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All about us, plus music, medicine, and more.

Mind-Opening Magazine

I have quite a lot to say in response to the letter from Dr. John A. Kastor C’53 entitled “Suggestions for a “More Readable and Useful Alumni Magazine” [“Letters,” July/August].

Before I argue against some points made in the letter, I would like to commend the Gazette for a job well done. I genuinely look forward to receiving the Gazette. Among other things, it is a wonderful assortment of literary essays. I skim through the entire magazine reading many interesting articles and stories in depth, enjoying wonderful pictures, reliving some Penn memories, and looking for news of my 1997 graduating class. I don’t find the magazine’s 100 pages “daunting,” as the letter-writer said he did. You can choose what sections you want to read and glean what knowledge you want from it.

The writer said that the Gazette staff was trying to achieve a version of The New Yorker or The Atlantic Monthly. Frankly, I’ve never had the time or interest to read either magazine and I commend the Gazette editors for producing a free well-rounded alumni magazine that opens my mind to other people and issues and to places I’ve never been.

The suggestion about “limiting the notes to those alumni whose activities are not covered in other Penn alumni magazines such as those produced by medicine, law, nursing, etc.” hit upon an issue close to my heart. I would think that many graduates feel that each of the “professional schools” are also a vital part of the Penn community. I am interested in the advances in the engineering school, the music department, law school, and the medical school … almost as much as I am interested in the nursing school. In some ways, many subjects are inter-related. In fact, if you have ever been hospitalized, you may take on a renewed interest in the nursing school. It is a leader in research to keep patient-care safe.

I feel that every school at Penn deserves attention in the alumni magazine. In addition to classes related to our majors, we all crossed paths in classes like literature, psychology, communications, Spanish, music, math, and history. That’s how I got a bachelor of science. Every part of Penn comes together to make it the whole, wonderful university that it is. If I didn’t feel included, I might never want to give money back to Penn.

Again, I thank the Gazette staff for a great magazine and I really appreciate the work that you do to send free, high quality, enriching material to my doorstep. For alumni who are too busy or uninterested, skim it.

Kristen B. Agami (Chasse) Nu’97 Reading, MA

What in the World Are You Thinking?

John A. Kastor hits it on the head. What in the world are you thinking with all those pages of rambling, self-absorbed, small-type, multi-column prose and avoiding proper headlines? How about drastically shortening up the articles (is someone being paid by the word?) and choosing subjects of interest to actual alumni.

A quick review of the July/August issue enables one to locate headline fodder—usually in the second or third paragraph, following a seemingly formulaic assault of “clever” interest-killing words. (“The Swarm,” “A Tree Grows in Kensington,” “Insuring Against Terror,” “Dream Models,” “Creating a Culture of Safety for Women,” etc.)

Forgive me for saying it, but the first two-thirds of The Pennsylvania Gazette come across as having been written by students and other amateurs who are needlessly killing a lot of trees.

Perhaps it is time to hire experienced newspaper writers who understand what it takes to get and keep readers. This is still an alumni magazine isn’t it?

Wait a minute, is it?

Philip N. Baker W’52 St. Louis

Feature Articles Valued Most, But Get to the Point

I have to say I disagree with much of what Dr. Kastor recommends for improving the Gazette. The feature articles are what I value most, in part because I don’t read them in The New Yorker or The Atlantic Monthly. Nor do I want a more frequent magazine. More than enough paper comes in my mailbox as it is, including alumni magazines from three other universities. As for more alumni notes, it matters not one way or the other. I have no contact with anyone from Penn and don’t even remember very many of those I once knew.

I do agree that the print should be larger. And putting color—or, worse, graphics —behind the type should be banned. For the article “Insuring Against Terror,” in the July/August issue, all I can read of the headline is uri ain rro. 

I do agree that the articles could be shorter. Too much detail does not further the reader’s understanding. In too many cases, one has to read too many paragraphs to find out what an article is about. One lengthy article per issue might be OK. For the rest, get to the point.

Vita Pariente CW’59 College Station, TX

A Magazine to Look Forward To (Sometimes Squinting)

Some of your presentations in the July/August issue are difficult for these cataracts to read, especially page 52, with dark type against a dark background; also the small type set on pages 60 and 64’s quotations.

Otherwise, I look forward to my long-distance updates about my favorite, Penn.

Annette S. Prioste FA’59 Scottsdale, AZ

Give Me a Break!

Re the letter from John. A Kastor: Give me a break!

One hundred pages of the Gazette are “daunting?” Did Kastor, an M.D., ever read The New England Journal of Medicine, the typical issue of which comprises at least as many pages, with articles on a wide variety of subjects?

Emphasize the alumni necrology sections? Good grief. Kastor and his wife may turn first to the obituary page, but they should realize that the Gazette is published for alumni young and old. Logic dictates that, based on actuarial tables, the number of younger alumni exceeds that of those close to receiving a visit from the Grim Reaper, and should justifiably be the preferred target audience.

I, for one, love the diversity of articles, the graphics, the number of pages and the font size of the Gazette. I look forward to receiving each issue. That’s how I keep in touch with the transformation of my alma mater from a respected center of learning to a laboratory of blatant liberal social engineering. I would have hated to miss Amy Gutmann’s invitation to Kofi Annan as Commencement speaker, or her decision to inaugurate mixed-gender housing. Her legacy is assured, as is that of the trustees who selected her for the presidency.

But that’s only my opinion and I could be wrong.

By the way, did I mention that I was a registered non-partisan and 76 years old?

Richard Barton C’55 GEE’60 Reno, NV

Primary Link

Please ignore John Kastor’s suggestions and continue your exemplary journalism.

As an alum who is some 3,000 miles from Philadelphia, I appreciate the Gazette as my primary link with the University. While I may not read or be interested in every article in each issue, I’m glad I have the wide variety of news, information, personal portraits, memoirs, reviews, and ever so much more that makes the magazine relevant and fascinating. You have my very best wishes for continued success.

Ralph G. Wilson C’65 Santa Barbara, CA

Calming Effect Called For

I read John Kastor’s somber but detailed letter and agree with most of what he wrote. And I say this knowing the effort you must put forth to create each issue of the Gazette.

Our son consults food operations at colleges and universities and I know the competition that’s out there right now. I think there is the same kind of competition among colleges’ magazines. Let’s make it slicker than all the rest that it is compared to. Colleges take turns upgrading their food and drink delivery so it knocks the socks off that junior or senior high-schooler. The idea works. People at Penn know this, right?

Whatever it’s worth to you, the first section I look at is the obits. You do a better job on this than was done in the past, I think. Classes of ’49 and ’53 may want to know, who’s passed? Graphics use are out of control now and make a magazine or television screen very unfriendly. If magazine content is important to compete, that explains why such a variety of subjects is offered. The Gazette has a new look. The font is not as easy to read as before and the cover is not as inviting to read as The Saturday Evening Post used to be. But speed is of the essence now, whatever we do. It would be great if the Gazette had a calming effect in appearance and content. That’s a challenge you may not want to know about.

Ray Petit W’49 Cape May, NJ

Do Not Change

In answer to John Kastor: You are so wrong in every suggestion. I say, do not change the magnificent magazine. I have it follow me as I travel the world.

Joan Brogan Daoud CW’55 Bethlehem, CT

Short of the Mark

After reading John Kastor’s letter and realizing I had many of the same thoughts, I learned that many other alumni with whom I came in contact also had the same thoughts. And then, I received a letter from another alumnus who “deputized” me to respond for him and others of The Old Guard classes. After receiving that letter, I spoke to a score or so alumni and found that they had the same opinions as Dr. Kastor and my fellow Old Guard colleague.

Although I might seem obligated to respond only from my position as Chairman of The Old Guard, which I do forthwith, I also am writing as an interested and concerned alumnus.

During the past few years, I find I read fewer and fewer of the articles in The Pennsylvania Gazette. It appears that others may be doing the same. I believe, as for all those who have something to sell, that the obligation is to “give the lady what she wants!” It appears that The Pennsylvania Gazette may be hitting short of the mark. A review of “what the lady wants” is in order.

Penn alumni number something greater than 280,000. Some market! They are interested in alumni matters, mildly in what is happening at Penn, but not much interested in undergraduate affairs. How about a questionnaire? Ask and you might be rewarded. I find I always need all the help I can get. Penn’s alumni may be able to help you to edit an even better The Pennsylvania Gazette than you do now.

B. Franklin Reinauer II W’38 Green Pond, NJ

Thanks to all our letter-writers, Gazette defenders and detractors alike—and yes, we can use all the help we can get. Any and all further comments, questions, complaints, and praise from alumni are most welcome, via e-mail at jprender or regular mail at The Pennsylvania Gazette, 3910 Chestnut Street, Third Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3111.—Ed.

A Life Changing Course

I really enjoyed reading “Expect to Hear Music,” by Karen Rile in the July/August issue. Although I was not a music major, one of the best and most interesting courses I ever took at Penn was “The History of Jazz,” taught by Bill Parberry. I consider myself very fortunate to have taken this course with him because he played a very big role in planting the seed. I went into the course with limited knowledge and understanding of jazz. I left with a great appreciation of jazz and so much more. Today I continue to learn all that I can. Aside from attending festivals and various performances, I like to read books about jazz musicians and their music. Interestingly, however, whenever I make a new CD purchase or whenever I want to know more about a particular artist, I still regularly refer to the textbook we used in class, Jazz, A History, by Frank Tirro. Included with this book is a CD that has 20 different songs, which I listened to over and over again when I took the course. From that single CD, I have since collected thousands of jazz CDs and albums. (Yes, I listen to all of them!)

As a side note, Karen Rile was my adviser for an independent project I was working on while a student. I will also always remember her for the excellent advice and instruction she provided. I am, however, so glad that I didn’t listen to someone else’s advice when they tried to talk me out of taking the jazz course—because they thought it would be too difficult for me since I had limited experience in music at that time. As it turned out, that course opened up a whole new world! It is no exaggeration to say that it changed my life for the better.

Janet Brennar CGS’98 GGS’99 Glenside, PA

Music Memory

I was very pleased to read all about music at Penn in the July/August magazine.

The article brought back many fond memories of the Penn Symphony and Collegium Musicum. One of our concerts was recorded by WXPN on May 6, 1953 and I was able to obtain a recording of part of that concert (which I believe took place in the Hare Building). The recording was Kosinski’s Theme and Variations for string quartet.

Players were: First violin, Barbara Minnick; second violin, Dr. Joseph Barone; cello, Richard Suskind; viola, Bernard Linden.

It’s hard to believe that concert took place over a half-century ago.

Barbara Minnick Zegarski Nu’58 York, PA

Major Omission: George Rochberg

I read “Expect to Hear Music” with interest. Much of it was encouraging, even exciting. But how is it possible for the Gazette to print a major article on music at Penn without any reference to George Rochberg, who is widely, and I believe correctly, regarded as one of the great American composers of the past half-century? Are memories really that short?

The following quotation may be of interest: “From 1951 [Rochberg] was Director of Publications for the music publishing house Theodore Presser, in 1960 becoming Chairman of the Music Department of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1979 he was designated Annenberg Professor of the Humanities, retiring from the University in 1983.”

These lines are taken from the program notes for the new Naxos CD of Rochberg’s magnificent Violin Concerto (composed during his years at Penn), in its first fully restored original version. It is hard to understand why The Pennsylvania Gazette should pay less attention to Rochberg’s association with Penn than a recording company.

Rochberg was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music by the University in 1985. For those unfamiliar with his music, the Violin Concerto is a good place to start, before moving on to the symphonies, the string quartets, the concertos, and much more. Many of his compositions are available on CD. The rewards of discovering his music are hard to overstate.

George Rochberg died in June of this year. It is sad indeed that this otherwise informative article passes over him, and his inestimable contributions to music at Penn, in total silence.

Robert M. Beecroft C’62 G’65 Bethesda, MD

Not New, But Still Valuable

I read with interest the article, “LEAPP of Faith” in the July/August Gazette.

It appears that the wheel has come full-circle. What you describe as “a bold new experiment in medical education” sounds to me to be identical in philosophy and practice to the program which was offered as an elective to medical students entering Penn in 1951. And who knows when the precursor to this 1950s experiment was conceived?

Regardless of how old this “new” experiment is, I don’t think its contribution to the education of future doctors can be overestimated.

David Babbott M’55 Burlington, VT

(Re)discovering the Patient

While reading “LEAPP of Faith,” I could not avoid a sense of “deja vue all over again,” in spite of the excellence of the article over all. I remember vividly September 1953, when, as a junior member of a research team of sociologists from Columbia University, I began a study of medical education at Penn (Renee Fox, the well-known professor of sociology at Penn, was also a member of that team) and was introduced to Dr. John P. Hubbard and Mary L. Poole, the directors of the Family Health Advisor Service (FHAS), a four-year elective program that was remarkably similar to the course that the writer Huntly Collins reports as a current program.

Beginning in 1949, the FHAS was introduced to give medical students a chance to learn about the doctor-patient relationship by actually working with people from the very beginning of their medical training. Nor was it alone. It developed as one of several experiments that became known as “medical education in transition.”

Penn’s FHAS was an important part of a decade during which medical education sought to make the doctor-patient relationship a first-hand experience of its students from the outset of the four-year curriculum. What is represented by the current program described by Collins in the Gazette is similar. We are rediscovering the patient.

Samuel W. Bloom C’43 New York

Misheard Message

I read the caption on the cover of the July/August Gazette, “Talking to Patients Makes Doctors Better,” three times. The first two times that I read it, I was sure that it said, “Listening to Patients Makes Doctors Better.” I thought, how wonderful that someone in authority understood. The next time I looked at it and realized it said “talking” instead of listening. The realization made me sad.

Erika Shetler Adams OT’75 Delmar, NY

Anger Toward Annan Misplaced

Jonathan Katz and Evelyn Hockstein condemn Kofi Annan for his failure to do more to stop the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 [“Letters,” July/August]. I think their anger and despair are mostly misplaced. Annan, as director of peacekeeping at the time, was in no position to provide the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) and its commander, General Romeo Dallaire, with the resources and permission they needed to prevent or stop the genocide. (Quick, who is the current director of peacekeeping and what power does he or she have?) No, the fault lies with the member nations of the U.N., especially the nations on the Security Council (which included, in 1994, Rwanda; in other words, the killers themselves had the power to vote on whether to allow UNAMIR to intervene). And the United States bears much of the responsibility for tying Annan’s and Dallaire’s hands.

The Clinton Administration actively lobbied its fellow Security Council members to emasculate UNAMIR. The Clinton Administration’s explicit policy was, to give just two examples, to avoid at all costs the use of the word genocide (and this in the midst of the most clear example of genocide since WWII), and to not jam the hate radio-broadcasts that were telling the genocidaires what houses to go to and what roads to go down to find their Tutsi and moderate Hutu victims.

The Clinton administration—the democratically elected government that spoke for me, Mr. Katz, and Ms. Hockstein—had the power to give Annan and his colleagues the ability to make UNAMIR a force to be reckoned with. Annan was (and is) a servant of the Security Council and the U.N. member states. When the U.N. fails we ought to look in the mirror.

Furthermore, to his great credit, after Annan became the secretary general he ordered a full review of the U.N.’s failure in Rwanda and issued a heartfelt and honest mea culpa. The Clinton administration did no such thing.

Kevin Feinberg C’91 Brooklyn

Misinformed Criticism

I was pleased to read about U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Commencement address, but disheartened (though from my 26-year career in the U.N. system, not surprised) to read the three letters containing misinformed criticism of Kofi Annan.

Re the Rwanda genocide: While the head of U.N. peacekeeping (at the time, Kofi Annan) and the secretary general (then Boutros Boutros Ghali) cannot entirely escape criticism, policy for U.N. peacekeeping was set by the Security Council. At Boutros Ghali’s request for direction at the start of the genocide, the Security Council voted (U.S. concurring) to immediately reduce the U.N. troop strength from 2,000 to 270, thereby emasculating Kofi Annan’s peacekeeping authority and capability.

Re the Oil-For-Food-Program (OFFP) in Iraq: Any lapses in the U.N.’s management of this program should be investigated (for which purpose Kofi Annan established the distinguished “Volcker Committee”) and punished. However, a greater share of the illicit gains that “enabled Saddam Hussein to build palaces and military installations” came from oil smuggling outside the purview of OFFP, notably to our friends Jordan and Turkey with the general knowledge and silent acquiescence of the U.S. The Iraq Survey Group (“Duelfer Report”) estimated the ratio of smuggling vs. OFFP to be over 5 to 1; other estimates have been in the range of 1-3 to 1.

Re the U.N.’s failure to sanction the 2003 attack on Iraq: Kofi Annan’s chief substantive role in the proceedings was to support the U.N.’s search for WMD in Iraq, a search that yielded dramatically more accurate information than did the U.S. investigation.

Robert A. Dudley, C’46 Boulder, CO

Bulldozers Still at Work

In the article, “How Green Is My Brownfield,” [“All Things Ornamental,” May/June], Virginia Fairweather writes, “a century ago, a developer leveled an entire city bluff [in Seattle] because flat land would be easier to build on and attract investment—an unthinkable approach to land use today.”

North of Phoenix there once existed lush rolling desert, which was bulldozed flat to build the new ticky-tacky town of Anthem. Mountain tops are still being leveled for mining. And, have you been to Las Vegas (the springs) lately, now subject to flooding from improperly designed, flattened, city planning.

Annette Segal Prioste FA’59 Scottsdale, Az


In “Doing Well By Doing Good” [“Gazetteer,” July/August], we misidentified Ryan Comfort W’05 as she when he is, in fact, male. Our apologies to Mr. Comfort.

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