Readers write in to confirm age is just a number; expand on Katherine Dunham’s (PhB’36) Hyde Park history; add thoughts about mortality and the right to aid in dying; diagnose income inequality; redress the Winter issue’s anagram inequality; and more.
Just a number
I was pleased to read the rhetorical question, “Is 90 the new 70?” from Doris Arnett Gurney, PhB’45 (Alumni News, Winter/16). I totally agree. Now in my early 90s I play old men’s doubles tennis three times per week and substitute teach chemistry and math, when called, in four local high schools. I serve as a Eucharistic minister and, occasionally, serve as a lay preacher in my local Episcopal church. Past successes as an expert witness in litigation in the federal courts in the United States, Great Britain, and Germany have led to infrequent summons to return to the courtroom. Therefore, I agree totally with Ms. Gurney that a contemporary 90 is the 20th-century 70. I wish her well in her freedom in Kansas.
Perhaps you may find significant interest on the part of old Maroons who share our experience and may wish to share their conclusions on bringing a 20th- century education into the 21st century, wartime service in exotic areas, and the national impact of a GI Bill on education. My four years in the Marine Corps were amply repaid by supporting me and my wife and two children (housed in the barracks across the street from the Robie House) through a bachelor’s in 1949 and a master’s and PhD in chemistry under Frank Westheimer.
Charles Greene, SB’49, SM’50, PhD’52
Santa Rosa, CA
Hyde Park art center
It may interest your readers to know about Katherine Dunham’s (PhB’36) involvement in the Jackson Park Art Colony, which used to be on 57th Street between Stony Island Avenue and the Illinois Central Railroad (“Grace Notes,” Winter/16).
The Art Colony inhabited rows of narrow one-story shops on both sides of 57th, originally concession stands for visitors to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park in 1893. The inexpensive spaces attracted artists, and by the early 1910s it was a thriving community in dilapidated quarters.
It is most remembered for the writers, poets, and essayists who congregated there in the teens, including Margaret Anderson, Sherwood Anderson, Maxwell Bodenheim, Floyd Dell, Theodore Dreiser, Ben Hecht, Edgar Lee Masters, and Carl Sandburg. Several were active in Chicago’s “little theater” movement. In 1916 Hecht and Bodenheim helped found Hyde Park’s own little theater, the Players’ Workshop, at 1544 East 57th Street. Hecht wrote several of the one-act plays with Kenneth Sawyer Goodman, a resident of Kenwood (and namesake of the Goodman Theatre).
Later, in 1928, Dunham’s elder brother, Albert W. Dunham Jr., PhB’28, AM’31, PhD’33, and his classmate Nicholas Matsoukas, PhB’29, founded a little theater called the Cube at 1538 East 57th Street. It became a gathering point for African American artists. When Katherine Dunham came to school at the University the following year she used the theater for her dance troupe, the Ballet Nègre, and for her living quarters as well. The office of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority now stands on the approximate site of the theaters.
John Mark Hansen
Charles L. Hutchinson Distinguished Service Professor in Political Science
Thoughts on “Mortal Thoughts”
After the challenges she faced finding a single “dying patient” at the University of Chicago hospitals in the 1960s, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross would have been amazed to have seen the subject discussed so openly by young physicians and the University of Chicago Magazine (“Mortal Thoughts,” Winter/16).
For me, however, Chicago created the beginning of a fascinating journey from interdisciplinary studies of medical ethics, to helping implement elective abortion in the United States six years before Roe v. Wade, and now, a half century later, helping implement medical aid in dying in Canada, where it is “a constitutional right.”
Where else could one have found faculty from the schools of divinity, medicine, law, and business to stimulate critical thinking on controversial topics and—in the case of elective abortion—the practical opportunity to put theory into immediate practice?
Ronald L. Hammerle, ThM’68, DMN’69
Thanks to Ruth E. Kott, AM’07, for her sensitive discussion about end-of- life care, the many profoundly personal choices that face us as we confront life-threatening illnesses, and the importance of taking early advantage of the relief that can be provided by modern palliative care.
The article curiously omits any mention, however, of an issue that is so front and center today: the movement to establish the legal right to aid in dying. It’s a controversial subject, but ultimately very simple. The diseases that kill us often cause immense, unbearable pain and suffering. Palliative care, though wonderful, is often limited in its ability to relieve that suffering. Faced with the likelihood of an agonizing death, many of us will desire to skip the final stages. It’s not easy to die of metastatic cancer or neurological diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease. In many cases, death comes as a mercy.
We believe that terminally ill, mentally competent adults must have the legal right to choose to cut their suffering short. We must have the legal right to obtain the means to a peaceful, dignified, humane, and pain-free death. And our physicians and loved ones must have the legal right to provide assistance.
In the United States, this legal right has now been established in five states—Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, and, just recently, California. It’s a legal right in the Canadian province of Quebec and will shortly be the law all across Canada. It’s a right in several European countries and one Latin American country. The movement to establish this right is immense and worldwide.
There is ferocious opposition to the establishment of this basic human right, as there has been to all human rights movements. Much of this is motivated by religious dogma. Persons taking this position should be requested not to impose their religious beliefs on others who don’t share them. Knowing that the theological argument will not convince many, however, opponents typically fall back to the trope that establishing the right to aid in dying will create a slippery slope, in which the old, disabled, infirm, and poor will be coerced into ending their lives.
Such arguments do not hold water, however. The legal change we seek is explicit. No one qualifies just because of age or disability. You must be terminally ill. And the multiple layers of safeguards against coercion or abuse work: in 20 years of experience with the Oregon law, there has not been a single such case.
We invite members of the University of Chicago community to join us in establishing this fundamental human right—the ultimate human right.
Edward M. Gogol, SB’76
Kenneth Leonard, AB’60, MBA’66
Nancy Barnett Yalowitz, AB’60
Thank you for the very accessible report on a problem that is absolutely and simultaneously both universal and personal: death. I have been astonished at the reticence of Christians to talk about dying. In avoiding Jesse Soodalter’s (AM’15) “death self-competency” (patients’ talking and thinking about their own mortality), Christians offer no distinctive advantage in facing death over coping strategies offered by the rest of our culture.
The question raised in the article by physician Monica Malec—when to start thinking about death—should rightly be raised early on. Arthur McGill of Harvard, author of Death and Life: An American Theology (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1987), quipped “Every day the enamel wears a bit thinner.” In other words, it is never too soon.
In a book I coauthored with Fred Craddock, former Emory University professor of homiletics, and my daughter Joy Goldsmith, associate professor of health communication at the University of Memphis—Speaking of Dying: Recovering the Church’s Voice in the Face of Death (Brazos Press, 2012)—we reminded the Christian community of its rich resources to cope with dying and urged open and frank discussion about death.
We argued that the moment to become “death self-competent” should come no later than a Christian’s baptism—baptism being that moment when a person “dies” to the old (including either fear or ignorance of death) and is consequently alive in the Christ whose conquest of death offers a way to understand physical death in a new and less destructive manner. Waiting is not helpful or necessary; it is not a Christian strategy.
Dale Goldsmith, AM’64, PhD’73
Mind the gap
Increasing economic inequality results from the Rule: profits (a word which somehow didn’t make it into the article) go to the investors, in proportion to the amount invested (“Three Views on Inequality,” Marketplace of Ideas, Winter/16). Rich people and corporations have more to invest and invest more than poor people, so they get more profits, and the wealth gap increases.
High taxes on high incomes and substantial benefits to people with low incomes can offset the effects of the Rule. These are more prevalent elsewhere than in the United States, so inequality has risen faster here than there.
Your income depends on your bargaining power relative to that of those who pay you. Corporate executives, who essentially bargain with themselves for their pay, and popular entertainers and athletes, whose bargaining power results from the revenue they attract from fans, have high bargaining power, and hence high incomes. Shelf stockers at Walmart and adjunct professors of English literature have little bargaining power and low incomes. Corporations have extremely high bargaining power and count their profits in the billions.
Economic inequality would diminish if the above Rule were replaced by a different rule: profits shall go to, as the preamble to the Constitution puts it, “promote the general welfare.”
Marvin Miller, LAB’42, AB’44, SB’45, SM’49
Newton Highlands, Massachusetts
Your article on inequality was a good example of the elitist liberal method of how to exploit a perceived problem while carefully avoiding any real effort to analyze or solve it.
The first avoided point is that global economic inequality has dropped dramatically since the 1980s due to the almost total demise of Marxism. The impoverished workers of Russia, China, and their vassal states are now enjoying a far higher standard of living. Compare them to the remaining Marxist slaves in North Korea. A similar move toward global economic equality resulted from the shedding of socialist structures in India, Britain, and other countries.
When attention is focused on the United States, such awkward facts as the presence of millions of illegal low-wage workers are carefully avoided. What do your panelists think this does to the wage structure? The most significant societal change since the 1950s has been the increase in the illegitimacy rate from 6 percent to 40 percent. In some of the low-wage sections of society, the illegitimacy rate is 70 percent and higher. Haven’t any of the panelists figured out that there may be some causation here?
The obvious starting point for analyzing the distribution of income is a decent set of relevant figures. Liberals always want to point to the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, but while it’s convenient to pretend that this is the source of the problem there just aren’t enough of these people to be more than a drop in the richest 10 percent bucket. So step one is who makes up the richest 10 percent. And you really need to focus on lifetime income. The classic example is football players who make the top 10 percent for their four-year careers. CEOs usually don’t draw the high salaries for more than a small fraction of their careers.
You also need to pay attention to the efforts of liberal regulators to eliminate jobs. The Keystone pipeline was rejected for bogus environmental reasons. Similarly, the EPA is on a crusade against economic development.
So if income distribution really is a serious problem, let’s start acting like it.
Douglas Wood, MBA’75
More Mag, please
I share the disappointment shown by John L. Gann Jr., AB’64, concerning how long an alum has to await the new seasonal magazine (Letters, Winter/16). This move to four issues is in spite of having a magazine that would have left a six-issue University of Chicago Magazine in the running as the World Series winner of university alumni magazines.
In solace I turned to a bimonthly issue of Harvard Magazine and there on the first cover of the year was judge Richard A. Posner, a teacher at the U of C Law School for 50 years. In the accompanying article Posner states that his original thinking was influenced by the economists at the University of Chicago. A year earlier the Jan–Feb/15 Harvard Magazine highlighted the work of another longtime U of C Law School professor, Cass Sunstein. Early in his career Sunstein had developed with Richard Thaler, a professor of behavioral science and economics at the U of C, the concept of “nudges” through administrative law as “simple, low cost, freedom preserving approaches, drawing directly from behavioral economics.”
There are many more instances in which the alumni magazine can highlight how individuals have attributed their original ideas to the University of Chicago experience. The reduction in the number of issues of the alumni magazine will limit the U of C’s ability to demonstrate the advantages of studying or working there.
Leonard R. Friedman, AB’56
Lacuna sport (Nostra culpa)
Your Lithe End Motif piece on anagrams is great fun (“UChicago Anagrams,” Lite of the Mind, Winter/16). But alas, number 9, “As intoxicate clatters accrue,” isn’t an anagram of Crescat scientia; vita excolatur. For your anagram to work, it would need a V and a third I, both of which appear in the Latin motto. Might I suggest instead, “Lecture is a toxic rant: sic caveat”?
Edward C. Hirschland, MBA’78
The writer is correct. We are grateful for his witty alternative, and admiring.—Ed.
In “Deep Dive” (UChicago Journal, Winter/16) we misidentified Ian Urbina’s (AM’97) program of study. He was solely enrolled in the history department, though much of his studies concentrated on anthropology. In addition, his start date at the New York Times was 2003, not 2002.
In the Aleph cocktail recipe, a sidebar to “Creative Ferment” (UChicago Journal, Winter/16), the photograph of ingredients mistakenly showed Luxardo maraschino cherries instead of the company’s maraschino liqueur.
In “Mortal Thoughts” (Winter/16) we mistakenly reported that Medicare approved coverage for end-of-life counseling under the Affordable Care Act. The rule that was approved in October 2015 was similar to what was proposed but later removed from the ACA. It was instead adopted as part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ 2016 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule.
We regret the errors.
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.