Previous issue's letters |
Next issue's letters |
April Contents |
Philos find fault, unanswered questions on eligibility, rewriting letters.
PHILO: MORE THAN A BUNCH
OF "IRREVERENT EGGHEADS"
The article, "High Above College Green, Close to the Stars," on the Philomathean Society [February], made the group sound like an elitist group of irreverent eggheads. I can assure you that, when I was an undergraduate at Penn from 1958 to 1962, Philo provided much of the intellectual ground I walked on and the very air I breathed. While the faculty at the time was very strong in many academic areas, the intellectual atmosphere outside of class was thin at best. There was no drama department. The music department was weak in the area of performance. And the number of outside speakers on campus was woefully small.
It would be hard to overestimate the impact of Philo in my intellectual development. I was inducted as a freshman and gave five presentations as an undergraduate, on topics as varied as Chopin's Nocturnes, Dostoevsky's "The Grand Inquisitor," D.H. Lawrence's novels, the theme of guilt and responsibility in 20th century literature, and comparative literary criticism. Our membership filled the General Literature courses (which could not be used for credits in any major) -- courses our professors (the likes of Peckham, Scouten, Klarman, etc.) deemed the most exciting they had ever taught. We brought renowned speakers to campus for literally pennies on the dollar (our entire annual budget was under $1,000). We fed each other ideas in areas as diverse as mathematics, quantum mechanics, and architecture (Louis Kahn on one occasion explained the philosophy behind his plans for the on-campus Medical Arts Building). We agonized over ideas as if they were essential to our very lives. They were.
In the course of my stay at Penn, I meandered a bit -- from pre-med to microbiology to independent study in English. I sang in my first choir -- directed by a fellow member, David Steinbrook, who challenged me as an embryonic artist to work directly with the media at hand, not through the filter of theory and intellectual formulations. I walked side-by-side with a fellow member as he traversed the chasm between neo-fascism and humanism. The interdisciplinary vision that Philo embodied accompanied me throughout my graduate studies in comparative literature at Indiana University and some years later in my studies for a degree in clinical social work at Tulane University. It has remained with me in my creative ventures in the areas of cantorial music, chamber music, poetry, drama, children's stories, collage, and folkdancing.
If of late I have been able to participate in adult study groups that are as deeply satisfying intellectually and emotionally, I can say, in retrospect, that I certainly never participated in a group that was more stimulating than Philo. Graduate school seminars paled in comparison.
I hope the move back to the refurbished old quarters is accompanied by a renewed spirit of the membership. Penn was the better for Philo's existence in 1958-62. It will be the better for its renewed fervor in the future.
SOCIETY WAS FLOURISHING
BY THE LATE-1950S
As a former moderator of the Philomathean Society, I particularly enjoyed your article on Philo. I do want to correct one thing, though. You write that it wasn't until 1969 that Philo was "revived from its near-death state" that had begun in the 1920s. Actually, thanks particularly to Charlie Ludwig, C'53, whom you mention, we were well-revived and, indeed, flourishing by the late 1950s.
In 1956 or so, we stopped using temporary meeting rooms in Houston Hall and elsewhere and moved into very nice "permanent" quarters in the Hare Building. The Hare Building, which stood where Williams Hall is now, was one of the first buildings on the West Philadelphia campus and was in the style of College and Logan Halls. Our quarters there seemed quite resplendent to us, with three rooms, including a formal meeting chamber with a high dais, and a very pleasant library-music room. There was artwork on the walls and our replica of the Rosetta Stone was on display.
By the time we got these quarters, we were not only holding regular meetings, but were also actively sponsoring a variety of public functions. These included reviving the annual Philo lectureship by an eminent visiting scholar. Those who gave it in the late-fifties were indeed eminent, and included Owen Lattimore, Henry Steele Commager, and Hans Morgenthau. In 1958, we published a book, Asia in Perspective, based on a lecture series we had organized, using Penn's nonpareil oriental studies department of the time.
When I went back for my 25th Reunion in 1983, I made a point of visiting the quarters in College Hall and there met a current member who, when hearing that I was from the Philo of the fifties, said, "Ah, the Golden Age." Well, we were probably not that, but the Society was in good shape. None of this, of course, is to suggest that the original halls in College Hall are not the very finest place for Philo to be.
THE EDITOR WAS AN
I hope the Philomatheans aren't fining each other one cent -- it's not prime, you know.
&NBSP;&NBSP;&NBSP;DEBBIE KOOKER POLLIO
OF DROPPED BALLS AND
The article, "Dropping the Ball," concerning Penn footballer Mitch Marrow, whose playing while academically ineligible caused the University to forfeit five football victories ["Gazetteer," February], was quite interesting, but it left a few unanswered questions:
1. According to the article, Mr. Marrow acquired mononucleosis and became so ill that he was compelled to drop much of his academic course load; yet he not only remained active on the football team, but he earned All-Ivy honors.
Are Penn academics really that much more rigorous than I remember, to the extent that going to class is now more physically grueling than playing varsity football? Or is the quality of Ivy League football now so poor that a desperately ill, perhaps even bedridden young man could nonetheless be the 'cream of the crop'? Or is something else at work here?
2. The article mentioned, in passing and with no comment, that Mr. Marrow had previously not only been charged with plagiarism, but that a University panel had upheld the charge.
Why is a plagiarist even allowed to remain at the University, much less represent it by competing on its teams? Perhaps this is just another example of Penn's penchant for defending the indefensible -- the University has created an outreach program designed to accommodate liars, thieves, and cheats (the "ethically-challenged" or "morally-impaired?"), in recompense for the persecution and oppression which such people once suffered at the hands of elitists who insisted on such things as (please don't scoff) "standards."
All of which serves to remind me of why, over the past 15 years, I have sent my alumni contributions (and the 100% matching contributions of my company) to the university where I attended law school rather than to the university where I did my undergraduate work.
MICHAEL T. SHUTTERLY
Being a wordsmith by trade, I couldn't let the letter headlined "Welfare Reform is Working" from Sydney Waud, C'63, in February's Gazette alone. The following excerpt is from the original; only the words in brackets are mine.
" ... few would argue against the necessity to do something to break the established dependency of generation after generation of those on [trust funds].
"An unearned check does nothing to instill pride of accomplishment nor to bolster human dignity. To foster the belief that it is right to use [inherited wealth] to raise and educate a family is wrong. The initiative to change [inheritance-tax law] by encouraging its able-bodied [beneficiaries] to become self-sufficient through gainful employment is [an idea whose time has come]."
What's sauce for the pauper is sauce for the prince, don't you think? Give me a moment and I'll work out a version for women who live off their husbands' incomes and aren't raising children.
SUSANNA J. STURGIS
FOOD TRUCKS PROVIDE HUMAN
TOUCH TO CAMPUS, HONEST
LIVING FOR VENDORS
Regarding food trucks, David P. Kollock, W'63, WG'80, writes that "the whole appearance of the campus is degraded by the food trucks and their activities" ["Letters," February]. I couldn't disagree more. The food trucks are one of the human touches that attract me to the Penn campus. They exemplify cultural and ethnic diversity, and they are an example of people working hard to making a living by meeting a felt need.
In a time when government welfare is being cut, as it should be, why put unnecessary hurdles in the way of people trying to make an honest living? Indeed, we are a first-rate institution, as Kollock says. And we reflect that by encouraging diversity and entrepreneurship. I would hate to see the food trucks corralled in an out-of-the-way parking lot, or to have them replaced by food courts.
Penn needs to stop taking actions which hurt the neighborhood. Leave the food trucks alone.
MARY W. FICKETT, Staff
English Language Programs
School of Arts and Sciences
CHALLENGE ANSWERED I
I read with interest the "Arbittier Challenge" in the Gazette ["Alumni Notes," February]. I wanted to bring to your attention the Penn history of my family. Of the seven children in the McKenzie clan, five went to Penn. Two Penn marriages also resulted.
The McKenzie list:
Martin T. McKenzie, Gr'83
Steve E McKenzie, M'85, Gr'85
Daniel McKenzie, ME'79
Patricia McKenzie, Nu'81
Paul McKenzie, EAS'87
Io Phillips McKenzie (married to Daniel), Nu'79
Bernadette Loftus McKenzie (married to Martin), C'81
By my count, we have the Arbittiers beat by one person and one school. Pretty impressive considering that my parents did not have the opportunity to attend college since they went to work straight from high school to support their parents.
CHALLENGE ANSWERED II
My father, David H. Marion, W'60, L'63, has three children who all attended Penn for a combined eight degrees: Charles S. Marion, C'86, W'86, L'89; Hilary Marion Hayes, C'93, GED'94; and myself, Louis R. Marion, C'90, G'94, D'94.
It is also noteworthy that each of us married a Penn alumna: Chuck married Mandy Kelsey Marion, C'90, Ged'91; Hilary married Brooke B. Hayes, W'93, WG'99; and I married Lauren Chalmers Marion, C'90.
Other members of the Marion family who have earned Penn diplomas are: my grandfather, Louis Marion, C'23, L'26; my uncle, Arthur J. Marion, W'58; and Arthur's children, Michael Marion, C'85, M'90; Jane M. Marion, C'85, and Lori Marion Fair, GEd'95.
Three generations of Marions with 22 degrees.
LOUIS R. MARION
DISPLEASED BY "MEAGER
COVERAGE" OF NOBELIST
I was surprised and displeased about your meager coverage of my classmate and fraternity brother Stan Prusiner's Nobel Prize win ["Alumni Profiles," November]. Penn is not exactly awash in Nobel Prize winners, either faculty or grads, and one would hope that Stan's alma mater's propaganda vehicle would have at least tried to match in scope and depth the national and international coverage that he received in the rest of the media.
ROBERT K. GARDNER
I must confess to being a mildly enthusiastic reader of the Gazette for some years, but recently you have really grabbed my attention. I can't really fathom exactly what did it. Format? Content? Who cares! Keep doing whatever you're doing. It's GREAT.
GAIL WANDLESS GOCHENAUR
Previous issue's letters |
Next issue's letters |
April Contents |
Copyright 1998 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 4/8/97