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Previous issue's letters | Jan/Feb Contents | Gazette home




Great teachers, “gullible” reporting,
bad language … and more.


JOY AND DISCOVERY

    My undergraduate experience was not as intense as that of Beth Kephart C’82 [“Coming Home,” November/December], and, in retrospect, I probably would have been happier at a much smaller school. However, I did experience the same level of joy and discovery as a French major when I was able to master French phonetics and achieve near-native fluency. Our graduate assistant was a charming young woman from Dijon who opened this whole world to me. I spent many tiring hours in the basement of Bennett Hall at the language lab, but it was worth every minute. Later I married a Frenchman, so the language has truly become a part of my life.

WE WELCOME LETTERS

Please address them to: Editor, The Pennsylvania Gazette, 3533 Locust Walk, Philadelphia PA 19104-6226.

You can also reach us by fax at (215) 573-4812, or by email <gazette@ben.dev.upenn.edu>.

Letters should refer to material published in the magazine and may be edited for clarity and length.

Sandra Choukroun CW’69
Narberth, Pa.

MACDIARMID’S “ENTHUSIASM WAS BOUNDLESS AND INFECTIOUS”

    I just read about Alan MacDiarmid’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry [“Gazetteer,” November/December]. At Penn I was an undergraduate chemistry major, and in the fall of 1977 I was required to take Dr. MacDiarmid’s course in synthetic inorganic chemistry as part of the major. I had absolutely no interest in the subject—until I had taken in a few of Dr. MacDiarmid’s lectures. His enthusiasm was boundless and infectious. He taught with such verve, spirit and clarity that it was impossible to sit in his class and not love it.
    Over the years I have frequently described how a teacher—Dr MacDiarmid—could make a person love a subject one thought one hated. Of course, as the Nobel citation makes clear, he walked into our lecture every day fresh from the daily work that led to his Nobel Prize this year. He would tell us about his work, and wove it so beautifully into the textbook stuff on which most of the course was based, that we could literally feel his excitement.
    But there’s more. As Penn proclaims a focus on effective teaching and on integrating current research into classwork, it had Dr. MacDiarmid in its own backyard. A personal episode: before an exam I scheduled an office hour with him, and brought a list of questions. After he clarified and explained every one of them, as I rose to leave, Dr. MacDiarmid thanked me for coming and preparing my questions beforehand. Never before or since did I experience such a thing.
    A great scientist, a great teacher, a great man. Penn has a lot of great chemistry professors, but for me Dr. MacDiarmid is in a class by himself.

Eric Bruskin C’79
Washington

ORIGIN OF AIDS REMAINS A MYSTERY

    I am writing because the article “Wistar Scientists Cleared of Hatching AIDS” [“Gazetteer,” November/December] is misleading.
    Your article states that Drs. Hilary Koprowski and Stanley Plotkin “were exonerated by the findings of three independent laboratories.” Actually, Lawrence K. Altman in an article in the September 12 New York Times titled, “Tests Fail to Support Theory on AIDS and Role of Chimpanzees and Vaccine,” wrote, “The tests do not conclusively disprove that possibility, however, because other vaccines for which samples were not kept could have been made from chimpanzee cells. The tests leave the mystery of the origins of AIDS unsolved.”
    Mr. Edward Hooper pointed out in his book, The River, that there exists a possibility that the polio vaccine made and administered by Koprowski contained chimpanzee tissue. Chimps do harbor SIV, as we now know, but this was unknown to Koprowski at the time.
    Hooper did not accuse Koprowski of murder in his book; rather, he informs us that at the time Koprowski developed the vaccine he did not know of the danger of SIV and could have unknowingly exposed humans to it. In the United States many persons who took polio vaccines in the 1950s were inadvertently exposed to SV40 contaminant.
    It might do us more good to think about the unimagined potential risks in current research, as well as the risk of being less than completely open—not to stop doing trials, but to expand our thinking and achieve the greatest possible good.

Lucy Gorelli C’79
Pennington, N.J.

 

FINDING PROVES NOTHING

    Why on earth did you run that unsigned propaganda piece attempting to exonerate Hilary Koprowski and Wistar? Testing four vials of 40-year-old sludge from the back of the fridge proves nothing.
    The real difficulty here is that Koprowski can’t seem to find his lab notebooks from the fifties. He says he “lost” them.
    Go ask any scientist: The Notebook is sacred. You fudge the data in your notebook, you’re a bad person.
    There’s a cloud over Koprowski. It will, or should, follow him to his grave, because of his sloppy (or dishonest) lab practices. And no amount of whitewashing or handwaving by some gullible naf at the Gazette offices can substitute for a real pro reporter walking over to Koprowski’s office and saying (again), “So, Hilary, where’d you say the notebooks went?” and then, by some amazing stuff-of-legend means, resurrecting and reconstructing the jottings in the notebooks as they were set down in the ordinary course of business.
    Koprowski obviously shredded his notebooks. Enough said.

Richard Katz C’70
Berkeley, Calif.

 

MAKE THAT “DISPLEASE,” PLEASE

    Whoa! What have we here? In the middle of “Man in the Muddle” [“Notes From the Undergrad,” November/December] there appears: “I managed to piss off … ” I had to flip back to the front cover to make sure it was the alumni magazine of one of the finest universities in the land.
    Has the publication done away with editors and proofreaders? Have we given in to a rude, crude, foul-mouthed generation of me-ists? Let’s hope not.
    That senior’s PC should have its printer washed out with soap.

William Last C’57
Boston

 

WRESTLING WITH OLYMPIC DATES: AN ALL-IVY FINAL IN 1920

    Congratulations to the Gazette for mentioning that Brandon Slay W’98 was upped to gold medalist in the 167.50 freestyle wrestling class at the Sydney Olympic Games last summer [“Sports,” November/ December].
    However, why did sports columnist Noel Hynd’s research on a previous Ivy League Olympic medalist stop at 1924?
    If he had gone back another four years he would have found out that at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, the Red and Blue captain, Samuel Gerson W’24, reached the final round only to lose the gold medal to the Cornell captain and four-year opponent, Charles Ackerly, in the only all-Ivy final in freestyle-wrestling Olympic competition.

C. Robert Paul Jr. W’39
Little Neck, N.Y.

 

DOCTORS MUST RESIST DEMANDS FOR ANTIBIOTICS

    Tom Nugent’s recent article [“Resistance Fighter,” September/October] makes one wonder why the American Medical Association has not used its formidable clout to educate our doctors about indiscriminately prescribing antibiotics.
    Regarding patients “demanding” antibiotics, no doctor should prescribe anything he deems either ineffective or inappropriate no matter what the extent of protestations by a patient. When antibiotics are not the answer, doctors should prescribe what is appropriate and take the time to educate the patient as to why antibiotics are not the panacea for all illnesses. This is not the easy way but the right way, which requires steeling one’s resolve to dictate to the patient.

Sydney P. Waud C’63
New York

 

WHO’S THE RACIST?

    Michael Brown’s diatribe regarding John Wideman’s alleged “coolness” to him was both racist and sadly paternalistic [“Letters,” November/December]. That Brown harbored this venom for a decade is truly telling. Wideman is one of this country’s great writers. Any reasonably discerning reader of his prodigious (and prize-winning) output will not find the racism that Brown claims is there. That reader will instead find prose that elevates life and speaks to—dare I say it?—our souls.

Norman J. Glickman C’63 G’67 Gr’69
Princeton, N.J.

 

MORE MASK AND WIG MEMORIES

    I appreciated C. Robert Paul Jr.’s letter in the July/ August Gazette about Bobby Troup. Just about the same time, going through some of my late father’s things, I found the program of the Fourth Freshman Show that introduced the song “Daddy,” then called “Daisy Mae” and sung beautifully by Bobby Martin. That program is kind of a Who’s Who in Mask and Wig at that time—a lot of talent. Bobby Martin was a great guy and a popular figure on campus. Unfortunately, Bobby was killed in the war. Gordon Hardwick, Jr., a member of our cast, also lost his life in the war. There may be others, gone but not forgotten.
    Unfortunately, every copy of the Gazette brings some bad news to the Class of 1943. I always want to fill in the details of these good guys. Jackie Welsh—great scat back. Don Potts—Mask and Wig star. Ted McDonald—football manager, Sphinx. Herb Cooper—varsity football. Dave Mahoney—basketball star, very successful businessman and philanthropist. We all loved the University of Pennsylvania. It’s a great university and in my time we had a wonderful student body.

Alan R. Scott W’43
Larchmont, N.Y.


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