Letter Box

(Photography by Samantha Chapnick [CC BY-ND 2.0])

Readers sound off

An epic love, road tripping, songs of UChicago, and more.

Epic love

I want to thank the Magazine and Laura Demanski, AM’94, for the story about Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer’s translation of the Aeneid (“An Aeneid for Our Time,” Winter/21). I am a fan of this epic poem and plan to purchase the book.

Just for reference, this is not the first translation of the Aeneid by a woman. Sarah Ruden published a translation in 2008 with Yale University Press. It was positively reviewed in the New York Review of Books, and she took a somewhat similar approach.

Anyway, I look forward to reading this new translation, which sounds great, and I appreciate your flagging it for us.

Angelo Grima, JD’84
Vienna, Virginia

Grima was one of several readers to call our attention to Ruden’s translation. We appreciate the correction and regret the error.—Ed.

Wow! Your article on Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer’s translation of the Aeneid jostled my memory. It has been over six decades since I studied Latin (eight years’ worth), and yet the Aeneid’s first line in Latin jumped out of my mouth. Those were the days you had to memorize a lot.

Her translation is just totally beautiful. It spurred me to reread the opening verses of the poem in Latin and marvel at the exquisite rendering of Bartsch-Zimmer.

Latin has served me well. My doctoral dissertation (Tulane University, PhD’68) was 300 pages in Latin—an edited 13th-century manuscript of a commentary on one of Aristotle’s works. I can read and speak Spanish very well, and Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian haltingly—all Latin derivatives. And, of course, it helps with the other languages I have studied: Greek, Russian, French, and German.

I have urged my five grandsons to study Latin in high school and college but to no avail. My final hope is currently a first-year student in the humanities at the University of Chicago. I hope he can enjoy learning from a gifted professor like Bartsch-Zimmer.

Bernard Parker, AM’65
Ocala, Florida

I was thrilled to read your article on Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer’s new translation of the Aeneid and continue to be pleased that I graduated from a university that recognizes and honors such classics in its alumni magazine.

The Aeneid had a brief moment in my University of Chicago experience. As you remember from my article on the Small School Talent Search (“No Small Talent,” Winter/17), I was one of the students from the rural Midwest who was recruited to UChicago in the 1960s. We were all poorly trained, and it showed in our classroom participation.

I struggled with Humanities I that first year. The class was taught by Paul Moses, a gifted instructor and the first Black person I had ever met. (He was tragically murdered two years later.) My ignorance stood out as my experienced classmates responded to Mr. Moses’s questions about art, music, and literature.

But one cold January morning, I got my chance when he put up a slide of the Laocoön. My education at Portage High School in Wisconsin was substandard in many ways, but we had a gifted Latin teacher. For four years I studied Latin with Miss Raup. The last year, we read and even memorized significant sections of the Aeneid. So when Mr. Moses asked who could give the background of the slide, my hand shot up. Much to Mr. Moses’s amazement, I expect, I told the story of Laocoön, the priest of Troy whose sons were crushed by snakes as he pleaded with the Trojans not to bring the horse into their city. When I finished, Mr. Moses asked, “Mr. Heberlein, do you remember what Laocoön said that day?”

Here was my carpe diem moment. I replied, “Yes! Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.” Mr. Moses, who was rumored to be fluent in four languages, raced to the board and wrote the Latin words and asked me to translate for my classmates: “Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even bearing gifts.”

Over the decades people have asked me, “What good were four years of Latin?” In that moment the whole four years paid off as my self-esteem got a much-needed boost in my UChicago struggles.

Thanks for your story and for bringing back such a fond memory. Fifty years later I got to Rome, where I saw the Laocoön in person, and my wife took a picture of me standing in front of it.

Thomas Heberlein, AB’67
Madison, Wisconsin

Ave atque vale!

Reading “An Aeneid for Our Time,” I was brought back 50-plus years to a classroom of 38 boys in a Jesuit high school and a more mirthful story about translating Vergil. The Aeneid was read in third year, and four years of Latin or Greek were required for the honors program. As the Jesuit scholar teaching the course was not very inspiring (or desired a return to civilian life), a flourishing market in interlinear translations (“ponies”) had developed. Mine was a reissue of Hart and Osborn’s 1882 version, written in a florid Victorian style. The scheme was unmasked when several classmates didn’t bother to retranslate into contemporary English!

I commend Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer for her new translation.

Jack Walton, MBA’74
Shaker Heights, Ohio

Over the top

It is almost always a pleasure to dive into the Magazine when it arrives, but occasionally it gets my goat. In the Winter/21 issue there is an article, “Experimental Theater,” that highlights the following quotation from the teacher: “The goal of the minicourse ... is to help participants develop ‘a larger, more diverse and inclusive inner ensemble that’s ambidextrous and more effective across different contexts.’”

The pretension in this statement oozes. I thought UChicago was above academic psychobabble. It’s enough to make you want to listen to one of Trump’s monosyllabic speeches. Hrrmph!

Neil Arkuss, AB’66
Concord, Massachusetts

On the road again

Really enjoyed the article on Route 66 (“Out of the Past,” Winter/21), a highway of unique significance in the history of movements of an untold number of people across a vast portion of America.

And I was one of them, starting in the late ’50s. From Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I lived at the time, I drove a few miles south to get on Route 66, drove on it as far as St. Louis, and then continued on other highways to my ultimate destination, Washington, DC, and college at the Catholic University of America.

Four years after that, starting in 1959, I’d make the same journey, but get off in Chicago, and repeat the same trip several more times for four years of study at the University.

It was always an enjoyable experience. It offered a most appreciated venue for meeting and getting to know many people from around the country and around the world.

I’m including a little item of possible interest to you: a poem based on my Route 66 journeys.

Route 66

Interstate growth in
late sixties’ rush
by-passed Sixty-Six
burying it in dust.

That highway’s life
and mine,
though not intertwined,
like parallel lines
passed from point to point
together through time.

’30s born, ’50s grown up,
we confronted each other
on Albuquerque nights.
The bars on West Central
dumped their drunk trash
on cold, now old,
black highway grit.

So began, not easily seen,
the slow, steady rot
of both asphalt and me.

By the end
of the seventies, I-40
would reign supreme,
and Sixty-Six, in pieces,
would fade from view,
soon but a memory
for a devoted few.
And what of me?

Ethanol and ennui
drained all of my hopes,
and like the shattered Sixty-Six,
I was in pieces,
serving no purpose,
and death was not an option—
it was a driving desire.

Then something happened
for Sixty-Six and me
that rekindled fire,
no one knows why.

The dying “Mother Road”
assumed new fame,
and people flocked
to openings here,
and new signage there,
and I, at age sixty-six,
and chemicals free,
finally found mission
in words like these.

We be not the same,
Sixty-Six and me,
much has changed,
That said, I do confirm
Sixty-Six’s fame
once lost, will not
be lost again.

And I, never before quite free
from death’s choking grasp,
thanks to my written words,
will live ... eternally.

Robert W. Proctor © 19 December 2003; Selected Poems, Mesilla Valley Press, ©2004, Las Cruces, NM.

Robert W. Proctor, SM’62
La Luz, New Mexico

I was delighted to read about Charley Custer’s (EX’75) parents’ road-tripping photography and Charley’s discovery and preservation of the photos. I lost touch with Charley (he was Chuck back then) after graduation. Seeing his name brought to the surface cherished College memories of parties at his Hyde Park walk-up with Dancing John, Mystic Pat, Doobie Dan, Silent Bob, Sexy SheShe, etc.

But I was very saddened to see the death notice of another friend, Paul Mankowski, AB’76 (Deaths, Winter/21). Paul shared the distinction with two others, Steve Piwinski, AB’75, and me, of being on the swimming and football teams. Paul was one of the most brilliant and well-read people I’ve known. He was the ideal scholar-athlete.

Jeff Rasley, AB’75

A teacher to remember

Thanks for Susie Allen’s (AB’09) “A Hanna Gray Miscellany” in the Winter/21 Core. I wish I could send her a personal word of thanks.

I began my fourth year in the College in autumn 1967 with the intention of doing my final year’s history thesis on something to do with the northern Renaissance/Reformation. By one means or another, I landed with Mrs. Gray as adviser. (Everyone was Mr., Mrs., or Miss in those years.) What luck! She gently guided my reading as I narrowed my focus to the “Radical Reformation.”

I had taken Eric Cochran’s fine Italian Renaissance course the year before. Amazing how accessible graduate-level courses were for those of us in the College. That year I took another amazing course in the Divinity School on the New Testament gospels from a very prominent British biblical scholar, Norman Perrin.

Every week I met with Mrs. Gray to discuss what I was reading, learning, and doing. The early modern required coursework ran all year and included at least one quarter with William McNeill, LAB’34, AB’38, AM’39. I also took a philosophy course from Richard McKeon, writing a paper on Erasmus and Luther’s dispute over free will. Added to that was a reading course with one of the greatest teachers in the College in those days, Karl Weintraub, AB’49, AM’52, PhD’57. What an education!

But at one point that year I hit some very tough personal challenges: a (for then) long-term relationship ended, and of course there was the Vietnam War and military draft staring at all of us guys. Mrs. Gray offered some very wise advice: be sure to finish your coursework, as it may not come around for another year or two, and put off your thesis if need be.

That’s what I did, ending up with just one incomplete and the unfinished thesis at the end of Spring quarter. That summer my late father, a professor at Lewis & Clark College, gave me his office and electric typewriter, and I worked all day, every day for six-plus weeks on an analysis and life history for Mrs. Gray of Michael Servetus, who was burned at the stake by Calvin in Geneva. I also finished that paper on free will for McKeon. Got them in the mail by the August 1 deadline. I’m not sure what mark she gave my work, but I was finally awarded a BA in history in December 1968. I failed to offer thanks!

By that time I was a graduate student in Renaissance and Reformation studies at Stanford University with a full fellowship and stipend, no doubt the result of a fine letter of recommendation from Mrs. Gray. Stanford was like being back in high school after my final two years at the University of Chicago. For better or worse, it did not pan out: I turned in my draft cards, refused induction into the military, and was indicted. Draft resistance became my full-time job until I worked out an arrangement with the federal attorney in Portland, Oregon, to perform two years of alternative service. The scholar’s life was not for me. I helped start the Potrero View, now San Francisco’s oldest community newspaper, in 1970.

Years later I got a job testing paper on production printing presses (I was by then a journeyman press operator), in large part because my résumé included a BA in history from the University of Chicago. The guy who hired me was confident that I could stand my ground with all the PhDs who worked at Boise Cascade Paper R&D! He was right.

Lenny Anderson, AB’68
Portland, Oregon

Of UChicago I sing

I read with nostalgic interest your article on the album Songs of the University of Chicago (“A Surprise Package from 1950,” the Core, Winter/21). I was a contemporary of Maurice Mandel, AB’56, AB’57, and lived across the street in the Zeta Beta Tau house. As a participant in the Interfraternity Sing, I was always struck by the Delta Upsilon song, which contained, as I recall, the following memorable lines:

Down among the dead men
Down among the dead men
Down among the dead men
Let him lie.

Perhaps the material he sent you would substantiate my recollection.

On one quibbling point, the game Mandel describes between the University of Chicago and University of Illinois Navy Pier was played not in Bartlett Gym but in the old field house, where we played all our games at that time. I was a member (bench warmer, sliver collector) of that team and remember the events he describes so vividly. It was U-High that played its games in Bartlett.

Carl B. Frankel, AB’54, JD’57

I just read Carrie Golus’s (AB’91, AM’93) piece on University of Chicago songs of the 1950s, with Maurice Mandel’s recollections. I was nodding along until I came to the end where Mandel describes the big game against Navy Pier.

OMG. I played in that game. Winter Quarter 1953. The Maroons basketball team had not won a game in three years. As something of a lark, several of us on the baseball team decided to skip winter indoor practice in the field house that year. There was always the risk of getting beaned there due to all the gloom and glare on the infield we would set up on the dirt tennis courts. Let’s try another sport, thought we. Could not do any worse at basketball than had our friends who came before. And it seemed a good way to make sure our legs were in shape for baseball.

We were right. We blew Navy Pier away. Ended the losing streak. And in the next game started another one, of course.

One minor correction. The game was played in the (old) field house, before the double deck was installed. In those days Bartlett was reserved for the U-High team, intramurals, and “noon ball.”

David G. Utley, LAB’49, AB’53, AM’60
Madison, Wisconsin

For want of a pen

You asked about campus speakers who left an impression (“A Symposium on Statecraft,” Alumni News, Winter/21). I was 13 years old and a student at Lab when Robert F. Kennedy gave his address at the Law School in February 1967. I attended the talk with my father, who was a professor in the oncology department at that time.

We were lucky to encounter Mr. Kennedy in the parking lot by the Law School as he was on his way in to the event. Like a typical starstruck teen, I immediately asked him for his autograph. He stopped and kindly tried to sign my program a few times with a defective ballpoint pen that I had given him. In frustration Mr. Kennedy said to me, “Sorry, son, but this damn pen won’t write.” It was an amusing encounter that I will never forget, and one that lingers with sadness.

Alexander Vesselinovitch, LAB’71, AB’75
Wilmette, Illinois

Know your audience

Sometime around 1948, J. Robert Oppenheimer came to campus. Remember that at the time, atomic energy and its attendant field were still mysteries to most laymen. Cobb Hall (I think) was packed with students, and faculty members occupied the first rows, eager to hear the latest from “the chief.”

Entering the hall, Oppenheimer seemed somewhat surprised at the number of students in the audience. Acknowledging the faculty members in the first rows, he apologized to them, saying something like this: “I know you want to hear the latest, but there is such misunderstanding of this subject that I cannot resist the opportunity to help enlighten such a large number of students while I have the chance.” And he launched into a clear discussion of the subject at a level that we could understand. It was an impressive performance.

Harold Lieberman, AM’49
St. Cloud, Minnesota

Snow business

I remember the snow sculpture (“Art Brut,” Alumni News, Winter/21). I was in the College. That sculpture seemed to appear out of nowhere. I took photos of it, but I have long since lost them. I have told people about this sculpture over the years, but it defies description if you did not see it. Great memory!

Richard Charles Anderson, AB’73

Poster master

What a surprise to see the film posters David P. James, AB’80 (Class of 1972), and I did for Doc Films on the cover of the Magazine (Winter/19). Somehow we managed to crank out almost daily posters without the aid of graphic arts software—in between attending classes and writing English papers. Thanks to my mom, who saved nearly every one of the posters, I was able to send a stack of posters to Special Collections for display. What an additional treat to see that our posters are now featured on Magazine postcards (Editor’s Notes, “Postcards of the Past,” Winter/21).

All this triggered a flood of memories of Doc Films and my life at UChicago. I wonder if my fellow cineastes remember when I introduced films at Quantrell Auditorium wearing a cowboy outfit for a John Ford series. Or when I wore a gold Mylar toga for a showing of I Am Curious (Yellow) during the annual Lascivious Costume Ball. What was I thinking? Those stage lights made it look like I was wearing Saran Wrap. I think that was the biggest applause I ever received.

I also remember when Jane Fonda came to campus to give a talk at Quantrell in the early ’70s. As she walked onto the stage, Fonda noticed a Doc Films poster of Barbarella tacked on a nearby wall. She wasn’t pleased and pretty much tore it off the wall. Well, maybe she didn’t literally tear it off, but she certainly made disparaging remarks. I think her Barbarella character didn’t quite mesh with her antiwar activist persona at the time. I hear she has lightened up since then.

Paul Preston, AB’72, AM’73
Berkeley, California

All-time classic

I was at the remarkable Aristotelian-Platonism game and do remember both Bernard Wax, AB’50, AM’55, and Gerald Brody, AB’51, from our College days (Letters, Spring/20 and Fall/20). I had no understanding of football but their enthusiasm was contagious. As I recall, there was a struggle to assemble the proper safety equipment for the game as well as the audience. We were an energetic group of friends and I would be happy to see them.

Irvina Perman Warren, AB’52
Winnetka, Illinois

Policy note

To make a more inclusive university, I recommend a change to the existing policy on harassment, discrimination, and sexual misconduct.

Currently the policy “expresses the University’s commitment to an environment free from discrimination, sexual harassment and other unlawful forms of harassment.” Unlawful harassment is defined as harassment related to protected classes, such as race or color. The policy should be broadened to prohibit all harassment. I have read news reports indicating that much (and perhaps most) harassment on college campuses these days relates to politics or ideology rather than a protected class and is thus outside the current definition. An inclusive Chicago does not tolerate anyone being harassed for any reason.

An expanded policy should also make it clear that exposure to ideas and opinions one dislikes is not the same thing as harassment. In fact, exposure to such ideas and opinions is one of the goals of a Chicago education.

James G. Russell, MBA’78
Midlothian, Virginia

The University of Chicago Magazine welcomes letters about its contents or about the life of the University. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited for space, clarity, and civility. To provide a range of views and voices, we encourage letter writers to limit themselves to 300 words or fewer. While the Magazine staff works remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, please send letters via email: uchicago-magazine@uchicago.edu.