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


Different Worlds

Some readers may have wondered a little at the sentence, near the end of last issue’s article on campus construction, that mentioned the art gallery to be included in the Dental School’s new building—this not being standard equipment for your typical state-of-the-art facility. I probably would have been one of them, except that I had recently learned about Dr. Thomas W. Evans, the 19th-century dentist, amateur diplomat and art connoisseur whose art collection—what’s left of it—will be displayed in the space.
Our senior editor, Samuel Hughes, had been talking up Evans as the subject for a feature article, regaling us at editorial meetings with bits and pieces of his remarkable life—how, besides being an innovative and skilled dental practitioner patronized by Europe’s elite, he pretty much singlehandedly kept France neutral in the Civil War, and saved the Empress Eugénie from the Parisian mob at the collapse of the Second Empire, and … well, you can read for yourself starting on page 26—including how he came by his collection of art, and the strange story of what happened to it after his death. (Note to potential donors of artwork: the University takes better care of things these days.)
Evans’ life reads like a movie, the sort of story that that would have made a rousing costume drama in Hollywood’s golden age or, these days, might show up on Masterpiece Theater or as a Merchant-Ivory production. (I’m not the only one to think so.) A century later and a short distance from where Evans is buried in Woodlands Cemetery are neighborhoods that, for most of us, are also defined by media images—but of a very different kind: crack addicts; boarded-up, burnt-out houses; and brutal, drug-related violence. In his new book, Code of the Street, Sociology Professor Elijah Anderson looks behind these stereotypes to write about the lives of real people in the city’s poorest, most abandoned neighborhoods. An excerpt from the book begins on page 34, followed by an interview, in which he discusses his research process, his relationship to his subject and his views on solving the problems of poverty and profound alienation in the inner city.
The fact that Gregory Wilburn and the young woman who mistakenly accused him of rape were both poor and African American may have resulted in the careless handling of the case that led to the 15-year-old’s being falsely imprisoned for a year. Wilburn is free today because of Glenn Gilman C’69, the public defender who was convinced of the boy’s innocence, and University Museum anthropologists Drs. Alan Mann and Janet Monge Gr’80, who helped him prove it. Assistant editor Susan Lonkevich explains how on page 48.
Elon Musk C/W’95 spent his time in West Philadelphia studying finance at the Wharton School, then, like many another future cyber-mogul, headed further West—all the way to Palo Alto. He was actually on his way to do graduate work in physics at Stanford, but got sidetracked and instead wound up founding Zip2. If you’ve ever looked up a restaurant or movie on the Net, or searched your local newspaper’s online classified ads, you have him to thank—at least, if you were visiting The New York Times on the Web or any of the other 150 or so sites that employed the firm’s services. After selling Zip2 last winter for a reported $300 million, the 28-year-old has a new venture, a financial-services Web site called, scheduled to launch by the end of the year. (I don’t know whether Musk had this in mind, but X, of course, traditionally marks the spot where treasure is buried.)
That time again. Each fall we ask readers to make a voluntary contribution to the magazine. This year’s letter should reach your mailbox in the next few weeks. If you enjoy the Gazette, I hope you’ll consider making a gift. And please also take the opportunity to tell us how we’re doing and/or share some news about yourself for "Alumni Notes."

    —John Prendergast C’80

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

Copyright 1999 The Pennsylvania Gazette | Last modified 10/25/99