strikes me as harmful and without any benefit in the discussion. It is particularly out of place in our University community, and in response to something—wrong as it may or may not be—written by an undergraduate many years younger than the writer of these words. 

Steve Sokolow C’77 Tenafly, NJ

Editorial Rationalization Rings False

While the actions described in Jamie-Lee Josselyn’s essay left a bad taste in my mouth when I originally read it, I wasn’t prompted to write the Gazette until the editorial rationalization that appeared in the November/December issue [“Letters”]. It’s clear that not explaining the full context for Josselyn’s article—including the facts that the AA meeting she attended was an open one, and that she used fictitious names for the people she quoted—showed poor judgment on the Gazette’s part. But that is a relatively minor issue. 

I am much more concerned by your contention that because Josselyn was not “required to promise” silence, there was no “requirement” not to write publicly about what she saw. Relying solely on requirements to navigate emotionally charged personal situations is absurd. Josselyn can be forgiven for a lapse in judgment—she apparently failed to understand that people at an AA meeting might have a reasonable expectation of privacy. But her professor, the Gazette’s editor, and probably others involved, had plenty of opportunity to put on the brakes and stop publication of a potentially invasive (and definitely disrespectful) article.

I strongly disagree that there is “no difference” between Josselyn witnessing a meeting in person, and thousands of Gazette readers doing so vicariously through her words. There is a difference. As citizens, we don’t expect that our personal conversations at the office water-cooler or in the doctor’s waiting room will become fodder for public discussion, even thinly disguised. In some cases they may, but I believe a writer has a responsibility to respect the implicit trust that all citizens place in each other.

Beyond simply checking on “requirements,” it is appropriate to carefully consider the morality and ethics of broadcasting private interactions before doing so. For example, there is no lawprohibiting me from renting a billboard and plastering it with a transcript of the cell-phone conversation on divorce negotiation that I overheard on my train ride home. But many people would agree that doing so would show excessively poor judgment on my part.

It’s too bad the writing and publishing professionals involved in this incident didn’t exercise better judgment themselves. It would have been a nice model for a young student such as Josselyn. As it is, I hope she—and you—develop the ability to make better judgments as a result of this lousy one. 

Amanda Bergson-Shilcock CGS’99 Bryn Mawr, PA

An Embarrassment to Penn

I have never written to an editor before but was outraged by your response in the November/December issue. I have no connection to AA but nevertheless am compelled to take issue with your response generally and this phrase specifically: “The mere expectation on the part of certain individuals that a matter is private does not translate into a requirement that others not talk or write about it.” 

First, the right of privacy and the expectation of that right is guaranteed by the Constitution. Check with the Law School. Second, I can only imagine that anyone attending an AA meeting goes with the specific expectation of privacy. Other letter writers indicated that this is a premise of all meetings. Why else would they feel they can be candid? Trust is not to be trifled with by anyone, least of all your immature writer and you as a careless and defensive editor.

Your use of the word mere is an embarrassment to Penn, and I ask you to rethink your words, to choose them more carefully in the future and, finally, to apologize about this particular use. I will cancel my subscription otherwise and, while I am not much of a donor, my outstanding indication of intent to give $100 will be cancelled and no further gifts made. 

Yes, I am serious. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Lee Tarlow Miller C’79 New York

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