Readers weigh in on the Aims of Education address; the social structure of the Reg; the root problems in Gary, Indiana; anthropologist Robert Redfield’s (LAB 1915, PhB’20, JD’21, PhD’28) inspiring fieldwork; Egyptologist Emily Teeter’s (PhD’90) graceful common touch; 19th-century French shorthand; amphibian cover models; and more.
When I dropped out of the College for a year in 1975, my good friend Ted DuPont, AB’77, and I were sharing a book locker in the basement of Regenstein (“The Regulars,” Sept–Oct/14). I left him a note before my sudden departure, saying that I was moving on to “greener pastures.”
When we talked about this years later, Ted confessed that he thought I meant that I was moving to the fifth floor. Though the social pecking order of the floors may change slightly, it is nice to see that the social construct of Regenstein has actually, in fact, little changed.
Adam Stoler, AB’78 Bronx, New York
Up for air
When my wife saw the cover of the Sept–Oct/14 issue of the Magazine she asked, “Is that a picture of you on the last stages of your University-mandated swim test?” It wasn’t, but it could be a figural representation.
Jim Best, AB’60 Kent, Ohio
It was with great pleasure and a real sense of nostalgia that I read Wayne Scott’s (AB’86, AM’89) search to recover Jonathan Z. Smith’s 1982 Aims of Education lecture (“In Search of Words Lost,” Sept–Oct/14). He could have saved himself a lot of time. Smith’s lecture, along with several others, was included in a 1997 volume, The Aims of Education, published by the University of Chicago. The volume is a wonderful tribute to what a liberal education should be and should be read in conjunction with the UChicago Press’s collection The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate (2005), based on another great U of C tradition. Of course, had Mr. Scott known of the book, he would have been deprived of the pleasure of the hunt. The Aims of Education lecture is just one of the things that makes the University of Chicago special. I have suggested for years that my own university adopt something along those lines, but, alas, to no avail.
Steven B. Smith, PhD’81 New Haven, Connecticut
I thoroughly enjoyed Wayne Scott’s essay. Not only was I, having just celebrated my Medicare birthday, charmed by his thoughts on remembering, but I was transported to a class on Islamic Civilization that I took with Jonathan Z. Smith, probably in 1968–69. It was definitely an unusual offering for the time period and there were just a few students enrolled. We used a draft textbook (photocopied pages in several binders). Smith was perhaps in his first year of teaching in the College.
If memory serves, I worked with him on several different occasions as a student in the New Collegiate Division, where I became aware of religious studies, the field in which I received my PhD from Syracuse University some years later. He was a thrilling professor, pushing for new perspectives that changed my thought processes and life.
I am thrilled to learn of Professor Smith’s distaste for the phone (which I don’t share in its entirety) and for the cell phone (which I happily do not use). Alas, I have succumbed to computers, hence my ability to send this email to the Magazine. Cheers, Professor Smith. Thanks for your guidance. You are a star in my book.
Jill Strachan, AB’71, AM’72 Washington, DC
“In Search of Words Lost” was brilliantly hilarious, but hints at an issue of serious interest. Scott was able to satisfy his obsessive curiosity by charming a librarian into copying and mailing old text from the Maroon, but not all alumni are charming and not all librarians are pliable. The Maroon’s poorer cousin to the north, the Hyde Park Herald, has for several years had its entire content online, scanned and word searchable with PDF download options. This is an amazing resource for tracking any number of people, buildings, and social issues of the neighborhood.
While I don’t have a burning desire to check the text of the Aims of Education address I attended in the 1970s, other odds and ends come to mind: in particular, whether I am hallucinating in recollecting that the entire balcony of Mandel Hall shook when Muddy Waters performed “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Of course there is a near infinitude of great and interesting thinkers and doers, resident and visiting, whose activities at and around the University hide in the Maroon archives. If the architectural bills from Jeanne Gang have not eaten up the whole budget, and Dean Boyer is willing to relinquish his monopoly on obscure tidbits of ancient school lore, can a similar project be undertaken for the Maroon?
Andrew S. Mine, AB’81 Chicago
I was pleased to read of Robert Redfield’s (LAB 1915, PhB’20, JD’21, PhD’28) collection of revolutionary corridos from Tepoztlán in the 1920s (“Torch Songs,” Original Source, Sept–Oct/14). He was my mentor, and in 1969–70 I studied the social structure of that beautiful village. Redfield also had a connection with the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts (“Natural Connection,” Sept–Oct/14). He was there in the 1940s and later wrote about “levels of social integration,” taking marine ecology as a model. His range of interests, from peasant societies to complex civilizations, was inspiring.
Philip K. Bock, AM’56 Albuquerque, New Mexico
Emily Teeter, PhD’90, the subject of Robert K. Ritner’s (PhD’87) letter to the editor (Sept–Oct/14), has justly earned a worldwide following of Egyptologists, both professional and amateur, who greatly admire her endearing ability to enrich superior scholarship with the common touch, and to do so with decency and grace. In her books, articles, and in person she makes Egyptology accessible to all.
Brian Alm, AM’71 Rock Island, Illinois
To me, one underlying principle of the great books program is the ability to learn to read original writings. In the debate on a right to health care, I read John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government. Locke was an accomplished physician as well as an authority on natural rights. In the third edition in the rare book room of the Boston Public Library, I found that his famous words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” were written originally as “life, health, liberty and goods.” I called civil libertarian Thomas Szasz at the Upstate Medical Center at Syracuse and he quickly referenced the first edition, which read the same. Yet no one spoke during the debates on the Affordable Care Act of the right of the individual to decide their health care directions, as Locke pronounced. Supposedly Benjamin Rush, a physician and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, said after the writing of the Constitution that the absence of a right to health in the Constitution was a great mistake.
The best articles in the University of Chicago Magazine discuss an alum’s reading of original materials or dealing with original events and then developing new ideas that have received recognition by others. The approach highlights the effectiveness of the teaching methods of the University over these many years, both to myself and other alumni.
Leonard R. Friedman, AB’56 Middleton, Massachusetts
“City Limits” (July–Aug/14) is thorough and insightful. But it’s not clear that the root causes of Gary’s troubles are being fully acknowledged and addressed.
I lived in Gary, Indiana, at 1130 West 7th Avenue in the 1960s. This address was the University Club, which also served as a boarding house for junior employees of the area steel mills. Ann Gregory, the house manager, was a cheerful and kindly woman who also was a part-time professional golfer. She had become the first black woman to compete in a United States Golf Association Women’s Amateur Championship in 1956.
Gary was a hub of economic activity. Steel and other industries invested heavily in technology and expansion capital. Gary’s people, black and white, were hard working, well educated, and family oriented.
Gary’s decline resulted from the same root causes that have destroyed cities such as Detroit (and that now seem to threaten Chicago): unions, high taxes, crime, corruption, decline of the intact family, and poor schools. These factors are a malignancy that feed off what’s good. They are unrelated to skin color.
It seems like a lot of thought and effort are helping Gary. But more could be needed. Businesses and families must be attracted.
Indiana has recently become a right-to-work state, which is a big plus. School choice would improve educational opportunity, which will bring new families and businesses. Church and community efforts to reinforce family values cost little and might have big rewards.
Chandler, Arizona, is similar to Gary (about 50 square miles and ethnically diverse). Businesses have been locating and growing there because of its business-friendly environment, excellent work force, family orientation, and educational and worship choices.
Gary deserves a strong renewal. I appreciate having lived and worked there. It’s hoped that Mayor Freeman-Wilson, Chicago Harris, and other parties have great success.
Stephen J. Breckley, MBA’68 Chandler, Arizona
In recent years, I have been delighted when the University of Chicago Magazine arrives. While I was not a huge fan of the frog on the front this time, it was wonderful to have that six degrees of separation feeling that has characterized a lifetime of post–Hyde Park decades. It was not surprising to find Lucy Pick highlighted (“Novel Pilgrim,” Sept–Oct/14), someone I met in recent years as my partner, Betty Bayer, was a fellow at the University of Chicago Martin Marty Center. I look forward to reading her novel.
More surprising, in the years since I became president of Shimer College, are those moments when I see Shimer in the pages of the Magazine. While our historic relationship makes this less surprising for me, it is certainly wonderful each time it happens. This time, it was a small blurb about Peter Cooley, AM’64, who published his ninth book of poetry, Night Bus to the Afterlife (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2014).
Peter was a Shimer student before he was a UChicago student. Today he supports young poets at Tulane University, where he teaches; in his role as writer and editor; and at Shimer through a poetry contest. His inspiration, he told me some time ago when I met him in New Orleans, was a visit to Chicago many years ago by T. S. Eliot. Today he inspires many others, including me. And his presence in the Magazine reminds me of the ways institutional collaborations have histories.
Susan Henking, AM’79, PhD’88 Chicago
Many years ago I bought a very curious and very large library wall chart printed in Paris in 1808. It is entitled “Carte générale pasigraphique.” I used this esoteric knowledge of a French invention intended to become a universal language (well before Esperanto) whenever I found myself seated at a dinner party with Parisians deliberately speaking nuanced argot beyond my comprehension. I would interject (in French, of course) whether they had heard of a French system of “pasigraphie.” It never failed me; they were clueless.
However, now Daniele Metilli and Giula Accetta stumped me with their reference to Jean Coulon de Thévenot and his work Méthode tachygraphique (“Margin Call,” Original Source, July–Aug/14). After rummaging in my library, I unrolled my wall chart and looked more closely at this still curious stenography antique. The symbols matched those in the 19th century marginalia deciphered by the prize winners.
Mitchell J. NewDelman, JD’65 Monaco
Friends and family are collecting remembrances of Marvin Mirsky, AM’47, (1923–2014), who taught humanities at the University of Chicago from 1962 through 1992, as well as in the University’s Basic Program of Liberal Education for adults. We would appreciate knowing your recollections. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mary Ann Whelan Chicago 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, 5235 South Harper Court, Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60615. Or email: email@example.com.