Previous month's column | November/December Contents | Gazette Home

From the editor overline

Unsolved Mysteries

SOME RELATION TO PENN is a common thread for all the subjects we cover in the Gazette, but I believe this is the first time we have ever had two feature articles about people who also graduated from the same high school -- in this case, Highland Park High School, in suburban Chicago. Both have also been much in the news lately, though for markedly different reasons.
   First is Dr. Jeremy Siegel, professor of finance at the Wharton School, who is profiled in our cover story by assistant editor Susan Lonkevich. Siegel is the author of Stocks for the Long Run, which has sold a phenomenal 100,000-plus copies in two editions; an extraordinarily popular teacher and lecturer; and a favorite source for the financial press.
   In recent months, with the market outlook turning gloomy, Siegel has been at pains to emphasize the Long Run part of his book title. But, while the bull market certainly helped sales and made the public more receptive to Siegel's view that stocks are both the most profitable and safest long-term investment, his book has never been a conventional market guide. Siegel's interest lies not in picking individual stocks -- "too complicated," he says -- but in examining the behavior of the market as a whole, which he seems to view in almost organic terms: "It's not a living thing, but the essence of all the psychology around the world."
   Siegel's fascination from early childhood with charting various phenomena is encapsulated in an anecdote he told Susan -- it involves graph paper, colored pencils, and morning glories -- that is so economical and revealing of character as to seem almost too good to be true ... which brings me to our second Highland Park grad, one-time rising journalist and now "reclusive law student" Stephen Glass, C'94.
Just a few years out of Penn, where he had been a high-profile editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Glass had a staff position at The New Republic and a clutch of freelance contracts with top magazines. Then he was discovered to have been fabricating stories. His falsehoods -- inventive, outrageous; above all, numerous -- and the lengths he had gone to avoid exposure were chronicled on editorial pages, Web sites, and in dozens of magazine and newspaper articles through the spring and summer.
   We are adding our two cents, by way of senior editor Samuel Hughes's article, "Through a Glass Darkly," for two reasons. First, while we don't make a point of highlighting the misfortunes and bad judgments of individual alumni, in this case the personal story does speak to a larger issue, one expressed most directly by Buzz Bissinger, C'76, who wrote about Glass in Vanity Fair, as "this whole blurring of what's real and what's imagined" in journalism.
   Second, and more specific to the University, is the light the current revelations may shed on Glass's tenure as DP editor in 1993 -- the year of the "Water Buffalo incident" and a free-speech furor over a stolen edition of the DP by students charging racism, both of which brought the University a raft of unwelcome publicity. Besides whatever impact the DP's coverage may have had on how Penn was presented in the national media, Glass himself was the chief spokesperson for the paper in the matter of the stolen papers, widely quoted and written about.
   Does what Glass did later cast doubt on his conduct at Penn? Former DP colleagues say no, mostly; Dr. Sheldon Hackney, Hon'93, then president and now a professor of history, says yes, sort of; Glass isn't talking about any of it. In the end, the truth remains a mystery -- as much as the motivation for Glass's deceit -- but we thought it was worthwhile to look at the questions, at least.
Welcome. Shortly before we completed work on this issue, a new director of alumni relations was appointed, which also means that the Gazette has a new publisher. Martin Rapisarda will take up both sets of duties at the end of November. (Read more about him, Gazetteer)

-- John Prendergast, C'80

Previous month's column | November/December Contents | Gazette Home

Copyright 1998 The Pennsylvania Gazette | Last modified 9/1/97