Previous issue's letters | Mar/Apr Contents | Gazette home

Curricular criticism, Caine pro and con, ill-advised illustration, letters on letters.


I was at first pleased to see in the January/February issue that Penn is experimenting with a new curriculum [“This Is Only a Test”]. As I read the article, however, my hope changed to dismay. According to the article, the new curriculum aims to encourage “critical thinking” and to expose freshmen to a wide range of academic fields. These are laudable goals, but the flawed approach demonstrates how thoroughly Penn has fallen away from the concept of a true liberal education.
    The article describes a class on the subject of “globalization,” in which students are discussing issues surrounding the manufacture of clothing overseas. Certainly there can be benefits to such discussions; they can help students become personally engaged in the course material and can encourage future learning. However, one cannot help but wonder how meaningfully college freshmen can discuss a subject as complex as globalization. There seems to be a belief at work that in order to teach “critical thinking” one need only raise a trendy controversial issue and have a cocktail party discussion. Lost is the idea that students must be equipped to think, and that to be so equipped one must be steeped in our heritage as expressed through serious study in traditional academic disciplines. Instead of reading classic texts, however, the students were told to spend their precious class preparation time roaming through department stores. How does one who has only a dim understanding of our own culture and history appreciate and evaluate the impact of such developments as globalization on other cultures (or our own)?
    Still more alarming was the fact that the only objections to the new curriculum which were reported in the article came from science faculty who were concerned that non-science majors might not learn enough science. No one seems to be the slightest bit concerned that students might not learn enough history, philosophy or literature. Penn needs to wake up to the fact that it has an obligation to its students to ensure that they receive the indispensable grounding of a solid liberal education.

William F. Byrne C’85
Arlington, VA


I enjoyed the coverage in the Gazette of Uri Caine’s musical career [“Raising Caine,” January/February]. I’m not sure he wants to be labeled a jazz pianist because of his wide-ranging improvisational repertoire. However, he mentioned Penn’s lack of treating jazz seriously during his musical training in the 1980s. In the 1950s, I noticed the same thing. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Miles Davis and other giants were regulars in Philadelphia, but they were never on campus for anything. I hope the school’s music curriculum is now less patronizing in its coverage of jazz. Anyway, thanks for your article.

Richard Quigley C’54
Wesley Chapel, Fla.


We in the Department of Music have been happy to watch Uri Caine’s burgeoning compositional career over the past few years, and we were pleased that you chose to spotlight his abundant gifts in Nate Chinen’s profile in your January/February issue. We were less pleased—indeed, puzzled—to see the department depicted as a place that discouraged Caine’s development. After all, it takes little reading between the lines of the article to sense the important role that Penn composers George Crumb, Dick Wernick, and especially George Rochberg G’49 played in Caine’s musical education, even if their own expertise did not jibe with his interest in jazz.
    I feel the need to set this record straight because the high standing of Penn’s music department is, on campus and among alumni, a rather well-kept secret. I suspect it would surprise many of your readers to learn that our department ranks among the top academic music departments—that is, departments whose faculty comprises musical scholars and composers rather than performers—in the United States. It would no doubt interest many of the same readers, and perhaps Uri Caine as well, to learn that the department has not only maintained over the years its long-nurtured strengths in European classical music and its outgrowths but expanded its range to sponsor burgeoning academic programs in African-American music and the musics of non-European traditions. Perhaps, indeed, it’s time for a profile of our department in your pages?

Gary Tomlinson
Annenberg Professor in the Humanities
Chair, Department of Music



I am writing about the article on Uri Caine. I am a long-time lover of jazz and classical music. My wife is a fan of Don Byron and so at her insistence we went to hear Uri Caine and his group a few months ago here in Philadelphia performing his Mahler work. At the start of the evening, he said that usually they play the work straight through, but that night there would be an intermission half way. Thank god, because if there had not been we would have exited in the middle of the performance(?).
    He started by banging on the poor piano until I thought it would break and crumble to the floor. He plucked strings on the piano to some effect although it completely escaped me. There were endless solos of what I can only call noise. In all the years that I have listened to jazz or to classical musical I have never experienced such displeasure.
    The emperor’s clothes. Obviously some people think that he is a great musician, but to me it is a joke. I only wish I could have gotten my money back plus a premium for pain and suffering. I think of this now as I am watching Ken Burns’ Jazz documentary series and think of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Lester Young, etc. etc.

Jules Silk W’49 L’52


I certainly enjoyed Helene Hollander Lepkowski’s piece, “Journey to a Forgotten War,” about her dad and his role in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater during World War II [“Alumni Voices,” January/ February]. I look forward to her book. It is puzzling, however, that the impressionist painting that illustrates the article depicts bombers which certainly are not B-25’s. They appear to be Luftwaffe Heinkels. The German markings on the fuselages can even be made out. Was the selection of the artwork hers or yours?

Peter J Abell D’65
Brattleboro, Vt.



The January/February 2001 issue of The Pennsylvania Gazette managed to use a picture of World War II Nazi Dornier Bombers as the illustration to the very touching article written by Helene Hollander Lepkowski in tribute to her father’s service in the China-Burma-India Theater of World War II. To use Nazi war planes as an illustration of an article in tribute to American flyers is the height of bad taste resulting from a lack of care on the magazine’s part. An apology is owed both to the author and to the memory of the brave Americans who were the subject of the article.

Michael H. Leeds L’71
Boca Raton, Fla.



As an aviation historian with a special interest in the World War II period, I was excited to find the article “Journey to a Forgotten War” in the January/February issue. What, I wondered, did the Luftwaffe have to do with a daughter’s search for her father? The answer was a disappointing nothing. While Helene Hollander Lepkowski’s story was interesting, it was about the American Air Force in a theater of war half a world away from Hitler’s Luftwaffe.
    The illustration which raised my hopes was yet another example of editorial ignorance. I would expect a journal like The Pennsylvania Gazette to be more accurate. The airplanes in the painting are Dornier 217s—a later version of the bomber which attacked London during the Blitz. The German cross insignia is rather obvious on the fuselage. The Dornier does have the same twin-tail configuration as the North American B-25 “Mitchell” her father flew in, but otherwise is a completely different airplane.
    A word of advice to Ms. Lepkowski and anyone else planning to research the 1939-1945 war: Do it now. I lost two interviews with veterans of the Air Corps and RAF because they died. If you know a WW II veteran, have them get their memorabilia together. Talk about records and papers, identify people and places in photographs. If you can’t write, record their stories.
    This is also a great project for high-school students. Local museums and historical societies are glad to get such packages. If nowhere else and it’s about flying, send it to me. Do not let these personal bits of history slip away.

Robert R. Powell C’64
Virginia Beach, Va.


Helene Hollander Lepkowski was not involved in choosing the art for her column; the mistake was all ours. Most of our illustrations are done especially for the magazine, but we occasionally use “stock” art—in this case a painting that seemed, to our ignorant eyes, impressionistic and generic but which the painter, when we (belatedly) asked, told us he had based on a photo of a World War II German plane. (He didn’t know the model.) We apologize for this error to Ms. Lepkowski and to those readers who found it offensive or a distraction from her article.—Ed.



I was disappointed to read “A Home in the Carriage House” in the January/February issue [“Gazetteer”]. By Penn encouraging homosexual unions, it is harming the students, the alumni and the whole community. AIDS is a well-known risk. Furthermore, unions such as these do not give the proper psychological and social upbringing that a child needs. Children need a father and a mother. It is a threat to the traditional family and could break up some families.
    By promoting homosexual unions, the University is not helping the community, rather it is causing division and problems, such as diseases and unhappiness. It is a disgrace that the University is promoting this. It hurts the whole University and all the alumni.

Kathleen M. Accurso C’90
Glastonbury, Conn.


The pictures accompanying “Bringing Together ‘The Greatest Generation’ at
Penn” [“Alumni Profiles,” January/February] showed uniformed servicemen with their dufflebags in the Quad, and a platoon of servicemen drilling in front of Houston Hall. My guess is that these are pictures, not of the Greatest Generation’s Penn students forced to take a hiatus from their studies, but rather of members of the United States Armed Forces, assigned to special programs at Penn.

    My father, between September 7, 1943, and January 29, 1944, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3305th Student Unit at the Army Specialized Training Program at the University of Pennsylvania. He and other servicemen studied foreign languages and engineering at Penn. They were taught by Penn faculty and instructors. Dad was billeted in the Quad, had mess in the Palestra, drilled in Franklin Field and attended class in University buildings. All members of the Greatest Generation deserve our salute. Dad never got to matriculate as a student at Penn, but was able to visit the University many times after the war to relive his history and to visit me, my brother Andrew C’ 74 D’78 and grandsons Daniel C’98 and Benjamin EAS’02 W’02.

Michael Melinger C’70
Livingston, N.J.


I am appalled by the letter in the January/ February 2001 issue of the Gazette by Richard Katz—who I hasten to add is not related to me—about the Wistar Institute, its poliomyelitis vaccine and AIDS. He refers to the accusation that a poliomyelitis vaccine prepared at the Wistar Institute and used in tests in the then-Belgian Congo some 40 years ago initiated the current epidemic of AIDS. This hypothesis was popularized by Edward Hooper in his book The River.
    Hooper provided no data, but only theories and suppositions based on his assumption that chimpanzee kidneys were used in the preparation of the tissue culture in which the vaccine virus was grown. Although all of the participants in that work who were still alive at the time when the book was written denied this and pointed out that the simian tissues used were rhesus monkey kidneys, Hooper persisted in his accusation.
    Ultimately, last summer the Royal Society of London held a meeting during which this issue was addressed [“Gazetteer,” November/December]. Present were Hooper and some of the participants in the Congo study. Most important, during this meeting data were presented from four independent laboratories that tested several vials of the original vaccine preserved in the freezers in the Wistar Institute. It was tested not only for the presence of the simian variety of the AIDS virus, SIV, but also for the presence of chimpanzee DNA. Neither was detected. On the other hand, macaque DNA and poliovirus RNA were detected, supporting the contention that the vaccine was indeed prepared in the rhesus monkey tissue culture. This, plus testimonials of a large number of people who were centrally and peripherally involved in the Congo study, as well as epidemiological, virological, and evolutionary data presented at the meeting led to the conclusion of the majority of attendees that the Hooper hypothesis of the origin of AIDS was not correct.
    Katz’s intemperate note insults both the Gazette and Dr. Hilary Koprowski, who led the original study. The article in the Gazette, Katz says, was written “by some gullible naf” and Koprowski was either “sloppy” or “dishonest” in his laboratory work. Moreover, Katz accuses Koprowski of deliberately shredding his notebooks. His letter exceeds in vehemence and insult what Hooper did in The River, because nowhere in that book is there any suggestion of malfeasance or dishonesty. Indeed, when probed specifically during the meeting of the Royal Society, Hooper steadfastly refrained from stating that Koprowski was dishonest. All Hooper argued was that the vaccine used in the Congo was contaminated by SIV and that the investigators did not know it.
    Katz writes that the four vials of the vaccine that were tested were “40 year-old sludge from the back of the fridge” and that the testing “proves nothing.” I wonder what educational and technical background, or what laboratory experience, qualifies him to make this judgment and what is the basis for the vehemence of his invective.
    It is impossible to prove the negative. Hence accusations without supporting evidence cannot be disproved. It behooves the accuser under such circumstances to provide the proof. Gratuitous insults only reflect on the quality of the accusations and on the objectivity of the accuser.

Michael Katz CCC’49
Vice President for Research
March of Dimes, Birth Defects Foundation
White Plains, N.Y.


In response to the letter from Lucy Gorelli that appeared in the January/February Gazette: basically, the proof of the origin of AIDS having anything to do with the vaccine used in the then-Belgian Congo should be furnished by people such as Mr. Edward Hooper or Mr. Larry Altman. This will never happen because they have no proof!
    Nobody inadvertently at the Wistar Institute or at the laboratories in the Belgian Congo could have added chimpanzee kidneys to the vaccine product. Such tissue was not available, as has been amply documented by a technician who prepared the vaccine at the Wistar Institute and by the scientists in charge of the vaccine laboratory in the Belgian Congo.
    The comparison with SV40 contamination of polio vaccines is not applicable since kidney tissue used for making polio vaccines was obtained from monkeys that were carrying SV40. But these species were greatly unsusceptible to HIV. It is time that this whole fiction of the putative origin of AIDS is buried.

Hilary Koprowski
Professor Laureate and Director, Wistar Institute (1957-91)
Thomas Jefferson University


The letters from Lucy Gorelli and Richard Katz in the Gazette object to the exoneration of Wistar Institute polio vaccine as the vehicle that introduced the AIDS virus into humans, which was reported in your November/December issue. However, the letters reflect a profound ignorance of the facts. If they, or other readers, really want to know the complete and voluminous evidence, they will be able to find it shortly in articles by myself to be published in Clinical Infectious Diseases (March 2001) and the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B (May 2001). I am certain that those articles will satisfy the unprejudiced reader that the charges originally made against Wistar by a British journalist were false.

Stanley A. Plotkin
Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics
Emeritus Professor, Wistar Institute
Doylestown, Pa.


I received the January/February 2001 issue of The Pennsylvania Gazette and read the obituary of Colonel William S. Gochenour V’37 on page 87. It made me both sad and mad. Here was a Penn alumnus who served in the Philippine Scouts before the Second World War. Upon the outbreak of hostilities he fought on Luzon, was captured and survived that infamous Bataan Death March and then was an involuntary guest of His Japanese Imperial Majesty for over three years. All he got was just a trifle over two lines in our alumni journal. One line or portion thereof for each year of his incarceration.
    After his liberation he went on to a prestigious army career. At that time the Veterinary Corps of the army had but one general officer and being a full colonel was the next best thing. After his retirement from the army he took a position with the University of Kentucky and engaged in many equine research projects. He was successful in his second career as he well as his first.
    I have noticed over the years that many death notices are sparse to say the least. When a prefix like Colonel or an equivalent naval rank is in front of a name from the thirties or forties it might be good to inquire for more details from the alumni offices of the various schools involved. Penn is today what many of these men (and women) made it.

Norbert R. McManus V’47
Carlise, Pa.


I just finished reading your January/February issue. What a gem! I particularly enjoyed Susan Lonkevich’s article about the College of Arts and Sciences’ pilot curriculum (I had no idea that they had moved away from the cluster program in place while I was a student). Leslie Whitaker’s piece on the members of the Class of 1986 [“Advi$ing Women”] and the reviews of Cathy Crimmins’ and Todd Feinberg’s books [“Off the Shelf”] were also fascinating. Keep up the fine work!

Xiomara Corral C’84


I have just received the January/February Gazette and was giving it a cursory going over but found that I was devouring the contents and couldn’t wait to call a classmate and share my excitement. This issue was outstanding in content and
presentation, aside from the enthusiasm that is evident in the tone of the articles.

    Thank you and may you and your staff continue to show your love for this University.

Betty Kellner Davis CW’42



The article “Resistance Fighter” in the September/October Pennsylvania Gazette does not mention another major reason that antibiotic-resistant bacteria have proliferated in the past several years. The majority of antibiotics used in the United States are not, in fact, used to treat sick people; they are used on animals raised in so-called factory farms.
    These huge facilities, which confine many thousands of stressed-out animals in inhumane conditions, are breeding grounds for disease. To prevent the outbreak of disease, large amounts of antibiotics are added to the animals’ feed. This results in the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Perhaps more worrisome is the fact that every time a person eats meat, they are getting a concentrated dose of all the antibiotics that have accumulated in the flesh of the animal over the course of its life.
    I find it ironic, as well as disturbing, that this issue was not even mentioned in your article. It seems that the medical community is unwilling to take on the multi-billion-dollar meat-production industry, even though their practices clearly endanger public health.

Elise Auerbach C’81


Previous issue's letters | Mar/Apr Contents | Gazette home

Copyright 2001 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 3/6/01


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.