“Exuberance, Joy, and Humor”

Samuel Hughes’ article on Sam Maitin FA’51 [“The Art of Life,” March/April] stirred up great memories. Sam designed several brochures for HUP when I directed its public-relations department in the mid-1960s. He also taught my graphic-design class at the Annenberg School. I remember one class assignment: to depict wind. Using ripped and cut colored papers, Sam could make a flat surface vibrate. Always open to creative possibilities, he encouraged us to trust our own hunches and take chances.

In my last semester at Annenberg, I cut back my work hours at HUP and spent an afternoon a week hanging out in his studio and performing small chores. It was a fabulous opportunity to see Sam’s mind at work.

The studio reflected Sam’s delight in the quotidian. He kept a windowsill display of lost gloves he’d found on the street; their odd shapes and colors engaged him. We had fun conjuring up possible stories about their owners’ lives.

Two of Sam’s freeform acrylics from the 1970s overlook my living room. Their lusty comic shapes and bold colors evoke Sam’s exuberance, joy, and humor. I feel lucky to have known this delightful man.

Lynne Lamberg ASC’67 Baltimore

 

What’s So Wonderful?

It is shocking that Penn students may request any gender roommates for on-campus housing. Even more astounding is the reasoning for it: to make students feel at home [“Gazetteer,” March/April].

First, do the trustees and administration really believe that this policy will not encourage sexual activity? “Friendship” is no barrier to promiscuity.

Second, do the trustees and administration support gender-neutral housing because it will facilitate the “wonderful goal” of making any transgender students “feel more comfortable”?

Gender-neutral housing will create more problems than it solves. Most parents would not want their son rooming with his girlfriend.

Johnston H. Means WG’53 Plain City, OH

 

Appalled by Alma Mater

We are appalled that Dr. Gutmann and the Penn administration are allowing mixed-gender on-campus housing. We have four children, the oldest in ninth grade. We will discourage them from attending our alma mater as long as you are not providing a safe environment that upholds key moral traditions of all civilizations.

Glenn McDowell C’74
Constance Kraftson McDowell WG’75
Conshohocken, PA

 

Fear for Penn’s Standards

I fear for Penn’s standards if they are represented by the faculty director of college houses [Phil Nichols]. His “gender neutral” housing concept posing as “progress” is the devil citing scripture for his purpose. The last time I looked morality, decency, propriety, and modesty were some of the traits that separated us from lower animals besides the opposing thumb. When Mr. Nichols purports his “mixed gender” concept is not a physical thing, I urge that he retake Zoology I to discover that the difference between male and female really is physical.

I don’t know why the figures in the cartoon illustrating the article bother to frantically hold their towels in place since there are no doors on the shower or toilet compartments.

Benson Krieger C’42 Philadelphia

 

Religion Doesn’t Explain Red and Blue States

Alan Wolfe’s piece, “Common Culture, Common Ground,” [“Expert Opinion,” March/April] was an interesting discussion of how church people think and behave, as contrasted to the traditional tenets of various denominations to which they may belong or connect to at some level. While we humans need faith in something beyond us, our modern tendencies (traditional or narcissistic) tend to immunize us, in a sense, from stark servings of ancient dogma, an issue not lost on the clergy. Wolfe does provide things to consider.

As he seems to suggest, religion really doesn’t explain red and blue states. In my observations the people who voted for George Bush simply tended to be more informed about, and concerned with, American founding history and the U.S. Constitution than those who didn’t. There was a range of churchgoers on both sides.

Philip N. Baker W’52 St. Louis

 

Calvin’s Theology Shouldn’t Be
Reduced to “Predestination”

I was somewhat surprised to read Alan Wolfe’s statement about Presbyterians “not knowing that the great doctrinal influence on their church, Calvinism, emphasizes predestination.”

I would think that someone of Wolfe’s stature and accomplishments would not have made that reductionist and inaccurate characterization of John Calvin. John Calvin was one of the great scholars of the Middle Age. “Predestination” is addressed in, I believe, exactly two paragraphs of all his writings, and the context of which it is written is of such: People of his time were worried that if they took one misstep or another, they would be forever condemned to “hell.” Calvin’s retort was that their faith proved to them that they were “predestined” for heaven. That is hardly the impression that is left by those who throw about Calvin’s use of the term predestination, as did Dr. Wolfe.

John Calvin’s theology is about much more, and is much richer, than “predestination.”

Rev. Bruce Forbes W’75
South Parish Congregational Church
Augusta, ME

 

Return Visit Recommended

Jordana Horn Marinoff’s eventful adventure “Up the Volcano” [“Elsewhere,” January/February] brings to mind a verse from Pablo Neruda’s poem, “El Sur”: “I am alive again. But only from that point, from my lost steps, from my bewildered solitude, from fear, from the entangling vines, from the torrential green, with no escape, did I come back with the secret.”

Having spent my Peace Corps service in Puerto Montt I can testify to both the torrential rains and the beautiful and, at times, sunlit mountains. During a return visit this January, Osorno volcano was beautifully sketched against a deep blue sky. For exquisite scenery, good fishing, and hiking, try southern Chile in the summer, or for skiing in the winter. If the rains come there are international music and folk festivals and scrumptious seafood dishes.

Robert Stein GCP’66 Stamford, CT

 

Unquiet Quakers

I can’t explain how proud I felt that the Penn Quakers were playing in Cleveland in the NCAA Basketball Sectionals and that I had a ticket.

Obviously I was not happy with the outcome of the game [Penn lost to Boston College 85-65], but the Penn students who were in attendance were the real disappointment. There were eight universities represented, and only the Penn group was an embarrassment. There was no need for their screams of “Bull*&$#!” and other obscenities directed to the officials.

And these young people are ready for open housing at Penn? Right!

Bill Odell C’58 Lakewood, OH

 

What’s in a Name?
(A Lot, Sometimes)

I was interested to see William F. Byrne’s letter, “What’s in a Name? (Not Much, Sometimes)” in the March/April Gazette regarding sports-team names and mascots, since I also had the opportunity to reconsider the use of a religious sect (Quaker) as the symbol of the University’s competitive athletic programs.

My experience and conclusions, however, were quite different. As director of a museum that focuses on the art, history, and culture of the Native peoples of North America (the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian), I was involved in the development of an exhibit that examined a variety of stereotypical images of Indians—including as sports mascots—and the damage that it does, particularly to children, both Native and non-Native.

There are many reasons that it is important we pay attention to the broad-based protests from Indians around the country (including the National Congress of American Indians), but let me offer just two.

First, Native Americans are part of existing, vibrant cultures. Feathered headdresses, pipes, drum music, and dancing are all part of present-day spiritual activities. When non-Indian sports mascots dress up in feathers and war paint and perform made-up dances, they trivialize and demean the religious beliefs that are part of these living societies. It is no different than selling toy crucifixes to be waved by Saints or Angels fans while mascots dressed as priests or nuns run around the field.

Second, we know that names and stereotypes are harmful. Certainly red flags would go up if someone was to be called a yid, wop, or spic, and nigger has become so reprehensible that we refer to it only as the N-word. Images of Stepin Fetchit and the Frito Bandito, like the big-nosed, miserly Jew, are no longer tolerated. How, then, do we explain that some stereotypes are hurtful and insulting and that others are OK?

Finally, I cannot presume to speak for the Quakers (or the Irish). However, should they wish to protest the trivialization or misuse of their name or image, they will have my support—as well as the support of a great many Native Americans.

Janice B. Klein C’76 Evanston, IL

 

Credit Students, Not Program

Our heartiest congratulations to Harveen Bal and Gabriel Mandujano for earning the prestigious Marshall Scholarship in the same academic year. We’re grateful for the role Penn’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF) played in facilitating these achievements by informing students of the opportunities and encouraging them to apply for them. However, Patrick Brugh’s piece “Marshall-ing Its Resources for Academic Honors” [“Gazetteer,” March/April] unfairly diminishes these students’ accomplishments by attributing too much of their success to CURF’s efforts.

Dr. Arthur Casciato, director of CURF, is quoted as saying, “The main contribution to getting this award was getting the appropriate numbers to apply … We won our fair share once we got our fair share of applicants.”

Penn is entitled to take pride in its students’ accomplishments as well as its own endeavors. But to imply that such an award is a numbers game, even from Penn’s perspective, unfairly devalues the award. The fact is that if every school encouraged more applicants, as Penn now does, then these awards should mean all the more because of the larger applicant pool from which Ms. Bal and Mr. Mandujano were chosen.

Allan Marquardt WG’90 Rockville, MD

 

Annoyed Over Annan Choice

Please provide an analysis by the Annenberg Center on the honorary degree that the University is presenting to Kofi Annan [“Gazetteer,” this issue]. Is this real or an April Fool’s joke?

Linda Palmer Cawthra CW’64 Boerne, TX

 

Teacher Tribute

I was sad to see, in the November/December 2004 issue of The Pennsylvania Gazette, the obituary notice for Frank Kawasaki GAr’66. I would like to note his contribution as a teacher at the University. For quite a few years in the 1960s and 1970s, Frank led what must have been Penn’s most visible course, Architecture 200. This was a large studio course in freehand drawing. In good weather, students were strung out across the campus, University City, and Center City drawing everything, inside and out. In bad weather we were in the studio on the second floor of the Furness Building, drawing from the model. The peculiarity of the course—if I remember correctly—was that most drawing was done in pen and ink. Whoever was responsible for this decision, or the course itself—it was great. I can’t imagine how many of us appreciated it and Frank.

Michael Neff C’67 Gar’77 Philadelphia

Corrections

Editing introduced an error in the dates attributed to the experiments by the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania in the letter from Dr. A. Bernard Ackerman GM’67, “Will Penn Confront its Own ‘Sordid History’?” published in the March/April issue. Dr. Ackerman’s original letter states that the department’s experiments at Holmesburg Prison took place from 1951 to 1974.

 

The article, “Now Playing on the Big Screen,” [January/February 2005] neglected to mention a wonderful course on movie comedies of the 1930s that was taught by Gerald Weales, emeritus professor of English and a frequent Gazette contributor. The course, which covered styles in humor ranging from the Marx Brothers to Will Rogers to screwball comedy, led to an equally wonderful book by Weales, Canned Goods as Caviar, published in 1985 and now sadly out of print. Portions of the book were excerpted in the magazine.



©2005 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 05/03/05


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