../1198/space%20holder

Back to Letters | May/June Contents | Gazette home

 

Faculty Favorites  Here are the responses received to our call in the March/April Gazette for readers to tell about the faculty member who most stimulated them during their years at Penn. To add your comments, e-mail us at <gazette@ben.dev.upenn.edu>.
../1198/space%20holder

../1198/space%20holder

The most influential Penn faculty member in my experience was Dr. Adolph Klarman. The fact that an English major came to be a student in a class taught by this professor of German represents a little known event in the University’s approach to the liberal arts curriculum in the early 1950s.

The English Department at that time was under the direction of Dr. Albert C. Baugh who only grudgingly accepted works written after Chaucer and absolutely refused to allow students to satisfy their major requirements with courses involving literature in translation.

That was not a difficult rule to enforce since there was not a single College course being taught in comparative literature. Frustrated by this situation, a number of us petitioned the school for a change. The year was probably 1951. I don’t recall if we approached Dr. Baugh or someone else, but after repeated requests, a course in General Literature was reluctantly introduced that English majors could take for credit. However, we were only accepted after passing an interview at which we had to present a list of all the books we had ever read in any language. I can only assume this was to demonstrate that we had been able to read widely without supervision and thus were serious in our quest.

Dr. Klarman taught the first General Literature class. We realized this man was someone special when more students showed up to audit the class than were actually enrolled. Dr. Klarman’s fans followed him everywhere, and with good reason. He was sharp, articulate and intensely interested in what he was teaching. Dr. Klarman turned the learning process into a challenge of intellectual discovery. For those of us with inflated egos, Dr. Klarman raised the bar just far enough.

The course covered authors like Mann, Sholokhov, Gide, Pirandello, Kaiser and Rilke, but it went far beyond their books. Dr. Klarman assumed we had or would read them. In fact, he said that he was also going to read them again. We never discussed plots and characters as such. What we argued about in class and analyzed in our papers were the intellectual concepts and human conditions these writers examined. There were no right or wrong answers. Only the questions counted.

In contrast to the one-way traffic in most undergraduate lecture-hall classes, this was a chance for thinking without boundaries, for give and take between students and teacher in a mutual search for meaning. Dr. Klarman’s class was the most stimulating experience in my four years at Penn. It rejuvenated what had become a boring education, and fostered interests that have continued to this day.

While Dr. Klarman was succeeded by other outstanding General Literature teachers, it was he who shepherded this grand experiment past the watchful eyes of the authorities as a lasting bequest to his students. It was a great loss to Penn when he died not long afterwards.

Peter Lawton C’53

 

 

In the Course Catalogue for the Fall 1973 term, Dr. Alvin Z. Rubinstein succinctly described the prerequisite for his Political Science 159 course on Communist Political Systems as “a willingness to read and a readiness to be critical.” Those words guided me through different classes in college and law school and became an integral aspect of my professional career. They served to encourage me to think critically about ideas that either were entrenched within the “conventional wisdom” or served to support the manner in which “things were done.” In different ways, I share that invaluable charge with my children and with all of the new attorneys we hire. For that reason, among all Penn faculty members, Dr. Rubinstein was the teacher who proved to be the most stimulating.

Arvin J. Jaffe C’76 L’79

 

 

In the thirties, Dr. LaLande. All of us regarded him with warm affection. While emphasizing a point in class one day. he slammed his hand down on the desk, and broke a blood vessel in the palm. Without any comment, he clenched his hand and continued the class. When he became Vice President of Penn Salt, at a time when jobs were hard to find, he brought at least one of our class (‘38) with him. I salute him.

Joseph J. Hitov ChE’38

 

Professor von Vorys, Political Science: Brilliant lecturer, strong intellect with strong opinions. Challenged us to think broadly and work hard for his classes.

Dirk Petersen W’90 C’90

 

My answer is Professor of Physics Gaylord P. Harnwell, later UPenn President. Reasons are (1) He was an excellent teacher, (2) Harnwell was a superb efficient administrator as Chairman of the Department in l946-51 when returning older veterans, far more mature than those who never served in the Armed Forces, were quite touchy. A Quaker weighing over 250 lbs., Harnwell serenely and effectively prevented potential conflict in this older graduate student population. (3) His sympathy for this nervous Navy veteran during his Oral Exam for the Ph.D. degree: Noting how, after answering all previous questions, I was sweating, stumped at that very last trick question, he did not just chortle at my discomfort. Instead, leaning back in his chair, Professor Harnwell, in an easy, slow, relaxed voice, suggested, “Howard, it might help if you drew a larger diagram than the tiny one you drew on the board”. I did, and instantly saw the answer!

Howard D. Greyber Gr’53

 

 

In response to your question regarding the faculty member who most stimulated me, and without a doubt : the late Jack E. Reece of the History Department. Dr. Reece was a brilliant scholar who conveyed his passion for learning in a riveting manner, whether in a large lecture or an intimate seminar. He encouraged his students to take a position and defend it, to make moral judgments about the events they studied, and to argue their positions well, orally and in writing. Jack Reece seemed to challenge me more each time I took another course with him. Those courses and the role he played as my History major advisor constituted the best educational experience I have ever had.

Steve Sokolow C’77

 

Dean Perkins of the School of Fine Arts most stimulated me in my days at Penn. Struggling in my third year as a student of architecture, the course of study was not what I had expected. I met with Dean Perkins and during our discussion he said that architects don’t design buildings, they create space. At the age of 21 that bit of wisdom didn’t register with me at all. I wanted to design buildings. Thus, I was stimulated to transfer to the Wharton School. Now, as I observe architectural beauty in both structures and landscape, I understand what Dean Perkins was trying to get me to understand.

Ken Thorn, W’58

 

 

E. Digby Batlzell: for showing me a whole new way to think about people—and life!

Robert H. Clark C’63

 

 

After a B.S. in chemistry and an MBA at Wharton, it became obvious to me that I had tasted two thin slices of the educational pie. I took College Collateral evening courses at Penn, and fortunately had Dr. Elizabeth Flower Gr’39 in a couple of philosophy courses. I felt as if she had sawed off the top of my head, put her hands inside, and pulled out a lot of junk that I had accumulated. She was the best teacher I ever had.

John Roughan WG’50

 

The Penn faculty member who stimulated me most was Philip Rieff. He taught an honors sociology class in the early 1980’s that was incredible. We spent a whole semester studying Franz Kafka’s short story: “In The Penal Colony.” For three hours each week we dissected every word and sentence. Dr. Rieff’s premise was that Franz Kafka was no Darryl Zanuck and therefore every word, punctuation, and choice of phrase had meaning. We only got through 15 pages! It was a fabulous experience to learn from such a unique scholar in such a unique way!

Keith Sanders C’84

 

On arrival as first year students in Veterinary Medicine in 1952, we found a new dean who was a recent practitioner and an accomplished veterinary surgeon. Dean Mark W. Allam proved to be a remarkable surgeon, an enthralling teacher, a unique administrator, a venerable fund-raiser and, most of all, a friend to all. I can still see him, although he was dean, hurrying into the lecture room from surgery and tying his bow tie as he lectured on the fine points of surgery. I can recall assisting him at the surgery table where no fault in instrumentation, technique or temperature of the irrigation saline was tolerated.

In 1955-56, our class decided that faculty should be evaluated by students. As chair of the committee, I was joined by several WW II veteran classmates to present our findings and recommendations to the dean. Although unwarned, he accepted our analyses with grace, thanked us and promised improvements - a first for the School. In later years, Dean Allam developed the benchmark program at New Bolton Center, encouraged benefactors by driving the New Bolton Center horse drawn carriage at weddings and originated the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, in which I was later privileged to gain diplomacy and to serve as president as he did.

In all of his roles as professor, surgeon, dean, assistant vice president for medical affairs and dean emeritus, Mark was joined by the charming and capable Lila in spreading the friendship of Penn. It is no wonder that so many of the children of my era at Penn are named Mark as is my eldest son. Who else could cook scrapple and eggs in the morning after a good night’s sleep in their home and consider us lifelong friends? Who else would exchange similar scrapple with a few pounds of Alabama pecans yearly without fail? And who could speak so plainly of the love for Penn, only second to the love for Lila, just a few days after her death and nearly hours before his?

An excellent and memorable professor is not just that remarkable person who can relay knowledge and foster thought, it is he or she who can relate his or her and your experiences to life - all of life, not just the few years of classical education. Dr. Mark Allam lived the life, taught the life and shared the life so that each of his students and later colleagues could carry the light of knowledge and dedication to others.

Charles D. Knecht V’56

 

I started Penn in its bi-centennial year 1940. I ended up as a ’43er with a Wharton BS in Economics as a very general major and a Navy Commission. We took whatever mix of courses that would get us enough credits to graduate (with none to spare) and complete all of our required Naval Science courses in three years and a summer session. Regular Wharton requirements like Stat. And Marketing were never available when I was, so those requirements were waived. While for immediate use Navy Comdr. Freedman’s NS.44.Tactics and Problems allowed me to shine at sea explaining to our skipper and training group commander that the Flag Officer’s visual signal meant to order us turn by columns but actually ordered us to all turn then and there into a real disaster. Great teaching but that is not quite the same as stimulating .

I was fortunate in falling into Sculley Bradley’s American Studies, before it was invented, in his course on the American Novel, unheard of in those days. As much as I enjoyed that approach it was surpassed by Prof. Shryock’s (sp-you check!) History 70c: American Social & Cultural History, given late in the afternoon, mostly for school teachers, and History 173: American Cultural History to 1865. He unfolded a new way of telling the stories of time and place history bringing in the Doctor Rush’s of this world and proving to us that understanding what was going on in history was more than the stories of top politicians and wars. In the 1940’s this was a radical and delightful new approach.

True, I spent the last 25 years of my working career teaching political science and specializing in international security research, but I kept the Shyrock approach in trying to understand those problems too and adding photography to the mix. .In retirement having enough of both “security” and “presidential politics” my wife Anna and I have returned to telling the regional heritage stories and providing the photographs of the people and places as “Wayfinders” in Westsylvania Magazine. It remains great fun and stimulating. Hopefully, my old professors would approve.

I had heard my father, C’05 and L’05, mention some of those in the 1926 picture but Owen Roberts at the Law School was the one we heard the most about.

Lou Leopold W’43

 

It was John La Monte whose History 30 (Mediaeval History) lectures drew an overflow audience to the large lecture room on the third floor of College Hall. The esoteric knowledge that I there acquired became a life-long love, resulting in some 30 visits to Europe and two years living in Istanbul, Turkey.

Bill Steltzer C’51 GEd’57

 

The faculty member that most influenced me was historian Lynn Case whose knowledge of our heritage, modern European history, seemed endless. He was a true scholar. I was fortunate to be in a small class of only a dozen or so others in my first course on Europe since 1815. Others must have felt the same way because years later when he retired, students lined his path as he left College Hall for the last time. That was during a college sit-in/protest of some sort reported in the newspaper press.

S. Hamill Horne ‘C’56

 

For sure, the faculty member who most inspired me was Dr. Martin Seligman. I took two courses with Dr. Seligman and also worked in his lab for four years.

Dr. Seligman by word and example inspired many of us to pursue careers in research. He inspired nothing less than a love for the scientific method; he taught us to formulate hypotheses, and then to seek data to confirm or refute those hypotheses.

What’s more, Dr. Seligman, through his own love for psychology and the brain, inspired many of us to go into careers surrounding the mind, be it in psychology, neuroscience, the social sciences, or medicine.

Above all, Dr. Seligman taught us to THINK like scientists, critically evaluating our own ideas as well as those of others. What’s more, all of it was done with an air of constructive iconoclasm that promoted the formation of new paradigms.

Jon Slotkin C’96

 

JKS Ghandi was the teacher who most inspired me during my four years (1967-71) at Penn. I never worked harder or wanted to earn an “A” more badly than in his undergraduate Finance course. It was so clear that he loved the material. And I remember being amused at the time at how inspired I could be about the topic of Finance! In those days inspiration came more from Mayor Rizzo, College Hall sit-ins, or a $.10 short beer during happy hour at the Onion near 34th street. Four years ago when I brought my son, then a junior in high school, to see the Penn campus, we strolled down Locust Walk and into the remodeled Dietrich Hall. I walked past an office with the nameplate JKS Ghandi. He wasn’t there and I didn’t get a chance to share my memories with him. Thanks for this opportunity. By the way, I got the “A” and the education that went with it. And I don’t remember ANY grade inflation in those days!

Bruce Lynn W’71 C’71


Back to Letters | May/June Contents | Gazette home

Copyright 2002 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 4/28/02