Mailboxes in the Social Science Research Building. (Photography by Joy Olivia Miller)
Readers sound off
Readers comment on a story of long-lost love, a reversal of fortune in Russia, the variety of wine sellers’ cellars, the Chicago Theological Seminary’s sacred space, student life once upon a time, Herbert Lamm’s single-minded life of the mind, and more.

Book club boon

I very much enjoyed Leslie Maitland’s (AB’71) article (“Crossing the Borders of Time,” May–June/13). I came across the article as I was reading her book of the same name for my new book club of University of Chicago alumnae in New York City. I was excited to learn that Leslie herself was a University of Chicago alumna, and stunned to realize that I know her son, Zach Werner, AB’08,  from a summer program in 2001 and the U of C. It’s a small world! I reached out to Leslie on Facebook, and she very kindly offered to participate in our book club discussion of Crossing the Borders of Time. The book club ladies—Sarah Pickman, Jennifer Hildebrand, and Erica Yamamoto (all AB’08); Anna Tenuta, AB’10; Mariel Soloman, AB’12; and I—all loved the book, and we so appreciated Leslie taking the time to talk with us about the writing process, behind-the-scenes stories, and what she learned by delving so deeply into her family’s relationships. I highly recommend Crossing the Borders of Time to everyone. Leslie beautifully brings the history of Nazi Germany, Vichy France, and baby boomer America to life through the story of her mother and Roland, her mother’s long-lost love. The book raises profound questions of identity, family, choices, and love. Hanna Lundqvist Dameron, AB’08 New York  

The rest of the story

Leslie Maitland’s account of her mother’s escape from wartime France and separation from her devoted non-Jewish fiancé is enthralling, but it leaves one crucial question dangling. Speaking no doubt for thousands of other readers, I ask, what became of Roland? Christopher Clausen, AM’65 Carlisle, Pennsylvania   Roland and Janine met again after Leslie tracked him down. The full story is revealed in Maitland’s book, Crossing the Borders of Time, available in paperback (Other Press, 2013).—Ed.  

Late awakening

Over the years I have derived great pleasure reading the articles in the University of Chicago Magazine, but I must demur from the adulation given to William Browder, AB’85, on his later-life epiphany (“Reversal of Fortune,” May–June/13). Better late than never, but it is hard to comprehend how he could have missed the signals of a totally repressive regime as he accumulated his wealth. And in doing so as the Russian national industrial base was stolen. Possibly he was too busy reaping the benefits and deciding when and how to extract himself and his accumulated wealth before his benefactor fell out of favor with the regime. Am I too harsh in my observations? Possibly, but what motivated him to revoke his US citizenship and acquire UK citizenship? Were the tax and legal ramifications too heavy a load to bear? Certainly he had no inhibition in seeking action on the part of the US government in the Sergei Magnitsky case. Again, a manipulator to benefit his future and lift his self-image. Russia has been looted, a repressive regime is in power, Magnitsky is dead, and Browder is free to roam the world with his UK citizenship as far as his wealth will allow. What a world! Chet Mitchell, MBA’61 Deland, Florida  

Wide world of wine

It is stated in “In Vino Veritas” (May–June/13) that “because we are the United States, we have available to us a range of wines that no other culture has.” It is also stated that a French person doesn’t have wine from 15 countries. I do not want to speak for the French, but as their neighbor, I can say that the average Belgian supermarket does easily give access to wines from 15 different countries: Argentina, Chile, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, etc. So it appears that Bill St. John, AM’77, AM’80, PhD’83, will have to drink another glass before he finds the “veritas” in the “vino.” Roland Deras, MBA’75 Drongen, Belgium  

A place apart

We are writing this letter in response to “Informed Fearlessness” (UChicago Journal,May–June/13). As the children of Victor Obenhaus, a Chicago Theological Seminary professor, we, along with our brother, grew up attending graduations, community worship services, and weddings, and eventually having our own weddings in Graham Taylor and Thorndyke Hilton Chapels at the Chicago Theological Seminary. The first time one of us saw and met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was at convocation when Dr. King spoke and was given an honorary degree in Graham Taylor Chapel. The chapel was a place where commitment to social action based on faith was expressed by powerful preachers. For us it was a sacred place. There are many places for students to have a cup of coffee and discuss supply side economics. This should never have been one of them. Contrary to architect Ann Beha’s statement, her contemporary design has desecrated a sacred place that stood for something historically significant and dynamic. We are saddened by the lack of understanding on the part of the University and Beha. Helen Obenhaus Halverson, U-High’60 Hampton Bays, New York Constance Obenhaus Goldberg, U-High’57 Chicago  

Correcting the record

Greg Bellow’s (AB’66, AM’68) article in the Magazine about grieving the death of his father, Saul Bellow, X’39, (“Awakened by a Grave Robbery,” May–June/13) contains a fallacious description of Patrimony, my 1991 memoir about my own father’s final illness and death in 1989. Mr. Bellow writes, “I was deeply struck by a scene in which the elder Roth catches his son taking notes, no doubt in preparation for writing about moments that Philip’s father considered too private to expose. I asked myself, ‘Has Philip no shame?’” But there is no such scene in Patrimony or anything remotely resembling such a scene—there is, indeed, not so much as a single fleeting reference to note-taking, mine or anyone else’s, anywhere in the book, however “deeply struck” by the nonexistent scene Mr. Bellow may remember himself being. He presents as truth the same erroneous fantasy about my shamelessness in his memoir Saul Bellow’s Heart. Philip Roth, AM’55 Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut We apologize for the error.—Ed.  

Informed decision

There’s a meme going around that Romney would have won the election “if only” he could have gotten his true self and his true message across (“The Elephant in the Room,” UChicago Journal, May–June/13). Americans are just not that stupid, a point that these nattering ideologues apparently still feel comfortable ignoring. America got Romney’s message and, as a people, we rejected it. As long as Republican leaders and prognosticators remain in denial about this fundamental fact, the Democratic Party has nothing to fear. (Except, as history teaches us, itself.) Grant Bergman, MBA’85 Carlsbad, California  

Brothers in letters

My dear fellow class of ’86-er, I too have a scarlet letter F (“My Scarlet Letter,” May–June/13). For me it was O-Chem. I too had a moment in the lab with the professor. I had to take the course over during a painfully beautiful summer. You were luckier. I still can’t eat anything with cloves. John Kelly, AB’88 (Class of 1986) San Francisco  

A brighter shade of scarlet

By coincidence, I’ve just started reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Note: I didn’t say I was rereading it, though I’m certain that I read it in high school or college or both. I could swear I’d never seen it before! The answer, of course, is that despite a lovely set of grades and degrees in 1948, 1950, and 1954 (plus internship), I never really felt at leisure to read “trifles” such as fiction or poetry. I always had a math or science project that seemed more urgent. I suspect that I really didn’t learn to read until a few years ago, with the children gone from our home, grandchildren from coast to coast, and a more leisurely pace in my psychiatric practice. I started rereading classics and was astonished at their worth! I’ve read my way through Americans, Englishmen, Scotsmen, and Irishmen, as well as French, German, Austrian, Italian, Czech, Russian, etc., authors with great relish and insights (also, a little experience doesn’t hurt in comprehending the written word). And now I’ve read Wayne Scott, AB’86, AM’89, with equal delight and insight. It’s a wonderful piece and should be added to the Great Books reading list. David L. Rosenberg, PhB’48, SB’50, MD’54 Highland Park, Illinois  

Keep them separated

James A. Rauen, AB’82, was brave to point his finger at the 900-pound gorilla of religion that is in fact kicking the stuffing out of the First Amendment (Letters, May–June/13). Rauen’s focus is narrowly on the conflicts arising between Obamacare and the Catholic Church, but he has actually exposed a long-blinkered need to acknowledge how separation of church and state has surreptitiously been mutated into symbiosis, blatantly unconstitutional. Especially in these difficult times of more and more local governments facing unbalanced budgets and bankruptcy, it would seem to be the moment to seriously address how “make no law regarding the establishment of religion” (note the Constitution says “religion” generically) and the Fourteenth Amendment can be made compatible with tax laws that expressly exempt religious institutions from paying for basic public services or complying with a host of regulatory mandates. In Chicago, churches have even been getting free public water and are now complaining about the mayor’s effort to make them pay up for it. Let me be clear: I admire everyone who conscientiously lives their life in accordance with the uplifting religious principles they have accepted, and society benefits from the charitable example and sacrifices for the public good that they accept as a religious duty. But establishment of religion is unambiguous and preemptive. If an ordinary good-hearted person with no religious motivation, a humanist atheist for example, is simply charitable, takes street people into their home, and provides meals or clothing to the needy but has no religious incorporation, there is no similar automatic tax exemption. This is not an issue of atheists versus true believers. It is, plain and simple, separation of church and state. Whatever religious thought and conviction one may hold in one’s heart is personal and should be private. But take a look at our laws; there is clearly a thumb remaining on the scale. Herb Caplan, AB’52, JD’57 Chicago  

Mortal lessons

I agree completely that undergraduates should be taught regarding death and dying (“Decomposure,” Mar–Apr/13). Many years ago at the Harvard Chapel I used to give talks to students. On one occasion, in a fit of cynicism, I said to them, you have come here to study science in order to manipulate nature, you have come here to study the social sciences and humanities in order to manipulate human beings. You have come here to study religion to learn how to die. Needless to say, I no longer was allowed to speak at the chapel. Richard N. Frye (parent) Brimfield, Massachusetts  

Natural burial

Carol Berkower, AB’85 (Letters, May–June/13), writes correctly about the traditional Jewish practices surrounding burial. However, she errs when she attributes to New Jersey law the use of a cement vault around the casket. No federal or state law requires the use of cement grave liners. They are required only by the cemeteries in order to keep the grass even. Green cemeteries do not require this overuse of cement and are growing in number in the United States. You can find more information about green burial from the Green Burial Council, ­ Here in the Chicago area, green burial is available at Willow Lawn Cemetery in Vernon Hills and Windridge Nature Preserve in Cary. Deborah Brown (parent) Wilmette, Illinois  

Signs of student life

I read with interest Richard M. Janopaul’s (AB’52) letter in the May–June/13 issue concerning when student social gatherings may have started in Ida Noyes Hall. I do believe that there were some social gatherings prior to the spring of 1952, which he mentions. Unless it was a year earlier, I think it was during my last year of residence in Burton-Judson (1949–50) that I recall some sort of canteen being held Sunday evenings at Ida Noyes. It was held in the east wing of the main floor of the building. I never attended, but I did have a job as part of the cleanup crew after the event was over. I would mop the floor, move tables and chairs around, etc. I was paid around 75 cents an hour and the job took about one and a half hours to complete each week. Later in the week I would receive a check of about $1.13, as I remember it. Needless to say, this extra change came in real handy. Those were the days when College tuition ran about $510 a year. Student medical coverage was included, and it cost ten cents to ride the IC to Randolph Street. James A. Lessly, PhB’50 O’Fallon, Missouri  

Social calendar

I was truly astonished to read Richard Janopaul’s letter. I can report quite accurately on this period, as I was chairman of the Student Union from 1946 to 1948, when it conducted more than 400 events and was one of the three largest organizations on campus, with 11 departments and more than 300 members. In 1949, partly in response to Chicago’s activities, I was named the first student chairman of the nationwide Association of College Unions. At Chicago we held an average of 12 programs a week, the third most in the nation (following Cornell and Wisconsin). And there were at least two chairpersons after me, up to 1950. Activities included the annual Orientation Week, the major dances, camping outings in the West, musical presentations, lectures, seasonal parties, movies, a “gambling” event called Night of Sin, and a weekly Sunday night event appropriately named the Noyes Box in Ida Noyes. So I’m mystified about what happened after some “group of students’’ talked about the use of Ida Noyes (and presumably the related Reynolds Club). Did they do anything except talk? Then President Hutchins was largely dismissive of extracurricular life, so it remained the responsibility of student initiative, supported by Deans Strozier and Bergstresser, to provide much of Chicago’s student social life. Michael Weinberg Jr., U-High’43, AB’47 Highland Park, Illinois  

Then and now

The following item is from the May–June class notes (Class of 1963): “For our [50th] reunion … Bernardine Dohrn, AB’63, JD’67, [and four other alums] … are coordinating a session by and for members of the Class of 1963 … [called] Making a Difference: Then, Now and Later.” For those too young to remember, Dohrn was a leading member of the Weather Underground, in which role she did make some kind of difference, though she didn’t achieve her goals. A manifesto, which she and her coauthors dedicated to Sirhan Sirhan (assassin of Senator Robert Kennedy), calls for the “violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie and establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat.” Dohrn may be best known for her notorious celebration of the Manson murders: “Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate their dinner in the same room with them, then they even stuck a fork into the pig [Sharon] Tate’s stomach. Wild.” Malcolm Sherman, SB’60, SM’60 Albany, New York  

Lasting impression

As I begin to really retire, I want to contribute some thoughts about a truly great (and seemingly forgotten) professor in the College: Herbert Lamm, PhD’40. During Orientation Week in 1948, rumor had it that the most instructive lecture tied to the Humanities II examinations was at eight in the morning, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, by Professor Lamm. So on the first morning of the quarter, a gaggle of us left Mathews House in Burton-Judson Court to cross the Midway to attend that lecture. Crossing with us, oblivious to the autos, was a short man, head down, cigarette dangling from his mouth, writing furiously on some folded, wrinkled paper sheets. I dropped behind the gaggle, letting my roommate (John Scandalios, AB’51, MBA’53) lead the Mathews pack to Mandel Hall. A car was zooming toward the man, but he had stopped in the middle of the busy eastbound lane apparently to read what he had just written. Grabbing his arm, I waved to a stop the oncoming car and moved him as quickly as he would go to the Plaisance grass. He didn’t say a word or look up and never stopped scribbling until he entered Mandel and climbed to the podium to introduce himself: Herbert Lamm. In that first lecture, Lamm provided us with the most brilliant 50-minute synthesis of the questions posed to thinkers and doers in the Western world of ideas and experience I have ever encountered. The same day, he led with brilliance a discussion group that began to teach us the art of serious dialogue. Years later I came to know him personally. Every encounter was a set of great teaching moments. In his own community of scholars, he was continually and literally scolded for not publishing much. Not only in Chicago. I heard the same criticism in Cambridge from Harry Austryn Wolfson, another great teacher and philosopher. In a gathering of graduate students in Richard McKeon’s magnificent home library, I joined that chorus. At least that very first lecture of October 1948, I insisted, belonged in its own Great Book. Alan Gewirth came to his defense. “Herb is a great teacher! Like every great teacher, his work will be graded not on what he publishes, but on the work of his students.” Through it all, I never heard Lamm come to his own defense. He would gaze at the critics, as if they didn’t get it.    I will not pretend that my work deserves identity with the great teaching of Lamm. Near the end of my life, as I put away still another item in our storage shed—this one a marble-based bust of Bernardino Ramazzini from my colleagues in Italy—I can only hope that is the case, that I have not failed the singular significant test of a great teacher. Sheldon W. Samuels, AB’51 Solomons, Maryland   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. Write: Editor, The University of Chicago Magazine, 401 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 1000, Chicago, IL 60611. Or e-mail: