Readers sound off
Alumni and friends write in on modern fairy tales, engineering at UChicago, “the full spectrum of diversity” in the Magazine, and memorable mentors.

I was pleased to see Jimmy Wilson’s picture in the May–June/12 issue of the Magazine. Jimmy and the Woodlawn Tap were already local institutions at the time I arrived in 1952 to attend law school. I lived in a fraternity house, Psi Kappa Psi, located at Woodlawn and 56th Street, a mere stone’s throw from the Woodlawn Tap. I was among the last of the WW II generation and made the Woodlawn Tap my second home on weekends. Jimmy and I became close friends, and I learned that the establishment was really owned by “Sam,” the Greek bartender, and that Jimmy and his name had been appropriated as a front for the bar. Jimmy did a great job by decreeing that only active candidates for the PhD could serve as bartenders and surrounded the bar with reference books to squelch many disagreements which frequently arose in the bar. Upon my graduation and entry into the bar in 1955, Jimmy and Sam honored me by asking me to prepare the agreement under which Jimmy effectively bought the pub from Sam. I was pleased to do so and acted as Jimmy’s attorney from time to time for many years preceding his death. I still miss Jimmy and the Woodlawn Tap since the long life I’ve lived has never allowed me to replicate the ease and camaraderie of the watering hole that Jimmy created and maintained for thousands of University of Chicago students over his lifetime. Joseph N. DuCanto, JD’55 River Forest, Illinois  

Spellbinding illustration

Thought you’d appreciate learning that my soon-to-be two-year-old picked up the latest issue of the Magazine and said, “Read me the wolf book.” You’ll have to tell Professor Armando Maggi (“Spellbound,” May–June/12) that the fairy tales we grew up with might need updating, but the images from them evidently still stir the imagination. Susan Rossetti, AB’89 Greensboro, North Carolina  

In fairness to fairy tales

Wow! What a great look to the Magazine. Especially the typography. Bold and blasting, yet so readable and comfortable to the eye. Kudos to the cover artist [Christopher Buzelli] for the May–June issue. The discussion of fairy tales was good, but I felt one criteria was overlooked. Fairy tales can present a moral dilemma, as evidenced by that overlooked classic Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. They can also be just plain fun, as Maurice Sendak showed us. Thomas Glynn, AB’58 Brooklyn, New York  

In search of sci fi

I very much enjoyed “Spellbound,” on Armando Maggi’s study of fairy tales: their history is fascinating, and his thoughts about their continued relevance and their future are significant. But his question “Where are the new stories?” puzzled me. Nowhere in this article was there any mention of the entire modern genres of fantasy or science fiction. That surprised me because many of Maggi’s ideas seem very close to those of writers like J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, among others. I went through this entire article wondering when he was going to cite Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories” as one of his major sources. (In his stories, Tolkien even made a deliberate effort to capture some of the aspects of oral storytelling that Maggi says gives fairy tales their vitality.) Maggi may well already plan to address those connections in his forthcoming book. But if not, I hope that he’ll see this as a cue to look in that direction. Steuard Jensen, PhD’06 Alma, Michigan  

Cover in wolf’s clothing

  The striking piece of art on the cover of the May–June issue caught my attention, so that I made a more serious review of the Magazine than I have for some time. And I would like to say kudos, and thank you! I don’t know anything about what changes may have been made in editorial staff or policy, but the new University of Chicago Magazine is a notable publication. The articles are interesting and thought provoking. (And, of course, they can generate a bit of sentimental remembrance when referring to familiar scenes from long ago—but that’s not the point of this letter.) Based on this last issue, I can’t think of any publication I would find more interesting. Please do keep up the good work. Leigh Littleton, SM’76 Fincastle, Virginia  

Rose-colored lens

I agree with Professor Maggi’s central idea that we have to create a mythology because this is the lens through which we make sense of reality. It fits with my personal experience, a nonscientific sample size of n=1. Thank you for the well-written article. I felt like I was there in his lecture—it took me back for a moment, and I would have liked to have lingered longer. Mark Zieg, AM’03 Winchester, Massachusetts  

Another modern tale-teller

Both “Spellbound” and “Told and Retold” (May–June/12) neglected to mention Gregory Maguire, whose works Wicked, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, and Mirror Mirror are clever retellings of, respectively, The Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, and Snow White. Helen Fedor, AB’79 Reston, Virginia  

Time will tell

With all respect to the professor’s excellent scholarship, is there anything sillier than calling for the development of new pop culture? People will get the pop culture they deserve, and it will suffice to grow their dreams. I guarantee that right now there are forms of entertainment we consider cheap hackery—be they reality shows, superhero flicks, interactive games, or tumblr sites—that the next generation will think of as timeless classics and watch over and over. Like Star Trek or Action Comics were for my generation. Manny Jacobowitz, AB’92, JD’02 Lynnwood, Washington  

Consider the children

The article about Professor Maggi’s approach to fairy tales was, for me, quite disappointing. The merging of such tales with “myths” seems to yield a mistaken category. But most upsetting was the apparent neglect of Bruno Bettelheim’s book The Uses of Enchantment, which explores the psychodynamic meanings of the fairy tales, suggesting their importance to child development. Bettelheim’s reputation may now be under a cloud, but he was the most impressive teacher in my time at Chicago, and his insights still deserve recognition. Philip K. Bock, AM’56 Albuquerque, New Mexico  

Cinderella: Phoenix of fairy tales

Armando Maggi underestimates both the resilient power of the fairy tale and Walt Disney’s insightful and passionate transformations. The tradition’s exemplar for women is not Snow White but Cinderella, the girl who rises from the ashes. The girl now derided in America as blond, pink, and passive is in fact resourceful, willful, and kind. Her dress is the blue of an iridescent kingfisher’s wing, her hair a shining black. She is the Virgin of the Dynamo, the Madonna of the East, the Bo­dhisattva of the West, the Prized Consort, the source of rebellion, jealousy, wickedness, love, admiration, endless sorrow, and compassion. She rescues and is rescued. “Cinderella” is secular sutra: a religious hymn hidden as fairy tale, deemed safe for women and children, told in the night when the priests and monks, bishops and lamas, sleep. The story crosses borders when no one is looking; it doesn’t travel by mounted knight or on the camel caravan. Its transport is more the cypress boat, drifting with the tide; it likes islands and springs, intertwined branches of trees. One can defend the cartoon at the heart of Disney: the triple goddess.  The girl who would be queen; who foils the avatar of jealousy, a black cat, and without hesitation saves Gus, the chubby, vest-wearing mouse. Gus, the grandfatherly, uncley, kid-brotherly sort of mouse, balanced by that paradigm of women’s power, the fairy godmother, gray haired, plump, funny, and forgetful, the grandmother to the rescue rather than Lancelot, Achilles, let alone Abraham, Jesus, Socrates, Confucius, Buddha. Cinderella loses all, all hope is gone, slave for life when her dress is rent; she rushes out to the brooding tree, weeps upon a bench, and miraculously finds herself sobbing on a woman’s lap. Generational power, kindness begets kindness, loss turns to love. Thus I saw the pages while listening to a record play with Gus to tell me when to turn the page, thus I return now I am gray. Fay Beauchamp, AM’69 Philadelphia  

Armando Maggi, the University’s professor in Romance languages and literatures and in the Committee on the History of Cultures, responds:

We are in a moment of transition. Storytelling has always been a multimedia form of communication, and innumerable fantasy or fairy-talish stories have coexisted. Many graphic novels, comic books, films, etc., are offering new versions of our “classical” tales and also new narratives. We have not replaced, though, those “universal” tales that seemed to be eternal, universal, and first of all “natural.” We should distinguish between what speaks to us in a special manner, and what seems to be a “universal,” “natural” tale that transcends time and space, and is thus universal. Every reader is entitled to have his or her special stories that he or she will remember for a long time. Our classical fairy tales used to play a different, much more powerful role. They seemed to transcend geographical and historical boundaries. And when we speak of fairy tales, we should bear in mind that these tales do not need to be children’s or young adults’ stories necessarily. Cinderella, Snow White, etc., have taken innumerable “adult” forms in their history. Their power has not been matched by any new narrative.  

Molecular engineering: The future

Whether we like it or not, our country needs more high-level applied science education (“From the Ground Up,” May–June/12). The U of C faculty and administration must be commended for addressing this need in such a spectacular way. Andrew P. Jacknain, MBA’71 Washington, DC  

About time

Finally, parochialism begins to recede, even at the U of C. After a hundred years, welcome to the world of engineering, using intellect and knowledge to solve some of mankind’s most pressing and life challenging problems. King Canute foolishly commanded the tides to reverse. U of C instead has decided to go with the flow, although in a patently face-saving manner. Better late than never. Milton Schuster, MBA’69 Lakewood, Colorado  

Taft’s legacy

The article on Jessie Taft, PhB 1905, PhD 1913, was much appreciated (Legacy, May–June/12). My doctoral professor at Chicago, Carl Rogers, was a professor in psychology and in the Committee on Human Development from 1946 to 1957. In a survey of the American Psychological Association in the year 2000, he was voted the most influential American psychologist of the 20th century. His catapult to prominence while he was teaching at Ohio State was his work titled “Counseling and Psychotherapy” (1942). In 1950, while at Chicago, it was followed by “Client-Centered Therapy.” Both works and his entire approach to psychotherapy were deeply indebted to Jessie Taft. Her major work, “Dynamics of Therapy,” was published in 1933. She was the one who broke with the diagnostic tradition and launched the focus upon the client that Rogers parlayed into prominence. It was a special delight to discover that Rogers’s major professional inspiration had been a Chicago alumna. Russell J. Becker, PhD’50 Claremont, California  

The days of UChicago lives

I must have missed the announcement that the University of Chicago Magazine has merged with the National Enquirer. I am no prude or scold, and I like a sex-stimulated Boccaccio or Chaucer story as much as the next person, but six full, featured pages of James Hormel’s (JD’58) apologia pro mea vita in the May–June/12 issue (“Fear of Discovery”)? What’s next, the confessions of Susan Sontag’s (AB’51) sexual awakening on campus? I read the Magazine regularly because my love is for the University and learning of the professional and academic achievements of my brothers and sisters in the alumni community, not to hear gossip over someone’s private bedroom angst. Hormel’s story is remarkable only because, as he recounts his cushy life of wealth, privilege, and influence, and its interludes of Joni Mitchell “I’ve looked at love from both sides now,” his only real distinction apparently has been his sexual identification. Is this now to be a new marker for the curriculum vitae of UChicago graduates and Nobel Prize and Heisman Trophy winners? Please, “of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world,” why must we be dragged into this one? Get thee to a soap opera. Herb Caplan, AB’52, JD’57 Chicago  

Props for diversity

I receive about 20 different monthly or bimonthly publications, and the University of Chicago Magazine is increasingly becoming one of my favorites.  Normally I quickly scan a magazine and perhaps read one or two articles, but I seem to be reading a majority of the U of C articles. I enjoy the combination of intellectual stimulation and emotional impact of the articles. As a now-out gay man who was unaware of my own sexual orientation while pursuing my MBA in the late ’70s, I truly enjoyed the article about James Hormel (earlier today I ordered his book) and Jessie Taft (I also have a lesbian friend who is a school psychologist). In the Mar–Apr/12 issue I was fascinated by the article “Bobo Soprano” since earlier in the month I attended a fascinating lecture by Vanessa Woods from Duke University (author of Bonobo Handshake on the bonobo chimps in the Congo). It was interesting to compare the two perspectives. After receiving my MBA in 1979 I enjoyed a 31-year career at IBM (I spent part of that time as IBM’s global corporate GLBT—gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—diversity manager), and after retiring opened my own consulting practice, which includes GLBT diversity and career-development consulting. I am very pleased to see the full spectrum of diversity, including GLBT, included in the Magazine. Stan C. Kimer, MBA’79 Raleigh, North Carolina  

Thanks—and an observation

Thank you very much for printing our mother’s death notice (Elizabeth [Herlinger] Groot, SB’42, Deaths, May–June/12) and for sending us a copy of the Magazine. I must say, yours is the best alumni magazine I’ve seen. I particularly enjoyed the material on James Hormel’s emergence from the closet. That took nerve. Ann Knudson Bismarck, North Dakota  

Precision drill

I probably wasn’t the only person who questioned the “partially complete” phrasing in your caption on page 68 of the May–June issue (Notes, “Burial Cave”). Surely the Magazine has the capacity to be better than almost precise. Larry Ozeran, MD’86 Yuba City, California  

Appreciation for the Anastaplos

As a former student of George Anastaplo, AB’48, JD’51, PhD’64, I am writing to say that “One Door Closes” (Mar–Apr/12) caught, exactly, the character of the man. When Mr. Anastaplo says that “if [my supporters] had expressed their admiration publicly in the 1950s, the Character Committee would probably have backed away from demands that were being made only of me,” he is stating a sad fact. Once the danger is past, the crowd wants to always stand with the hero. In his gracious letter to the Magazine in the May–June issue, Mr.  Anastaplo wrote that, due to sincere health conditions, his wife, Sara, is unable to appreciate his recognition in the Magazine. How  unfortunate that “the crowd” arrived so late after the main event. However, Sara Anastaplo, AM’49, saw into the hearts of people, and the “nattering crowd” meant little to her. Mary Young, CER’95 Berwyn, Illinois  

Photographic memories

It was with great pleasure I read the excellent profile of George Anastaplo in the Mar–Apr/12 issue. Mr. Anastaplo has remained a hero of mine ever since I read about his case as a second-year law student in 1966. His self-sacrificing courage in defense of the principles of the Declaration of Independence has had significant reverberations in international politics and revolutionary political change. In 1991, partly as a tribute to Anastaplo, I produced a photographic exhibit in what was then still the Soviet Union (in the glasnost period) titled Positive Negatives: Portraits of Courageous Russian and American Political Figures. The photographs were portraits of individuals who had risked their lives, their liberty, or their careers to promote peace or in defense of civil rights. Not only was George Anastaplo’s portrait  among them, but the highly publicized exhibit motto was the last sentence of Justice Black’s dissent in the Anastaplo case: “We must not be afraid to be free.” Positive Negatives was the first time in the history of the Soviet Union that Russian dissidents were depicted as heroes rather than “hooligans and criminals.” Its opening at the Fortress of Peter and Paul in 1990 was sponsored by the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) newspaper Smena, which headlined the motto in the issue announcing the exhibit with a full back-page story. The opening was televised nationally and widely reported in the Russian press. In an extraordinary act of courage at the time, it inspired the founders of the first independent student radio station in the Soviet Union—who had hung the exhibit poster on their studio wall—to broadcast against the reactionary coup that had interned Mikhail Gorbachev until he was released by Yeltsin’s efforts. It is sad and instructive to reflect on the fact that, at that moment of history, the Russian people evidently took more seriously than many Americans did the message of civil liberty and the right to dissent reflected in Anastaplo’s courageous defense of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Harrison Sheppard San Francisco  

If X, then Y

Per your article (“Left, Right, Left, Right,” UChicago Journal, Mar–Apr/12), both President Zimmer and David Axelrod, AB’76, are committed to keeping the Institute of Politics nonpartisan. Because Axelrod is so well known as from the left, it is questioned whether realistically he can run a nonpartisan institute. For the discussed panel, Axelrod was able to attract three well known from the left, one well known from the center, but only one unknown on the right. Thereby, Axelrod has immediately demonstrated his inability to run a nonpartisan institute. QED. Carl Brooks, MBA’73 Ellsworth, Maine In this issue’s On the Agenda column, Harris School of Public Policy dean Colm O’Muircheartaigh discusses the institute’s nonpartisan agenda.—Ed.  

Memorable mentor

I was very pleased to read that Professor Susan Goldin-Meadow received the American Psychological Association’s Mentor Award in Developmental Psychology (“Peer Groups,” Jan–Feb/12). In the spring of 1977 Goldin-Meadow took me on as a research assistant even though I was an undergraduate with no background in child language development and psycholinguistics. These two fields were rapidly expanding with young researchers like Goldin-Meadow joining veterans in generating new theories and research. Goldin-Meadow took the time to make me a part of all of this—patiently explaining the main issues in these fields and directing me to the relevant literature. In the lab she treated me like the graduate students, that is, almost like a colleague, respecting my opinions and giving me independence in my work. Not surprisingly, after working in her lab that summer I decided to concentrate on language development and psycholinguistics. I received the same treatment when I wrote my BA thesis. After helping me select the topic, she deftly balanced letting me work on my own while guiding me through the pitfalls of an inexperienced researcher. And above all, by her tacitly expecting me to achieve a high standard of work, I couldn’t allow myself to get lazy or careless. The result was a BA thesis far better than I had hoped for and a terrific learning experience. Thanks to her, when I graduated, I was well prepared to continue on in the field. My life, however, took a different direction and I never got to graduate school. But the skills and habits that I picked up from working in her lab have been very useful. And, after having run across apathetic and sometimes jealous superiors, I appreciate now more than ever Goldin-Meadow as a mentor. The APA could not have made a better choice. Raphael (Ralph) Bloom, AB’79 Rechovot, Israel  

Match made in Hyde Park

My father, Melvin Seglin, attended Roosevelt High School in Chicago with Vivian Paley, PhB’47 (Glimpses, Nov–Dec/12). Vivian was my father’s date for the senior prom. My mother, Natalie Seglin, AB’47, AM’54 [see University obituaries—Ed.], and Vivian Paley were freshman roommates at the U of C. My father said their dorm room was on the second floor of what is now Alumni House. Vivian introduced the two of them to each other, and the rest is history. Susan Seglin Lafayette, California  

Remembering Cohler

I met [University of Chicago psychologist] Bert Cohler, U-High’57, AB’61, as a young, insecure MAPSS student in 1996 at the ripe age of 22 during his Introduction to Human Development course [see University obituaries—Ed.]. He told a religion joke in class that is still my favorite and to this day never lets me down at a cocktail party. If you ever meet me, I’ll tell it to you. Bert became my AM thesis adviser and was the most influential agent in my own life course. He was my turning point. If it were not for Bert, I might not have graduated with my AM, I very likely would not have found Glen Elder and pursued my PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and I definitely would not be where I am today. When I met Bert, he was in Erikson’s stage of “generativity.” What an understatement! I have never met such a “generative” human being. He touched so many lives and made so many students feel that they were worthy and that their work was important, yet forcing you to articulate for yourself why it mattered. His office was always open to all who walked through its door. Although he often came rushing in from someplace else with dozens of things still to do that day, when he was with you, you believed in that moment that you were his No. 1 priority and that nothing else mattered. In a place like Hyde Park, the University of Chicago, graduate school—in February, which can often be isolating and at times even soul crushing—it made all the difference. I still carry his voice with me today. Margaret Mueller, AM’97 Chicago  

Emphasis on empathy

Bert had a modesty and easiness about him that can be rare among people as accomplished as he was, but what really struck me about him was always his empathy and ability to connect to people. One time (as a PhD student), I bumped into him on campus, as we both were walking over to Human Development, and I asked how he was doing, expecting the casual response most people give. Instead he shared with me what was actually on his mind. Bert had been put on a committee charged with dealing with students who’d committed some academic infringements. While most people probably would have jumped to dealing with it from a punitive or enforcement point of view, Bert’s impulse was an empathetic one—trying to understand where the students must have been coming from and how, as a school, we should be helping them. Even when put in the position of the enforcer, Bert was ever the kind therapist. Jeff Mosenkis, AM’98, PhD’10 Stamford, Connecticut  

Department of corrections

In “College Prep,” (Fig. 1, May–June/12), our bar graph indicated 72 percent of International Baccalaureate students from 13 Chicago public high schools enrolled at a four-year college. The actual figure is 77 percent. We regret the error.   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: uchicago-magazine@uchicago.edu.