(CC0 Public Domain)

Readers sound off

Readers write in about the Oriental Institute; the life of Justice John Paul Stevens, LAB’37, AB’41; Afghanistan's landscape; and more.

More OI centennial reflections

In this year of centennial celebration (“The OI at 100,” Summer/19), it is an honor to have had a hand in sprucing up some of the leaded glass windows of the west facade of the building that houses the stunning collection, as well as administrative offices and classrooms, at the Oriental Institute. In 2017 my stained glass studio was chosen to help “set the standard for window restoration on campus” as part of select masonry restoration on that wall of the building. Being able to retain the original glass in these windows not only helped maintain the beauty of the structure but was also consistent with the approach to conservation embodied in the collection and in the goals of the institute itself. Thank you for the opportunity, and happy 100, OI!

Emily Carlson, AB’88

I was an undergraduate interested in pursuing my love of drawing but unable to manage an art course in my schedule. So, on many a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, I’d park myself in front of a model who would never tire: a tall, unsmiling Egyptian. A few years later, in a life drawing class at the Art Institute of Chicago, my instructor commented that my drawings had a surprising Egyptian quality. Hmm, wonder why.

Pearl Bloom Taback, AB’63
Bronx, New York

I have just finished reading Barbara Mertz’s (PhB’47, AM’50, PhD’52) interesting and amusing Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt (William Morrow, 2008; originally published 1966), which I happened upon in our branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library. I have to confess that when I was a student at the University from 1964 to 1968 I set foot only once in the OI, and that was to visit the gift shop! Reading the article about the OI in the Summer issue of the Magazine and the subsequent letters to the editor in the Fall issue, I rather wish I had spent more time there.

However, when I read Mertz’s biography and then her obituary on the internet, I was delighted to find out that she took full advantage of the OI. She was born Barbara Gross in Canton, Illinois, and, according to her New York Times obituary, became “fascinated by ancient Egypt when an aunt took her to the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago when she was 13.” She received her bachelor’s degree in Egyptology from the University in 1947 and her doctorate in 1952. Her obituary says that she was unable to find work in academia because of sexism. She wrote on her website, “I recall overhearing one of my professors say to another: ‘At least we don’t have to worry about finding a job for her. She’ll get married.’”

Well, she did get married, then divorced, and never did work in academia, but instead wrote many best-selling mysteries and thrillers in order to support her family. Many of her books are set in the Middle East and published under the pen names Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. Her two books on ancient Egypt are still in print and still in circulation, I am happy to say. What luck that I should find one!

Ann Bayles, AB’68
Courtenay, British Columbia

Fiercely independent, and funny too

Thanks for “The Prudent Jurist” (Fall/19), remembering Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, LAB’37, AB’41. Like him, I went to the Laboratory Schools and Northwestern University Law School (although, after attending Lab since nursery school, I was transferred in my sophomore year to Hyde Park High School by my mother, daughter of Charles P. Schwartz, AB 1908, JD 1909). Stevens was recommended to President Gerald Ford, who nominated him, by Edward Levi, LAB’28, PhB’32, JD’35, known to me as the father of another boy in my class at Lab.

You were so right to print remarks commending his independence. For this he was praised by both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Elena Kagan. Justice Kagan said he was fiercely independent. I’m happy to go along with your claiming it as a UChicago trait.

It’s been said that a man who wears a bow tie is a joker. On the strength of my grandfather, of a brilliant professor I had in the first year of law school, and of Justice Stevens, it may be true. The Making of a Justice: Reflections on My First 94 Years (Little, Brown; 2019), his fine memoir published two months before his death, is full of jokes, many dry, some wry.

I was a few feet from him at a law school reception when he muttered to another of my brilliant professors, “I never had the Latin for the judgin’” (see Peter Cook, Tragically I Was an Only Twin, St. Martin’s Press, 2003).

The only time The Making shocked me was a manifest set-up. The title itself is a joke; how can it cover his entire life and not merely the years 1920–1975? But he was famous for saying learning on the job was essential to judging (e.g., his 2006 article “Learning on the Job,” based on a 2005 speech).

Justice Kagan also called him a model of collegiality (which another of my law school professors always deliberately pronounced “colleague-iality”). That shows in The Making of a Justice.

Today, as ever, there are moments for dissent, even strong dissent. When that is necessary, let us keep in mind this man, whom both Chief Justice Roberts, a conservative, and Justice Kagan, a liberal, also praised for kindness and humility. You were so right to close with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who in truth exhorted us all by saying, “Justice Stevens … quick as his … mind was, remained … gentle and modest.” R. I. P.

John Hertz
Los Angeles

War reporters

Big thanks to David Chrisinger, AM’10, for his excellent piece on airmen Harold Goettler, AS 1914, SB 1914, and Erwin R. Bleckley in the Argonne slaughter (“A Soldier’s Final Mission,” Fall/19).

Please pass on to him that I hope in his book on Ernie Pyle he doesn’t fail to include Ernest Hemingway’s photograph with Pyle as “old Ernie Hemorrhoid, the poor man’s Pyle.”

Andrew D. Tempelman, AM’66, PhD’72
Nashua, New Hampshire

Uncommon landscape

The establishment of Afghanistan’s first national park at Band-e-Amir and Afghan efforts to conserve Afghanistan’s threatened wildlife are indeed heartening, although unfinished, accomplishments (“Parks and Restoration,” Fall/19).

While stationed in 2003 with the New Zealand–led Provincial Reconstruction Team in the town of Bamiyan, Afghanistan, I had the privilege of visiting Band-e-Amir. The region is extraordinarily stark and, as described in the Magazine’s story, isolated, even by Afghan standards. From Bamiyan, the nearest airstrip and site of the Buddha statuary destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001, the 80-kilometer trip westward to Band-e-Amir takes at least three hours on deeply rutted roads and challenges both driving skills and axles.

In “Parks and Restoration,” Alex Dehgan, SM’03, PhD’03, describes the Wildlife Conservation Society’s noteworthy species protection activities at Band-e-Amir. However, Band-e-Amir is perhaps most notable for its unique geology, especially its six lakes. Located at 3,000 meters above sea level, the lakes result from precipitation over a long period of time of carbonate minerals into natural dams. Called tufa, also known as travertine, these limestone dams reach as high as 10 meters. Similar travertine formations are often found in caves although not on such a grand scale.

Incredibly, similar travertine-like structures appear to have been photographed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. I leave it to the University’s astrophysicists and geologists to better describe and explain such discoveries.

Lawrence E. Cohen, AM’78
Schwenksville, Pennsylvania

Cultural exchange

I made my first trip to the then Soviet Union in 1967 after a summer at Yale studying Russian (“To Russia with Love,” UChicago Journal, Fall/19). Because it was late in the season, my trip with Intourist had been officially canceled without the news filtering down to me or to the Intourist office in Moscow.

Consequently, the office arranged for me to follow the original itinerary, but traveling alone. After the initial shock and panic, I found this arrangement to be greatly to my advantage. For one thing, I got to know my local tour guides much more intimately than if I had been a member of a group. One of these guides, Svetlana by name, was studying English language and literature.

At that time, the class was reading Bel Kaufman’s 1964 novel Up the Down Staircase. Svetlana did not really understand the meaning of the title. She also said that she could not imagine what the English text was since the Russian translation was full of slang and low-class idioms as, of course, the original English appropriately is. I told her that I would send her a copy of the English version—which I did. I do not know whether the book ever reached her, since I never heard from her again. I was hoping to get her reaction and was disappointed that I was never able to do so.

Henry A. Ploegstra, AM’62, PhD’66
Holland, Michigan

Case history

I enjoyed rereading Norman Maclean’s (PhD’40) 1975 article on Albert Abraham Michelson, the founder of UChicago’s physics department and the first American winner of a Nobel Prize in science (“The Angle of Reflection,” Inquiry, Fall/19). I wish, however, that Maclean had noted that the work that won the prize for Michelson, the Michelson-Morley experiment, was done in Cleveland, before UChicago was born.

At the time, in 1887, Michelson was on the faculty of the Case School of Applied Science (later the Case Institute of Technology), and Edward Morley was a chemistry professor at Western Reserve University, where he remained until his retirement in 1906. (Case and Western Reserve combined in 1967 to become the awkwardly named Case Western Reserve University. An on-campus restaurant is Michelson and Morley.)

And was anyone else with a UChicago connection ever depicted in an episode of Bonanza?

Erik M. Jensen, AM’72
Cleveland, Ohio

Jensen refers to the 1962 Bonanza episode “Look to the Stars,” in which Douglas Lambert portrayed a 16-year-old Michelson. We aren’t aware of any other UChicagoans represented in the television show, but would be delighted to be corrected on this point.—Ed.

Survey says no

In “Survey Says” (Fall/19), you have a graphic titled, “Are men better suited for politics than women?” The graph then shows “Agree,” “Disagree,” and “Not sure.” Those answers are about as appropriate to the question in the title as the answers “Yes” and “No” are to the survey question, “What should cost less: a gallon of gas or a gallon of milk?”

Harold M. Buck, AB’88
New Hope, Minnesota

Does the reader raise an excellent point about our non-ideal wording? Agree. Or rather, yes.—Ed.

Remembering Mulvaney

In 1970 I was one of “those” college freshmen who had not passed the required swimming test. In fact, I had not even bothered to attempt to take the test, knowing I would certainly fail. I couldn’t swim and was truly annoyed that this was a requirement to graduate.

The following spring, I found myself in Mary Jean Mulvaney’s swimming class in the basement of Ida Noyes (Deaths, Fall/19). I knew she was the chair of the Women’s Physical Education Division, and I was amazed that she was the one to teach us non-swimmers. Although she seemed ancient to me then, she was all of 44 years old.

Miss Mulvaney taught us to swim by walking up and down the length of the pool, demonstrating the strokes in the air as she paced. She wore a terry cloth shift over a swimsuit, and her hair was always styled in a bouffant with every hair in place.

She was patient and encouraging, never gave up on our sputtering attempts, and never let us give up on ourselves. I learned to swim at age 19 solely due to her.

The only time I saw her ruffled was one day when a classmate was in water over her head, and was going down. Miss Mulvaney didn’t hesitate to jump into the water and rescue my poor classmate. Her bouffant hairstyle didn’t fare so well.

Linda S. Trytek, EX’74, AM’79
Deerfield, Illinois

Greatly exaggerated

I, too, was saddened to learn of my death in Hosea Martin’s (AB’60) lovely letter (Fall/19) recalling our times running together for the U of C. Fortunately for me, the Victor I. Carlson who passed away was another person (Deaths, Summer/19).

In the late 1950s, the U of C track team had a special sense of comradeship under the coaching of Ted Haydon, LAB’29, PhB’33, AM’54, whose social work skills were effectively put to use in bringing out the best in his athletes. Everyone who ran track, no matter their level of skill, was made welcome. Natural leaders such as Hosea contributed to this special sense of belonging. It will always remain an important and valued part of my life.

Victor Ivan Carlson, AB’59
Victoria, British Columbia

We apologize for not catching the case of mistaken identity in Martin’s letter. The Victor I. Carlson who died November 25, 2018, and whose obituary appeared in Deaths (Summer/19) was Victor Ira Carlson, AB’55, AM’59. We are grateful to Victor Ivan Carlson for alerting us to the error.—Ed.

A warning note

The mind of man has created, and with conventional technology has constructed, a synthetic parasite (“Instrumental,” Inquiry, Fall/19). Fortunately, it cannot reproduce. Will that be the next step in this creative endeavor?

This mind has also developed a technique to control the actions that people will perform against their will via electromechanical means. This approach appears to be a follow-on to the greatly deplored technique of brainwashing used by some hostile military regimes. However, it can be deployed more rapidly than brainwashing. In my limited imagination, I cannot see how these developments could be employed for the public good but only for evil purposes.

Sydney K. Brownstein, PhD’55
Ottawa, Ontario

Football past

Entering UChicago in 1963, I became aware of its tortured football history when a club was formed to play the first game since the sport was abolished on the quads in 1939 (College Review, November 2019). Some of my classmates weren’t thrilled, storming the field before, not after, the game, to prevent its return. And, for one game at least, they prevailed. It was hard to compare that sad resurrection with the early glory of UChicago football: founding member of the Big Ten in 1896; winner of seven Big Ten titles between 1899 and 1924 and the 1905 and 1913 national championships; and, most startling, home of the first Heisman Trophy recipient, “one-man football team” Jay Berwanger, AB’36, in 1935.

Early in 1936 the floundering NFL instituted the college draft to spread college talent to the weak teams struggling to survive. Even tight-fisted Chicago Bears owner and head coach George Halas, who could outbid for the best talent, agreed the draft was needed for NFL survival. No surprise that Philadelphia Eagles owner Bert Bell used his worst-record first pick to draft Berwanger. But unlike today, signing with the NFL in 1936, when most players received about $150 a game, was a fool’s bet. When Berwanger asked for $1,000, Bell refused, trading his negotiating rights to Halas, who lusted to make local hero Berwanger a Bear. But after waiting out a year, Berwanger upped his price to $25,000 for two years with a no-cut clause. Halas punted, leaving Berwanger to embark on a lucrative career manufacturing plastic car parts.

Berwanger was not alone in passing on a shaky future with the dirt-poor upstart professional league. Fifty-six others in that first draft of 81 college stars took Berwanger’s path and stiff-armed unlikely future NFL wealth and glory. And that first Heisman? Berwanger never gave it much thought, handing it off to his Aunt Gussie, who used it as a doorstop.

At my UChicago reunion No. 53 in June, if still ambulatory, I’ll amble over to the University’s Athletics Hall of Fame to gander at the trophy (since saved from doorstop duty) that started the annual Heisman hoopla and signaled the last glorious gasp of the original Monsters of the Midway.

Walt Zlotow, AB’67
Glen Ellyn, Illinois

For a photo essay on University of Chicago football through the decades, see “Six Score of UChicago Football.”—Ed.

Paris mystery

I always read with great interest the Magazine but perhaps even more keenly those times when I also receive my copy of the College magazine, the Core. In the Summer/19 issue of that publication, I read avidly yet another feature regarding UChicago life beyond our shores: “Ask an Ambassador.”

Perhaps the best part of this article was on the last page where the author included various pertinent stats in a sidebar. And so I write to you to highlight a few discrepancies that give a somewhat skewed view of just how far we have come with study abroad programs. Having been at the vanguard of this, I would like to address these errors at this time.

Both mistakes occurred with stats that should have jumped out to the reader. Just two stats were single-digit: “2” programs offered in ’83–84 and “2” undergrads studying abroad in that year. First, only the Paris abroad program existed in ’83–84, and perhaps this was technically “0” programs, given that Paris existed as a cobbled arrangement with Sarah Lawrence College, and any access to schools in Paris had to go through their auspices. There was no centralized campus life back then, there were no University of Chicago faculty involved, and there were “0” arrangements for housing. So this should have read one program offered in ’83–84. And given the fact that it behooved us all to find housing on our own, we could have used an ambassador that first year!

As for the “2” undergrads supposedly studying abroad in ’83–84, I believe that should be “3.” The first time that we were all assembled together in Paris was on the premises of Reid Hall to determine academic readiness for the year ahead. It was there that I first met Karen Ott, AB’85, a woman who subsequently became a close friend, as well as another UChicago student who we only really knew as Sandy. No one was able to get his last name, only that he was interested in political science, and so one assumed he was going to study at les Sciences-Po uniquely while there.

“Sandy” would remain a shadow figure during my time in Paris. To add to Sandy’s mystique, he participated in “0” Sarah Lawrence College excursions with us. During such times, we visited le château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, la cathédrale à Chartres, Mont-Saint-Michel, the beaches at Normandy, and other places throughout the region in addition to les châteaux de la Loire. Let me reemphasize that there were “0” sightings of Sandy throughout this time as well.

Having said all that, I encourage the assistance of anyone with knowledge of my classmate and fellow Chicago Parisian to come forward and help me put this decades-old mystery to bed. I spent my fourth year abroad instead of the typical third year. And though I processed in ’85 despite being Class of ’84—and yes, I stomped gleefully on that giant crest in Reynolds Club, but that’s an entirely different story—I am speculating that Sandy must have been part of the Class of ’85. So let’s put this nagging postlude to my time in Paris to an end and come forward and give me that missing piece so long sought after. Par consequent, où te trouves-tu cher Sandy?

Phillip M. Semrau, AB’85, AM’85
Walnut Creek, California

The Study Abroad office confirms that there were two programs in 1983–84, both run in conjunction with other schools: Sarah Lawrence’s Academic Year in Paris and Brown University’s program at the University of Bologna. In a 1984 Chicago Maroon story, humanities professor Herman Sinaiko, AB’47, PhB’61, who was dean of students at the time, called these programs “new, experimental pilots.”

Semrau is correct that three students participated in the Paris program. The same number studied in Bologna, for a total of six. We regret the error and join Semrau in welcoming any light other Maroons can shed on the identity of Sandy.—Ed.

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, Chicago, IL 60615. Or email: uchicago-magazine@uchicago.edu.