Readers sound off

An alumna discovers an ancestor, plus your thoughts on reading habits, Chicago snowstorms of legend, and more.

Shared paths

First of all, thank you so much to John Mark Hansen for writing such a beautiful article illuminating the life of Cora Belle Jackson, AB 1896, the first Black graduate of the University of Chicago (“An Unseen Life,” Winter/24).

I have an interesting story to tell. I graduated from the University of Chicago with my BA in art history in 2020. I had finally come around to picking up your Winter/24 issue when I came across Cora’s story. I had heard of, and seen works of art inspired by, other trailblazing African American graduates. Being a Black woman attending UChicago, I was, of course, inspired by their stories, but I did not come across Cora Belle Jackson.

Recently I have been doing research for an article drawing connections between James Van Der Zee, whose photography is currently on view in the exhibition The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and my great-great-grandfather Harvey Cook Jackson Sr., the first African American to own a photo studio in Detroit. I felt connected to him through film photography, which I had shown an interest in before I ever knew of his story.

Now, in reading your article, I have discovered that I am actually related to Cora Belle Jackson as well. Though Jackson is a common name, when you mentioned her ancestry, including that she was born in Detroit (where most of my mother’s side is from), and finally her brother Harvey Cook Jackson, I knew it had to be the same Jacksons. Referencing a family tree put together by a family member would confirm this. Cora Belle Jackson is my great-great-great-aunt.

The fact that I happened to choose, get into, and graduate from UChicago without any knowledge of this is amazing to me, just as my interest in film photography after learning of Harvey Cook Jackson amazed me. I now live in Harlem and work at the Met and am certain I have walked some of the same paths, here or in Hyde Park. As I write in the article—which is now going to need some edits—it is incredible to think about how much history and memory is wrapped up in one’s ancestors and past generations. The question of chance and coincidence astounds me.

Thank you again to Hansen for writing such a well-researched piece. He was able to find more information than I or my family members had access to, such as the lives of James Harvey Jackson and Virginia Cook. I will be sharing all of this with my Jackson family relatives.

Thank you!

Lela Jenkins, AB’20
New York

Hidden talent

I found John Mark Hansen’s article about the life of Cora Belle Jackson incredibly enlightening. It provided interesting details about the struggles she faced after becoming the first Black student to enter and graduate from the University of Chicago. Despite the limited information available at the University, the detailed information Hansen provided about her life before she enrolled and after graduating spoke volumes.

As a transfer student from Howard University, Cora Jackson was the second recipient of a University scholarship awarded based on her score on the entrance examination; this raises the question of whether only limited information was available for the first recipient. Ordinarily, a student’s performance on an entrance examination would entitle the student to more recognition from the University, her classmates, her teachers, and potential employers. However, like so many women (as seen in the New York Times’s series Overlooked No More, which highlights people, including many women, who were left out of obituary pages and most history textbooks), Cora Jackson was forced to accept certain positions despite her clear capacity to perform in more challenging opportunities. This country, and indeed the world, would be better off if individuals like Cora Jackson, once identified, were allowed to participate in jobs and other activities worthy of their talent.

Melvin Houston, MBA’79

Back to the five-year future

I am delighted to know that the University has reinstituted the five-year master’s (“Five Years, Two Degrees,” For the Record, Winter/24). Yes, that’s reinstituted. I and many others received a master’s degree in five years from the Social Sciences Division in 1955. We were led by the remarkable duo of Earl S. Johnson, AM’32, PhD’41, and Kermit Eby, EX’31.

Mike Palatnik, AM’55
Deerfield, Illinois

Cover dummy …

I do not know if there is a contest, but I think the Winter/24 Core won “The Creepiest Magazine Cover Picture Not Involving a Politician.” Unless of course that is Matt Gaetz leaning on that stone.

Roberto Guadiana, AB’77
Pflugerville, Texas

… or cover genius?

As parents of two U of C graduates, we receive the Core College magazine supplement. I so enjoyed the Winter/24 cover and articles, and plan to make the collard greens and bacon recipe soon.

However, I was baffled by your “Art in the Middle of Nowhere” article featuring a photo of Michael Heizer’s City when your article clearly states, “Taking photographs of ... City is forbidden” because “it was the experience of being there that was important.”

Joyce Smith
Washington, DC

The photograph in question was taken and used in the Core with the artist’s permission. We thank the writer for pointing out the seeming contradiction.—Ed.

No ROTC, please

So! I read that the U of C will allow ROTC on campus (“What’s New in the College,” the Core, Winter/24). As a 1963 graduate who made his way through the Vietnam debacle, I feel nostalgia for Chicago’s (the school) antimilitarist tradition. They can do ROTC elsewhere!

Daniel Levine, SB’63, SM’64
Santa Monica, California

Trading places

Although College students were unable to take business courses, as Edward Comer, AB’71, noted (“Booth Reflections,” Letters, Winter/24), there were possibilities for certain U of C students to attend classes at the GSB (Graduate School of Business, now Chicago Booth). In 1971 and ’72, while working for Motorola in Arizona as international counsel, I developed and then taught a course at the Thunderbird Graduate School (now part of Arizona State University) titled Legal Aspects of International Trade and Investment.

When promoted to Motorola’s then newly established Office of Multinational Operations near Chicago, I asked the GSB if there was any interest in having me teach this course. I really did not want to teach law students. As it turned out, a similar GSB course was being taught by a professor who had recently announced his move to Florida. Professor Alan Swan, JD’57, and I compared our respective self-compiled teaching materials and there was significant overlap. Alan recommended me to the GSB.

The funny thing about this is that my former international law professor at the Law School, Soia Mentschikoff, was also Alan’s mentor, and she had also recently moved to Florida. Ergo, the Law School recommended that those interested in the subject matter should take my course for Law School credit but at the GSB by special arrangement between the two schools. I was able to compare MBA candidates with JD candidates, and I still prefer one over the other.

Mitchell NewDelman, JD’65

Comparative loss

The lament of Arthur E. Wise, MBA’65, PhD’67, and the Magazine’s response in the Winter/24 issue’s Letters (“Booth Reflections”) stimulate me to suggest an addition. There is no doubt that the study of education has taken a significant hit by the closing of the Graduate School of Education. What is not often recognized is that the “hit” may have been hardest because of the closing of the school’s Comparative Education Center.

The center was staffed by four faculty members, two of whom held joint appointments in economics and sociology. Others covered regional policy issues in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Though few, the faculty and graduates have made a striking impact. One faculty member played a key role in promoting comparisons of academic achievements across countries; today more than 120 countries administer and analyze surveys of academic achievement as a normal course of their operations. Another faculty member convinced the World Bank to broaden its methods for calculating the economic rationales for making educational investments; as a result, today the bank is a major investor in primary schools. A third faculty member played a key role in pushing preschool/early childhood programs across Latin America; today they are the norm.

Because of the center’s graduates, North Africa and the Middle East are replete with exchange scholars with a clear understanding of local cultures. Latin America now produces advanced analyses of educational finance and efficiency from local policy think tanks. The 15 countries of the former Soviet Union now operate with the help of suggestions of what education needs to do when labor markets are liberated from the constraints of central planning. And the American finding that children from wealthy families outperform others in school has been challenged by including global evidence.

Not bad for the tiny Comparative Education Center. How many other pieces of the Graduate School of Education have had similar impact? What have we lost?

Stephen Heyneman, AM’71, PhD’75
Cambridge, Maryland

Revisiting urban renewal

Andrew Mine’s (AB’81) letter (“Renewal’s Costs”) in the Winter/24 issue raises some questions about the 1950s urban renewal project in Hyde Park, Kenwood, and Woodlawn and its impact, especially on African American residents. A good place to begin an exploration of these issues is the pathbreaking Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940–1960 by Arnold R. Hirsch. The relevant chapter is the fifth: “A Neighborhood on a Hill: Hyde Park and the University of Chicago.”

The federal Housing Act of 1954 established a legal framework for national urban renewal efforts (often rechristened “Negro removal” by observers of its effects in the 1960s), and the 1959 Section 112 gave universities an explicit mandate to take the lead in redevelopment around their campuses. The U of C was at the forefront in getting Section 112 passed and making quick use of its provisions. Hyde Park became one of the first federally funded urban renewal projects.

Urban renewal was in fact the mechanism for the making of the “second ghetto,” and consciously so. It was an effort in which the University was intimately involved, with the strong backing of Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley. Whole areas were cleared, dislocating some poorer White people but mainly African Americans. The overall effort was to create a stable low-density middle-class neighborhood, integrated but majority White.

I would like to second Mine’s suggestion that you devote a future issue to this topic—or at least a substantial article. The questions raised touch on politics, social justice, and the relative values of a world-class university, a historically oppressed people, a particular neighborhood in relation to the city overall, a denser urban versus a more suburban-like environment, and the obligations of the powerful in relation to the weak, and a number of other very basic issues.

John Stevenson, AM’67, PhD’75
Niles, Michigan

Talking about a resolution

Many readers responded to “You Say You Want a Resolution” (Editor’s Notes, Winter/24), Laura Demanski’s (AM’94) confessional column about her reduced reading and New Year’s resolution to read a book a week in 2024. We share here the tips, observations, and commiserations we received.—Ed.

I hear you! I made the same calculation about 10 years ago and felt equally scared about its finitude. So I amped up my book reading, and I added audiobooks to my day. I listen to audiobooks when doing household activities (dog walking, vegetable chopping, quilting, etc.), and get through a surprising number of “extra” books that way. Being retired helps, too, as does not watching TV. My goal each year is to read at least 120 books. I’m now 67. I’m optimistic enough to think I’ll live another 30 years. You can do the math: 3,600 more books, barring dementia or blindness. When I did my initial calculation 10 years ago, the impact of doing so pushed me into more quality control over what I read. So I have a pretty long to-be-read list that I refer to when I add a new batch of books to my Kindle, and when I visit my Libby online library to check out audiobooks. In 2023 I read 231 books from various genres. I’ve read 32 books so far in 2024, and I look forward to reading many more.

Life is short. Read more books!

Sheri Engelken, JD’83
Spokane, Washington

I empathize about reading—all the reasons you mentioned. If I’m going to do something that’s not “productive,” I want it to be reading!

David Oates, AB’79
Athens, Georgia

I’m super-old-fashioned. I still read books and only use my smartphone for emergencies. I still have and listen to a large collection of classical LP records too.

Thorn C. Roberts, AB’65
Elizabeth, West Virginia

Some years ago I met a young man who told me he read an hour every day—mostly biography and inspirational books. I grabbed the “one hour” aspect of his openly self-improving notion and have pretty much stuck with it every morning. It’s a joy. I only read and reread things I love (recent and present: Anna Karenina, Tom Lake, A Raisin in the Sun, Walks in Venice). To cheer you up a bit, someday you’ll have way, way more time to read and can cram in more than a few more.

By the way, Ethan Frome … the pickle dish … a dreaded high school read.

Ruth O’Brien, AB’83, AM’91

This is not a resolution but an observation. I first acquired an Amazon Kindle in March 2009. In the first year I read 65 titles. I have maintained that pace and have now read 1,045 titles in the 15 years I have had the Kindle. I’ll admit that my taste runs toward James Patterson and John Sandford, but I rarely read more than 24 books a year prior to 2009. I guess I’m partly to blame for the death of Chicago’s printing industry.

Tex Hull

My mother was a librarian so reading was always a must.

My daughter’s goal last year was 50 books. She finished number 50 New Year’s weekend by subbing a thinner book for the 400 pager she had been reading.

Two years ago I vowed to add some classics to my regular historical fiction and fantasy. So far, Anna Karenina and The Old Man and the Sea.

Susan Glenn-Salerno, MBA’91
Glenview, Illinois

Want to read a book a week? Listen to recorded books. I read at least three a month by listening to books while I do housework, exercise, walk to and from work, brush my teeth, fix my hair, get dressed. Yes, it’s double tasking, but what a great reward.

After graduate school, raising twin babies, getting tenure and promotion to full professor, and turning 50, I decided I wasn’t going to limit myself to my scholarly reading forever. I wanted and needed the other worlds and distant places and people that reading for pleasure brought into my life. How to do it without sitting for hours a day or turning pages well into the wee hours? “Read” while living otherwise.

Sally Kitch, AM’68
Tempe, Arizona

I am in several book clubs including a virtual one on FaceTime with my college roommates. That helps. Buying a few of the Great Courses helped as well, as it got me into scientific subjects like astronomy and the early Christian church. Finding series like Patrick O’Brien’s Napoleonic era sea stories also helped. Does it count if you have read them all three times?

Ralph Ells, MBA’65
Naples, Florida

A few weeks before the beginning of 2010 I was reading some of Dorianne Laux’s love poems. I thought that it was curious that despite the fact I’d been happily married for almost 30 years at that time, and despite having published two books of poetry and many poems, I had written very few love poems. Perhaps, I thought, I was afraid of tackling a genre fraught with cliche and silliness. After mulling over this conundrum, I decided that if I wrote a love poem every day for a year, perhaps in that time I’d learn a thing or two. So, starting January 1 I began writing love poems.

When I told people about my project, they asked to be sent the poems, and in no time I had a whole community of friends and family receiving them. One of these friends told her publisher, and the next thing I knew, that publisher was interested in the book. Thanks to a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board I was able to hire an editor who helped me choose, edit, and organize the poems, and to my astonishment Cloves & Honey was published.

I am a 1984 graduate of the University of Chicago with a MAT in English, and my husband, the object of those love poems, is a 1987 graduate from the University of Chicago Center for Latin American Studies.

Athena Kildegaard, MAT’84
Farwell, Minnesota

Two short books well worth a read: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett and Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan. I loved them both!

Ami Salk, MBA’84

I struggle to read one book … a year. I certainly read too much other stuff, mostly news and current events. Even with that narrow subject matter, I’m nine months behind reading my favorite newsmag (the Economist), but it’s good enough to be still enjoyable when way out of date. (No realistic plan to actually catch up in the near future.)

I did manage to start reading The Kiss of the Spider Woman (in Spanish, a Christmas gift) during my recent trip to Costa Rica. Actually, there’s very little time for books during a trip like that (maybe an hour or two during a transfer), so I finished the book a few days after returning home in Paris. It’s a book I would recommend; most people have only seen the movie.

Wayne “Buzz” Smith, AB’78

A year after grad school at UChicago, I began a year-word ceremony every New Year’s. Though not technically “literary” in the sense of referring to books, my undergrad English major allowed me to stretch (or deconstruct) the definition to a single word that would become a touchstone of focus for the following year.

I’ll share some examples. After two years of U of C seriousness, I needed a few more to hone my improv skills and lighten up: 1980 (year word: maturity) resulted in the birth of our first child, with the following few years consumed with that and the birth of a second in 1985 (year word: patience) and the resultant complexities. The early 1990s (year words: perspective, buoyant, attend, respect, vision) involved beginning a high-level administrative position in a nonprofit organization. I retired in 2015 after major heart surgery (year word: grateful) and the rest is just fun and philosophy.

In a sense, the year words form their own story, which, for me, is literary and thematic.

Mitch Bruski, AM’75
Evanston, Illinois

Upon completing the manuscript for the third edition of my Administrative Law for Public Managers, I resolved never to write another book.

David H. Rosenbloom, AM’66, PhD’69
Bethesda, Maryland


Boy, you kids! The real Chicago blizzard was January 26–27, 1967, and it sneaked up on us (“Snow Day,” Alumni News Snapshots, Winter/24). My fiancée, Leah Webb, AM’68, was in her poli-sci class and I was in my history class when the school (and the city) got buried and shut down. I tried to dig out my VW after it got buried by plows on 57th Street by the Medici, and short little Louisiana girl Leah tried to walk through the drifts to her apartment across the street from Muhammad Temple #2. Halfway home she had flashbacks of Doctor Zhivago and feared she would be buried, frozen solid, and wouldn’t be found until the summer. We both made it to her apartment, and the next morning walked to Lake Shore Drive, which looked like a science fiction movie: abandoned cars, diesel buses with their engines still running, and even an (empty) armored car. At the Point we walked through the snow until we realized we were walking on the seats of park benches. I managed to shield Leah from a rogue wave off the lake, but the spray instantly froze solid from my head all down my back.

Stores ran out of food, but fortunately we never lost heat. After several days a food truck bogged down short of the store, and the driver just opened the rear doors and passed out milk and bread to bystanders.

A great adventure.

Richard Schroeder, AM’65, PhD’75
Washington, DC

I was a doctoral student in musicology and a pianist with the Contemporary Chamber Players during the mid-’60s, living on 54th Place near the shopping center. In the afternoon I was heading home from a rehearsal in our 1960 VW bug, and the snow was coming down so fast, it was getting difficult to get through. I had to open the car door and push with my left leg as if on a scooter, but I made it. The city was shut down for at least a week. All the cars parked on 54th Place were completely covered, to such an extent that people on cross-country skis would easily ski over the tops. I had grown up in Wyoming, but this was a storm of the century, bigger than anything I’d ever experienced.

Abner Mikva, JD’51, later a US representative, was then the alderman for the 5th Ward and a major thorn in Mayor Richard J. Daley’s side. The inevitable result is that the 5th Ward was always the very last part of the city to be plowed out, hard-knuckle politics at work. One afternoon I watched a wonderful project in futility. A huge armored truck was completely stuck in a snowbank, and a crew of workers were frantically digging it out. When they did, they suddenly realized that there was nowhere to go. The streets were still under several feet of snow. The good old days.

James Kidd, PhD’73
Farmville, Virginia

After watching two days of moderate but continual snowfall, I trudged across campus through deep snow to my Friday morning graduate geoscience class at Rosenwald Hall. As I pulled on the front door, I was puzzled to find it locked. I had never experienced a canceled class. The campus was nearly deserted, and I saw only a few footprints in the snow. It was January 27, 1967, and a record snowfall was just ending. This was before cell phones, laptops, and the internet. It was before UChicago—it was the U of C back then. I had not listened to the radio recently nor watched TV. Born in Chicago, I was quite used to cold weather and deep snow. But this day was clearly different.

I decided to take public transportation to my North Side home. But there were no buses. Then a fellow trudger called out that he had heard that the South Shore train was running. I had never ridden it, but thought I would continue my white winter land adventure and give it a try. From the train I noticed things I had never seen before, including a long parking lot beside the lakefront. After seeing miles of cars covered in snow, I realized that the parking lot was in fact Lake Shore Drive.

Though there were very few people, it was comforting to see the regular movement of the L downtown. Because of the tracks’ elevation and the open spaces between them, the Ravenswood (now Brown Line) train ran almost normally, though a little slowly. However, a couple of miles from where I would usually get off, the train descended to ground level, slowed, and ground to a complete stop. We were straddling an arterial street intersection. There was no fear of a collision, however, with hardly a pedestrian or vehicle on the streets. After a couple of minutes the train lurched forward again. I reasoned that the weight of the train and its gliding electric contact shoe had melted the packed snow and ice that had slightly lifted the train. The stop and start action continued every block or two until we finally came to rest just a few blocks from my house.

I have never had the best memory for history, but that U of C day will forever be unforgettable.

Art Lasky, SB’66
Tulsa, Oklahoma

UChicago campus photo of students enjoying the 1967 snowfall
(Photography by David Bantz, AB’69 [Class of 1968], SM’73, PhD’77; UChicago Photographic Archive, apf4-02232, Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)

You may have seen this picture in the University archives [see photo above]. It’s of Richard Rubin, AB’69, leaping off the raised entry portal of Hitchcock Hall right after the great snow of 1967. We had at least 23 inches at that location on campus. I too jumped, before Richard did. As did others. The snow was deep enough to allow a safe landing of a prone person. No injuries, and a lot of fun.

Bill Sterner, AB’69, MBA’82, PhD’18

Archaeological archetype

I worked with Jane Buikstra, AM’69, PhD’72, for a month when I was 16. (“Can You Dig It?” Alumni News Snapshots, Winter/24). That experience was pivotal to my decision to pursue a career in archaeology and in forming my view of who archaeologists are, what they do, and how they should do it.

In 1970 U-High’s May Project got seniors to work or volunteer (I don’t think the term “intern” was used) in community or University settings. I worked at the U of C’s physical anthropology lab on the second floor of the Walker Museum. The lab was under Charles Merbs’s overall direction, but it was Jane, then an advanced graduate student, who instructed me and oversaw my work. Jane showed me how to observe and record bioarchaeological data and taught me how to identify and interpret epigenetic dental traits. I also never forgot her lessons in making mass quantities of polyvinyl acetate to preserve skeletal elements.

Takeaways from my work in Jane’s lab: the need for careful handling and close examination of specimens; the importance of meticulous recording of observations; the excitement and importance of anthropological research; and the significance of human skeletons and dentition. Perhaps most importantly, Jane personified for me the serious, committed anthropological scientist.

Jane also imparted an important life lesson to me in 1978 when I presented my first professional paper. I had carefully crafted what I thought was a significant presentation. Before I finished delivering it, Jane, who was the program chair, informed me that my time was up. She edged ever closer to me on the stage. I could not imagine depriving my colleagues of any of my deathless prose, so I pressed on faster. Panicking, I forgot what I had learned about adhering to time limits as a high school and college debater. Coolly and professionally, Jane let me know it was time to stop. From then on, I routinely timed my presentations, (almost) always stuck to the schedule, and implored my students to do the same.

Bill Green, LAB’70
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Between my second and third years, in the summer of 1976, I attended an archaeological field school that Jane Buikstra ran in association with the big Kampsville dig in western Illinois. Then teaching at Northwestern University (she returned to the U of C in 1986), she had the students who signed up for her project excavating the Helton Burial Mounds. I earned a lot of academic credits that summer, which helped me graduate a year ahead of my entering class of 1978. I have remained in touch with Jane ever since, and her influence has had a major impact on the trajectory of my archaeological research. She wrote a career retrospective that will be published in an upcoming issue of the SAA Archaeological Record, in a special section I guest edited on the careers of senior archaeologists.

Steve Whittington, AB’77 (Class of 1978)
Leadville, Colorado

Several members of the Chicago Maroon editorial staff sitting around a table in 1956
(Photography by William M. Rittase, UChicago Photographic Archive, apf4-02634, Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)

Headline makers

The photo [above] in your Winter/24 issue shows Maroon staff members in 1956 (“Making Headlines,” Alumni News Snapshots). I feel confident I can identify three of them. Joy Smith Burbach, AB’54, AB’55, AM’56, is second from left; editor Al Janger, AB’52, is at the head of the table; Robert Quinn, AB’55, AB’56, is seated on the right. The others I’m unsure about. If in a future issue you are able to publish the same photo with a complete caption, I’ll be grateful.

Palmer “Spike” Pinney, AB’54
Palo Alto, California

Mind-altering books

The practice of banning books is anathema to pursuing then receiving a UChicago education. Theaster Gates’s installation Altar for the Unbanned is a way of warning the public of the potential erasure of ideas, theories, opinions, and inventions that could save the planet (Short List, 02.06.2024).

Books are jewels for the mind, body, and spirit and belong in the hands of those who seek answers for all of life’s questions. The book titles on the banned list are the ones we ought to be reading and promoting to young and mature readers alike. Putting books in the hands of early readers is a holy mission in which we all can participate to produce lifelong readers and learners. Libraries are temples and repositories in our communities that need our support every day. My books are my treasures, displayed with other comparable works of art on shelves in multiple rooms.

Read, read, read.

Geraldine L. Oberman, PhD’99

In this country too

The Fall/23 Editor’s Notes introduces the article on Scholars at Risk with the title “In Another Country.” Perhaps both the editor and the organization should also be considering domestic scholars (individuals and entire academic programs) who are increasingly threatened “for speaking, for writing, for thinking” and similarly need “fierce protection.”

Bill Hoerger, JD’70
Oakland, California

Remarkable Schubert

As a child I thought women couldn’t be conductors, the same way one never saw women as starting quarterbacks (“Laser Focus,” Alumni News Snapshots, Fall/23). Though I’d been set straight long before auditioning for Barbara Schubert, EX’79, in college, she remains, to this day, the only woman conductor I have worked with. I’ve played violin for 24 years, and in orchestras for more than 10.

I lead with this to emphasize how remarkable a career Schubert has had. However, that milestone might be the least interesting “first” of my too-brief time playing under her baton. With Schubert, I performed my first world premiere (Ricardo Lorenz’s Catálogo Fantástico, recognizing her 40th anniversary with the University Symphony); my first Beethoven 9; my first Mahler 5; my first Stravinsky. During campus commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, Schubert and the University Symphony Orchestra programmed, in my opinion, the occasion’s most moving tribute, one which changed me as a musician: Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. On a more lighthearted note, she also became the first conductor I ever saw roll onstage Charlie’s Angels–style, dressed as Catwoman, during one of our Halloween concerts. After that, my amazed mother never failed to ask about Schubert during our phone check-ins.

Some experiences transcend words. This Schubert also taught me, even when words and music both grappled for my attention as an undergraduate. I can only remember missing orchestra rehearsal for personal bereavement, study abroad, and my obligations to the Chicago Maroon. The first two she tolerated; the last didn’t pass snuff as a worthy absence. Schubert was—is—tough. I hoped some of it would rub off on me, but the jury’s still out on that.

After transitioning into life as a full-time music journalist, I wrote Schubert recently with a query. She responded most graciously, saying she’d read my work since graduating. I don’t think a fan letter from Riccardo Muti himself would have been half so warming. Maestra Schubert: Thank you.

Hannah Edgar, AB’18

Being a violinist has always been a huge part of my identity. But I was so overstimulated and overwhelmed by all the new academic demands and social and cultural opportunities that surrounded me when I plunged into my first year at U of C that I wound up not touching my violin until the end of the next summer. Missing playing viscerally after that unplanned hiatus, and orchestral work in particular, I dusted my violin off and auditioned for the University Symphony Orchestra. Barbara Schubert leaned back in her chair and said coolly, “I can tell that at one time, you were an accomplished violinist.”

Thus began four years of deeply fulfilling music making together, followed by a long-distance friendship that continues into its third decade.

Her appropriately tepid response to my audition that day, after I had performed on the Chicago Symphony’s stage as a member of its training orchestra in the previous summers, became the first of several constructive musical challenges from her that inspired me to not only right my wayward playing under her eye but to later build a second career as a violinist (q.v. my widely available solo album). I feel gratitude and nostalgia whenever I see her name. My favorite memory of many from Mandel Hall is of performing Prokofiev’s breathtaking soundtrack for Sergei Eisenstein’s epic 1938 film Alexander Nevsky, with chorus and a vocal soloist, while the film was shown overhead. Laying my instrument on my lap for dialogue scenes and raising my bow in unison with the on-screen soldiers as they drew their swords and the palpable musical tension filling the hall is something I’ll never forget.

Eric Rynes, AB’91

57th Street art colonist

Last year there was a sidebar in the Magazine asking about any experiences from the 57th Street Art Colony (“Rubbernecking,” Alumni News Snapshots, Summer/23). I lived in the back of the Fret Shop during my senior year at U-High. Everybody came to this shop, and I met most of them. This was the year that Bob Dylan tried out for and was rejected by the Folk Festival Committee. I lived in the room previously occupied by Paul Durst who was an original Wobbly and worked as in itinerant fiddle player in the Maxwell Street area. I was astonished to find out that these buildings were built as temporary buildings for the Columbia Exposition. At one point we tried to repair a sinking floor in the shop. When we pulled the floor up, we found that the whole building was sitting on two by fours that were propped up on large stones placed on the ground. It is a wonder they lasted as long as they did.

Irving B. Remsen, LAB’63
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Geographic points

I read with great interest the letter from Phillip Lankford, AB’67, AM’68, PhD’71 (“Geography Renaissance,” Spring/23), and his reference to the Goode atlas.

My mother, Edith V. Vesely, AB’38 (social work), and father, Walter C. Kozak, SB’37 (business), provided us with access to their copy of Goode’s School Atlas, and it was a treasured book for our family. My brother, David M. Kozak, AM’73 (political science), my sister (a Northwestern graduate), and I (AM’81, geography) spent many hours looking at the colorful maps, pronunciation index, latitude and longitude, and other content. It still remains a favorite in terms of historical information.

My geography degree has been valuable in terms of travel, land use planning, and sense of place. I appreciate the guidance I received from Norton Ginsburg, AB’41, AM’47, PhD’49; Marvin Mikesell; and Chauncy Harris, PhD’40, and also hope for a renaissance of a geography department at the University of Chicago.

Rita M. Kozak, AM’81
River Falls, Wisconsin

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