A Film for “Juvenile Delinquents of All Ages”

It’s been evident for some time that amorality abounds in the current culture. “Is Nothing Profane?” in the November/ December Gazette, which reviews Paul Provenza’s vulgar show, The Aristocrats, is the most recent example of a waste product thrown off by a civilization in collapse.

His is a mind without boundaries and devoid of shame. Who cares what happens to a country where this kind of trash is not only applauded but proudly published in a magazine representing a university ostensibly dedicated to community mores. Would you want to wade up the sea beach at Tarawa in the face of stitching Japanese machine-gun fire to defend this “art” in the name of the First Amendment?

Provenza “understands that The Aristocrats is not a film for kids.” In short, he is saying that his excremental repetition is for “mature audiences”—an oxymoronic euphemism if there ever was one. The Aristocrats appeals to juvenile delinquents of all ages.

Wilson Bucher L’48 Columbia, PA

 

Remembering a Great Professor and Leader

It is with sadness that I read of the death of Dr. Nancy Rafetto Sweeten Gr’52  [“Obituaries,” November/December]. As an undergraduate at Penn during the tumultuous years of 1967-1971, I had the privilege of taking then-Dr. Leach’s English 184 course—American Literature from 1885-1920. She had that uncanny and much-respected ability to crawl under the skin of an author, and nowhere was she more in her element than with Edith Wharton, the subject of her doctoral thesis.

At that time, the fall of 1969, she was relatively newly widowed, a single mother of a teenage son, and a vice dean of the College for Women. Yet she mesmerized us in each class with her analyses and viewpoints, and I will never forget her eloquent lectures on the merits of American literature in general. When she returned a paper you wrote for her class, she would write more in the margins, the majority of it positive, than you placed in the text. You could drop in at her office without an appointment, and she would always have time for you, talking about life as well as literature.

She often spoke lovingly about her first husband—MacEdward Leach, who founded the Department of Folklore at Penn—making you believe in the sustaining power of relationships at a time when self-consummation was popular. She demonstrated tremendous warmth and concern for us as students, and the encouragement she nurtured in every individual taking her class was unforgettable. In an uneasy time—the first draft lottery, the Vietnam War, the occupation of College Hall, and general unrest both on and off campus—she provided, both in and out of class, a haven and safe harbor during rough seas for those of us bewildered by the troubled times, searching for meaning in a period of upheaval and growth.

She went on to have many other accomplishments after marrying E. Craig Sweeten W’37, for whom the Sweeten Alumni House is named, but her years as a lecturer in English were much revered by those in the University community. She was a beloved teacher and a class act.

Stephen A. Gudas SAMP’71 Richmond, VA

 

Obituary Brings Sadness—and Reminder of the Thrill of Learning

After perusing “Letters” in the November/ December issue and reading the various opinions on the relative merits of feature articles and of alumni notes and obituaries, I set the issue down—only to return a few  minutes later and open, purely by happenstance, to the obituary of Dr. Nancy Rafetto Sweeten.

Dr. Sweeten was one of the highlights of my time at Penn, as I suspect she was for many others both before and after. Though saddened to learn of her passing, I am reminded of the thrill of learning that she fostered within me and others.

As mundane as some might find the alumni notes and obituaries to be, I realize that to not have them would be to diminish the community that is Penn. It does make a difference that I paused to recall my brief time under Dr. Sweeten’s tutelage. In doing so, I am reminded that the Penn community extends well beyond campus and well beyond our time on campus, and that it’s in the reading of other’s milestones that our community stays together. Thanks for keeping us in touch.

Peter L. Holstein C’85 Glencoe, IL

 

A Penn Institution Like No Other

I was so saddened to read of Bobby Koch’s untimely death in Stephen Fried’s essay, “One Last Slice of Bobby Koch” [“Alumni Voices,” November/December].

Koch’s was a Penn institution like no other. Rarely a week went by when I did not make the trek to Locust and 43rd to enjoy not only Koch’s incomparable sandwiches, but also the warmth and good humor of the Kochs. From Bobby’s jokes to the while-you-wait snacks to the snake-like lines out the screen door to the museum-like postings on every inch of wall space, going to Koch’s wasn’t just a meal—it was an event. Quickly, I turned my parents on to the place, and thereafter every visit from them would include a stop at Koch’s.

Almost 20 years went by between my last college visit to Koch’s and my return just a few years ago. I brought my wife and two boys with me. No sooner did I walk in the door than Bobby greeted me, as if I’d just been there one week earlier. It was as if time stood still for all those years. My boys immediately fell in love with the place, and every return visit for a football or basketball game was always accompanied by a visit to Koch’s, with my boys proudly wearing their Koch’s T-shirts for those occasions. Bobby came to know my kids just like he’d come to know me.

Penn has changed in so many great ways in the last 25 years. Koch’s never did—and that, too, was for the better.

Alan Vinegrad W’80 Short Hills, NJ

 

A Tear for Bobby Koch

It was with deep sadness that I read of Bobby Koch’s passing. I started going to Koch’s in the late 1970s, when I moved off campus. In those days, it was Sid, Frances, Lou, and Bobby behind the counter. Finally, it was only Bobby. I don’t live in that neighborhood any more, so it was rare for me to get there. But whenever I did, Bobby remembered me, and made sure my young son was well taken care of. I will miss the gentle humor and caring that Bobby quietly dispensed. I am sure that there are thousands of us who opened up our Gazette this month and shed a tear.

Lorin Ripley C’83 Philadelphia

 

Close Enough

As a longtime 44th Street resident and student, my monthly treat was to get a corned beef special from Bobby and enjoy the attention and camaraderie so well described by Stephen Fried.

Twenty-five years after moving from the area I made a nostalgic trip back to Penn and included a stop to see if Koch’s Deli still existed. As I walked in there was Bobby Koch, who looked at me intently and said, “Corned beef special,” and then, “Ron, right?”  That was close enough for me to once again be impressed by his prodigious memory and feel the warmth enjoyed so often so many years ago.

Some people leave an indelible mark on others’ lives and live always in memory. Bobby was one of these.

Don Phoenix CGS’68 Gr’76 Fairlee, VT

 

Recipe for Success

Koch’s was an essential part of my  Penn experience for the three years (1968-1971) I lived within a stone’s throw of the  delicatessen, as well as during many subsequent visits.

It was the food, yes, but it was much more. The Koch family created a warm, inviting  atmosphere, so much so that I usually found myself hoping for long lines, which allowed  for more schmoozing with those working behind the counter, not to mention the steady flow of free samples.

And I learned a valuable lifelong lesson from practically daily visits. Without degrees from Wharton or any other prestigious business school, the Koch family instinctively  understood, and demonstrated by example, the recipe for running a successful venture: offer top-quality products, provide reliable service, price fairly, make the customer feel special, and derive satisfaction from work.

May the memory of Bobby, his brother Louis, and their parents be a blessing for all the countless customers whose stomachs were filled—and whose outlook on life was brightened—by this wonderful family and their incomparable shop.

David A. Harris C’71 Chappaqua, NY

 

Elegant and Fitting Eulogy

Long before Ed Koch was elected mayor of New York, the original Kochs were serving as a surrogate family for Penn students that had to number in the thousands. And while students and faculty came and went, Koch’s endured. I remember visiting the deli at my 15th Reunion (1994) feeling the same sentiment that Stephen Fried captured so perfectly: “I just came by to make sure you were still alive.” With the passing of each family member (especially Lou), each of us felt a measure of loss. With Bobby gone, it is indeed the proverbial end of an era. Kudos to classmate Stephen Fried for an elegant and fitting eulogy.

Ron Osher W’79 Stamford, CT

 

No Comparison

I am writing in response to the article “Seeking Deterrence, Breeding Defiance” [“Gazetteer,” November/December]. The article likens the terrorists in Iraq to the American revolutionaries of 1776, and quotes a Penn professor, Dr. Lawrence Sherman, who states that U.S. foreign policy since 9/11 has sparked a “moral outrage” among the terrorists which explains suicide bombings.

This argument does not fly. The Americans of 1776 fought bravely for freedom from a monarchy and never resorted to barbarous tactics like suicide bombing, beheadings, and lynchings. The terrorists, on the other hand, are completely against freedom and have specifically tried to sabotage American efforts to bring liberty and democracy to the people of Iraq.

The terrorists also are in no position to claim moral outrage. They may feel  disrespected by the West’s secularism, but using this as an excuse to murder  innocents is fundamentally evil and should never be tolerated. To compare them to the American revolutionaries is an insult to the heroic founders of our great nation.

Shane Stein C’00 WG’05 Dallas

 

Notes for the Rest of Us

I’m not an attorney,
I have no Ph.D.
I’ve earned no master’s
And I’m not an M.D.

I’ve had several careers,
And done things I’ve enjoyed.
Yet reading the Gazette
Sometimes leaves me annoyed.

It seems alumni in these columns
Who happen to post
More often than not
Do it to boast.

I’ve had no children
I’m single (still)
And for 11 years
I’ve dealt with being ill.

Where are the “average” folks
I don’t see any of those
Who’ve led quieter lives
And are not CEOs?

Some of us may struggle
With problems day to day.
We deserve recognition
For making our way.

Mine’s called Bipolar.
It makes things “fun.”
But I am not asking pity
From anyone.

Just understanding
And the chance to get
The rest of us alumni
Heard in the Gazette!

Donna Rubin SAMP’79 Mohegan Lake, NY

Blatant Bias

Since the University has made such a solid commitment to the ideals of diversity and inclusion, it surprises me that the Gazette’s sports reporting is so blatantly biased in favor of men’s athletics.

Since September/October 2004, there have been 14 well-written articles about Pennsylvania athletics. Eight articles covered male teams; four articles covered male coaches; and one, an article about the new Franklin Field turf, was written from the perspective of the male athlete. The only coverage in over a year about a female athlete or team was an article about the accomplishments of pole-vaulter Samantha Crook EAS’05 W’05 [July/August].

For me, the evidence of this bias was painfully noticeable when you failed to recognize the success of last year’s field-hockey team after the team won a share of the Ivy League title. Your coverage could have included the drama of the championship game when Penn defeated Princeton, at Princeton, and prevented the Tigers from becoming the only team in any sport to win 10 consecutive Ivy championships. You could have recognized numerous team and individual accomplishments, including the second most wins in school history (13); the most wins since 1988; a defense that ranked sixth in the nation; the only Ivy League field hockey team with three first team honorees; the first Pennsylvania rookie of the year in 19 years; a goal-tender who ranked third in the nation in save percentage; and a school record of six consecutive shut-outs. Instead, you did not even include an asterisk behind the final record identifying the team’s status as Ivy co-champions.

Local newspapers have understood the importance of balanced sports reporting for years. And even though women’s athletic events do not dominate the headlines of sports pages at big city newspapers, they are reported. For the female athlete at Penn and alumni somehow connected to women’s athletics at Penn, you convey the impression that inclusion is irrelevant.

Jack Calahan GRP’77 WG’81 Doylestown, PA



©2006 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 01/05/06


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