Fighting hunger, hugging trees, and more.

Political Will Lacking

I enjoyed the cover story that spotlighted the inspiring work of Penn alumnus George Matysik to alleviate food insecurity in Philadelphia [“The Hunger to End Hunger,” Mar|Apr 2022].

Beyond the problem of food insecurity endured by low-income residents of Philadelphia, more than 40 million of our fellow Americans are hungry. An estimated 13 million of them are children. Most disturbing, the US possesses the resources to eliminate hunger in America. What is conspicuously lacking is the political will to do it.

When policymakers achieve the resolve that motivates George Matysik, we will not only eradicate food insecurity in Philadelphia but also eliminate the scourge of hunger throughout America.

Lou Gerber C’66, Falls Church, VA

Nontraditional Student Journeys

As usual, the latest issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette was full of useful information. Unlike in the usual magazine, a nontraditional student, George Matysik, was featured. As a nontraditional student myself, I beat George’s college duration—mine was a 20-year journey for a BBA degree. I enjoyed the last five years at Penn. The best part of the journey was interacting with other students, full-time, part-time, and “when they had the tuition” students. It was exciting to be part of the Penn community, something I dreamed about doing.

Like George I spent my career in nonprofit settings. I used my business education in creating budgets, understanding and working with statistics, and recruiting volunteers and businesses/sponsors. Thank you, Penn.

Jane Murphy Lane WEv’82, Winter Springs, FL

More on LPS Alumni!

I thoroughly enjoyed the Mar|Apr 2022 issue, especially the profile of George Matysik and the article on the difficulties faced by veterinarians [“Rescue Mission”]. Both articles were well written and fascinating!

Regarding Matysik, he has overcome so much adversity, and I was proud that Penn’s College of General Studies, now the College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS), provided him with the opportunity to earn a college degree. I am sure that LPS has many similar success stories to boast about. Why not publish an article about LPS?

Vincent T. Lombardo C’78, Cleveland, OH

A Force to Be Reckoned With

From the moment he arrived at Philabundance, we knew that George Matysik was a force to be reckoned with. He came to us from Joe Sestak’s successful congressional campaign office and created our office of government relations. It was a new area for Philabundance, and George made it important. When we created Fare & Square (the first nonprofit supermarket in the county) in Chester, Pennsylvania, George was a critical element in getting the city of Chester to buy in. What he has accomplished at Share is nothing short of incredible and our area is better off for it.

Bill Clark W’74, Villanova, PA

The writer is a former executive director of Philabundance.—Ed.

Beautiful Article, Cherished Memories

What an interesting, informative group of articles and reviews in the Mar|Apr 2022 issue. I was particularly touched by the “Fraxinus americana” article by Daphne Glatter [“Notes from the Undergrad”]. I recently had to say goodbye to the White Ash (49 inches diameter) that graced our front yard after enjoying its stature and elegance for 40 years. The tree also provided a sense of serenity and stability in these turbulent times, and just touching its massive trunk gave me a sense of peace even as the seasons changed. Thank you so much, Daphne, for the beautiful article, which I will cherish along with the memories of the tree.

Robert Stein MCP’66, Stamford, CT

More Benefits to Trees

I am writing in support of Cynthia McKay’s call in “Chainsaw Massacre” to improve stewardship of trees on private lands [“Salvo,” Mar|Apr 2022]. CNN reports the loss of 36 million trees to development annually.

On a local level, I am part of a citizens’ effort to stop the local school district from felling 600 trees for yet another set of playing fields for middle school children, imparting a peculiar lesson to these children in this age of global warming. Even closer to home, like Ms. McKay I have seen neighbors cut down healthy trees damaging their own microenvironment. 

As the author of Preserving Brain Health in a Toxic Age: New Insights from Neuroscience, Integrative Medicine and Public Health(Rowman & Littlefield, 2021), I can attest that environmental toxins are flourishing today, including particulate matter, PM 2.5, which trees are able to absorb and even utilize. PM 2.5 contributes to not only lung disease and heart disease but also increases the likelihood of developing autism spectrum disorders and Alzheimer’s dementia by promoting neuroinflammation. So in addition to helping to cool temperatures in the summer, improve water quality, improve air quality, and reduce stress, trees can help reduce human disease as well as provide habitat for wildlife.

There is a need for legislation that makes it harder to destroy trees that are healthy because we need to preserve this extremely important natural resource for all the reasons cited above and by Ms. McKay.

Arnold R. Eiser C’70, Bryn Mawr, PA

Only Cull When Trees Pose a Danger

Chainsaw Massacre” was an immensely important statement addressing dysfunctional land management practices, a plea for coexisting more sustainably with our world. Just a few words need clarification: “There is every reason to cull those [trees] that are diseased, hollow, dead, dangerous, or tilting toward a dwelling” [emphasis added]. Hollow and dead trees are essential components of a healthy forest. They are necessary feeding, nesting, and roosting sites for species (including woodpeckers and other birds, flying squirrels, and a wide variety of mammals) and are crucial for maintaining biodiversity in these habitats. They should not be culled unless they pose a danger to people or structures.

Bob Honig C’75, Fitchburg, WI

Excellent Work!

I was very glad to have read the article “Course Connections” about Professor Al Filreis’s course on Holocaust literature and film [“Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr 2022]. Excellent work!

I am a graduate of the Annenberg School for Communication and also the son of Hungarian Holocaust survivors. Additionally, I am the chair of the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center ( a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to provide educational programming on the unimaginable toll of human hatred. To that effect, myself, survivors, and second- and third-generation survivors tell our family’s stories at schools, houses of worship, and in civil settings.

We need more dedicated teachers like Professor Filreis to foster the message of understanding and compassion. Keep up the good work and I am sorry that my time at Penn did not overlap with the course.

Michael Gyory ASC’81, Irvington, NY

Notice Needed

I was disappointed with the manner in which the selection of Penn’s new President was announced to alumni [“Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr 2022]. Although her nomination was announced on January 13, alumni such as myself apparently received no notice of this important announcement until we received the Pennsylvania Gazette in late March.

I went to law school at another major eastern university after graduation from Penn, and I have received several emails from that university in recent years announcing such important events, which normally should be a cause for celebration.

It seems as if keeping alumni informed is not a priority for Penn.

David Handelman C’59, Los Angeles

As much as we like to think that the Gazette is the only information source alumni really need, the University did send out an all-alumni email with the announcement on January 13, along with other communications efforts.—Ed.

“Huge Disservice” to Women’s Sports

I am writing in response to your article, “Spotlight on Swimming” [“Sports,” Mar|Apr 2022]. I take issue with the opinions voiced in support of the trans swimmer Lia Thomas and an accusation in the article that this controversy is the result of the conservative media.

Looking at the picture of Thomas standing next to her female competitors, any intelligent observer would surmise that this is no woman with Thomas’s towering height advantage, broad shoulders, and long arms. Thomas has significantly more muscle mass and lung capacity that no amount of hormonal therapy is going to change.

You assert that much of this is due to transphobia, when, in effect, it is all about fairness when competing in the arena of women’s sports. Transphobia is a convenient term to silence critics.

The NCAA has done a huge disservice to competitive females and has taken a step towards destroying women’s sports. It is sad that the University of Pennsylvania is at the center of this controversy.

Gary L. Nelson D’71, Altamont, NY

“Cruel and Churlish” Treatment

A few thoughts about Penn swimmer Lia Thomas:

First, a transgender woman is a woman. Full stop.

Second, athletic achievement, like achievement in most other human endeavors, is due largely to hard work, practice, and dedication. That’s why elite female athletes can run circles around the vast majority of men, despite the testosterone coursing through the veins of the latter.

Third, I always wonder about the argument that transgender women athletes somehow have an “unfair advantage.” For one thing, when is life ever fair? You can take two teenaged girls, both of whom love basketball and who both spend lots of time practicing, but if one girl is six feet tall and the other is five feet tall, it is clear that the taller girl will have an “unfair” advantage. Change the sport to gymnastics, and the “unfair” advantage would shift to the shorter girl. And so on and so on.

Finally, transgender young people face an extraordinary array of obstacles and hardships, from family and community rejection, to harassment and violence, to high rates of depression and suicide. Being able to devote oneself to a sport one loves is a wonderful, and sadly rare, positive thing in the lives of young people who otherwise face such difficult challenges.  It seems to me cruel and churlish to take away a source of joy and accomplishment from people who can really benefit from that.

Elise Auerbach C’81, Chicago

Fossil Fuels Are Not Going Away

Amy Gutmann rightfully lists some of the many achievements of her very successful presidency [“From College Hall,” Jan|Feb 2022].

However, I must disagree with her in regards to investment in fossil fuels. Rather than disinvest or not invest, Penn should be investing in companies working on new technologies to produce cleaner fossil fuels in addition to renewable energy.

Fossil fuels are not going away. Over the years, companies have developed new ways of producing these fuels and have reduced the carbon emissions attributable to them. Fossil fuels are also used in a host of products that have nothing to do with energy.

Renewable energy sounds great, but we do not have the technology nor the infrastructure to provide them in anywhere near the quantities needed to support our lifestyle or economy at this time.

Only through private investment in both fossil fuels and renewable energy, can we achieve the ultimate goal of providing a mix of clean, efficient, and affordable energy sources.

Thomas A. Gagan Jr. W’73, Mount Vernon, NY

Serendipitous Discovery

Many years ago there was a PBS program called Connections and ever since I have tried to connect various this with that. Not too many years ago, I recall reading about Vivian Maier concerning the legal entanglements of her estate. At that time the issue was unresolved, but unlike Ann Marks—subject of your article “Delayed Exposure” and author of the book Vivian Maier Developed [“Arts,” Jan|Feb 2022]—I did not delve into the mystery even though I had firsthand experience of her work.

In 2012 my wife Bonny and I took one of the several Christmas Market river tours that we enthusiastically enjoyed. It began in Budapest and on our second day there, Friday, November 30, 2012, we visited the Mai Mano House. Mai Mano was a former court photographer in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and this eight-story house from 1894 was his home, studio, and now a historic landmark. I had “discovered” this now protected gallery, library, and cafe many years earlier, and Bonny and I have visited on each of our three trips to Budapest.

Serendipitously and most fortuitously, we encountered an exhibit of Vivian Maier’s photography. The exhibit occupied most or all of the second floor. All of the photos were black and white, and the exhibit revealed the work of a truly accomplished, though generally unknown, photographer. (The house is a work of art, and a staircase in it is included in the 2016 exhibit.)

Dumb luck had connected us with the work of an artist now generally recognized as outstanding. And now Ann Marks has provided another connection to this story as we look forward to getting our hands on her book about Vivian Maier. Bravo, Ann.

Nathan Farbman C’71, Philadelphia

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