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Letters on a letter, row over a review … and more.

 

BACKLASH ON BAKER LETTER

    Joseph Baker’s letter in the March/April issue of the Gazette prompted me to reread Greg Robinson’s article, “Admission Denied,” [January/February] and to write this letter.
    One would expect that the way our country was drawn into World War II and the subsequent actions of our Armed Forces “to save the world from two fiendish militaristic regimes” [Baker letter] would affect the thinking and behavior of civilians, including administrators of academic institutions, so they, too, would do whatever they could to minimize the horrors of the war and bring it to a successful conclusion as soon as possible.
    This, I believe, is what Mr. Baker had in mind as the basis for his letter and I’m quite sure Mr. Robinson would agree with that statement. Who could not agree with it? However, with all due respect to Mr. Baker, whose feelings about the war are most certainly understandable and respected, it seems to me he may be overlooking the fact that Mr. Robinson has written an historical account which was properly researched and reported. That being the case, errors he has made should be refuted by authorities with substantiated information.
    I don’t see where, as Mr. Baker put it, “[Robinson’s] primary motivation, currently in vogue in many elitist quarters, is merely a baldfaced attempt to discredit Penn’s WASPy forebears...” On the contrary, I think Mr. Robinson has performed a service by reminding the Penn community of a particular glitch in the University’s history of dealing well with persons of varied ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds.
    Considering what the demographers tell us, colleges and universities can look forward to an increasing number of students with non-Caucasian backgrounds. Penn’s proper understanding of its past experiences with such students, to which Greg Robinson’s article contributes, can only help in its current operations and development for the future.

Frank F. Katz
G’56
West Orange, N.J.

 

    As a lawyer with extensive experience in race discrimination cases, Joseph Baker’s letter struck me as an unfortunate example of the kind of thinking which led to the Trail of Tears, Jim Crow laws and anti-Semitism at Ivy League universities in the first half of this century. While attempting to defend the World War II forced relocation and incarceration of over 100,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry, Mr. Baker exhibited the same prejudices and stereotypes which have typified prejudicial thought and behavior towards virtually every minority group in the history of this country.
    Coincidentally, I had just finished reading a biography of FDR by Ted Morgan when I saw his letter, and I want to share the following facts from Mr. Morgan’s book:
The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover, wrote a memo to his boss, United States Attorney General Francis Biddle, in which Hoover argued that there was no basis for an evacuation, and he blamed the impetus for removing the Americans of Japanese descent on public and political pressure rather than factual data (yes, the same J. Edgar Hoover later famous for violating the civil rights of Martin Luther King and of American citizens who protested the war in Vietnam).
Although Attorney General Biddle opposed relocation of American citizens as a violation of their constitutional rights, the provost marshal general, Allen W. Gullion, argued in favor of the evacuations as a matter of national security. A year later, General Gullion was investigated by the FBI for allegedly forming an organization inside the Army which aimed “to save America from FDR, radical labor, the Communists, the Jews, and the colored race.”
By June of 1944, when it was clear that there was no threat of Japanese invasion or sabotage on the West Coast, Presidential advisor Harold Ickes told the President that “the continued retention of these innocent people in the relocation centers would be a blot upon the history of this country.” In spite of which, FDR delayed releasing the Japanese Americans from internment camps until after the November 1944 election so as to avoid losing votes in an election year.
Mr. Baker is right: 20-20 hindsight is great. But in the shameful case of the forced relocation of American citizens of a different race, at least three prominent Americans—FBI Director Hoover, Attorney General Biddle, and advisor Harold Ickes—had the foresight to realize that the facts did not support this massive violation of constitutional rights. And what is Mr. Baker’s explanation for this country’s WWII tolerance towards Americans of Italian and German descent? Could it have been because they had the same racial characteristics as the “WASPy forebears” who ran this country and its institutions in 1942?

James Finkelstein
C’73
Albany, Ga.

 

    The letter by Joseph Baker W’50 was very offensive in its tenor and his rationalizations were weak and flawed. I was deeply saddened to see this type of racism appear in the Gazette and from a fellow alumnus.

Laurence S. Masuoka
D’83
Fair Oaks, Calif.

 

    I would think that Mr. Baker was a young man during World War II and was aware of our terrible losses at the hands of the Japanese. I’m certain that this colored his attitudes toward Americans of Japanese descent. Mr. Baker feels that there was no way that we could have trusted Japanese Americans, as their loyalties could have been with Japan. Peculiarly, though, he fails to mention our Americans of German and Italian descent. We weren’t doing too well against those countries in the early forties either and, by his reasoning, their sentiments could have rested with the Nazis and Fascists. However, if we arrested all of them, we would have had few people left to fight the war!
    Perhaps Mr. Baker feels that our European enemies were doing civilization a favor by eliminating all those nasty, dirty and undesirable people. Also, we could have saved so much money by not outfitting a Japanese-American infantry unit and awarding so many medals to those “untrustworthy” Nisei soldiers.
    Wake up, Mr. Baker. I doubt that Ms. Nakano was going to be the cause of an aircraft carrier being sunk, or that my friends Salvator and Friedrich, both Americans, were going to blow up troop ships.
    America was wrong, WASPy Penn was wrong and Mr. Baker is wrong.

Samuel Kissel
D’60
New York

 

    In response to Joseph Baker’s letter, I am not going to dwell on the contradiction of German and Italian Americans enjoying all their rights while loyal Japanese Americans lost homes, businesses, freedom and dignity. It needs to be stated that oppression against Japanese Americans preceded December 7, 1941, by 100 years.
    It was common practice for Japanese Americans to place ownership of the land on which they farmed in the hands of U.S.-born infants. This was a result of racist laws that forbade land ownership by the non-native born. This was just one of many onerous restrictions placed on all Asian Americans. The worst ones include laws that effectively kept Asian families apart and created a subculture of permanent bachelorhood for Asian men.
    I am not sure if Mr. Baker had heard the news from over 10 years ago that the U.S. government had finally acknowledged its mistake. The government offered an apology along with a token of financial compensation to individuals who survived the years of internment. If our own government can attempt to overcome what is universally considered a tragic episode of its history, why would anyone want to make enemies out of folks who showed the greatest loyalty by serving and dying for an army that rounded up their families?

Kenny Yuen
C’86
Cheltenham, Pa.

 

MARK(ED) DISAGREEMENT

    I read with disbelief the review by Wendy Steiner of Mary Ellen Mark’s book, American Odyssey, in your recent issue [“Off the Shelf,” March/April]. It is hard to fathom why an alumni magazine would publish such a gratuitously mean-spirited and uninformed review of not only one of the most gifted photographers working today, but a graduate of your university who received an honorary doctor of fine arts degree in 1994 from it.
    Let me be brief, although there is much that could be said:
    In the very first paragraph, establishing the tone of the entire review, Mark is put down for being voted by American Photo magazine “the most influential woman photographer of all time” and “for earning the admiration of the likes of Maya Angelou and Louis Malle.” What does that mean, “the likes of?” These are words usually reserved for the scurrilous, not world-class film directors and Pulitzer prize-winning poets. Is Mark to be trashed for the very accolades and admiration that her work has prompted in others?
    Photography is the most widely practiced medium in the world today. In spite of Ms. Steiner’s statement that it is “linked … to the uneasy politics of exploration and colonialism,” it is no more linked to those endeavors than to painting, the tracking of criminals, the price of herring or the sale of underwear.
    Ms. Steiner then accuses Mark of presenting an array of “types by now all too familiar in serious photography: the aged, ill, obese, poor, rural, vulgar, insane, self-deceived, deviant, abject.” Perhaps Ms. Steiner doesn’t count herself among the living, but everyone I know, including me, has found themselves on that list at one time or other.
    Mary Ellen Mark is a documentary photographer. She did not invent the America we all share, sometimes sorrowfully. All the more reason to value and appreciate someone who goes out to meet it and give it enduring visual life.
    Andre Kertesz, who also admired Mary Ellen’s work, perhaps said it best about critics: “The caravan is passing; the dogs are barking.”

Joan Liftin
Director, documentary photography education
International Center of Photography
New York

 

    In her review of Mary Ellen Mark’s American Odyssey, Wendy Steiner may have found Mark’s stance difficult to inhabit, but I found Steiner’s stance difficult to locate, much less inhabit. Between snide asides like “wince-inducing accolade” and the tepid praise in her conclusion, it was not clear to me if Steiner liked the book, the author or the subject matter at all.
    What was clear to me, however, was that Steiner missed the point of Mark’s photos; she especially missed the point of the “water babies” photo when she offensively referred to members of The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance as “hippo-ballerinas.” I’m not sure if Mark wants us to “respect” the subjects of her photos—I can assure you that as an African-American woman, I have no respect for women in KKK hoods. Rather, I think Mark’s photos invite us to see these people the way they see themselves, which is apparently something that Steiner finds “mildly shocking.”
    Maybe what Steiner finds so shocking (and difficult to believe) is that men and women who live in such dire and diverse circumstances can have the same pride, arrogance, bravado and insecurity as those of “us” who live in ivory towers?

Lynne Edwards
ASC’92 Gr’95
Collegeville, Pa.

 

    The Ides of March is the classical date for assassinations. So Wendy Steiner marches out of Penn’s Humanities Forum, hatpin at the ready, for her dyspeptic attempt to assassinate Mary Ellen Mark.
    The assault is particularly ludicrous because of how persistently Ms. Steiner stabs herself and Penn in the foot. The puzzle of motivation is revealed in the envy masked as scorn Ms. Steiner heaps on the fame and admiration Mary Ellen’s work has earned.
    Ms. Steiner begins her diatribe by attacking the words and concepts of Edward Steichen, Maya Angelou, Ms. Mark and the book’s publishers. She retails the tired assault on Steichen’s Family of Man concept without mentioning one of its pictures. She follows this by placing Mary Ellen’s work as “a cross between Walker Evans and Diane Arbus,” thus revealing in one phrase total incomprehension of the formal stances of three major photographers. The gap between Evans and Arbus is broad enough that one would be hard put to name a photographer who couldn’t fit somewhere in between. It’s like saying a painting lies between Piet Mondrian and Francis Bacon.
    She then ostensibly discusses Mary Ellen’s politics by categorizing the book’s subject matter: in Ms. Steiner’s words, “the aged, ill, obese, poor, rural, vulgar, insane, self-deceived, deviant, abject.” All these Ms. Steiner labels as “grotesquery.” The rural? Is this the humanity of the humanities department? But it’s still just a critique of words, of concepts, of subject matter, not of pictures.
    Speaking of words, I loved Ms. Steiner’s use of “pre-digital” to sneeringly describe Ms. Mark’s work. I suspect what Ms. Steiner yearns for is the day when all these grotesqueries we photographers force her to confront will be digitally morphed and ethnically cleansed into something more palatable to her refined sensibilities.
    When Ms. Steiner finally gets around to talking about the pictures, she reverts to that refuge of the clueless: arithmetic. Ms. Steiner counts how many people are in Mary Ellen’s pictures: onesies, twosies, threesies, four. She then discards all but the twosies because she has a stunning revelation, a whole new aesthetic theory to prove. Mary Ellen photographs lots of couples because she works in black and white. Get it? Two colors, two subjects. No grays. It’s like sending a tone-deaf accountant to Beethoven’s Ninth and being told there were 50 people in the chorus and they sang high notes and low notes. Incisive. Childish. Poor Penn.

Charles Harbutt
Professor of photography
Parsons School of Design
New School University
New York

 

Wendy Steiner replies:

    I could not be more surprised at the two letters concerning my review of Mary Ellen Mark’s American Odyssey, not because they disagree with me about the quality of the book in question but because they utterly misrepresent what I say and impute disgraceful motives to me in the process. [Dr. Steiner’s response was written before the letter from Joan Lifton was received.—Ed.]
    For example, I write that American Photo’s description of Ms. Mark as “the most influential woman photographer of all time” is “a wince-inducing accolade,” and Ms. Edwards takes me to task for being snide. But left-handed compliments do make me wince. Would anyone call Walker Evans or Edward Steichen “the most influential man photographer of all time?” Is Ms. Mark better than all the other women photographers but not the men? Why should her sex have anything to do with her rating as a photographer in the first place, especially since she does not come across as a specifically feminist artist?
    Ms. Edwards also complains that it is unclear whether I “liked the book, the author, or the subject matter at all.” I would say first that book reviews are not merely a matter of thumbs-up or thumbs-down, and evaluations of art often have an “on the one hand, on the other hand” character. Professor Harbutt seems to think that calling me “dyspeptic” and full of “envy” and prone to stabbing myself in the foot with my assassinating hatpin (!) will invalidate the problems I raise. The assumption seems to be that no one would ever criticize Ms. Mark’s work who was not ignorant, envious or inhumane. I find this an astonishing assumption. I am not a photographer, have never met Ms. Mark, and have more to gain by praising her than the reverse. A reviewer mentions flaws or inconsistencies not out of meanness or a sense of superiority but in order to get at what a book means, how it compares to other related books and where it fits into the general culture. Anyone who produces art or publishes books is open to criticism.
    The complication in reviewing American Odyssey is that it is not only a body of photography but a book that presents that photography in a particular light identified as the artist’s own. I think the photographs are much more interesting than the meaning offered up in the frame, and my review said so, though perhaps not as clearly as it might have. The praise in my conclusion (and, incidentally, in the two paragraphs before that as well as the introductory paragraph and the one on Agnes Martin and Tiny) is not “tepid,” but sincere and enthusiastic. The fact that I am less enthusiastic on a couple of scores does not invalidate my admiration on others.
    Why Professor Harbutt is incensed at my use of “pre-digital” is beyond me. What I said is that before digital photography, artists normally had to go away from home if they wanted subjects who were not “at home”; now, of course, they can fabricate these subjects without taking a step out the door. This is simply a matter of fact, and has no pejorative import one way or the other. Ms. Mark herself makes us think of photography as leaving home through her introduction and title, and her work covers an array of subjects made familiar by past photographers’ “odysseys.”
    Professor Harbutt berates me for locating Ms. Mark among these photographers, specifically between Walker Evans and Diane Arbus, since “one would be hard put to name a photographer who couldn’t fit somewhere in between.” But in fact a large percentage of photographers have nothing to do with the “ethnographic” stance I describe. Evans documented rural, poor, abject people in a highly sympathetic manner; Diane Arbus presents exhibitionistic nonconformists in such a way as to suggest freaks. When I say that Ms. Mark stands somewhere between the two, I mean that she is usually not as sensationalist as Arbus or as idealizing as Evans, but this is, nevertheless, a range in which she can be placed. It isn’t bad company to be in, either.
    Ms. Edwards says that “Mark’s photos invite us to see these people the way they see themselves.” I disagree. I think they show us how their subjects see themselves, but often make it next to impossible for us to see them the same way. The extreme camera angles do not let us look “head-on” at the subjects, but always from a slant; we see them in the act of presenting themselves, not as they present themselves. This is why the portrait of Agnes Martin is such a striking exception; she is a fellow artist, and she is practically the only person in the collection whom Ms. Marks treats as an “equal,” allowing her self-presentation to coincide with the camera’s view.
    Contrary to Ms. Edwards’s claim, I am not shocked that unfortunate people “can have the same pride, arrogance, bravado and insecurity as those of ‘us’ who live in ivory towers.” Rather, I am shocked by the doublespeak of this book in stating that people’s quirkiness helps us to discover “the common human element that connects people all over the world,” while cutting me off from sympathy and a sense of equality with its subjects. Irony is perfectly fine, but not when it claims to be humanistic fellow-feeling. I do not know why Ms. Mark felt it necessary to blunt her psychological and formal brilliance with patronizing sentimentality and unexamined clichÈs. Her work deserves better than that. And, by the way, the “twosies” that Professor Harbutt so insultingly criticizes me for noticing are an important vehicle of this irony, full of complex meanings. Perhaps he thinks, though, that childish clichÈs are preferable to complexity. Poor Parsons.

 

GOOD TO SEE SHERMAN AND FELS GET THEIR DUE

    Thank you so much for your detailed article on Dr. Lawrence Sherman, the new director of the Fels Center of Government [“A Passion for Evidence,” March/April]. I am pleased to see the position of Fels director filled by a professional of Dr. Sherman’s stature and reputation, especially given that the Center has been without a director since the tumultuous departure of Dr. James Spady in 1996.
    It is also refreshing to see the Fels Center receive the level of attention that it deserves by the University community, as it is one of the oldest and best public policy programs in the country.

Robert Maitner, Jr.
GPU’94
Palmyra, Va.

 

DISMAY AND SORROW AT PENN’S
RESPONSE TO PATIENT’S DEATH

    Having worked as a health journalist for many years, I feel deep dismay and sorrow at both the death of Jesse Gelsinger and the University’s response to it. I find President Rodin’s remarks, as quoted in the Gazette [“Gazetteer,” March/April], appallingly glib and superficial. The central issue in the needless death of young Mr. Gelsinger is not what the University can learn from it but what patients risk and suffer in trials that have essentially no chance of benefiting them personally. This issue is particularly acute in Mr. Gelsinger’s case because he, unlike the typical clinical-trial subject, was not a terminally ill person beyond the help of any known treatment.
    As yet, strikingly little evidence—as opposed to researchers’ hopes and hypotheses—supports the assertion that genetic replacement trials will afford “longer, healthier lives” (Dr. Rodin’s words) for anyone. After many years of work, trials such as the one Mr. Gelsinger participated in remain experiments on human beings, not therapeutic procedures. The chances that any present subject will personally benefit are, to say the very least, exceedingly small. Any benefits that might accrue to present participants will much more likely go to two other groups: researchers who, if successful, will advance their reputations and careers and increase the value of companies in which they may hold interests; and investors in biotech firms.
    I do not intend to imply that such considerations necessarily influenced the Penn researchers in their decisions regarding the trial in which Mr. Gelsinger participated. But the subtly corrupting effects of the race for scientific priority among elite researchers have long been well known. In recent years, the entry of private investors’ money into academic research has further increased the pressure for both secrecy and success.
    The supreme ethical obligations of researchers asking other people to take risks unlikely to provide comparable personal benefits are to protect those generous, brave people and to err on the side of caution rather than of scientific boldness. The history of medical research is littered with painful, dangerous and worthless techniques and pharmaceuticals that were, in their time, research fields as “hot” as gene replacement is today. (Calling it “therapy” at this point amounts, in my opinion, to either wishful thinking or false advertising.)
    That medical researchers, especially those at elite institutions, do not keep these moral obligations uppermost at all times should cause deep chagrin to anyone who purports to care about either medical science or human decency. That Penn could even conceivably be guilty of the violations alleged by the FDA should cause deep shame to all who care about the University.
    Nothing the University can possibly learn from Mr. Gelsinger’s death, which the University not only “mourn(s)” (Dr. Rodin’s word) but caused, can possibly be worth the cost. I wish Dr. Rodin would have the candor and humility forthrightly to acknowledge that fact.

Beryl Lieff Benderly
CW’64 G’66
Washington

See “From College Hall,” p. 16, and “Gazetteer,” p. 24, for more on this story.—Ed.

LOST CITY

    I much enjoyed Virginia Fairweather’s article on architect Barton Meyers [“Looking In, Looking Out,” March/April], but I was stunned by a howler on p. 42: a confusion between Dhaka (Dacca in the old British colonial spelling), the capital of Bangladesh, with Dakar, the capital of Senegal. Alas for the demise of geography as an academic subject!

Rosane Rocher
Faculty

 

SWEATSHOPS I: STUDENTS CONTINUED
AN IMPORTANT PENN TRADITION

    I am writing in support of Penn Students Against Sweatshops and to urge the University to join the Workers’ Rights Consortium [“Gazetteer,” March/April]. The sweatshops of the early 20th century were eradicated only after years of sacrifice and struggle, but the pressures from globalization have permitted this deplorable method of clothing manufacture to return. Universities have the opportunity to strike an important blow against the return of the sweatshops by demanding that their clothing be produced under reasonable working conditions by workers receiving an adequate wage. I commend the Students Against Sweatshops for bringing this issue to the attention of the Penn community and refusing to let it be buried in endless committee deliberations. The Fair Labor Association option, dominated by corporations and with no union participation and no real monitoring, is little more than a whitewash; on the contrary, the Workers’ Rights Consortium is the best hope for real change.
    The students who occupied College Hall continued an important Penn tradition. At the beginning of the 20th century, Wharton Professor Scott Nearing worked indefatigably to end sweatshop labor. In a sorry chapter of Penn history, the University bowed to corporate pressure and fired him in 1915; apparently, freedom of speech did not extend to defense of sweatshop workers. I hope that at the start of the 21st century Penn’s response will be more enlightened. We should all recognize the important service that Students Against Sweatshops has provided to the University and the greater community in raising this important issue.

Daniel Sidorick
C’70
Maple Shade, N.J.

 

SWEATSHOPS II: DON’T GIVE IN TO DEMANDS OF TRESPASSERS

    The relationship between the decision of President Rodin to pull out of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) in response to students occupying (trespassing?) in her reception room and a statement by Dr. Lawrence Sherman [“A Passion for Evidence,” March/April] illustrates the problem that plagues otherwise brilliant and successful persons such as Rodin. Sherman states that the “problem of conquering emotional or least-resistance-based decision-making with rational evidence is an enormous one.” How true! Exhibit 1—Rodin gives in to the demands of the trespassers before obtaining the conclusions of a study. Perhaps if President Rodin had consulted with Professor Sherman she would not have acted to embarrass the University (and herself) by condoning lawlessness and acting upon emotion rather than evidence.
    What is difficult for many of my generation to understand or accept is rewarding young persons by allowing them to get their own way, whether appropriate or not, by this kind of behavior, just as a small child does by raising a tantrum or otherwise manipulating its parents. I would like to know what President Rodin would do if her reception room were invaded by a new group that supports the FLA, and thinks the Workers’ Rights Consortium is “ineffective?” Is the prize to the group that gets there first? Or occupies the longest? Our great president demeans herself and our great University by such irrational and, yes, silly actions. The shame is that she does not seem to realize or understand this.

Ronald M. Katzman
C’54
Harrisburg, Pa.

As the Gazette went to press last month, the University was continuing to withhold its membership from both the FLA and WRC because of inadequate responses from both organizations to questions raised by Penn regarding greater representation by universities and colleges on their governing boards.—Ed.

 

DEBATE OVER 50-YEAR OLD INJUSTICE AT PENN SHEDS LIGHT
ON LIFE IN RUSSIA TODAY

    I had to laugh, and then feel a surge of patriotic pride, when your excellent January/ February issue, and particularly the article called “Admission Denied” by Greg Robinson, made its way to me here in Russia. As my reasons might be useful to other readers in helping them to appreciate the story, and their lives in general, I write to offer them.
    Robinson’s account showed Pennsylvanians, 50 years later, still actively concerned with and debating the rejection of an applicant of Japanese ancestry (to a private university) on racial (and paranoia!) grounds during World War II. What stark contrast to life in Russia!
    Here, every university of any repute is still 100 percent controlled by the national regime, and every single one has a high-ranking KGB officer in its administration. (They are now called FSB, but a rose by any other name can still demand your documents on the street at random, and jail you if you don’t have them or make a fuss.) All foreign students and professors (like me) deal with their universities through the KGB, whether they know it or not, and “the company” actively supervises all academic work. The KGB and the federal administration still, despite the fall of the Soviet state, wield an absolute veto over admissions and hirings, and they routinely “check” (Robinson’s word) on every one. Many study or work under routine surveillance.
    Most Russian students still study at least some subjects using political, Soviet-era texts and are paid a (tiny) salary by the state to attend. Professors receive “salaries” of about $50 per month. Both stipends are regularly delayed, sometimes for months, imposing a rigid, poverty-like lifestyle on many. (You can well imagine what the recruiting prospects, and general quality of education, are getting to be here!) The curriculum is still administered nationally: students have no electives and indeed no choices of courses or teachers within their majors.
    Yet, there is no organized student political activity to speak of, and certainly no newspaper like The Bennett News (which Robinson says defended the Japanese applicant in 1944), much less a university publication like the Gazette dredging up old misdemeanors and displaying them for the world to see.
    If only there were! Maybe then Russians wouldn’t be “living” with a daily per-capita GDP of $2, compared to $80 in the United States.
    But in addition to feeling proud and better about themselves as a result of the Robinson piece, I hope readers will, in its spirit, think about this: Are Pennsylvanians, and Americans generally, doing enough to replace those tired Soviet texts with better ones, and to encourage a new kind of education in Russia? Will we be able to say, if Russia slips back into dictatorship and America back into a cold war, that we did all we could to keep our children from living as we did?

Andrew Miller
C’86 G’87
St. Petersburg, Russia

ADMIRATION DEFERRED
    “Admission Denied” didn’t surprise me in its report of the University administration’s refusal in 1944 to admit an applicant to a graduate program quite evidently because of her ancestry alone. For it was not long before then—from 1936 to 1940—that an appreciable number of us undergraduates at Penn experienced a prevailing atmosphere of special treatment by the administration based solely on our ancestry.
    Having said that, I hasten to express my admiration of the present Penn establishment for its willingness to admit in public an instance of its past violation of civil rights, with the strong implication that such transgression would be unthinkable to it today.
    Now back to Greg Robinson’s article: In its first line is not Hey Day a mistranscription of Ivy Day? And how about the final sentence: “Her sister, her daughter and her sister’s son all attended Penn, marking three generations of the Nakano family at the University”? It fails to make sense even if Naomi Nakano’s father was a student at Penn.

Robert Weinstock
C’40
Oberlin, Ohio

 

WATER WORKS ARTICLE FAILED TO CREDIT TURBINE BUILDER

    I enjoyed the article, “Rebirth on the River” [January/February]. I was disappointed, however, that the article failed to mention the important role played by my great-grandfather, Emile Camille Geyelin, in developing and installing the Jonval turbine engine.
    A very thorough study sponsored by the Franklin Institute and written by Jane Mork Gibson in 1985 contains numerous references to my great-grandfather, which would indicate that, in any piece written on the history of the Fairmount Water Works, he would most certainly be worthy of mention. For example, from page 13: “Emile C. Geyelin was … granted the rights to the manufacture and sale of the Jonval turbine in the United States” and “The 1851 turbine at the Fairmount Water works is a Jonval turbine, designed by Geyelin.” On page 95, there is a reproduction of the title page of a brochure which reads as follows: “Jonval’s Turbine Built by E. Geyelin, Hydraulic Engineer.”
    The Geyelin family have a long history of representation at the University. My grandfather, Henry Laussat Geyelin C1877, is remembered in a plaque over the South Entrance to Franklin Field as the “first to carry the Red and Blue to victory.” His four sons went to the University, as did our daughter and several cousins. My siblings and I were brought up in the tradition!

Cecily Geyelin Clark
Villanova, Pa.

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