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

Readers sound off

Your dispatches on sensory memories of UChicago, Folk Fest, Irving Spergel, and more.

Pic pick

Amazing cover for the Spring/23 issue. Kudos to photographer Jason Smith, and to anyone else involved in cropping, retouching, color correcting, etc. Outstanding.

Peter Leeds, AB’88
Stamford, Connecticut

Bring in the folk

Brilliant issue. Loved the front cover.

I was an undergraduate when the U of C Folk Festival started and have attended whenever I could since, including in 2023 (“Sounds Reborn,” Spring/23). Hannah Edgar, AB’18, caught the thrill of discovery for me back then and the depth, energy, and fascination of subsequent years.

Jesse Auerbach, AB’62

Collected works

I was fascinated to read the stirring story of Carla D. Hayden, AM’77, PhD’87, the 14th librarian of Congress (“Librarian for the People,” Spring/23). Curiosity led me to check the catalog of the Library of Congress, and I found, to my delight and honor, that seven of my nine published novels are available in the collections. What a thrill! I’m still writing (I’ll soon be 93) and hoping to add future titles.

Leonard Lamensdorf, AB’48, JD’52
Camarillo, California

Wishing for fun

Seeing Oscar Hammerstein’s draft of lyrics to “My Favorite Things” reminded me of a ditty I composed with others while I had a work-study job as a page in Special Collections at the Regenstein Library in the 1970s. Some remembered verses are:

  Down on B level transcribing Cone folders,
  Wondering if it could get any colder.
  HPKCC, MoPo, Atkinson
  [Da da da da da] but wishing for fun.
  When the lift breaks,
  When it’s hectic,
  When Kristeller calls,
  We simply remember the Friday to come,
  When paychecks will cheer us all!

For the life of me, I can’t remember the first part of the fourth line. If any former page does, please remind me!

I’m sure that all of the collections mentioned are still part of Special Collections’ holdings. My recollection of Kristeller is that it was a bibliography and the pages were assigned the task of checking each entry to see if it was in the library holdings—something that was done with the card catalog. (Yes, cards in little drawers that took up lots of space when you first entered the library.) It was one of our least favorite tasks.

Having [the late Special Collections director] Bob Rosenthal, AM’55, as one of my first bosses was a wonderful way to help pay my way through the College. I remain grateful for the experience.

Zarina (O’Hagin) Castro, AB’76, JD’84
Walden, Vermont

Delightful drum

Chandler Calderon’s description and the photos of Big Bertha’s excursion to the Big Apple are delightfully clever (“Some Drum,” Spring/23). Too bad the big gal was too big for Carnegie Hall, so her date with Arturo Toscanini was “all for naught.” But so it goes.

I related Big Bertha’s history in my book Monsters of the Midway 1969, but I was unaware of this chapter in her life. Thanks to the Magazine and Calderon for adding another piece to my knowledge about the wonderfully quirky history of things associated with UChicago football.

In response to “Coffee Break,” UChicago Journal, Spring/23, my favorite coffee shop at UChicago was the Frog and Peach in Ida. I didn’t develop a taste for joe until many years after graduation from the College, but I liked its peachy lemonade.

Jeff Rasley, AB’75

During the celebration of the U of C’s centenary, Big Bertha was on campus. I remember then University president Hanna Holborn Gray beat it a few times during a musical number one afternoon outdoors on the quads.

Martha J. Banks, AM’84

Genêtic analysis

Carrie Golus’s (AB’91, AM’93) “Love Letters from Paris” (Spring/23) suggests that Janet Flanner’s (EX 1914) New Yorker nom de plume Genêt was based on her first name. Perhaps—but more likely it was based on the 1792 Girondist French minister to the United States, Edmond-Charles Genêt, about whom every schoolboy, in my day and presumably Harold Ross’s, a generation before me, learned. Revolutionary France and England were then at war. Citizen Genêt’s mission was to persuade the United States to change its strict neutrality policy. He failed, and the Jacobins recalled him. The United States granted him asylum, and Genêt died here in 1834.

William Josephson, AB’52
New York City

Institute issues

In UChicago’s continued effort to institutionalize the entire academic institution, here are some further suggestions for the administration and Board of Trustees (“Introducing the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures,” UChicago Journal, Spring/23). Given that Oriental Institute = Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, therefore: Chicago Lying-In Hospital = Institute for the Empirical Analysis of Excessively Gravid Humanoids; Joseph Regenstein Library = Institute for Bibliophilic and Bibliomaniac Investigations and Investigators; Smart Museum of Art = Institute for Arty-Crafty and Avant-Garde (but Sophisticated) Stuff; Court Theatre = Institute for Histrionic and Dramaturgical Crafts; Bookstore = Institute for Overpriced, Required Codices (Soon-to-Be Dust Collectors and Doorstops).

Further changes forthcoming.

Edward Valauskas, AM’82
Bridgman, Michigan

I read the article in the Spring/23 issue on the name change for the Oriental Institute. The director, Theo van den Hout, stated that with the new name of the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, he hoped that the museum might attract more visitors. But where are these visitors going to park their cars? I visited the OI a few years ago and didn’t see a parking lot, and one cannot park anywhere nearby on the street. I had to park illegally and took a chance that I would not be ticketed. There needs to be some arrangement made for visitor parking.

Michael Lieberman, SB’66, PhD’69

We’re sorry you had difficulty parking and hope you didn’t receive a ticket! To plan future visits, see isac.uchicago.edu/visit and, for campus parking options, maps.uchicago.edu.—Ed.

Feasts for the senses

You asked for sense memories of my UChicago days (“Stimulus Package,” Editor’s Notes, Spring/23). I was in B-school at Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago at the turn of the century (1998–2000). I worked in the Northwest suburbs and lived in Uptown. In my final three quarters I was pregnant with our twins. I was normally starving by the time I got to campus, and before I got pregnant I would tuck into a warm chocolate chip cookie and a frothy cup of tea. Oh yum.

Once I got pregnant, I quit caffeine—not for ice cream and pickles, but for lemonade and very salty potato chips. Double yum, as both I and the twins felt settled all through class.

I am not kidding when I tell you that lemonade and potato chips bring back memories of operations research, managerial accounting and technology strategy discussions, and my fond memories of UChicago Booth.

Amy Ambrose, MBA’00
Berkeley, California

When I reach for a sensory memory of my UChicago days, I am struck by a distinct smell when you walk into a room: someone recently ate Harold’s Chicken with hot sauce here, even though there is no visible evidence of the person and their meal.

Daria Lamb, AB’86
Mill Neck, New York

In October 1962, during my first quarter as an undergrad, I was living north of Ida Noyes in the New Dorms, which no longer exist. During that month, possibly the worst episode of the Cold War occurred: the Cuban missile crisis. Even at the time I was acutely aware that this could develop into a nuclear war with the USSR. Then one night someone in the dorm played a recording of air raid sirens. I was terrified—until the recording turned to the sound of machine guns firing. I never learned who did it, but it was sort of a premonition of bad times to come—and bad actors.

Stephen B. Sontz, AB’65 (Class of 1966), SM’66
Guanajuato, Mexico

I remember watching the first magical snowfalls of 1973–74 from my room in Hitchcock Hall, quite an experience for a boy who had so far spent his entire life in northwest Florida.

I also remember daring to blare electric blues music (e.g., “I’m Ready”) from my too-powerful stereo out of those same dorm windows on glorious spring days in later years. Not to the tastes of everyone and not for too long, but those sounds magnified the seasonal joy for some of us.

Wayne H. “Buzz” Smith, AB’78

When I was a graduate student back in the 1960s, I did my research in the Barnes Laboratory building at 5630 South Ingleside Avenue. While I was waiting for an electrophoretic gel to finish its run, I often would take a break and walk into the ornamental greenhouse at the end of a row of experimental greenhouses that stretched to 57th Street. The ornamental greenhouse was home to a large collection of different cycad species that had been collected by Charles Joseph Chamberlain early in the 20th century. The greenhouse air was always humid, warm, and filled with the smell of lush vegetation. When there was snow outside, and the Chicago wind was blowing, it was an extraordinary feeling to be in that hothouse surrounded by plants that dated back to the Paleozoic.

Several decades ago, when the University of Chicago tore down Barnes Laboratory and the greenhouses, I read in the Biological Sciences Division and Pritzker School of Medicine’s Medicine on the Midway that the cycad collection had been shipped to a botanical garden in California. Since cycads are the most threatened major group of plants on the planet, I hope they are thriving.

Joan Wennstrom Bennett, SM’64, PhD’67
New Brunswick, New Jersey

When I hear the sound of a wooden chair rumbling hollowly on a bare wood floor, I am returned to Classics Café.

During my time at the University of Chicago, I almost always went there for lunch: a lemon-poppyseed muffin and a cup of tea. The muffin was enormous and good, and the tea was always welcome. They made an adequate lunch inexpensively, about $2 as I recall.

Busts of Shakespeare and Homer and gargoyles looked down from the shelf over the massive gray stone fireplace with the Tudor arch. I wish I could find a gargoyle like that today.

Depending on my mood and what I wanted to see, and on what tables were open, I would sit with my back to the window or at one of the small tables along the wall. If I wanted to watch people, I would sit under the window; if I wanted to think, I would sit at one of the other tables. There I could look through the leaded glass window with the vine growing to the left side, its leaves a translucent green in the light. I wonder today how many students used that window with its rectangles as a kind of mental graph paper. There are few pleasures in life like sitting in a café, especially one with quiet light and a unique character, and simply thinking.

In visits to Chicago over the years, I made it a point to visit the University and to always stop in at the Classics Café. What a delight it was to sit there again. Then in 2017, I when I came to the last Printers Row Lit Fest I will attend, I went to the Classics Café and found a note on the door saying the café had closed. I read the note a second time and even tried the door to make sure it was true. The door was locked. I had to go to the Starbucks in the bookstore—a cardboard, plastic, mass-produced experience. What a letdown.

E. J. Deal, EX’95
St. Louis

You ask, “What sounds, sights, smells, textures, or tastes serve as your Proustian reminders of the University?” I can name three: (1) When I enjoy a cup of regular black coffee, I am reminded of the many cups and stimulating conversations I had in the Grounds of Being coffee shop in the Divinity School basement. (2) Each time I hear the harmonious sound of the carillon in the Chicago Botanic Garden, I think of the Rockefeller Chapel carillon. (3) When I hear the sounds of frogs and ducks while on a walk, I recall those sounds coming from the pond at the 57th Street entrance to the University quadrangles.

Richard Kaeske, DB’66, AM’67, PhD’71
Deerfield, Illinois

Stimulus Package” moved my soul. It did bring back the memories. Hustle and bustle on the Midway. Running to classes at the medical school from International House ...

Now that I have retired from the Cleveland Clinic, I would love to come back to campus. In my free time I would like to attend the lectures from various departments given by brilliant minds. Just walking around on the grounds of a great university gives one a high that cannot be put into words.

I am absolutely a proud alumnus of my beloved University.

Nayan Shah, EX’73
Mentor, Ohio

When I was seven years old, I had rheumatic fever and was transferred from La Rabida Children’s Hospital to UChicago’s Bobs Roberts Memorial Hospital. I just about died, but somehow the Lord saved me and I went on with life to get my MBA from the U of C on its campus at 190 East Delaware. I remember the winter walks from Randolph Street station down North Michigan to Delaware.

I remember, too, a unique group of buildings that made up the main campus. On the South Side of Chicago, this campus was memorable and unique. This, combined with Jackson Park, is permanently engraved in my mind.

Bernie Weidenaar, MBA’71
Villa Rica, Georgia

Many good things I do remember from Chicago: walking in the quads (anytime); sleeping at Crerar Library; working in the Regenstein; feeling the work energy of all the people.

Martín Romero, PhD’03
San Miguel Topilejo, Mexico

The fling lives on

The reunion fling is, happily, still alive in the memories of Fred Hoyt, AB’63, and Carolyn Hoyt, AB’64, though, admittedly, at 81, we might have lost a step (“We Get Groovin’ When the Sun Goes Down,” Alumni News Snapshots, Spring/23)!

Carolyn Hoyt, AB’64
Bloomington, Illinois

Charles in charge

I have a vivid recollection of meeting the Prince of Wales in Hutchinson Court during his visit to UChicago in 1977 (“Whirlwind Visit,” Alumni News Snapshots, Spring/23). I was six years old. My mother, Bonnie Muirhead, AB’66, brought me to campus for what I thought was another afternoon disrupting humanities scholarship, running through the stacks in the Regenstein Library, or exploring Botany Pond. Instead, after informing Charles’s entourage that I was a UK citizen (my father, Michael Perman, PhD’69, having been from London), I was lifted up by another onlooker and whisked to the front of the crowd. The group stopped so that Charles could stoop down and shake my hand. He was very friendly and seemed genuinely interested in a little dual citizen showing up unexpectedly at UChicago. The last thing I remember is hearing him say that he felt at home surrounded by the architecture on UChicago’s campus, as it reminded him of his alma mater.

Ben Perman, SM’96, PhD’99
Alexandria, Virginia

Winter Quarter 1978 (my fourth year), I attended a PERL (Politics, Economics, Rhetoric, and Law) course in jurisprudence taught by Edward H. Levi, LAB’28, PhB’32, JD’35 (emeritus president and law professor upon his return to campus after serving as attorney general during the end of the Ford administration). One afternoon Professor Levi requested we come on time to the next class, which was held in a seminar room in one of the Harper Library Towers. You would arrive via a small elevator. On the subsequent day, as we went into the classroom, we were greeted by what appeared to be Secret Service, who took our knapsacks and then admitted us to the room where former president Gerald Ford was seated at the head of the table. Professor Levi had invited him to our class. It was an amazing opportunity to have an open, free-flowing discussion with the former president. A very fond memory.

I also was at the luncheon with Prince Charles as a random selectee, and I recall he was presented with a glass-encased remnant from the atomic pile used in the Manhattan Project under Stagg Field by Fermi’s team.

Larry Silberman, AB’78
Northbrook, Illinois

I-House idyll

There was much to enjoy in your Spring/23 issue, but what caught my eye especially was the photo on page 72 of students at International House midcentury (“My Cuppa Runneth Over,” Alumni News Snapshots, Spring/23). It conjured up happy memories of my husband and me going to International House on Sunday evenings to go waltzing!

Grace E. Moremen, AM’56, and William Moremen, DB’53
Claremont, California

My parents met at I-House in October 1944. My mother, Patricia Confrey Thevenet, MAT’45, had begun her graduate studies in September. My father, Ruben Thevenet, arrived at I-House in October from Montevideo, Uruguay, to pursue graduate studies in chemical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology under the auspices of FDR’s Good Neighbor Policy, which brought foreigners to the United States for graduate school.

My father was assigned to the cheapest room in I-House, which meant the tenant, who had been dating my mother, had to move. He did introduce my parents, though, and the rest is history!

My mother received her degree in June 1945. My parents married at year’s end and went on to raise four children. My brother Rick Thevenet, MBA’82, received his degree from Chicago Booth. When my parents attended his graduation, it was their first visit to the campus since they’d left almost 40 years earlier.

My parents always spoke fondly of the many friends they made at I-House. When I was a child, our Sunday dinners were often served on plates showing several campus buildings, including I-House. I often asked them to point out their respective rooms’ windows.

Susanne Thevenet
Voluntown, Connecticut

I obtained my MBA from the Graduate School of Business at UChicago [now Chicago Booth] and lived at International House in the early 1960s. That was one of the most exciting and memorable experiences of my life. I met so many students from various parts of the globe and learned lots about their cultures, religions, and traditions. I also learned their views of my native country, India.

A major highlight of my stay at I-House was the founding of a theater troupe, International Players. A group of us theater-minded residents came up with the idea of staging plays with international actors. The aim was to show how students from different countries with different looks and accents could stage entertaining shows in English. We were encouraged by Jack Kerridge, then director of International House. Our very first play was Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, followed by George Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell.

Navin Parekh, MBA’62

Back when I was in the College—shortly after the dawn of time—I was walking to my room at International House when I heard harp-like music coming from a behind a door. Curious to learn more about the source of the notes, I knocked on the door and was invited in.

“What’s that?” I asked the occupant, pointing to the unusual stringed instrument. “This is an autoharp,” the young man replied, before playing some dulcet notes.

“Wait, hold on, I need to get my friend in here. He’ll love this sound.” I dashed upstairs to find ex-roomie Larry Weiss, AB’63, and bade him to follow me back down to the sounds-of-music room on my floor.

For the next several minutes, we two lucky Larrys were treated to a splendid concert of beloved tunes strummed and plucked out on the little instrument’s 36 strings by the visiting performer, one Bob Seger.

Larry Lowenthal, AB’64 (Class of 1963)
Gainesville, Florida

Spergel remembered

Irving Spergel was chairman of my PhD dissertation committee at the University’s School of Social Service Administration [now the Crown Family School] (“Urban Legend,” Alumni News Snapshots, Spring/23). He offered me various excellent suggestions on how to strengthen and improve my dissertation. He liked to read the articles that I wrote on racial and urban affairs for the monthly investigative magazine the Chicago Reporter. He praised my writing and investigative skills.

He was a well-respected professor, scholar, and individual. I completed my PhD in 1987 and published Latinos in Chicago: Quest for a Political Voice in November 2022.

Wilfredo Cruz, PhD’87

Imagine my surprise to see my picture in the Magazine. Well, you see my back and the back of my head on page 64 (plaid shirt) (“Urban Legend,” Alumni News Snapshots, Spring/23).

I served as the field supervisor on the Crisis Intervention Services Project that Irving Spergel ran in 1983 and 1984. CRISP was an intervention that offered violence reduction and street mediation in Humboldt Park. Irv identified six former gang members (and leaders) who had come to believe that violence (not gangs) had to be eliminated. These community workers were paired with social work students; the social work students could cross boundaries that the community workers couldn’t and could offer their expertise in assessment and referrals to needed services in the community.

Paul Colson, AM’82, PhD’90

I got my master’s degree from the School of Social Service Administration in 1968 in the group work sequence. In those days the three sequences were casework, group work, and community organization (CO). Irving Spergel was a giant in the CO sequence, but I didn’t have any courses with him.

Fast forward six or eight years. I was an unemployed, recently divorced, single parent who needed a job. Spergel had a big grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to study status offenders. I was hired. We spent a lot of time in the basement of juvenile court combing through records of kids who had committed offenses that would not have been offenses had they been committed by an adult (e.g., breaking curfew, drinking, skipping school).

We eventually emerged from the basement of juvenile court to analyze the data. One day when Irv was visiting Taft House, which housed the project, I fainted by the watercooler. He was very concerned and asked me if I had health insurance. My kids were covered by their father, but I was a healthy 30-something and did not think it was important. Irv Spergel made sure that I got health insurance. He was that kind of a guy.

Karen Culberg Rechtschaffen, AM’68

When I recognized my husband’s (Stephen Gillenwater, AB’77, AM’85) and my dear friend retired Col. David D. Rabb, AM’85 (“Urban Legend,” Alumni News Snapshots, Spring/23), in a picture in the Spring/23 Magazine, I sent it to him, and this is what he said: “Nancy, wow! This photo captured me when I was just beginning my social work career. I was part of Dr. Spergel’s Gang Intervention Program. I had scary and courageous moments during those days. Yet we pressed on in creating Chicago’s first gang intervention and prevention program in 1985.

“Spergel provided me the oppor-tunities to engage gang members and community and faith-based leaders in order to mobilize them to reduce violence and murders. Put simply, Spergel’s aim was to change the rules surrounding gang murders using system theory and designs.

“Spergel was committed and had a lot of experiences, street smarts, and skills that he brought to the communities that he studied and helped.”

Nancy Alexander, AB’80
Oak Park, Illinois

Location, location, location

In a letter in the Spring/23 issue, Janet Gottlieb Sailian, LAB’70, writes that astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar lived in the same building as her parents during the mid-1970s—as did two others (Milton Friedman, AM’33, and Saul Bellow, EX’39) who won Nobel Prizes. I believe another Nobelist, Robert S. Mulliken, a physicist and chemist who won the 1966 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, also lived at 5825 South Dorchester during that era. If I’m right about that—and, for that matter, even if I’m not—that was an amazing collection of brainpower at one address.

Erik M. Jensen, AM’72

Jensen worked with Catherine Uecker in the Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center to confirm that Mulliken did indeed live at 5825 South Dorchester in the 1970s.—Ed.

College comps

Replying to Edmund Becker’s (SB’58, PhD’63) question (Letters, Spring/23): “Were comps just an aberration of the times, annual sweatshops dreamed up by sadistic faculty?” I have vivid memories of those six-hour exams—the long rows of chairs with arms in Bartlett gym and the fatigue mixed with elation at 4 p.m. when they ended.

I enrolled in the College in 1944, having seen a Reader’s Digest article and pursuing admission. The comps were generally administered then by Milton Singer, PhD’40, and his staff, I believe. The Administration Building [now Levi Hall] did not exist then, and the University bookstore dominated the 58th and Ellis corner. As a commuter, I was assigned a locker in Cobb’s basement—Cobb was then the center of University leadership.

Like everyone else, I complained about the six-hour comps—“an upset stomach could destroy a year’s work!” But looking back, I see that they forced me to learn how to organize a year’s work so that I could call it up on demand. Course and quarter exams and papers helped the process of organizing and gave me an idea of how well I was doing, and that was valuable. But the comps were payoff time, and they called for heroic mastery.

That’s probably why I got more Bs than As on comps—I learned a lot about organizing and retaining material, but the mastery factor was sometimes missing. Still, they taught me a lot.

Yes, those were the good old days—Robert Maynard Hutchins, Mortimer Adler, and all.

Edgar W. “Ted” Mills, PhB’47 (Class of 1948), DB’53
Schertz, Texas

Edmund Becker asked if anyone remembered those sadistic comps of the 1940s and ’50s. I do. They were truly products of devious minds.

As Mr. Becker wrote, they were mostly multiple-choice questions, and therein lay the devil’s handiwork. Sometimes more than one choice might be correct, but one was more correct than the others. Or you were given a quotation, and asked not who wrote it, but who might agree with it. For example, answer choices might be something like:

A) Plato and Aristotle
B) Plato but not Aristotle
C) Aristotle but not Plato
D) Neither Plato nor Aristotle

There were traps. Each comp was in two parts, morning and afternoon, with precise time limits of, as I recall, three hours each. You could bring all the books you wanted, but no notes, and therein lay the snare: spend too much time looking for answers and you’d never finish on time.

In the 1940s you had to pass 13 of them to graduate. Nothing else counted. Class attendance was not required; you could study on your own and take the year-end exam. You could also sign up to take two years’ exams in the same subject in the same week. English was my strong suit; I took English II and III in the same year, which is how I graduated in three years, with two Bs (in English) and 11 Cs, which I chose to believe reflected my ability to think for myself—as Robert Hutchins intended.

You were supposed to turn in the exam questions with your answer sheet. The statute of limitations having expired, I confess that I smuggled out the questions of the final comp, OII (Observation, Integration, and Interpretation), and over the years marveled that I had actually passed through that mental minefield before I was 18.

Norman Macht, PhB’47
Ramona, California

Step into the mental minefield for yourself in “So You Think You Can Comp?—Ed.

With the band

I am married to Raphael Leib, EX’99, who was the trumpet player in the Adjusters (“Jamb Session,” Alumni News Snapshots, Spring/23). We have two kids, who are 8 and 6, and we live in Los Angeles. We met in University Chorus, and the band used to practice a lot in the Shoreland dormitory basement, where I lived for the first three years of undergrad. So I’d see them from time to time as they were entering/exiting the basement for practice. I saw them socially at parties around Hyde Park too, since Raphael and I had overlapping circles of friends. As you probably know, they played on and off campus, but they eventually toured the country, opening for and playing with bands like the Skatalites, the Slackers, and many other ska bands from Moon Ska and Jump Up! Records. They had great energy on stage. I love their music, and we play it for the kids, who like it too. My favorite songs are “Armstrong” and “Our Town.” The band is a bit scattered across the United States at this point, all doing cool things professionally, but they keep in touch and see each other periodically. Raphael is currently a California State mediator after many years of union work with SEIU across the country.

Anne Bazile, AB’99
Los Angeles

In the eye of the beholder

The Winter/23 issue of the Magazine features a picture on the cover of a star being born. I am so intrigued by the picture, and I cannot help but tell you my wife’s immediate comment (she is a medical doctor) when she saw the picture. She said, quite surprised, “The cover features a medical theme,” and when I asked what she meant she said, “The picture is clearly of the fundus (the back interior part) of the eye.”

On hearing that, it immediately came to mind that the parallel between the eye and a star could have a number of philosophical and perhaps religious or even political lines of thought (perhaps in line with the title “It Was Written in the Stars”).

I note that Professor Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar spent some time at the University of Cambridge, as I have also. During my time at that university I was interested in, among other subjects, astronomy as well as philosophy.

Obviously the parallel of an eye and a star, based solely on the cover picture, is lacking all and every professional or logical element; nevertheless, it is—at least to me—intriguing, not least as a philosophical mind exercise.

Zacharias Sundström, MCL’63
Emsalö, Finland

Stringed wonders

I enjoyed reading “The Collector” by Susie Allen, AB’09, in the Winter/23 issue. I heard about Italian string instruments on loan to musicians from my teacher back in the 1960s when I was taking cello lessons. Happy to know someone affiliated with UChicago is involved.

Felix Cheong-Leen, UChicago Chief Mechanical Engineer
Highland Park, Illinois


Stanley R. Pierce Hall had its virtues, but I suspect there would be near unanimous agreement among its residents that none of its “common spaces” were among them. Worst were the lounges in each of the four houses—as pictured in the Winter/23 Magazine (“Knights of the Square Table,” Alumni News Snapshots, Winter/23).

For those who never lived in Pierce, some description is necessary. By the end of the 1950s, a new residence hall had been a “pressing need” for a long time. The discovery of a hoard of gold coins buried in the perimeter of Stanley Pierce’s (AS 1913, PhB’14) home created an opportunity, and plans were swiftly drawn up. The project was envisioned as twin towers linked by a central entry, which led to a long lounge space with elevators to four houses (Tufts, Henderson, Thompson, and Shorey). Since only one tower was built, what architectural grace the pair might have had was never realized, and the lounge remained an uninviting space that required residents to walk a half block to the entry.

Over the entry, there was a meeting room reserved that never found use (until, in the mid-1970s, it was converted to an apartment for the resident master and family) and, below the reception desk, storage space later outfitted as a grill named TANSTAAFL.

The dining room was the most attractive space in the building, even though it had no notable features save a window wall along its south side. Each house had a two-story lounge with a fireplace and a small kitchen. Each floor had its own three common spaces: toilet and shower facilities, a study room, and a typing room.

My credential here? Fourteen years in residence, including time as an assistant resident head and a resident head.

It’s unfair, in a way, to focus so closely on the building’s unappealing structure. Despite its limits, creative students made it work for them.

Sid Huttner, AB’63, AM’69
Iowa City, Iowa

VIP encounters

I encountered Bernie Sanders, AB’64, although not known to me by name, circa 1961 (“Political Football,” Alumni News Snapshots, Fall/22).

Responding to a flyer, I attended an evening meeting in the Ida Noyes Hall theater, chaired by the much younger, but no less intense, version of the iconic political figure. The agenda was a call to sit in, protesting the University’s complicity, even active role, in designing racist housing policies and practices, then known as “Negro removal.” Recognized to speak, I called for negotiation rather than confrontation. Sensing this position had no support, I left. Policy had already been decided in a previous private meeting. The purpose of the open meeting was to attract more adherents.

Bernie later adopted my position, but I have since adopted his. I would engage in direct action should the university that owns the housing complex where I live not be amenable to negotiation over rent increases.

Henry Etzkowitz, AB’62
Palo Alto, California

Seeking biographer

I am an alumnus of the University of Chicago, where I received my master’s and PhD. I am 79, and I strongly feel I would like to do my memoirs. I want my biography done by a University of Chicago alumna/alumnus, especially one from the social sciences, and preferably someone who has done biographies. I have been a scholar teaching at various universities throughout the world, and I have hitherto enjoyed a rich public service career in elective politics for the past 30 years.

Anyone who would want to undertake this project should get in touch with me directly at nyongoanyang@gmail.com.

Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, AM’73, PhD’77
Nairobi, Kenya

Correcting the record

In the Spring/23 Letters, the name of the bookstore that originally hosted the Medici was misstated. It was the Green Door Book Shop. We regret the error.

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