Letter slot

(Photography by Samantha Chapnick [CC BY-ND 2.0])

Readers sound off

Alumni share their memories of Roy Mackal, Leon Kass, tastes of Hyde Park, and more.

The stories tell the tale

Why is the University of Chicago exceptional?

I have often pondered this question during my faculty leadership positions at the University of Wisconsin, Boston University, and the University of California, and while serving as visiting professor at numerous great universities.

The Summer/21 issue of the University of Chicago Magazine responds to the question in a significant way. “A Questioning Mind” describes the career of Leon Kass, LAB’54, SB’58, MD’62 (who was a medical student when I was a resident and an instructor), illustrating extraordinary breadth, depth, and devotion to excellence. “Abiding Convictions” tells of the adaptation of prisoners after incarceration, showing sensitivity to human values and the power of forgiveness. “A Measure of Pleasure” describes the unique work of the Clinical Addictions Research Laboratory regarding the roots of alcoholism, and so it is an example of socially relevant originality. “Lawyer Jokes,” about Liz Glazer, JD’04, a gay Law School graduate turned successful comedian, illustrates adaptability, openness about who one is, and U of C’s tolerance. “Executive Dreaming” probes the minds of American presidents.

I conclude that the U of C is exceptional because of its pervasive approach and emphasis upon teaching how to think, how to learn, and how to adapt.

John R. Benfield, MD’55
Los Angeles

Kass appreciated

Rarely has an article made me as thrilled and motivated as “A Questioning Mind” (Summer/21). Reading Leon Kass’s insights is like reading Shakespeare; every line is eternally quotable. “If you want to learn from the text, and not only learn about it, you can’t read just for argument or ammunition. You have to learn what it says and what it means.” Perfectly put, and a great reminder of how exciting learning can be and of the value of edification for its own sake. His discussion of the three pillars and their relevance in today’s America is a terrific starting point for a mature, serious conversation on where we go from here as a nation. Immediately I took on the assignments of reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birth-Mark” and the Book of Ruth, and I look forward to reading Kass’s books.

I sent the Magazine piece to my mom and sister, and both were awed by Kass’s words. I have taped this article on my wall so that I can reread it and share it with my child. In answer to the proverbial question, “Who are six people you would like to have dinner with from throughout history?” I must adjust my list to add Kass. Kudos to the Magazine for once again packing so much pleasure in such a short piece.

Sabrina Ricci, MBA’98
Niskayuna, New York

I very much enjoyed hearing about what Leon Kass has been thinking about recently. He gave the welcoming speech to our entering class in 1981 after we watched the movie High Noon. I took his course in Darwinism in 1984, and it was my most meaningful course. I always struggled with my writing skills, and he wisely advised me to take Little Red Schoolhouse, one of the most valuable courses I took as an undergraduate.

I have followed Kass’s work and truly appreciate his contributions to education and mankind in general. I would love to hear his thoughts on the new clinical genetic tools, CRISPR, based upon both his scientific and humanistic expertise (too bad that we have to call them out separately, however). Perhaps he might consider this topic for his next book? Thank you for the very interesting article.

Arthur J. Puff, AB’85
Minnetonka, Minnesota

The culture factor

I found Maureen Searcy’s article “A Measure of Pleasure” (Summer/21) very intriguing. I wonder if the researchers at the Clinical Addictions Research Laboratory have attended to the social aspects of addiction, such as the difference between wet (social) and dry (bingeing) alcohol cultures.

New models of addiction purport to show that problematic drug use stems from social isolation and a lack of intimate relationships. Anecdotal evidence suggests drinking often begins as a social aid at the age when young people are beginning to form lifelong relationships. So the clinical setting with one older research assistant for company, as described in the article, may not be the most illuminating scenario to study the social dimension of drinking.

If alcohol use disorder and other addictions do have a social element to them, perhaps there will never be an effective medicine to treat addiction, but more positive, intimate relationships among those who suffer from these disorders may help.

David Vognar, AM’16
Oak Lawn, Illinois

Andrea C. King, professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience and director of the Clinical Addictions Research Laboratory, responds: “Social aspects of addiction are important, but at the same time, people with alcohol use disorder are heterogeneous and there is no ‘one route’ to developing the disorder. In our laboratory studies, social aspects of drinking are embedded in the design as participants engage in conversation with the research assistant, usually of a similar age. Our natural environment studies examine drinking context (alone, with others, bar, or home). Above and beyond these factors, heightened pleasurable response to alcohol remains a key factor in the risk and maintenance of alcohol use disorder. We appreciate the feedback as we investigate this complex disorder.”

A friend and a fan

I really loved the article about Roy Mackal, SB’49, PhD’53 (“Roy Mackal’s Wild Speculation,” the Core, Summer/21). It brought back so many memories. I got to know Roy in the 1980s when I was director of Argonne National Laboratory. I am not sure why we hit it off, but he was quite a character. Thank you for printing this.

Walter E. Massey
UChicago Emeritus Trustee

Maritime province

Maureen Searcy’s article on Roy Mackal refers twice to the University’s biology department. I never heard of such an entity. Roy was in the biochemistry department.

When I was a student back in the Nessie period, I used to muse on the sea orientation of that department. There was Roy Mackal (Mackerel), Eugene Goldwasser, Herbert Anker (Anchor), and secretary Mary Haliburt (Halibut).

Eric Fenster, SB’61, PhD’67
Piedmont, Ohio

Fenster is correct that a Department of Biology does not exist at the University of Chicago. Although present at the University’s founding, the department was subdivided into multiple departments before its first anniversary. Our use of “biology” and “biology department” was a reflection of a shorthand employed by Mackal that we found in our archival research.—Ed.

Principled position

When I read the story about Liz Cheney, JD’96 (“Loyalty Test,” Summer/21), I thought that Cheney demonstrated to all American people that her love and respect for her country weigh more than adoration of a false figure. Probably my political views are different than hers. However, it does not change my respect for her position related to the insurrection on January 6.

I have lived in the United States since 1961, when I came to study at the University of Chicago medical school. The day I stepped onto this soil, I knew that life in this country would be different than in my native country, Peru. Like many countries in South America, my country has had many bad political experiences, such as coups, states of emergency, military juntas, and curfews. Therefore, coming to America was like a dream come true.

On the day of the insurrection, I was completely surprised to watch on TV what was going on in the Capitol building. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was like a nightmare. My surprise went further when some members of Congress were completely denying the insurrection. It was like a joke for them, and they were taking it as a friendly visit to the Capitol.

As all of us know, it was not a friendly visit or a matter of patriots visiting “their House.” The people who participated were prepared and committed to one false idol, the one who lit the flame of this mob attack.

I applaud Cheney for taking the side of respect for the Constitution and the rule of law. I know that it will probably cost her her position in Congress, but she will be remembered as a person who followed the law even though it was not in her personal interest.

Fernando Ugarte, MD’65
Bradenton, Florida


The Summer/21 story on Liz Cheney aroused my curiosity about a possible overlap with another UChicago figure of national standing. The wisdom of Wikipedia gives Cheney’s JD degree as granted in 1996; whereas Barack Obama taught constitutional law from 1992 to 2004. Further pondering is left as an exercise for the reader.

Tim Rolfe, SM’76, PhD’82
Spokane, Washington

Consuming memories

As a professor at Rutgers University who teaches courses on culture and food, I read your notes about Hyde Park food with great interest (“Eat, Memory,” Editor’s Notes, Summer/21). I was there ordering food at Ribs ’n’ Bibs when a Cadillac stopped out front and none other than Muhammad Ali walked in and picked up several bags of delicious ribs, fist-bumped us all, and drove off. It was an amazing Hyde Park moment!

I remember Florian and still have one of their coffee cups with the chemical symbol for caffeine along with “This cup was stolen from Caffe Flor- ian!” But I hope students today realize what an amazing food city they live in and take advantage of all those opportunities, from the Indian all-you-can-eat places on Devon Avenue to the fish fry places near the Chicago Skyway. It’s a great food city I miss every day.

Sean Duffy, AB’99, AM’02, PhD’03

It’s been a very long time since I wrote to the University. But as I read through the editor’s notes in the Summer/21 issue of the Magazine, I have thought only about writing. (I haven’t actually read the rest of the issue, because I was really caught up by this concept.)

I have so much food memory, I don’t think I even realized how much. While I could go on and on, two things stand out for two very specific reasons.

I sometimes went to the Med(ici) just to order plain spaghetti (though I also loved their four-cheese pizza now that I am thinking about it). But plain spaghetti was probably the cheapest thing on the menu. I would ask for no sauce because I don’t particularly care for red sauce. Certainly I could make spaghetti myself, but the fact that someone would serve it to me and then clean my dishes was the luxury of it. To this day my husband knows that Friday nights we go out—I don’t care where—because I want someone to cook for me, and more importantly to clean up for me. And although it’s often a nice restaurant, deep down I know (and so does he) that it could be something as simple as plain spaghetti.

Then there is my holy grail. I came from New York, where Chinese food was king. I moved to Hyde Park, where I never could find “good” Chinese food. But to my delight I discovered Thai food. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but there was a dish there called Bangkok chicken. I have been searching for it at every Thai restaurant I have been to since then, in vain.

As I write this, more food memories come flooding in, but I will spare you.

Elena (Poloukhine) MacKenzie, AB’94
Woodstock, Connecticut

A dish called Bangkok chicken is served at both Snail (1649 East 55th Street) and Thai 55 (1607 East 55th Street), but the picture menu provided by Snail shows a dish that MacKenzie recognizes as the one she fondly remembers.—Ed.

If my memory serves me right, Jane Moy had a restaurant on 53rd Street just east of Kimbark Avenue starting in the late 1950s or perhaps the early 1960s (“East by Midwest,” Alumni News, Summer/21), taking up part of the space where the Sit Down is now. This was, of course, before the moves farther east. You could get a very satisfying dinner there for about $2 at that time. I used to live in a building where the CVS Pharmacy is now and later across the street in the apartment building on the southeast corner of 53rd and Kimbark, so Moy’s restaurant was both quite handy and quite affordable.

Joseph Marlin, AM’54, AM’60

Skirl power

My late and brilliant brother John M. Kidd, SM’62, PhD’62, a physicist, would’ve been delighted, as I was, by the picture in your Summer/21 issue of the bison and calf happily grazing near Fermilab (“Seen and Herd,” UChicago Journal). Why? Because we both grew up in Wyoming.

Also, the photo of the piper made me think of him (“Pipes and Pomp,” Table of Contents). With his physics colleague Peter Lindstrom, John made the first significant acoustic improvement in the Highland pipes in more than a century. I can hear readers chuckling and thinking of piper jokes, but this is no joke.

During World War II at MIT, while working on radar, a phenomenon called “mode-lock” was discovered: two very close radio frequencies in a state of dissonance would miraculously lock together to become one. John and Peter were able to achieve mode-lock in the acoustics of the pipes. This meant that after achieving the mode-lock condition, taking about 30 seconds, the pipes were in absolutely perfect tune, and remained that way for hours. The player didn’t have to constantly stop and retune. Thank you for these evocative details.

James C. Kidd, PhD’73
Farmville, Virginia

Smelt, smelt, salmon

The illustration of Promontory Point on the cover of the Summer/21 issue and the photograph on page 49 of fishing off a breakwater (Peer Review) bring to mind our smelt fishing during the late 1960s. In those days there would be a reliable smelt run every spring.

The base of operations was the then-new apartment building at 4800 South Lake Shore Drive, where Al Burns, EX’63, and David Duckman, EX’63, lived. Curt Kovacs, AB’63, MD’67, an avid fisherman, brought the gear. Bob Hermon, EX’64, brought his fishing talents. We’d go across Lake Shore Drive to the retaining wall on the lake and set up. A grappling hook was tied to the end of a rope to make a trolley line. The hook was heaved into the lake and a weighted gill net run down the rope. After 15 minutes or so the net was hauled back up and, more often than not, the net was filled with dozens of the eight-inch smelt. On a good night we’d catch 500 fish. Some of the catch were consumed on the spot. The fish were cleaned, battered, and fried on a camp stove. Al, a skilled chef, did the cooking.

One memorable night, a puff of wind blew Bob’s treasured Stetson hat into the lake. Without hesitation, Bob stripped down to his skivvies, dove into the frigid lake waters, and retrieved his hat. On another occasion the net brought up a coho salmon that must have weighed three pounds. Coho had been introduced into Lake Michigan in 1966 to control the alewives. We’d heard about them and now had caught one!

Roger Taft, SB’65, SM’68
Laguna Beach, California

Marx and anguish

I am writing in response to the “Pier” Review photo and caption in the Summer/21 issue (“Marx and Angles,” Peer Review).

Clearly the editors have little knowledge of fishing traditions in Chicago. While the caption writer discusses fishing for panfish or larger species in Lake Michigan, the people in this photo are not actually fishing for these types of fish. These people appear to be fishing for smelt, a small species caught with a gill net during the spring season. Commonly, smelt fishermen wedge a pole in between rocks or a railing (as seen in the photo) to support a piece of rope attached to an anchor which is thrown into the water some distance away from the pier. The net is then attached to the rope and lowered into the water using a pulley system. The smelt then are trapped in the net as they swim close to shore.

Fishing for smelt remains a tradition in Chicago, although the number of fish caught has declined in recent years due to pollution in Lake Michigan. Many people fish as families or groups of friends and often bring cooking equipment to fry the freshly caught fish for dinner. During these spring evenings a real social atmosphere exists along the lakefront.

Also, the pun in the caption is a little weak. Doesn’t “Marx and Anglers” seem better?

Douglas B. Warren, AB’80
Lake Bluff, Illinois

Credit to a master

The article by Jason Kelly about philosophy professor Jonathan Lear’s book Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation and his lecture series is very timely indeed (“Life as We Knew It,” Spring/21). It includes the famous woodcut by Albrecht Dürer, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Although I believe that over 90 percent of University of Chicago students, faculty, and alumni are familiar with the engraving, I still feel that the name of the artist and the title and year of the work should be mentioned. The image is also cropped, so it does not show Dürer’s monogram at the bottom, which he included in all his engravings, drawings, and paintings. The full image should have been shown, I feel.

Thank you very much for publishing the Magazine.

Ruediger Kratz, MD’73
Chantilly, Virginia

The Tao of Scott

I was reading the Summer/21 issue when I saw your request for remembrances of coach Christopher Scott—simply “Chris” to a lot of us (“Ace Advice,” Alumni News).

I was U-High Class of 1971. Chris actually recruited me to play at the U of C (I did not play at U-High but did play junior tennis tournaments in the area and regionally). My love of a certain U-High Class of 1971 coed took me to Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.

I have so many stories about Chris. In terms of local or regional matches, the best match I ever saw was in 1971 or 1972. Chris was about 40 then and was playing the men’s tournament in South Bend, Indiana, at Leeper Park. Chris was playing Brian Marcus, the number one player for the University of Michigan. Chris had beautiful fluid strokes and the ball came off “heavy” as he tried to have a six-to-nine-inch hitting zone (much different from the “window-washer” strokes we have today among some players).

The Scott–Marcus match went deep into the third set and word spread. There were probably 250 spectators watching this match of two players separated by a full generation. Marcus eventually won 11–9 in the third. Few among the spectators knew that Chris was teaching at least 40 hours a week. How he could produce this quality of tennis is a great unknown to me.

I saw Chris play many times during the 1970s, including a match at Lake Meadows against the then–number one men’s player in Chicago, Ray Cahnman. Chris won 6–2, 6–0 (although who really knows who comes in “sharp” at any particular local age group tournament).

Chris may have been 26 years old or so when he took up tennis, but his strokes were beautiful. He is clearly the best player I ever saw who took up the game that late in life. His game was so fluid, including a quick ball bounce and booming serve that looked so effortless.

James W. Naisbitt, LAB’71

I had the privilege of playing number one singles all four years as a walk-on, during which Chris Scott was my coach for 1970 and 1971. Scott got me involved with regional players and facilitated my playing national Division III tournaments during both years. For better or worse, my coaches, including Bill Moyle during my first two years, had a greater impact on me than any of my professors.

Another note about Chris Scott’s incredible athletic skills: He once told me he seriously considered going into professional boxing. Scott declined when he learned he would have to have his high cheek bones surgically reduced to minimize the trauma caused by the inevitable blows to the face that would come with professional boxing.

Thomas McCroskey, AB’71
Sterling, Colorado

I had the distinct blessing, honor, and privilege of being one of Coach Scott’s tennis pupils. He was kind, knowledgeable, and patient. My first lesson with Coach Scott began on Stagg Field. He had me throw my racquet as hard as possible. When I retrieved my racquet, he explained the exercise was to demonstrate the “capability and power of my serve.” Truly, a life lesson. Our hard work paid off. At one point, I held a US Tennis Association ranking.

Thanks again, Coach Scott! Men of your grace and stature are missed and sorely needed in these tumultuous times. Continue enjoying the blue skies.

Sabryna-Joi King-Bell, LAB’79

The trudge report

I always had grudging respect for the work of the Chicago Journal, and I’ve now realized why: the letters of Messrs. James Graff, AB’81, (“trudging up the steps”) and Steven Feldman, AB’76, AM’79, (“trudged up the stairs”) in your Summer/21 issue.

Neither “bound up the flights” nor “took the stairs two at a time.”

Rather, in the traditional UChicago desultory manner, they made it a winter burden to be borne, grudgingly. Hence, my respect.

Terence Flynn, JD’75

Correcting the record

Chip Forrester’s (AB’77) “Alternative History” in the Spring/21 issue was an aptly titled account of his publication the Chicago Journal in at least one unintended yet amusing aspect for me: the photograph on page 48 of Muhammad Ali in front of the Chicago Journal’s offices was shot by yours truly and not by D. Shigley, as credited in the article.

For me, the most memorable part of having my photographs appear in the Chicago Journal was the opportunity to learn directly from the master photographer D. Shigley his beautiful printing technique. While I’m flattered to have had my work mistaken for the late Mr. Shigley’s, I’d appreciate a correction, just for the record.

Andrew Seipos, AB’74

We regret the error and appreciate the correction. We have set the record straight in the online story.—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.