us your memories
2002 The Pennsylvania Gazette
I was 16 on July 24, 1926, when I suddenly made a decision. Ill go to the University. Id thought about Wilson College after an alumna of that school had talked in our assembly at West Philadelphia High School for Girls, but I chose to become a member of what would be called the hand-picked class, because we were the first to take an intelligence test. The School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania (dont ever say just Penn) was there for the women, whether or not we planned to be teachers.
On that first day I sat in a long row of freshmen waiting for an interview with Dean Minnick. To while away the time, I rolled up a small piece of white paper and pretended to be smoking a cigarette. Then my name was called. The dean stood at his door, ready to shake my hand; I was frightened: I wasnt really smoking. I know that, said the kindly dean in a forgiving voice. Smoking was forbidden for coeds, although some sneaks puffed away in the rest rooms.
I arranged to pay my tuition ($200 a term) in installments of $50 a month. Suddenly I was aware that I was a member of the Class of 1930. The possibilities were enormous: I might go to a dance or see a football game. Season tickets were $10, and we, the women of the hand-picked class, were made aware of a special privilege: we would be the first coeds allowed to buy a season ticket, just the way the men students did. We could even cheer and sing Pennsylvania songsunlike, I later learned, another institution at which coeds were not allowed to cheer or sing at games, as their high-pitched voices might bother the team.
The fun and horror of hazing was thrust upon us: black stockings, hats, and obedience to sophomores asking us questions or making us sing all the verses of Hail, Pennsylvania! Most of us went home by trolley: our Class included 39 alumnae of my high school who lived near enough to the University to ride home after classes.
Before classes started, Provost Josiah Penniman C1890 Gr1895 Hon22 addressed the student body: The coeds have found a place here. A good education is assured them, and I have noticed that they are better looking now than they used to be.
That first day, on my way home, in a burst of bravado, I went into a drug store, sat at the soda fountain, and orderedwhat else?a milk shake. As I sipped I thought, Now I really am a Pennsylvania student. Im drinking a milk shake at daybreak and next week Ill be cheering for the team.
My first assignment in English (with Dr. Alfred B. Harbage C24 Gr29 Hon54) was to write Who I am and why I came to Pennsylvania. He gave me a D, which stood for Distinguished in those days, and Ive saved that paper for more than 75 years. I knew who I was and why! I remember ... I remember ... and it seems (almost) like yesterday.
Ruth Branning Molloy is the author of Finally, a collection of poems [Off the Shelf, November/December 2000], and a former columnist for the Gazette.
E. Craig Sweeten W37
The Game Ball
The rally in the big Quad on the eve of the 1936 Penn-Princeton game has become a great memory for me. I presented the game ball to my classmate, team captain Lew Elverson W37, with the admonition that it was not to end up at Princeton. He promised the huge crowd that filled the Quad, the Junior Balcony, and the freshman dorms that it wouldnt, and, of course, it didnt.
Years later, the Class of 1937, after presenting the Van Pelt Library with a Memorial Reading Room, asked its members who made up the so-called Destiny Backfield, the most widely publicized backfield in the annals of Penn football, if they would give the jerseys they wore and the game balls in their possession to the Class for inclusion among the memorabilia, artifacts, photographs, etc., that the Class was assembling for permanent display. They all responded, and today, on the fifth floor of Van Pelt, one may see, among a host of 37 treasures, a glass-enclosed case in which their pictures and jerseys are displayed. In the center of the display is the game ball; devoid of air, it still retains its shape on which is revealed in bold letters Penn 7, Princeton 0.
On Alumni Day 2002, the Class returned for its 65th Reunion. Services were held in the morning in the Memorial Reading Room. Among the guests was Kelly Elverson C03, Lews granddaughter. She was present as a recipient of scholarship aid from the Class of 1937 Endowed Scholarship Fund. In expressing her appreciation and saying a few words about her Penn experience, she mentioned how often she visited the 37 Memorial Reading Room for study purposes. While Im here, she said, I sense the presence of my grandfather, and with it, his hope that I would be a credit to the University.
The Destiny Backfield and three others from 37 who started in the Penn-Princeton game were not present: they have all gone to their eternal rest. But the game ball remains, a reminder of a Pennsylvania victory in a game judged a classic by all who saw it and by all those who maintain the archives of Franklin Field.
E. Craig Sweeten was for many years the vice president for development at the University.
During my Freshman year, my roommate and I lived in 107 Ward. We had two small bedrooms with lavatories in each room and a large living room, which held two desks with chairs, a couch, two large chairs and some tables for lamps. Toilets and showers were down the hall.
We experienced the usual changes in living at Penn for all freshmen. No one to tell you when to study or go to bed. Learning how to budget a modest allowance. Meeting other students and learning the ropes of living on your own. Most of us survived well and enjoyed our new times. Later in the year, rushing season began at fraternities. We were invited to many different houses for evening entertainment or meals so we were able to look over and be looked over.
My roommate and I both joined the same fraternity, Theta Chi, and lived there during the next three years at Penn. There were 38 Christian fraternities and a lesser number of Jewish fraternities. That was as much social distinction as there was. Of course we all got along well and had friends in both groups. The Theta Chi fraternity house was the former Bomont Estate, and located at 3817 Spruce Street. We sold part of land property to Zeta Beta Tau so they could have a place to build their fraternity house. During those days we were all just Penn students and in due course became Penn alumni. No further social or other designation among us existed then or now.
There was an Inter-fraternity Council of the Christian fraternities. I was one of the two officers. Each year we held an Inter-fraternity Ball. Several years it was held in the ballroom of the Benjamin Franklin Hotel. Big bands played - Benny Goodman, Hal Kemp, Noble Sissle, Eddie Duchin, etc. One year Johnny, the Philip Morris Bellhop, came in a little Austin automobile on the freight elevator to the ballroom of the Benjamin Franklin Hotel to help select the most beautiful woman.
There was also the Ivy Ball, which was held a time or two in the gymnasium, but more often off-campus. The gentlemen wore white tie and tails. Our dates wore beautiful long evening dresses. We supplied corsages. Breakfast followed at different restaurants nearby. These were grand and memorable events.
My best girl, the woman I married and who was my wife for more than 57 years before she died, was a student at Smith College, Northampton, Mass. She would make the long journey by train to New York and then change for Philadelphia for Inter-fraternity and Ivy Balls. I would reserve a room for her at the Philadelphia Hotel, 39th and Chestnut Streets. There was the annual Junior Class Cane March. The Class of 1938 cane was an evening walking stick - black with white top. I still have mine!
Penn football at Franklin Field found the stands almost filled to capacity. We used to play Army, Navy, Notre Dame, Penn State, University of Michigan And most of the Ivy League schools. The Penn-Cornell game was always played on Thanksgiving Day. Sometimes, Boy Scouts or other young people were invited to attend when there were some available seats. I remember the Michigan band especially. This was the largest bandabout 160 membersall dressed in elegant uniforms with the Drum Major wearing a Shako [large fur hat], superb long tail uniform and he could strut magnificently! Drum majors always would throw his baton over the bar at the goal post. The goal posts were made of wood and, sometimes, students would climb on them after the game and tear them down. Dangerous prank!
When we students went to our classes each day we were dressed in slacks, tweed jacket, shirts [many with button down collars] and ties. There was a fine shoe shine place on Spruce Street just above 36th Street where our cordovan shoes were shined to perfection. We wore coats and Fedora hats, too. Those students who were members of the football or other team sometimes wore their sweaters with P emblazoned.
There were trolley cars on Spruce Street, Woodland Avenue and some other Streets. During Rowbottoms, the connecting pole from trolley cars to the electric wire, frequently were pulled down to disconnect the power and one time [or more] a trolley was lifted off the tracks by students standing shoulder to shoulder all around.
Popular eating places were Beastons at Spruce and 36th and Smokey Joes on 36th. There was a Horn and Hardarts Restaurant, the Waffle Shop [with 100 different waffles] and Zavelles bookstore for new and used books on Woodland Avenue opposite College Hall. There was also a small shop in the basement between the Quad and the small Quad where we could have breakfast of orange juice, a sugar bun and coffee when I was a freshman and for others, who lived in the dormitories surrounding the quads.
There were some good mens clothing stores: Gommys on Woodland Avenue Street just below 36th Street and Sox Miller on Spruce Street just above 36th Street. People from mens clothing stores in other cities would travel from college to college campuses get a room in a hotel or elsewhere to show their clothing to students and hopefully make some sales. Student representatives at different schools tried to get students to come to see the clothes. They received a modest commission. I was a representative at Penn for Finchley. The Daily Pennsylvanian was a far different paper from todays paper. Not better or worse, - just different. In the 1930s it had more social news and fewer official University releases. There was also the grand monthly Punch Bowl magazine as well as the Pennsylvania Gazette.
Wharton School was located in Logan Hall. Wharton students also had some liberal arts classes in the College with classes in College Hall. As I recall, we were required to have 134 credits for graduation - about 110 in Wharton subjects and the balance in College subjects. There were no women at Wharton during the 1930s. Annual tuition at Penn was $400 per year plus $10 for Health services. [When my son, B. Franklin Reinauer III, Wh65, went to Penn for his freshman year the tuition was $1700.]
Weekly participation in athletics was required for all students. Squash courts were located in Franklin Field below the stands. The Palestra was new for basketball. There were opportunities for swimming, crew, baseball, soccer and all the same sports as today. There may have been some but I do not remember any womens teams. When we graduated in the 1930s most of us got jobs for $20 to $25 a week. We, who had college diplomas, were the lucky ones for unemployment in the USA was high and the depression pervasive. Since we barely got going after graduation before World War II began and many of us went into the military and others were stymied by the war effort at home, we really did not get going until after the war. The Wharton School diploma was a blessing for it has opened doors for me, and all other Wharton graduates, ever since graduation. I am told all Penn diplomas do the same thing in other areas of work. On the 25th Reunion of the Class of 1938, we arranged for the vacation of Locust Street as a regular street and developed as Locust Walk. A granite plaque in the walk at the 36th Street intersection records our gift to Penn. This gift to Penn began the vacation of streets, which has resulted in Penn having a real campus in the midst of a busy city.
Since my days at Penn, many new buildings have been constructed. They do not have the architectural design of the former buildings, such as in the Quad or like the Library, College Hall, Logan Hall, Wistar Institute or Houston Hall, but are a great variety of modern architecture. Some are fine others, well, the eye of the beholder!
Now, that those of us who graduated in the 1930s look back as well as at Penn today, we marvel at the changes: the physical look of the campus, changes in courses and curriculum, appearance of students, interests, language, communication and the myriad of changes in our own lives. And so, this has been a time for reminiscing! If you read what I wrote, I hoped you enjoyed reading some of what a Penn alumnus remembers about his days at Penn.
B. Franklin Reinauer II is chairman of Reinauer Corporations.
1940s back to index
Recently as I walked through the corridors of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to visit my daughter in ICU, daily I passed through the Ravdin Pavilion. This brought back fond memories.
As a senior medical student I scrubbed for surgery for the first time and the head surgeon was the internationally known Dr. Isador Ravdin. I stood against the wall of the operating room wondering what to do next. Dr. Ravdin graciously came over to me, took my hands in his, led me to the table where an already draped patient lay, put my hands on the patients belly, and said, Now doctor stay sterile. I was no longer intimidated by the fellows, first-, second-, and third-year residents, and interns already assembled.
On a Sunday afternoon a few days later Dr. Ravdins office called to request me to report to an operating room. I expected to see his retinue but only the two of us were there. The ancient mother of another professor of surgery had a distended gallbladder which needed to be drained before it ruptured. It was a simple procedureopening the abdomen, draining the bladder, and closing the incision. It would have bored his retinue but to me, a lowly student, it was a great adventure, especially assisting an internationally known expert on gallbladder disease. I loved Dr. Ravdin.
Jack Cole was wounded in the Battle of Normandy while serving as battalion surgeon with the 13th Infantry. Physician for Lehigh University four years. He practiced family medicine for 32 years in Bethlehem, Pa., split in the middle by five years with Peace Corps, and has written two books since retiring in 1989.
I was a 16-year-old freshman living in 303 Magee on December 7, 1941. That Sunday was the midpoint of Rush Week and all the freshmen were busily making the rounds of the various fraternities. In those days the fraternities were separated, or segregated, into A (Christian) and B (Jewish) fraternities. There were even two inter-fraternity councils. It was the only type of segregation or bias that I ever experienced at Penn. And from the perspective of 2002 it is hard to comprehend that this was the way of the time.
As I emerged from the dorm that Sunday a friend of mine who lived in Provost Towers called out to me that the Japs had bombed Pearl Harbor. Rushing continued, and I remember being at the Pi Lambda Phi house speculating with all as to what would happen to us. Some of the ideas were very far out, but most were fairly realistic and mirrored what actually happened. Of course Penn nor any other University was ever the same again, as old traditions were put aside (beanies, vig books, hazing, and many more) and new traditions created. On May 18, 1943, I enlisted in Philadelphia in the then-U.S. Army Air Corps just before my 18th birthday. I know for myself, and Im sure for many of my fraternity brothers who also enlisted in the Air Force, that the decision was triggered by a visit to the fraternity by Bill Lavens brother who was one of Americas first Aces as a P-38 pilot. His descriptions of air battles with the Japanese over the Aleutians triggered all our imaginations.
One of the results of the war was accelerated classes, which meant we had a full class load in the summer. I attended the summer semester of 1942. Classes started very early, at 7:30 or 8 a.m. My first class was with Professor William Harbison studying Elizabethan English. He was a wonderful, crusty gentleman of the old school, and I had been in his classes before. We had the first class without much incident, except he seemed very unhappy. It was summer, it was hot and it was stuffy. At the start of the second session Professor Harbison addressed the class. He felt that this was an ungodly hour to have a class and he did not feel he could teach the class properly, nor could the students learn the material at this awful time. He then cancelled classes for the rest of the summer session, assigned us reading assignments, and instructed us to write up the results of our studies in Elizabethan English and turn them in on the last day of class. We all learned then and there what independent study was all about.
Harold Buxbaum is president of of Buxbaum Rink Consulting in Woodbridge, Connecticut.
Penn in the 1940s was a tight little white island.
I entered Penn in the fall of 1943 and, except for a time-out in the U.S. Maritime Service, left the campus for Paris in 1948. Remarkably, I am again a Penn student at age 76a senior associateauditing courses I never got around to taking as an undergrad nearly 60 years ago. Im back because I have the time and the inclination. I am, at this time in my life, a retired journalist.
I am also a secular Jew, which is most relevant to this memoir of my undergraduate days at Penn. I grew up in the sycamore-shaded, lawnless Jewish ghetto of West Philadelphia. My fellow students in grammar school and junior and senior high were overwhelmingly Jewish. The jumble of groceries, barbers, butter-and-egg stores, restaurants, shoe-repair shops, and bakeries in my neighborhood were allexcept for the A&PJewish owned and operated. It was a rye-bread world. At age 18, I had never encountered anti-Semitism until I entered the white-bread University of Pennsylvania on a mayoral scholarship. My freshman beanie was, I suppose, a surrogate yarmulke. Nearly 60 years later, I will try to recall that clash of cultures.
Actually, Penns anti-Semitism then was in the American grain, a genteel policy of exclusion and tokenism. It also applied to women, blacks, and Asians, who were tolerated in small numbers. After all, wasnt the nation in the middle of a great war for democracy?
I learned of the Jewish quota at Penn when I tried to heel for what is now The Daily Pennsylvanian. I was told they already had their quota filled. With some other rejectees from the newspaper, we started an on-campus literary magazine. (Rejection has its compensatory rewards: magazine-editing became my profession.) I was also interested in theater and looked up the celebrated Mask & Wig; unfortunately, they already had their token Jew. So I joined quota-free Penn Players where I met another Jew, Hal Prince C48 Hon71, who directed one of my one-act plays. He has also found a career extracurricularly.
As for social activities, I could go to Hillel, the student Jewish social center, where my greatest spiritual enlightenment came from learning to play killer bridge. Other social groups included A and B fraternities: the B Greeks were 100 percent Jewish, the A Greeks 100 percent non. Learning to live with segregation taught me the authentic Greek virtue of stoicism. There were other places to meet and greet: dances at the CA, and the smoking room at the Furness library, where I mingled fumes with a cell of proto-existentialists, ur-beats, and Trotskyites who went on to become a professor at Princeton, high-profile lawyers, admen, and judges.
At the Friday-evening socials at International House I met Penns handful of Hispanic students, almost invariably the scions of wealthy families living well in Latin American dictatorships. Alhough Penn today is over 20 percent Asian, there was only one Asian face, a Thai, among the 500 faces in my yearbook. There were a few blacks on campus in those years, generally Africans on fellowships. Kwame Nkrumah (who went on to become president of Ghana) was a grad student at Penn at the time, some said on an OSS fellowship. There were just three blacks in my graduating class and one of them hailed from Monrovia, Liberia.
As late as 1947, there was only one black on the 57-man varsity track team. Otherwise, athletics were uniformly white bread. There were no blacks on Penns 59-man varsity football squad, nor on the 39-man freshman squad, and, surprising in retrospect, there were no blacks on its 12-man varsity basketball team or 26-man varsity baseball team posing staunchly in the Record Book. Other absolute strongholds of the WASMs (white Anglo-Saxon males) were the Undergrad Council, the Houston Hall Board, the Sphinx Senior Society, the Kite and Key, and probably a dozen otherswhich discouraging heeling. There were women and Jews, but no blacks or Asians, in the all-white, left-leaning American Veterans Committee and in the Symphony Orchestra.
Although Harvard and Princeton were well-staffed with academic refugees from Hitler like Kissinger and Einstein, I do not recall having a single Jewish professor. Bradley, Spiller, Baugh, Haviland, Harbeson and Weygandt were the heavy hitters in the English Department. My non-refugee German language professors all had a pre-1933 outlook and worshipped at the altars of Goethe, Holderin, and Bach, rather than the then-current Teutonic idols. The solitary woman faculty member I can recall was Dr. Elizabeth F. Flower Gr39, in the philosophy department.
The only sign of ecumenicalism on campus during the 1940s was a sandwich joint called Kelly & Cohen. (There was, it turned out, no Kelly aboard, but business, evidently, was business).
As a career path, I was torn between journalism and my familys wish to see me go into medicine. But applying to the med school would have just put me up against another Jewish quota. So after graduation I took a wanderjahr in France, got an editing job on a European magazine, and my career was officially launched.
But that was then. This is now. Penn, like current and recent prexies at Princeton, Brown, Barnard, and Harvard, has a Jewish president and a just-named black chief operating officer. And the campus buildingsnamed for WASP donors like Houston and Wharton in my undergraduate dayshave been supplemented by buildings and public spaces financed by and/or named for a gaggle of occasionally louche Jewish donorsWalter Annenberg W31 Hon66, Saul Steinberg W59, Steve Wynn C63, and Ron Perelman W64 WG66. The faculty, too, has broadened; today I take history classes with department chair Dr. Jonathan Steinberg and English classes with Dr. Rena Potok C83 G90 Gr95much brighter and more worldly academics than my undergrad WASP professors.
And the University now boasts departments of Jewish studies, black studies, Asian studies (formerly called non-PC Oriental studies), and womens studies. (Talk about ghettoization: in my undergraduate erawhile Rosie the riveter was sexually integrating the American workforcePenn women matriculated in Bennett Hall, the separate-but-equal school for women. They even had their separate-but-equal newspaper, The Bennett News).
All, happily, water under the bridge. Today Penn is unquestionably light years more stimulating, cosmopolitan, gender- and color-blind than it was when I was a beanie-wearing, 18-year-old freshman 59 years ago. Maybe its time for the rest of America to also catch up.
Alan Halpern was, for almost 30 years, the editor of Philadelphia Magazine, acting editor of Boston Magazine, and founding editor of Manhattan inc.
I remember the International House at 3905 Spruce St. where students from many different lands met and got to know each other and their various views of the world. The I-House was the center for foreign students from all the Colleges and Universities in the Philadelphia area. it was started by the Christian Association, C.A. under the impetus of Edward C. Wood. The I-House should not be forgotten.
My sister and I were privileged to grow up in that environment since my father, Elmer T. Thompson, served as its director from 1925-50. I was a student at U.Penn College 1943-45 (NROTC), CCC 1952-56; received BA, Physics major.
In my senior year, 1947-48, I attended all of our football games and we had an undefeated season [one tie]. We lost Tony Minisi W48 L52 to the Navy and played against Blanshard & Davis of the Army. [Misters inside & outside]. I road the subway to school with George Saviski [All American] and studied thermo all the way.
Had a course in Law for Engineers followed by the Thermo course in the Towne buildingat the opposite end of the campus. I had to run all the way to make roll call as our instructor said he would close the door to late comers and that with two absences he would flunk us. With the name Brown I would be one of the first to be called. One day I was running up the three flights of stairs in the Engineering building and heard my name being called. So I shouted as loud as I could from the second floor, BROWNS HERE much to the delight of the class, which roared back. Without a remark, the instructor left the door open for me and called my name last on future occasions.
I also remember the Rowbottoms around the Quad and the times we pulled the trolley-pole off its power line and jumped on the car to kiss all the girls. Ill be 80 this coming year, but remember the great times [many of them] during my undergrad years.
As a research, development & inventor-type engineer, my Penn degree gave me the chance to rise from designer to project engineer to department manager to vice president of corporate research and technology and to travel the world to many industries. As a young engineer, I had the opportunity to work with Chuck Yeager, the pilot who broke the sound barrier and wore the high-altitude flying helmet that I designed in secret for him. My helmet is in the Smithsonian, along with Chucks statue & the Bell-X plane.
I entered Penn from a very small suburban school (Jenkintown) and was somewhat overwhelmed by the size of Penn, even diminished as it was during the war, but excited by the rich variety of course offerings. I quickly switched from an English major to political science. I wrote for the Bennett News, as the womens paper was called, and joined WXPN. As a result of these activities, I was accredited to attend the famous Democratic Party convention in 1948 at which Truman gave a rousing speech that convinced me he would win the election.
I enjoyed many professors, especially Dr. Elizabeth Flower Gr39 in philosophy, and Dr. Harter and Dr. Phillip Jacobs in political science. These two men changed my life by helping me receive a scholarship through the Institute of International Education to attend the University of London for a summer. From then on living abroad was my goal and I did so for many years, both in England and France.
The main thing I actually remember of course work was a sentence from an economics professor who stated that the part of the blanket that hangs over is the part that keeps you warm. How true! I also recall the patronizing psych prof who gave his students a test to indicate femininity and masculinity. I was termed by him to be insufficiently feminine, almost masculine in my interests and personality, because I registered as too curious, and had male interests. I never took another psych class; it was rubbish. I directed a media library for 20 years in a local community college, am married and have two daughters who are Harvard gradsand would have failed the femininity test, too.
1950s back to index
I was only 16 years olda childwhen I started at Penn, taking classes at night and going to art school at [what is now the Philadelphia College of Art] during the day. World War II was almost over, and so I was in school with big, tough guys who had had dreadful experiences and who were my classmates. And night was different. I never had a normal college experience, nor did they.
We all did other things. The others were all working and making a living and had families and so on. They were all there on the G.I. Bill and voracious for an education, and I was caught up with that kind of steam and so we worked very very hard. We had no time for football games and parties and hanging out at Smoky Joes. None of that was part of our lives reallythough I did hear one of those older guys say, Well, us night people are superior to the day people. It was fun.
There were wonderful classes here. Roy Nichols was lecturing in historyhe and his wife both won a Pulitzer Prizeand science courses on Saturday mornings: zoology, biology, botany, and so on. [But] in art history, there was a particular professor I fear we all feared. His lectures were boring, interminable, almost fascistic. You were never allowed to think for yourself, just give back the information he gave you, and we detested it.
Penn did provide what I think was quite an excellent education, and despite all the social activities that we missed out on, we became rather loyal to Penn eventually anyway. I was in the Class of 1951, but I should have graduated in 1949. I earned over 130 credits. I remember Dean Coyle calling me in, and saying, Well, youre on your way to an MA. Do you want an MA? and I said, God, no, and he said, Well, get out of here. Youve finished your work.
I remember getting out of Spanish class at 11:00 at night. These guys on the GI Bill were so active, they wanted at much as Penn could give them. Many of them would never have gone to school otherwise, and Penn took them very seriously. There was no diminishment of the scholarship. It was tough.
At night, it was so dark. I was so tired. It was hard to just stay awake sometimes. and the 34 trolley would drop me off right in front of College Hall, where most of these classes were.
The responsibilities that we had academically were enormous, a tremendous amount of work. I remember gauging myself. I would get weighed once a week, because I figured I could lose 15 pounds a semester. More than that, I was in physical trouble, and I knew I had to get some sleep or something to eat.
The most recent of Sam Maitins many Gazette covers was for the March/April 2002 Centennial issue focusing on Penns faculty.
George Munger, Penn head football coach from 1938-1953, touched hundreds of people from all walks of life throughout his career.
For many years, George was devoted to football and he coached precisely and intelligently. Joining with George was Rae Crouther, nationally famous line coach; Paul Riblett, broadly experienced and animated end coach; Bill Talanico, player-tested and smart backfield coach; and Jack Welsh, record-holding freshman coach and brilliant football scout.
George was sincere and honest. As a teacher of the game and a gentleman, he set an example for his players which influenced and stayed with me. Each of Georges teams became a family, and our teams developed a camaraderie and confidence.
Other recollections of my playing days include:
A Penn dump truck which made stops around campus topick up football players and take them to River Field for practice.
Ms. Boar, an elderly, refined training-table dietician, who felt compelled to correct the table manners of the biggest, toughest, and sloppiest players.
Pre-season practice at Hershey, Pennsylvania, with a strong aroma of chocolate wafting in the breeze.
From 75,000 to 80,000 spectators greeting the football teams entry onto Franklin Field. Yelling and Screaming, mixed with clapping and explosive band music distracted our pre-game warm-up and created chills and goose bumps (Penn led the nation in football attendance for five years in Georges era. On the other hand, the NFL Eagles had trouble drawing 30,000 to their games at Shibe Park).
People felt the electric atmosphere in the city of Philadelphia on game days. There was always a great demand for Penn football tickets. Sales were easy.
The pageantry and spectacle of the Penn-Army and Penn-Navy games were exhilarating.
Posh game parties took on the form of Mardi Gras celebrations.
Jess Butz, Haberdasher, always held slim brim hats for sale along with the preppiest ties, shirts, three-button suits, and shoes. His wife, Jessie, did all the sewing with a cigarette dangling from her mouth. A large ash was always waiting to fall.
Kelly and Cohens Emporium served combination sandwiches two inches thick, with all varieties of deli meats and cheeses, at highly affordable student prices. Students without enough money usually received credit.
Horn and Hardart Restaurant stood where the library now stands. The restaurant had a balcony used by students who were brown bagging their lunches.
The trolleys and tracks that ran though campus created familiar but annoying noises and clatter.
Heschs Florist, on Walnut Street, provided the most elegant floweres for deserving dates.
We were the luckiest men on earth to have attended Penn.
Bernie Lemonick played freshman football in 1947, and was on the varsity from 1948-1950. He was voted to the All-American team in 1950 and elected to Penns Athletic Hall of Fame in the inaugural class of 1996.
In the autumn of 1947, I began my freshman year at Wharton. I wondered, that first day, What is a kid from Germantown High in Philadelphia doing waiting for a No.6 trolley car at 71st Street and Ogontz Avenue at 6:45 a.m. to go all the way to the foreign land of West Philadelphia to attend an 8 a.m. Economics of Industry class at the University of Pennsylvania?
Penn was a mysterious place, and most commuting students really only knew about the buildings that housed our classes. We knew that there were dorms, and fraternity houses, but rarely saw them that first year. After my No.6 trolley, the Broad Street Subway, and the subway-surface trolley, I dashed into Logan Hall and up the center-worn wooden stepsalmost falling on the uneven surfaceto an upper floor.
We commuters could be seen daily, dashing from our last classes and rushing home to our families. For us, commuting to college was more like working at a job. The presence of so many returning veterans on the GI Bill gave a serious business flavor to our studies. We read in the DP about fraternity happenings, and some other cultural campus events, but rarely experienced them. Since we lived at home, we had other family responsibilities, and our comments on college life were made in terms of course material, not the college culture.
The Penn campus, in those days, was more of a collection of old school buildings and old houses containing classrooms, in the midst of stores and aging residences. Off to the south were those odd-looking dorms. We never went there! Houston Hall was the only classy structure, and we tried to imagine how real college kids lived.
I was happy to leave this hectic environment and return to my nice little rowhouse in quiet West Oak Lane. From that first day, my focus was more on working seriously to get a good education than on having a good time in college. My objective was to form the basis for a business career, not to extend my adolescent years. Enlisting in the army after graduation, because of the Korean War, delayed that career. Ironically, those three army years became my version of college life, with a year at the Army Language School, a year at army posts in Kentucky, Virginia, and Massachusetts, and a year in Kyoto, Japan. I became a real college kid! When I returned to Wharton Grad for an MBA, on the GI Bill, I became like those worldly vets I knew and envied in 1947.
Today, as a retired CEO and CPA, my activities include serving on the UPAS board and communications committee, volunteer treasurer of several charitable organizations, and professional church organist and choral singer. Penn continues to be an important part of my lifeand I still commute from the suburbs.
is a retired CEO and CPA and a past president of the University of Pennsylvania
From the day I attended a campus tour guided by student representative Jane Davis, I knew that Penn was my destiny. The acceptance letter and subsequent meetings with the incomparable Drs. Althea K. Hottel Ed29 Gr40 Hon59 and Karl Miller clinched my decision.
At Freshman Camp, I met women who have become close friends and helped craft the lyrics of our class song (to the tune of Fine and Dandy) with the optimistic promise: We have talent, of that we boast, Were collected from coast to coast, 52 is the class youll adore, If fun is what youre looking for.
Fun it certainly was, dominated by cerebral romps through formidable tomes, serious devotion to student government that culminated in gatherings of women class-officers in the home of then Penn President Harold Stassen home and launched my concern to this day about our nations role in the world, and vocal bursts of pride at Franklin Field when the football team saved the day or at Irvine Auditorium, its rafters rumbling above Bill Dickeys mighty organ rendition of Hail, Pennsylvania.
The aroma of old brick, the din of traffic penetrating Bennett Hall classrooms, the daily aerobic climb to its fourth floor cafe and lounge, supplemented by sprints to College Hall, forays to the library, and treks up Locust Street to Alpha Chi Omega sorority house are imprinted on my brain. Few life experiences have been as exhilarating as riding the West Chester local to class each day in anticipation of absorbing wisdom from my advisors, Loren Eiseley and Frederick Jones, and from such esteemed and supportive faculty as Robert Spiller, Matthias Shaaber, Albert Baugh, MacEdward Leach, Richard Bozarth, and Ward Goodenough.
Everything I learned and loved during those years at Penn has guided my career and enhanced my role as a wife and parent.
Emily Pritchard Cary taught vocal music in Pittsford, N.Y., and Millburn, N.J., before becoming a specialist in gifted/talented education for Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, where she taught for 18 years. During that time, she was a state finalist for the NASA Teacher in Space Project and conducted creative-writing workshops statewide for the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Her articles on music, education, and Americana have appeared in periodicals nationwide, including the Journal Newspapers of Washington, DC, which features her weekly column, First Chair. The most recent of her six books, The Ghost of Whitaker Mountain, is based on Western Pennsylvania history, mysteries, and current events.)
Actually, I already have and it appears in the Fall issue of Bellwether, on remembering the first class at New Bolton Center in Kennett Square (www.vet.upenn.edu/comm/publications/bellwether/53/nbc_first_class.html). Additionally, for the record, Bellwether has got to be one of the more premier publications of its type in the nation.
E.J. Hathway is a retired veterinarian, 40 years in Wilmington, Del. Proprietor of the Wilmington Animal Hospital, now operated by two more recent Penn grads, Dr. Karen Phillips V79 and Dr. Shelley Epstein V85.
A 16-year-old boy from Brooklyn checking into Magee in the dorms Fraternity rushing and hazing Large lecture halls for chemistry and history Intramural sports Winning the IFC sports trophy in my senior year Playing basketball with Ernie Beck, Mike Lyons, and Warren Gray Also, backyard basketball at the TEP house Bowling competition Fraternity parties Subway surface cars Late night, poker or studying Working at the Red and Blue Diner as a short order cook Going downtown to see Joni James and Tommy Edwards The Quad Sophomore Sols And of course, graduation, with our keynote speaker Milton Eisenhower, in the blazing sun
Dr. Robert S. Maurer, osteopathic physician, U.S. Navy 1953-1958; Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, 1958-1962; intern 1962-1963; family practice, Woodbridge, N.J., 1963-1985; JFK Medical Center 1985-1992; associate professor of clinical family medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Osteopathic Medicine, 1992-1998. Now mostly skiing, playing tennis, and grandfathering.
I was a member of the Penn Marching Band as a freshman in 1951. It was an exciting season, playing teams like Army, Navy, William & Mary, California, and Wisconsin. My favorite memory, however was in 1952. We were Ivy champions, but Ill never forget the 7-7 tie with Notre Dame on opening day. The band used to turn its hats around to signify a victory on its march from Franklin Field to Houston Hall, and we did so that day in an atmosphere of excitement Ill long remember.
Bob Johnson and his wife Pat are currently retired and living in West Chester, Pa., for the past three years. They moved back from northern New Jersey and have enjoyed participating in more activities on campus, including sporting events, plays, concerts, and helping to plan their 50th Reunion in 2005.
While the Eisenhower years are usually thought of as uneventful, some exciting changes took place during my classs time at Penn: Dr. Gaylord P. Harnwell Hon53 succeeded Harold Stassen Hon48 as president. The Ivy League was formally instituted. Franklin Field had its first and probably last student-section flash-card presentations at the Navy and the Notre Dame football games: the letter N turned out well in both games but by the time the Penn fans got to the D in Notre Dame, the effects of screwdrivers and other libations had taken over and the cards came sailing out of the stands like frisbees.
Grace Kelly, aka Princess Grace of Monaco, met the Penn cheerleaders on Franklin Field, and Dietrich Hallnow Steinberg-Dietrich Hallopened for business. Finally, the trolleys stopped running above ground through the campus; this development will be commemorated by the Class of 1956 with a trolley-inspired sculpture to be dedicated during our 50th Reunion in 2006.
In 1953, just before my junior year, in a job I had found through student placement, I received the first poor evaluation I had ever gotten in anything in my life. A couple of years later, in my last semester, I received the harshest academic critique in my school career. The first of these was devastating, the second a blessing.
The summer job had sounded perfect for me: I would be a counselor at a childrens residence in Cleveland. A psychology major, I planned to become a child-guidance counselor. But that job turned out to be a failure. I had had no training or experience with any children, let alone youngsters like these who were so disturbed that the courts had removed them from their families. At summers end I sat in my supervisors office and nodded silently as, point by point, he focused on my inability to motivate, discipline, and inspire these troubled children.
I dont remember his exact words; I do remember tearing up the evaluation and coming back home to Philadelphia desperate to change my major. Having no idea what I wanted to do, I opted for my favorite subject, English Literature. The choice was perfect. I loved my classes and was inspired by my professors.
In the fall of 1955 I sat in another office, Room 111 in Bennett Hall, where I dared to show Dr. Richard Bozorth C42, my instructor in creative writing, a novella I had written the year before while on leave from Penn. His encouraging comments (like goodyou get pathos without sentimentality) spurred me on. His comments about my other writing were mostly favorable, but the one I remember most vividly almost reeked with the smell of deep disappointment. I no longer have those words before me (I must have thrown them out, too), but I remember their gist: This is unworthy of you. Amazing! He thought I was capable of better things! He had faith in me.
I have often heard Dr. Bozorths clear voice over the years, as I embarked upon one writing project after another (Show, dont tell, Take your reader with you, Give specifics). I would picture him leaning back in his chair and reading my current work, and I would wonder: What would he think? I never had any contact with him after graduation. Last month, after a fellow alumna in a Kelly Writers House online group mentioned his name, I contacted Penns archivist, Mark Frazier Lloyd, to help me find him.
I wanted to tell my teacher that, even though I may not have lived up to the high expectations he had had for me, I did indeed forge a career in writing. In the not-so-mysterious circles that often chart our paths in life, much of my work has dealt with child development, the field I seemed so unsuited for as a clinician but able to make contributions to as a writer.
In 1983, after a distinguished career at Penn and elsewhere, at the age of 63, Dr. Bozorth died. And yet for me he still lives on, as I continue to respond to his imagined critiques. Twenty years after his death, he is still nurturing this student.
Sally Wendkos Olds has written 10 books and many articles (some for the Gazette).
My four years at Penn encompassed many memorable moments, not the least of which was meeting, wooing and subsequently wedding my wife of 43 years, Dr. Sandra P. Weinstein Epstein Ed60. However, the two events on which I wish to focus are football related. During my tenure at Penn, I was at various times a sports reporter for The Daily Pennsylvanian and sports editor of the now defunct magazine, the Highball.
Early in my sophomore year (fall 1955), I interviewed Steve Sebo, the relatively new football coach and he graciously invited me to sit on the Penn bench with the team during games. One of the first games of the 1955 season was against Notre Dame, then in its salad days as a national power with several All-Americans among its ranks. In the dressing room immediately before the game, Coach Sebo addressed the players. He told them that playing Notre Dame before a sell-out crowd and a television audience was an opportunity of a lifetime and to go out there and do themselves and the university proud.
The Penn team charged from the locker room to the fieldin todays parlance, totally pumped. Notre Dame kicked off and my sophomore classmate, Frank Riepl W58, took the ball two yards in the end zone and ran through the entire Notre Dame team for a touchdown: 102 yards. The noise was deafening, truly a magic moment in a dismal period of Penn football. Alas, if the truth be told, Penn lost the game decisively. Riepl went on to have a fine career at Penn.
My second football moment at Penn was the 1956 win over Dartmouth, after 17 straight losses, which involved my fortuitous appearance in the picture of the victorious team (reprinted in the May/June 2002 issue). You can imagine the unrestrained joy among both the players and the fans. Another magic moment of Penn football, circa mid 1950s.
A side note, I grew up with Penn football. My father, Jacob C. Epstein WEv29, bought a season ticket which I shared with an older brother. I saw over the years, such Penn stars as Reds Bagnell C51, Skippy Minisi C48 L52, George Savitsky Ed48 D54 GD59, Eddie Bell C54, Bernie Lemonick W51, and my personal hero Chuck Bednarik Ed49; indeed, in seventh and eight grade, I wanted people to call me Chuck. Well, enough nostalgia; back to work and todays world.
Edwin Epstein chairs the peace and conflict studies group and is an emeritus professor in the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.
The Class of 1958 was hit with a slogan in September of 1954, intended to spur support for the football program which was in the process of de-emphasis into the Ivy League format. That slogan was, Watch Penn score in 54. Unfortunately, the team was still playing a bigtime schedule. Not only did they go winless that season, but the slogan proved prophetic in that one had to watch every play in order not to miss the few scores Penn accomplished.
At the U of Pennsylvania,
They tried real hard to make us brania
Stuffed that knowledge in our crania
Until youd develop some terrible mania.
Then before graduation it got even zania,
As theyd spoonia and spadia and bowlia and cania!
E. Powell GLA61
I sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on the liner Queen Mary to a country I had never visited and where I had neither friends or relatives. I was fortunate to have been awarded a scholarship to follow a two-year course for a masters in landscape architecture. Were my expectations too high? Would I be disappointed? I found the course everything I had hoped for, with an enthusiastic, experienced staff led by Professor Ian McHarg, who was an inspiring teacher. The encouragement in stretching a students design abilities to levels not previously envisaged was at times very frustrating, but an exhilarating journey. The opening up of new approaches to designing landscape, particularly large scale spaces was a rewarding search.
I recall other moments too, remembering with pleasure the long summer days, away from the heat of the city, spent at the Morris Arboretum with fellow students and the director, Dr. John M. Fogg C25. The mornings were spent identifying and drawing plants, and often in the afternoon one found a student asleep under the canopy of a giant shade tree.
After the enlightment of my studies, the most memorable aspect of campus life was the generous friendship extended to me by everyone I met; I was regularly a weekend or vacation guest in family homes.
My first year was as the only graduate student among undergraduates (mostly seniors) in Sherwood Hall, a three-storey house on Locust Street. The next year was spent as one of the first residents in the new womens dormitory [now Hill College House] in the role of a graduate advisor. It was a privilege to be invited to become one of eight advisors to live and work in such a superbly designed building; its severe external appearance contrasted with the lightness and functional simplicity of the interior spaces. I found it to be an extremely comfortable living environment. And I continue to have regular contact with friends from Sherwood. The remaining graduate advisors held a 40th reunion and plan to meet biennially to exchange news of our lives and careers.
Wendy Powell GLA61 is a landscape architect.
I always wanted to attend the University of Pennsylvania. I remember the day that my acceptance letter arrived. I was overwhelmed. My time at the University was extremely positive, although the first few years I definitely spent too much time partying and probably missed a lot in the classroom. By my senior year, I started to be a more serious person. I studied painting and art history, but always felt that being a painter was too isolating, so when I found photography through the Annenberg School for Communication, my life totally changed. I had found my future.
Some of my first real assignments were for the Gazette. Dusty Rhodes, who was then the editor, gave me several assignments. This was a wonderful learning process that helped prepare me for when I started to work for national magazines. The picture of the Class of 1911 alumnus was one of my first published pictures. To this day, I like the picture and wonder if the old alumni at Penn still have such character. James Fry Strong certainly had an amazing look. The other photograph was taken some years later, in 1973, when I did a story on how Penn had changed. I dont remember taking this particular picture and I wonder what I was thinking at the time. Now, when I look at it I can read many things into it.
Without Penn and the Annenberg School, I would not have had the amazing life that I live as a photographer. I would not have met all those very special people, both famous and not famous, that have allowed me to photograph them. I am extremely grateful to the University for the great opportunities it gave me.
Mary Ellen Marks photography has won numerous awards and has been exhibited worldwide. Her work has appeared in dozens of magazines and in 12 books. A new book, Twins, isdue out in Fall 2003.
The changing face of our campus began in earnest in the early sixties. When I first was on campus and joined a sorority, Delta Delta Delta, the sorority house was a lovely, historic property on McAlpine Street. I wonder if anyone other than Tri Deltas and a few St. Andrews members could even recall today where McAlpine Street was: the Tri Delta House and the street were demolished to build the Annenberg Center.
Just around the corner on Locust Street was a great greasy spoon called Grands. Since no meals were served at our small house, we ate many breakfasts and lunches at Grands. I dont recall anyone ever having, or at least admitting, that they had dinner there. It was a place for a quick meal and for running into other students to plan weekend activities and set up study dates. Many a romance and many a rumor started at Grands.
During my junior year when the house on McAlpine was about to be knocked down, we were given 3906 Locust Street as our new residencegone too, and in its place is the Steinberg Conference Center. The brick structure on Locust became the Wharton Graduate Center, after Tri Delta lost its charter in about 1968.
Moving day, from McAlpine to Locust Street (not Walk), was quite a day. To save money the members had to carry lamps, books, chairs, TVs, anything that we could lift, to the new house. It was a gorgeous day, and we were having a good laugh at having to do this handyman work. I spotted one of the little trucks with two facilities-and-maintenance workers chugging up the street and flagged them down. At first they were reluctant to assist, but how could they refuse all of us lugging all this stuff down the street? We enrolled these two guys into our moving program and used the little truck most of the afternoon.
Isnt it interesting now, all these years later, my recollections are of friends and funny incidents. I can remember going to classes, I can recall a few good professors and I can laugh many times thinking of them.
Mary Ann Greenawalt is president and owner of B&B Specialty Foods in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
To ask me to single out one memory from all the ones that crowd my mind when I think about Penn would be like asking a mother to name her favorite child. But Ill try When I think beyond the friends, the extracurricular activities, Philadelphia, the campus, everything I loved about Penn, I always return to this: Penn taught me how to learn and to love learning. It taught me to explore, not only my own inner workings, but those of the world around me.
These gifts have stayed with me all of my life, enabling me to take on challenges that I might never have attempted otherwise. I lived in two different foreign countries, perfecting one language and learning another. I explored new cultures and tested my intellectual, social, and emotional skills.
Always eager to learn, I fulfilled a lifelong desire to work in the creative arts and enrolled at the University of Marylands graduate program in theatre. In 1992, I received a Master of Fine Arts in Costume Design. After a successful career as a professional costume designer I have returned to my first professional love, languages.
Thank you, Penn, for showing me that learning is, indeed, a life-long experience, meant to continually challenge our minds and enrich our souls, all the while broadening our horizons so that we may see beyond what is immediate, recognizable, and safe.
Mireille Key is a freelance Swedish and French translator.
It was the fall of 1960. The conformist Eisenhower era was winding down; the hopeful Kennedy interregnum hadnt yet begun. In my loafers, khakis, and shirtsleeves, not to mention my omnipresent blue freshman beanie, I pretty much resembled every other entering Penn freshman. In such a vast, impersonal campus, how on earth would I define myself and find a simpatico group of like-minded peers?
The answer, in theory, lay not with the University but with its privately-owned fraternities36 mens houses plus 11 for women, all operated by their post-pubescent members with minimal adult supervision. This quaint tribal system effectively ghettoized students not only by religion (Christian or Jewish) and gender but by personality as well. There was a house for campus politicians (Delta Tau Delta), preppies (Delta Psi), jocks (Alpha Tau Omega), swimmers (Delta Kappa Epsilon), animals (Beta Theta Pi), you name itonce you were initiated, these and other convenient stereotypes would safely pigeonhole you for the next four years.
The 11 Jewish houses were ranked according to an implicit social pecking order, beginning with Zeta Beta Tau and Phi Epsilon Pi at the top and proceeding downward through Phi Sigma Delta, Sigma Alpha Mu, Beta Sigma Rho, Pi Lambda Phi, Tau Epsilon Phi, Tau Delta Phi, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Kappa Nu and Theta Rho. Jewish or Christian, the prestige houses were characterized by access to money, cars, tweedy clothes, liquor, and women. The bottom houses were peopled by wets, as in wet behind the ears nerdy fellows who wore white socks, orthopedic shoes, and suits from Robert Hall.
Among the sororities, the unattainable blonde goddesses belonged to Delta Delta Delta, and the equally unreachable Jewish princesses clustered at Sigma Delta Tau. (Of SDT girls it was said that you could drive any one of them out into the country, leave her stranded, and get away with itbecause shed never admit that such an indignity could have happened to her.) Next in status among the Jewish sororities came Alpha Epsilon Phi and Delta Phi Epsilon, where the girls seemed a bit more genuine, and then Phi Sigma Sigma, where the girls were maybe a little too genuine.
The benefits of this shorthand labeling process, like most benefits in those days, were denied to Penns black, Asian, Hispanic, and Muslim students, who had no fraternities at all, presumably because their stereotyping needs were already amply satisfied.
Only after graduation did we discover that the meek really do inherit the earth. The guys from the prestige houses mostly vanished into their fathers businesses, never to be heard from again, while the wets became famous scientists, computer entrepreneurs, and self-made centomillionaires. Two of my contemporaries in so-called lower housesEd Rendell of Pi Lambda Phi and Judith Seitz (later Rodin) of Delta Phi Epsilonbecame mayor of Philadelphia and president of Penn, respectively. The scorned Phi Sigma Sigma somehow managed to outlast the three loftier Jewish womens fraternities. As our esteemed sociology professor Digby Baltzell never tired of pointing out, campus status has nothing to do with real-life success.
Fraternities at Pennsylvania, a handbook distributed by the Inter-Fraternity Council that fall, painted a rosy picture of lifelong brotherhood, uplifting community service, sing-alongs around the grand piano, snowmen on the front lawn, spring formals attended by crew-cutted brothers and their pert datesall the makings of an old M-G-M college musical. But in fact the heyday of Penn fraternities specifically 1926, when 56 fraternities (all male) accounted for 60 percent of the undergraduate populationhad long since passed by the time I arrived, and for good reason. In the early 60s, nobody with any sensitivity felt very good about fraternities. They seemed cliquish, secretive, bigoted, exclusive, archaic, hypocriticalall the sins my civil rights-and-peace generation detested.
If 50 percent of Penn students still joined fraternities in my day, that had little to do with fraternal ideals and much to do with the dearth of affordable campus housing. If my Phi Sigma Delta brothers hung around the fraternity house a lot, that was probably because there wasnt much else to do in Philadelphia in the early 60s. If our dates lived up to that eras exacting Barbie Doll standards of beauty, that had less to do with our discriminating taste than with peer pressure: After I brought a stunning (albeit vapid) Lauren Bacall look-alike to a house party, my stock among my Phi Sig brothers soaredonly to plummet on Skimmer weekend, when I invited a Barnard student whose charms were cerebral rather than physical. Rottenberg, one of my dear fraternity brothers inquired loudly, whered you get such an ugly date? It ruined my weekend, and I took care not to make that mistake again.
My initial doubts about fraternities were reinforced by the recollections of my father, Herman Rottenberg C36. When Dad arrived at Penn in 1933, the notion of forgoing fraternity life seemed unthinkableeven in the depths of the Great Depressionso Dad pledged Beta Sigma Rho. He survived all the indignities of pledging and hazing right up to the final oath of eternal fealty. I found myself swearing to be lifelong pals with a bunch of guys Id never met before, he told me, and looking at them, I didnt think they were all that great. So instead of uttering those vows, Dad dropped out, reclaimed his $100 initiation fee and bought himself a 1930 Ford for $90an investment that, as he described it, served him much better over the next four years.
I was no more enthusiastic about fraternities than my father. But when push came to shove, I faced the essential questions confronted by every insecure 1960 freshman: Where would I eat? Where would I take a date on a Saturday night? And if I rejected fraternities, how could I escape the inevitable assumption that they had rejected me?
Phi Sigma Delta offered a compromise solution. For one thing, its chef, William Sparky McIver, reputedly prepared the best food on campus (when he wasnt chasing brothers around the kitchen with a butcher knife). More important, Phi Sig was on rushing probation my freshman year (for holding a rush party at an unauthorized time) and consequently had to make special concessions to attract a freshman rush class. To wit: If prospective pledges like me promised to wait until the first day of our sophomore year to join Phi Sig, we could forego pledging altogether. That meant no paddling, no all-night sweat sessions, no memorizing names of chapter houses, no walking around campus with eggs in your pockets or molasses in your underpants. With a deal like that, a fraternity was worth a try.
My Phi Sigma Delta chapter essentially consisted of nice Jewish boys from Merion, Great Neck, and Shaker Heights who were bending over backwards not to act like nice Jewish boys from Merion, Great Neck, and Shaker Heights. This was accomplished by drinking beer, fighting, talking dirty, consorting with prostitutes, and dropping ones pants at parties. Although it was understood that most Phi Sigs would grow up to become accountants and insurance agents, the fraternity environment gave us the opportunity to temporarily pretend otherwise. The chapter president was chosen not for his executive skills but for his ability to run an entertaining meeting. (One year we elected a member of the Mask & Wig troupe as president.) The notion of reforming the outmoded rules and rituals imposed by our national fraternity never occurred to us; instead, we simply ignored the rituals or carried them to ridiculous extremes, in the best tradition of Jaroslav Haseks The Good Soldier Schweik.
For example, the national fraternity stipulated that all chapter meetings must open with a Bible reading. Our chapter scrupulously honored this rule each month by reading one of the Bibles most lascivious passages, of which there are plenty. (One favorite was the line about the fellow who spilled his seed upon the ground.) One month, one of our brothers complained that this practice was sacrilegious, and he asked that the Bible readings be discontinued. There followed a spirited debate in which some of the brothers declaimed with mock seriousness on the need for religion in fraternity life and others insisted that lampooning the Bible was an essential part of fraternity fun. Our president, who recognized an amusing diversion, allowed the discussion to continue until it began to drag, at which point he cut it off by saying that the matter was out of our hands and we might as well proceed to other business.
I will say this much for the Phi Sigs: We were not hypocrites. Collectively we may have behaved like posers and bigots, but we never deluded ourselves otherwise. One year our house was rushed by a freshman who was half Jewish and half Native American. When his name was proposed at a rush meeting, the room fell into embarrassed silence as brothers groped for a polite way to express his unacceptability.
Finally one of our Southern brothers those specialists in the art of racist euphemism took a stab at it. This, he intoned piously, is not the sort of guy I would want to introduce to my parents as a fraternity brother. To the eternal credit of my brother Phi Sigs, the speaker was hooted off the floor. And for the rest of the week, whenever he spoke in favor of a prospective pledge, someone else would respond, Yes, John, but would you want to introduce him to your parents? Of course, the half-Jew-half-Native American was rejected anyway by a large margin.
I dropped out of Phi Sig after one year, with a self-righteous four-page letter declaring that my participation in this particular band of brothers was hampering my participation in the larger brotherhood of humankind. A year later, as an entering freshman, my brother Bob C66 was rushed by Jewish and Christian fraternities alike and suffered no qualms whatsoever about bypassing fraternities right from the get-go. What a difference two years made, especially in that cultural watershed known as the 60s.
By the 1970s the Superblock high-rises had gone up and Penn students enjoyed alternative living optionsmodern, clean, nonsectarian, integrated, and also dull. At the same time, Penn and other universities acquired most fraternity houses and began supervising them with bureaucracies worthy of a government agency. Overnight the 50-year trickle away from fraternities became a mass exodus. Whole national fraternities folded, including mine. Their houses were boarded up; my old Phi Sig house at 39th and Spruce was razed. The lucky buildings (like Delta Tau Delta, which now houses the Sweeten Alumni Center and the Gazette) survived the wreckers ball by rehabilitating themselves as Penn administrative offices. By 1977, campus Greeks comprised less than 10 percent of Penns undergraduate population.
It was a case of Be careful what you wish for; you may get it. Suddenly students hungered for a sense of identity, not to mention socially acceptable outlets for letting off steam. Suddenly Penn administrators discovered that fraternities enhance students self-confidence and provide matchless practical living experience. Penns admissions department found that fraternities help attract potential students. Penn fund-raisers found that fraternity alumni give bigger donations than independents do. So over the past generation, off and on, Penn fraternities have not only been tolerated but even, at some points, encouraged, albeit within strict guidelines.
In my day I couldnt wait for the whole cruel system to be replaced by something more humanistic. So now that I got my wish, why do I miss it? And why is there this lump in my throat as I sit here at my computer?
Dan Rottenberg is editor of Family Business magazine and author of eight books.
My fondest memory of my two years at Penn (1963-65) is the real life quality of the faculty. There were numerous, experienced professors who shared their actual work lives to balance their theoretical presentations. For example, Professor James Charlesworth who taught Public Personnel Administration was a former Pennsylvania Secretary of Administration. My Political Parties and Pressures Groups instructor had run for political office. His view from the trenches made his lectures on political theory and practice much more credible. These two, in addition to Whartons famous George Taylor and the diplomats-in-residence Robert Kintner and Strausz-Hupé Gr46, inspired me to approach my career of government service grounded in theory balanced by successful practice. Many thanks!
After graduation, Mike Bennett joined the U.S. Information Agency, first in Washington as a management intern, and then spent the remainder of his career as a Foreign Service Officer, practicing much of what he had learned at Penn and Wharton. After retiring in 1988 (as a soldier in the Cold War, I wanted to try another field after we won that war), he went back to graduate school at the University of Maryland to earn an M.L.S. and became a librarian. He now practices this profession across the river from Penn at the Burlington County Library in Westampton, N.J.
Back in those remote days when there was a College for Women, I spent my days on campus reading 19th-century British fiction. Although there were plenty of students who studied political science and protested against the war in Vietnam, I literally had my head in books. I spent a lot of time thinking about romance and clothes. What did Elizabeth Bennett wear to a ball? What should I wear to a fraternity party? What would happen to Clarissa? What would happen to me? In those days, there were no cell phones, so in between classes I spent a lot of time in my room waiting for some suit to call. We didnt call them suits, although the guys my friends and I dated, being Wharton students, actually wore them.
In my senior year, I started reading 20th-century fiction. I never liked Hemingway. It was Fitzgerald who spoke to me. If the occasion arose, I dressed up like Daisy Buchanan and smoked green, gold-tipped cigarettes called mint frappes and dreamed of meeting a man exactly like Monroe Stahr in The Last Tycoon. I wanted my life to resemble a screenplay. Maybe I secretly dreamed of being a movie star. After all, the glamorous Candice Bergen CW67 Hon92 sat next to me in my morning class on the American Short Story. Ill never forget what she wore: a raincoat over her pajamas and not a drop of makeup. Her natural beauty was dazzling. My cousin Herbert was one of the Hollywood Ten and my uncle, Abner, was an actor and director. So I had connections, if not talent. And hope.
I will always be grateful to the professor of that class ( I think his name was Dr. Bamberger) because in analyzing a Salinger story, he asked us why the character listened to Hope on the radio, rather than, say, Benny. He taught me that every word in a short story counts. Like many English majors of my generation, I went on to be an editorial assistant at some magazine. In my case, I moved to New York and worked at the now-defunct Look. I never made it to Hollywood, and I cant say that I met my Monroe Stahr. Today I think about the threat of war and terrorism. Romance, glamor, and what I wear seem irrelevant. But from that short story class I took away two vital life lessons: words matter and always choose hope.
Jane Biberman was editor of Philadelphias Inside magazine for 20 years and now works at home as a freelance writeroften in her pajamas.
I arrived at Penn in l967 to start a masters program. I graduated with a Doctor of Education in l975. During this time I spent many hours on and around campus. Some of my clearest memories are of the time spent at Penn, and they are indeed some of my fondest. Penn is where I met my wife.
One of our rituals was for me to pick up subs (hoagies) at Ronniesa deli across from the Dental Schoolwalk to her Saturday class in Rittenhouse Lab and from there proceed to Franklin Field for a home Penn football game. The hoagies weere fantastic. I cant remember any of the games. I remember walking into the Annenberg School one afternoon to watch a film being shown; virtually no one in the audience, but a wonderful time to get away from the hubbub of campus life. I remember specifically a film, no words, just white horses running by the seashore. Wonderful imagery; I saw a clip of that film later, still dont remember its name, but will never forget the imagery. And then there were evenings at Paganos after a late afternoon class with fellow classmates; sometimes we would talk about the class; other times simply casual discussion.
And for those who think faculty dont count, I remember wonderful teachers who worked hard to teach, to convey a topic with passion and dedication, to help us learn. And the range was from counseling theory classes to statistics. I also remember, as a poor graduate student, allowing myself to be a patient at the Dental Clinic. I never did totally come to grips with the fact that when one of the students filled a tooth, he received a C for his work. It was at the Dental School that I had crown and bridge work done, using gold. I was told the work would last a life time. Just recently I had that original work replaced and when I asked, surprised that it needed to be done again when I was told it would last a life time, I was told that it did and that was just being too literal. Of course, there are many more memories, but these came to mind immediately.
Eric White has spent most of my career at the Pennsylvania State University, where many people have connections to that institution. I always make it clear, to anyone who is willing to listen, that while I work at Penn State, my graduate degrees are from Penn and for any one who is confused about the differenceand their numbers are legionI am always willing to explain the difference.
1970s back to index
I was the lone junior in a senior honors history seminar. As a relatively indifferent student, I was pleased and surprised that the professor had invited me to join the class. Professor Lee Benson began the seminar by asking the students: Why study history? The discussion must have gone on for a good half-an-hour. None of the answers, including my own, satisfied me. Just as the conversation slowed, Professor Benson provided his reason for studying history: To better understand the world in order to help change the world for the better. As a student activist interested in making a difference, the goal of changing the world could not have been more appealing to me. It also appealed to many of my fellow students, who were also involved in the political and social causes of the time. The seminar conversation became more intense, animated, illuminating.
Some six months later, in February 1969, I walked out of College Hall at the conclusion of a six-day sit-in protesting, among other things, Penns treatment of the West Philadelphia community. Having led the sit-in, I was relieved that it was over. I was also pleased that we (the protesters) had taken a stand on important, moral issues in a peaceful and largely respectful way. My friends and I walked to Paganos Restaurant, where we would eat our first non-sit-in meal in six days and discuss what we had achieved. The conversation continued late into the night, long after Paganos had closed.
Those two conversations remain vivid. They come to mind periodically as I work with my colleagues to connect research, teaching, and learning with service to the West Philadelphia community.
Ira Harkavy is associate vice president and director of the Center for Community Partnerships at Penn.
What amazes me in looking back upon my time at Penn in the late Sixties was how quickly and dramatically campus life changed. In 1966, Hill Hall was the womens residence hall and men were not allowed beyond the lobby; women were required to wear skirts to dinner, to class, and to the library. The women on campus more often than not wore Villager sweater and skirt outfits and Pappagallo shoes.
Women had to return to the dormitories by a time certain (was it 11 p.m.?) or sign out to return before between 11 and 2 a.m., indicating where and with whom one was going.
Suddenly, or so it seemed, bell bottoms and workshirts became the uniform on campus. Along with the war and campus expansion, parietalsas the collection of curfew and dorm visiting rules was knownbecame an issue. As the Seventies approached, women were permitted to have men in their rooms during certain hours. The house mother at one of the smaller dorms was appalled at the residents request for permission to permit men visitors in their apartments, and told me that she would have to put on a kimono and put out a red light!
On the day that I walked onto the Penn campus as a freshman in 1966 I knew that I wanted to be a writer. What kind of writer was unclear, but I was certain that writing was my destiny. Unfortunately, I was enrolled in the Wharton School. You see, back in high school I was certain my destiny was to be a lawyer and the best way to achieve that seemed to be through business. Thus, Wharton.
However, I had spent the summer with two friends riding Trailways buses across America and everything had changed. For 99 bucks we covered the country from Chicago to LA to Miami and everywhere in between. I wrote stories and poems and postcards. I was now Jack Kerouac. The Wharton dean was aghast when I informed him of my desire to immediately transfer into the College. No one does that, he told me. But I was adamant about being a writer. He tried to convince me that I could be a writer and a lawyer like Archibald MacLeish had done. But Archibald MacLeish vs. Jack Kerouac is not a winning argument, and, though we went at it for quite some time, I would not give up, which I have since learned is the secret to success in writingand almost everything else in life.
Ironically, the College was not much better than Wharton. By the time I finished sophomore year I had exhausted all the creative writing courses the English Department offered, except one advanced seminar for seniors, and I still didnt know what kind of writer I was going to be. The English Deptment wanted me to do the Honors program and go on for a Ph.D. In other words, Give it up, kid. Sure, I had written for the DP, the yearbook, and Penn Comment, but none of it was truly satisfying. Maybe Penn couldnt help me. My dad thought I should at least take an accounting courseWharton again!as a fallback.
Then I saw a play. Actually, three of them, in a one-act play contest sponsored by Penn Players. It was for the J. Howard Reber Playwriting Prize and seeing them was a jolt of electricity to meactors, dialogue, story, conflict, an audience!one of those crystal-clear moments in life where everything falls perfectly into place. Theatre. Writing. I can do that. I want to do that.
I went back to the English Department, said Ill take the Honors option if you let me into that advanced seminar so I can write a play. They said yes! I wrote the play, Penn Players produced it, and sitting there in Houston Hall (probably like every other playwright in history) I thought I could direct, too. Well, why not? They were announcing my name as the winner, and climbing up to that stage in Houston Hall to collect my $50 (which went a long way at the Dirty Drug back then), I thought, Who knows? Whats next? Maybe Id make a movie. Anything was possible.
Andy Wolk is a writer and director of film and television. He lives in Los Angeles.
Time creates a window
Where memory becomes history
before it is lost.
Who steered the steering committee
when we occupied the administration
building at Penn?
Fred Strober, I think
The first Earth Day,
when was that?
what did he read? was it
I was so
Kent State v. the government
They had to kill our children,
said Mark Rudd, thirty years later
I kept your Wanted Poster
as a souvenir, I told him,
but I lost my diploma, I think
What are you, a pack rat?
Yes, I save shiny things
I save memories
I shot every story there is
but not a war
Now I dont want to.
Shot at and missed,
Shit on and hit
If you remember, please
Theres a window here
Amy Berkovitz (www.amybowers.tv) is a television field producer. She was one of the first TV camerawomen in the U.S. She was married to Bill Levine ('69) in Boston from 1974-77. She spent the 80s and 90s shooting network news in LA with her second husband, Hal Bowers, and moved with him and their two children to New Mexico in 1992. Her third husband will be ABC News correspondent Dave Marash who lives with her in Montclair, N.J. Amy is writing a memoir and did not lose her diploma.
Attending Penn was all about a social and political awakening for me. A shy, studious freshman in 1967, deeply concerned about the war in Vietnam, became an activist as I joined others around the television in Houston Hall (who would have thought that TVs in dorm rooms would become the norm?) to hear Lyndon Johnson announce he would not run for reelection. We joined in a spontaneous march down Chestnut Street to Independence Hall, under the watchful eyes of Frank Rizzos finest, celebrating what we saw as our victory over establishment politics.
My friends and I also sat huddled around a transistor radio while watching Penn basketball in the Palestra, listening as the birthday lottery proceeded for the military draft. Emotions ran the gamutmy number was over 300, and I would not have to rely on a student deferment forever to keep me out of the war. But friends with low numbers immediately started to plot strategies.
The College Hall sit-in in my sophomore year brought it all closer to home. As a freshman I had joined the Community Involvement Council, a choice that would make the basement of Irvine my home away from home. Tutoring a kid in the projects of South Philly was fine, but the sit-in was all about the Universitys impact on the neighboring community. We felt scared, we felt giddy, we felt the beginnings of what solidarity meant. We participated in endless meetings and discussions. This was not about a power elite directing their followers, this was about all of us working together. We shared food, and a floor to sleep on. We grew outraged when others on campus did not share our view, and tried to interfere. And then we won! We werent absolutely sure what we had won, and whether the University would follow through in the long run. But we had won, and left an indelible mark on Penn, and on ourselves.
For me, activism continued into the founding of the Community Food Co-op of West Philadelphia during my senior year, and the Peoples Park.
Every generation, every class feels that their years at Penn were special, But I truly believe that 1967-1971 was a remarkable period in American political and social history to attend college, and that Penn was a remarkable place to do so.
Steven Gayle left Philly in 1977 for a small village in rural upstate New York where he discovered the community spirit he had been looking for in West Philly. He is executive director of the Binghamton Metropolitan Transportation Study, and a nationally recognized expert in the field of transportation planning.
I adored the feeling of the Penn Campus: tree-lined walks between colonial-style buildings, the academic spirit in the air and a certain safe, cloistered atmosphere; being surrounded by intelligent academics and being challenged and intrigued by virtually everything
I remember doing special, fun things, like buying an ice cream cone to eat during a snowstorm, while walking around in gloves, a scarf, and muffler. I remember the great feeling of pride at being allowed to give my two-hour FM-radio classical-music program on WXPN weekly in the wee hours of the night, and to have listeners phone in and express their pleasure at my musical choices, to know I was being heard and appreciated. I recall the rapture of singing the Verdi Requiem with the Penn Choir at performances in majestic cathedrals, causing the chandeliers to shake with the Dies Ire and getting goosebumps myself. I was given such a variety of opportunities and took them all, remaining forever grateful. Such experiences!
I remember my (Penns) first co-ed dorm, Sergeants Hall, and how well that worked out No problem at all. So much so that I later shared a co-ed apartment in Penns first high-rise apartment building, adjacent to the Campus.
And Ill never forget that during one of the coldest winters in Philadelphia, I donned my shoe-skates and ice-skated from class to classthe most effective mode of transportation at the time and fun! But I also recall that I arrived at each class with a frozen, red nose Cest la vie!
Altogether, my Penn experiences were extremely positive. The academic level was excellent and I learned and experienced more than I can ever tell. All my thanks to U. of P. for filling some of the best years of my life with such good things!
Ethelea (Reisner, Pinhas) Katzenell followed her B.A. in Middle East studies with an M.L.S. from Drexel. Since 1972, she has been residing in Beer-Sheva, Israel, where she works in the Aranne Central Library of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She adds: I had four children with my first husband (1972-1988) and inherited another instant four children from my second husband; weve been married since 1993. All our children are now independent adults: students, soldiers, workers. Im extremely happy here. Im still an avid Israeli folk-dancer. Im still an active volunteer in many community affairs. Often, I do Hebrew-English translating as well. Im always very busy. Ive just completed a family genealogical Web site that can be seen at (www.ethelea.org).
Perhaps not the happiest of memories but one of the most clear in my mind took place on the night of December 1st, 1969, in the Palestra, watching Penn basketball with a radio glued to my ear, listening to the first lottery for the draft. The Vietnam War was going strong, and the rumors were that the first 100 or so birthdates called would definitely be going to Southeast Asia as soon as college deferments expired. There were periodic cheers and boos that had nothing to do with the game we were watching. Im not sure who the opponent was. I only know that I heard my birthdate called at number 39 and spent the next few hours (years?) in a daze. Three and one-half years later, about two weeks after graduation from Penn, I was drafted. And that is the start of another story worthy of The Twilight Zone. (Somehow, through fate, Karma or dumb luck, I never wound up serving in the armed forces.)
I majored in Mask & Wig at Penn. Thats my stock answer when the inevitable question arises. My actual major in History took a distant second.
Back in the fall of 1970, Jewish boys were a relative novelty in the Wig. But being a performer at heart, and even though still getting acclimated to college life, I rushed to Houston Hall when the tryout flyers went up. For as the flyer said, Defer not Delays have Dangerous Ends.
Try as I might, I couldnt make the cut for the dancing chorus. But my voice audition made the gradeand I was in!!
My Dad had graduated Penn in the 1940s, and always spoke of M&W with respect and awe. That it produced top 100 hits and the likes of Bobby Troup. Not to mention the Mask and Wig Touring train!! So I felt the warm rush of tradition and the anticipation of touring the country.
My first cross-country tour with the Wigat first blushdidnt seem up to its billing. The vaunted Pennsylvania RR coaches were replaced by chartered bus, and Broadway by the Playhouse in Pittsburgh and the Statler-Hilton in Buffalo. Ah, Buffalo!!
In Buffalo I wrote my permanent page in M&W history. Upon the final crescendo in my one solo number, I promptly fell off the stage and into the arms of the clarinet player. Yes, I partied hearty afterwards (something Wiggers are renowned for). To this day, when in the company of fellow Wiggers, Im not allowed to forget my grand faux pas. Or my stint as orchestra leader thereafter (significantly safer for everybody).
I just dont know what it is. Wiggers are a special breed at Penn. Were guardians of Penn traditions, and proponents of cutting-edge humor. Old fashioned and yet topical at the same time. Just kind of unique and quirky. Buttrust methere is NOTHING more quintessentially Penn than Mask & Wig.
I pride my Mask & Wig class in producing the Dr. Pepper man, a werewolf in London, the voice for NAPA auto parts, a hit TV show involving dinosaurs, and the producer of Roseanne. Then I settled down and became an immigration attorney. But a little voice always tells me that I should have played-out my M & W skills. Oh, well
Bob Boyer was a practicing immigration attorney in Miami from 1979-1998, and at present is a column writer, fledgling author, and classic-car enthusiast.
Like a good many people, for a longer time than I might care to confess, I harbored considerable bitterness toward my alma mater. I did not feel this immediately upon graduation when, typically, a good many students, the tedium of course work still fresh in their minds and the prospect of paying back loans making their impending poverty that much more dire, feel hostility at the place that seemed to have supplied them with so little at so high a price. I felt it later, as a graduate student at Cornell University, right at the time when I was starting a family, and even more profoundly in the early years of my career as a college professor. I cannot say that the source of my displeasure was the remembrance of undergraduate misery. I enjoyed myself as a student. I met my wife at Penn, and as she is not an ex-wife, I neednt bear a grudge on that account. As a result of my work at the Daily Pennsylvanian, I discovered and nurtured my vocation as a writer. As a native Philadelphian, I felt Penn offered me a fresh view of the city and I dont think I ever loved or appreciated it as much as when I was undergraduate and had so many of its resources laid at my feet, so to speak, as its charms seemed to twinkle like a constellation of enchantment. I have no complaints about my education or my professors; indeed, if anything, I was probably a bit too petted for my own good while I was there. For some reason, people liked me enormously, despite my being foolishly self-absorbed. This, I think, stemmed from the fact that I was a black student with some inchoate facility at writing, who did not give the appearance of seeming cloistered by my race, and had the sweet audacity that innocence grants the abysmally ignorant. I might say, in the words of Hemingway, of my undergraduate years, I had a good time. Yet I became very angry at Penn, so angry in fact that I remember telling someone who called me some years ago about something, maybe a reunion or something, to take my name off their mailing list. But I think this was mostly the result of the stresses and strains of adult life that I was experiencing at the time. Penn seemed a distant institution to me, something that had happened to me in some other life. This was coupled with a savage hatred of Philadelphia itself. Maybe everyone has to come to grips with his childhood and youth in later life in unexpected ways. But Penn, because I went to school at home, became tied up in a set of issues that, rightly, it should not have been. Penn became connected with my need to leave the city, with my yet unrepentant desire never to return there to live. But in recent years Philadelphia has come to mean so much to me in understanding the adult Ive become or failed to become, not as a sentiment merely, but as a form of historical consciousness that has helped to explain, in small measure, the contradictions of this life. And Penn, the only institution that I can honestly say that I grew to love in my youth, has become clearer to me now, as I have learned to clean the mirror.
Gerald Early is Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters and director of the International Writers Center at Washington University in St. Louis.
I can remember acing every organic exam I took. Now I think about those sleepless nights while I am battling HMOs for authorizations to do appropriate surgery on helpless patients.
Andrew Gewirtz is divorced, living in Manhattan, and practicing ophthalmology in a large group and teaching residents at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary.
I remember living in 400 Ashurst in the lower Quad in my sophomore year, sharing a room with Albert Handelman. It was a room with a great view of frisbees flying over the quad, and it was very exciting to be in a coed dorm in the early days of coed living. We also had a great view of women entering and leaving the bathroom that was just across the hall from our room. Since it was that era, we painted our room yellow, green, purple, and blue.
Although neither Albert or I were engineering students, our greatest accomplishment that year was quite a scientific feat, bringing together botany, zoology, album covers, and quick reflexes. We would watch patiently while squirrels climbed four flights of ivy outside our window. Awaiting the helpless animals was a trash can containing enticing squirrel snack food that we had brought from the dining hall. The squirrels would climb through the window and dive into the trash can, and then we would cruelly lock them in by slapping an album cover (Jefferson Airplane or Hot Tuna, usually) over the open end of the trash can. Maybe someone can remind me, what did we do with the squirrels once we had trapped them?
The most incandescent recollection I have of the four years which I spent at Penn is of Irvine Auditorium, specifically: Introduction to Art History lectures (they did a bang-up job explaining why Notre Dame is so awesome.); films I saw there (especially Gone with the Wind and Monterey Pop, the film of the 1967 concert where Hendrix sets fire to his guitar.); PUC concerts (especially John Mayall, Bonnie Raitt, and Little Featan unbelievable show! I was an usher, and in their second show they didnt repeat one song from the first!! They had an entirely different set!!! Do you realize what a great band it takes to pull off something like this?!).
My life happenstances have made what I experienced at Irvine of much more import than the courses I took in my major (Biology) or my pre-med requirements. Also, Irvine is one of the coolest buildings in the world. Its stuff like this that gives my life meaning. Im not just saying this. The combination of all this formative aesthetic/cinematic/sonic stuff happening to me there, in this building that I found/find so indelibly awesome totally rocks!
Jon Sarkin is an artist in Gloucester, Massachusetts. He was profiled in the May 1997 issue of the Gazette.
I have to admit, Penn was my backup school. I reasoned that since both of my parents went to Penn, and my fathers best friend was a professor in the Psychology department, it was a shoo-in for me to get in (how times have changed!). But, I didnt get into Yale, and I got wait-listed at Oberlin Conservatory, so Penn it was. But that wasnt so bad; I was a Philly kid, I knew my way around, and I was already a professional musician in the city, and wouldnt have to give up my teacher or all of my contacts for gigs. So Penn it was. By the second week of my freshman year (72), I was already hunting through the ads in the DP for opportunities to play on campus. Penn Orchestra looking for new members? I was there. A new Penn Jazz Band starting? Definitely. Marching Band was out for me (I suffered through freezing halftimes in high school).
The Jazz Band was just being organized. I made the first rehearsal in Houston Hall, which very soon moved to Annenberg (imagine the echoes of a dozen horns in HH!). Soon, we had a band directorClaude White, a grad student in the music department, studying conducting. Conducting a jazz band wasnt that far from orchestra, was it? Claude contributed some arrangements of his own, I contributed some from my friend Hankus Netsky at the New England Conservatory, Charlie Jarvis scored some bootlegs from his New York contacts, some stocks, and we were off & blowing!
Now we needed a place to play out on campus. Well, there had been an ad in the DP for people to organize a spring happening they were going to call the Spring Fling. So, I joined the organizing committee for what was to become the first Spring Fling. I was responsible for musican open stage was just the thing, followed by night concerts by the Penn Players, Mask & Wig, and the Penn Jazz Band (surprise, surprise). (A little known fact: Kevin Eubanks, Jay Lenos bandleader, played in a band on the open stage for either the first or the second Spring Fling).
By the time I left Penn in 1977, I had been with the Band for five years. By then we had toured for the University throughout Pennsylvania (six gigs a day, even one at a jail!), initiated the annual Jazz Band concert with a name Jazz artist (it was Lew Soloff, of Blood, Sweat & Tears for us), and even had a couple of members go off and tour for Gamble & Huff.
And there were plenty of other opportunities to play at Penn. There was the coffeehouse in the basement of the old Christian Association. I brought my band of high school friends to gig there a couple of times; that band included Penn alums Uri Caine and Joel Levine. I worked at the CA with local avant-garde luminaries Byard Lancaster and JR Mitchell. And Sun Ra was always landing from Saturn up at the Foxhole.
Then there were the local, on-campus bands. Every class had its own band: 74 was a Grateful Dead cover band. 75s band was led by Ric Bazilian and Rick Chertoff, both later to go off and lead the Hooters. And 76 was our yearmy seven-piece funk band was a mix of West Philly cats and Penn players: Joe Kohanski on bone, Dave Haas on tenor, John Tercek on piano, Hank Oliner on guitar, and me on drums. We covered Kool & the Gang, the Isley Bros., and AWB. And sessions, too. The Friday afternoon beer blast at the Fine Arts Building with Rick Bazilian, Hank Oliner, John Tercek and myself running down George Benson and Billy Cobham tunes, John & I playing at the Rathskeller for drinks, various groups of us playing at frat parties.
So, in the end, the backup school was actually a good choice.
Charlie (Chazz) Berg C77 EE77 toured and recorded with the Klezmer Conservatory Band, David Byrne, and Les Miserables Brass Band, before retiring to be a husband, dad, and engineer in the Boston area.
It was the Seventies, and our floor was typical,
all the cultures and religions and backgrounds mingled
into by bids for big corner suites
and a random-number matching program.
We were a Japanese girl whose mom worked at the U.N.
and an Ethiopian on a track scholarship,
a Jewish girl from Long Island,
a misplaced Baptist princess from Tennessee,
three refugees from Yeshiva,
and a smooth-moving wheeler dealer from the Main Line
we knew was going into politics.
Four girls from Philly
(mostly from the Northeast)
and moody Rich from Berwyn,
and me, almost ex-Catholic from Jersey.
And then there was Bob Snow,
who was a bear, we thought,
or at least had one as a near ancestor.
He looked like Jerry Garcias illegitimate brother
and played the Dead constantly˝
American Beauty had just come out˝
we suspected that his feral past
was only hibernating.
Times were different. There were dogs on our floor,
good-natured Duffy the Irish setter,
who ate a couch one night in a fit of pique,
and sweet psychotic Tasha.
Betsy rescued her after the previous owner
tied Tasha outside the Bald Fox one winter evening
and never came back. After two days of howling
and mooching food from passing students,
Tasha started to gnaw on her own legs in hunger and fear,
and thats when Betsy brought her home.
Eventually her legs healed; her heart never did.
We never found the bastard who dumped her,
though we really did try.
We were going to sic Bob on him.
And there were Cheeba and Motley and H.P., the cats:
H.P. was mine, named after the calculator she was born on
(bigger than she was)
in the Kappa Sig house on Locust Walk.
Cheeba belonged to Jenny and Rachel, who trained her
to sniff out marijuana in an emergency.
Motley the neurotic stray tortoiseshell queen
adopted our misplaced Baptist
and crapped in the shoes of any boyfriend who stayed overnight;
and when Steve refused to be scared off,
Motley jumped (or maybe fell) out the fourth-story window
and fractured her pelvis.
We had to build her a little ramp to get in and out
of the litter box until she healed.
She was never the same after that,
slinking wobbily up and down the hall,
muttering under her breath, but she would
occasionally curl up with Tasha, who understood.
Though we never used a camera the pictures remain clear:
the first night, when Betsy invited me over to smoke,
and I said, Im allergic to cigarettes.
In co-ed bathrooms we learned what the other sex looked like
at seven forty when it hadnt shaved or showered or put on makeup
but had an eight oclock exam.
We learned that Bob Snow had hair everywhere,
and that Rich was losing his at nineteen,
and that Marcia had had her boobs done as well as her nose,
and that some of the rest of us lost ours
in a dorm whose biggest previous claim to fame
was that Candy Bergen lost hers there
before she dropped out to go to New York.
A quarter century has passed.
I dont hear from many of them any more,
though Terrys on NPR and I see Bruce on C-SPAN,
and Marcia still sends Hannukah cards
with pictures of her kids (usually at camp in Israel).
Janice outdid her superthin mother
and starved herself to death even faster
(though to be fair, she started sooner).
Wai Chee teaches at Stanford, I think,
or maybe Berkeley˝anyway, at one of those
big science schools on the Left Coast.
Betsy and Tasha transferred to South Beach
and disappeared off the radar,
as did Rich, who turned out to be gay.
Jenny, who wore a T-shirt that read
Have you had your irony today?
worked for the Justice Department under Janet Reno
busting drug cartels. I wonder if she still has the shirt,
or any of Cheebas descendants.
H.P. died at the ripe old age of nineteen in Atlanta;
in her adult years she terrorized German Shepherds
by dropping off doorframes onto their backs.
The neurotic Baptist married Russell from the second floor,
who I always had a crush on;
he makes pots of money and appears sometimes on Rukeyser.
Shes a therapist in Far Hills, seeing a few select clients,
raising two perfect children, and sending each of us
one newsy letter a year about their accomplishments,
though not at Christmas because it would be a stereotype.
Bob Snow disappeared. He did some graduate work at MIT
and worked for a startup firm on Route 128,
but the last anybody heard he was living alone in Alaska
and may be there yet, for all I know.
I dream about him sometimes,
shambling ursinely across the tundra,
still trucking on after all these years,
greyer, shaggier, but still grinning
like an R. Crumb cartoon in the midnight sun.
Jo Koster, former operations manager of Penn Student Agencies, teaches English at Winthrop University. Her most recent collection of poems is No Going Home (TDM Press).
Its a sunny September afternoona real back-to-school kind of day, even for someone who hasnt been in school for over 20 yearsand Im going to Kochs for the first time in a long time. I dont know what to expect, because the place has just re-opened after being closed for nearly six monthsever since Bobby Koch and his most recent pet Corvette were totaled by some light-running idiot at 48th and Walnut. After a month in the hospital, Bobby came back home and only weeks later his mom, Frances, whose big heart and bigger hair some of us remember so well, died at the age of 82.
When I read about this disharmonic convergence in the paper, I worried what it would mean for the beloved standing-room-only takeout deli. I mean, how many blows can a tiny family business withstand? Even a family business like Kochs, which over the years has adopted so many hundreds of Penn students into its extended family? I have always marveled as Bobby Koch somehow maintained the great food and good humor through his fathers death and his mothers health setbacks in the 80s, and then the stunning loss of his kid brother and counterpart, Louis, that angel in an apron, in 1995. But as I approach the familiarly frayed awning, I have to wonder: can Kochs survive yet another blow?
The reason this is important goes well beyond all the sandwiches there. Like many Penn grads, I have always considered Kochs a major touchstone in my life. It is the only thing left of my college days that is exactly the way it was when I graduated in 1979proving that in certain rare instances you actually can go home again (and the food can still be great). I was a Kochs regular as an undergraduate, culminating in my 21st birthday party in High Rise North, which I catered by applying festively colored toothpicks to food brought in from the culinary capitals of my world: Kochs, Pats, and Walts. Unlike most students, however, I actually went to Kochs even more after graduating, since my Penn mentor, the legendary Nora Magid, and my post-college girlfriend (also legendary, but lets not get into that), lived next door to each other on 43rd Street, just a half-block from the shop.
Every time I walked in, Id see the old more food for less bread sign, and then Id subtly scan the side wall of clippings, to see if anything written by me or one of my 34th Street cronies was still hanging there. (Ultimately, all our brilliant insights were papered over with the articles and letters of those who came after us at Penn, equally convinced of the brilliance of their insights.) Bobby would always look up from slicing to yell a hello and launch into yet another off-color jokethis is a man who has never said, or even thought, the words stop me if youve heard this one. When he finished, a roomful of hungry eyes would roll, and Lewis would just shrug his shoulders and give that oh-my-brother grin. And then, like everyone else, I would stand and wait: 10, 15, 20 minutes, entertained only by the cold-cuts between the Brothers Koch and the occasional free slice of cheese or meat from a slice of waxed paper passed through the crowd. And the line never seemed to get shorter. Since the door always had to be closed, and nobody wanted to wait outside, people just kept jamming in, like one of Bobbys bad how many Penn students can you get into a phone booth jokes. It was a fair amount of discomfort to endure for comfort food. And it was always worth it.
I peer into the window, worried what I might, or might not, see inside. Instead, I realize that I cant see inside. The place is that packed. I squeeze in through the front door, and all is as it was, as it should be. Bobby is at the front slicer. He sees me, grins broadly under his walrusy moustache and extends his left hand to shake, because he still cant lift the right one up very far. We immediately start talking about what hes been through, a fairly private and revealing conversation which we have in front of two dozen other people Ive never met before, but somehow know because theyre in line with me at Kochs. Even though I havent been here in a year or two, and havent been a regular for more than a decade, Bobby still remembers my sandwich order, and when its my turn, he starts building me a Drexel Special hoagie without even asking.
While we talk, a middle-aged man peers through the front window. Bobby sees him, and tells me exactly what the guy will say when he gets in the door, because his greeting to Kochs has grown as predictable as Norms welcome at Cheers. Bobby leans in so he can gloat when proven right. But hes wrong. The guy waves off Bobbys schmoozy smile. I cant stay, he says. I just came by to make sure you were still alive. It is unclear if he is talking about Bobby, or about Kochs itself. But either way, the answer is yes.
Stephen Frieds most recent book, The New Rabbi, was excerpted in the September/October Gazette.
My college lesson in real-world economics came not in a classroom, but out on the streets, when in 1977 as a Daily Pennsylvanian columnist, I met Teamster boss Johnny Morris. After the Penn administration had fired 343 University janitors, Morris led them in a lengthy strike in which he brought his brand of Teamster conflict-resolution to campus. Youre not going to dump us down the flush bowl and tell us to get lost, he said in language you cant find in a Samuelson economics textbook.
All who did business with Penn received Teamster warnings. Terrified supervisors were followed home. Strike breaking workers ducked flying rocks. Midnight anonymous phone calls were made. Tires were slashed. We have the University up all night, Morris bragged. We worry them constantly about what we will do.
One afternoon, a Teamster truck convoy circled the campus with horns blaring. Wearing his big black overcoat and trademark fedora, Morris watched and laughed. The end came soon after. Morris final act was to maneuver the Pennsylvania Senate to cut Penns $17 million annual appropriation. Dependent on state funding, the University surrendered. One man, through sheer force of will and Teamster tactics, had brought the University to its knees. The janitors were re-hired. Penn pride was wounded. This is the biggest battle we ever won, Morris bellowed.
More than anything else I learned at Penn, this episode prepared me for the realities of the outside world. Brute power and fear usually triumphs over all else. Morris died in April at age 76.
Dave Lieber is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Bagels and Big-Haired Women, chronicling his rocky introduction to Texas culture, appeared in the November 1997 Gazette.
During the five years I spent at Penn (four as a student and one as an administrator) I engaged in a four-year love affair. Not with a person, though; with an institution. The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
It began at the start of my sophomore year, when my friend and dorm neighbor, Debbie Prince W79 and I were both looking for jobs. Debbie reported back one day that shed found you could work as few or as many hours as you wanted as an usher at Annenberg without being on work-study. I already had a work-study job, but I thought it would be fun to see plays and get paid for it, so I signed up.
There were about 30 ushers, supervised by the house manager, an Alaska native named Robin who favored plaid flannel shirts and was working on a graduate degree in something. She kept us in line, which wasnt easy to do, as we were a rambunctious bunch.
Sometimes it seemed like we were the flotsam and jetsam of the University, oddballs whod floated up on Annenbergs shore. We were black and white, gay and straight, American and foreign-born, current students and recent graduates who couldnt break that umbilical tie to Penn. Some were flamboyant, some shy; some were members of performing arts groups on campus while others loved theater. Some just loved the chance to get paid while studying outside the theater doors during the performances.
There were four theaters in the complex. The Zellerbach was the main stage, where the big traveling shows performed. The Harold Prince theater was smaller, often used for student productions. Experimental shows and those which expected a very small audience performed in the Studio Theater, a small shoebox on the lowest level. In the Annenberg School building, the Annenberg Auditorium was used for certain large classes, like Monday Night at the Movies, and for the Off-Broadways Best series.
Each week Robin would post lists of assignments. There was an assistant house manager, who was in charge of making sure everyone was at his or her post, doing the appropriate job. Each door in the theater had a head usher and then one or more ushers assigned to it; there were also ticket takers, who stood in front of the theater and tore stubs. Robin scheduled based on expected attendance and legal requirements, and you had until three days before the performance to initial your assignment and accept it. If you still hadnt initialed by the deadline, the assignment was up for grabs and anyone who wanted to see the show, or just wanted the extra work, could scratch out your name and write in his or her own, initialing at the same time.
If you were broke, or your coursework was light, you could snatch up as much work as was available. One spring break, the show Oh Coward was touring for a run of eleven days. I worked nearly every performance and by the end of the run I think I had most of Cowards ditties memorized. Some of the other ushers and I were still singing them years later. I got to see virtually every student performing group as well as some of the stages best stars, Rex Harrison and Colleen Dewhurst and Estelle Parsons, along with classic and experimental plays.
One of the best assignments was to usher for the centers gala fund-raiser. Men were requested to wear tuxedos (if you had one; otherwise a dark suit) and women formal dresses or gowns. During the dinner portion of the gala we got to eat, too, at makeshift tables set up in the green room. I vividly remember a dozen of us, all in formal attire, dancing to The Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Those galas were also your best bet for celebrity-watching. The high point of my ushering career came at a benefit performance of the film The Children of Theatre Street, about Russian ballet students, narrated by Princess Grace of Monaco. She was the honored guest, and I was the usher who showed her to her seat.
Working at Annenberg gave me the chance to be a part of a community. I didnt have to join a fraternity or play a sport to find my place; Annenberg gave that to me. So much so that I remained as an usher after I graduated and already had a full-time job in the Universitys Placement Office.
One of the advantages of a massive university like Penn is that you can always find someone who thinks like you do, laughs at the same jokes, loves the same movies or books. I found my community at Annenberg, where I learned about love and theatre, friendship and work ethics, responsibility and devil-may-care abandon. Im forever grateful that I did.
Neil Plakcy is a freelance writer and web developer based in Hollywood, Florida.
1980s back to index
I remember the adrenaline rush of pulling up to the W.E.B. DuBois College House with my parents and my baby sister, our station wagon loaded down with all my clothes, some cleaning supplies, linens, lamps, a stereo/album collection, Black Revolution posters (my choice, which freaked my mother out), and a cork bulletin boardeach of us almost too excited to speak. Wed made it a family dream had come true.
From living in the shadows of Penns West Philadelphia expanse as an African American student, I had crossed that great divide to be admitted to one of the finest universities in the world. My mother had tears in her eyes, my fathers carriage was particularly tall and proud that day, and my sister was gawking, wide-eyed, bouncing off the walls. I was zooming around with pent up energyI had not just gotten into Penn, I was going to be living on campus, in the black dorm, no less. The dorm where everyone going in and out had an Afro as big as mine, where the resident advisor looked like Angela Davis and wore a dashiki, where the black professors congregated, where black graduate students from every country in the Diaspora hung in the lounge area to espouse deep, philosophical rhetoric and commentarywhere there was a cultural exchange and intellectual debate and where there was even a red, black, and green stripe on the lounge door! I had died and gone to Heaven.
As we began unpacking and entered the low-rise dorm, a lovely, elderly black woman at the front desk greeted us. She shook my parents hands, and then hugged them hard, stating quietly, Im so glad to see your child get in here. Need more of them like her here. We all knew what she meant. This lady was from the era where black folks talked in code because they had to, and my parents were satisfied that there would be someone special, a black mother, to keep a particular eye out for their young black child going into an environment that felt so foreign had seemed so closed.
Then my father looked around, somewhat puzzled, noting that there were both boys and girls moving into the same dorm. He and my mother shared a nervous glance. This is a co-ed dorm? In my day they didnt allow that up at Penn Stateor any college. (My father went to Penn State for one year after WWIIbut had to leave early due to racial tensions in upstate Pennsylvania, as well as the Klu Klux Klanso this was all new for him. My mother never went to college, despite her brilliant aptitude and admission to Penn back in the day. When they found out she was black, mysteriously all scholarship monies vanished. So for her, this was beyond imaginable.)
My mother swallowed away a smile, I let out a breath of impatience, my baby sister shrugged, and we quickly hustled my father past all the young men who were silently appraising the fall line up. Once we entered my room, again my parents fell silent for a moment, taking in the environs. My mother whispered to my father, These are like apartments. He nodded. Uh, hmmm. Thats why Ima put a double deadbolt and a peep hole on this door. All arguments notwithstanding about the destruction of University property, my father went to the locksmith and came back with hardware. We moved in all right, and just like we tried to tell him, my father later received a bill for $200 for altering the door to my room with security features that rivaled a Manhattan apartment.
My mothers approach was more subtle: she would come to my dorm nearly every Sunday without failbefore churchwith a platter of home cooked food. The lady at the front desk never made mothers buzz in or call a students room first mothers, somehow, didnt have to go through any early-warning system. Mothers checking on their children were exempt. However, my mothers greens, fried chicken, pots of soup, and other soul food, designed to get her past security, soon became dorm legendnobody else had family living that close by. Everyone on the floor anxiously anticipated Helens Sunday platters; as my mother was old school, she cooked enough to feed everyones child, not caring that these kids, by and large, were from families that could probably afford to feed their own children. In her mind, these were black kids a long way from home in a place that might not be kind to them, and if I had gone to a university down South (she reasoned), she would have expected no less from a host family down there.
This was the last vestige of support she felt she could offerthe quintessential village approach to care that every black student in her purview made it through the doors of opportunity, and out, successfully. Food, and a touch of home was her solution. To her, some things just were and were not donethe gospel according to Helen. Dads garage and tools also became a local way station for the young men pledging Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, too, when they needed to burn wood paddles for pledgees. My whole family went to Penn vicariously while I was there. My parents got to experience something that had been denied them in their era.
It wasnt until years later, when I became a mother myself, that I realized Helen Peterson was not only feeding hungry co-eds, but she was doing a Sunday morning bed check you know, after the Saturday night campus parties. And my Dad, while enjoying the male camaraderie, was also making his presence known as a father to any would-be suitors, letting all male students know that William Peterson was close by, with World War II vintage weaponry. Even after graduation, my familys home at 48th and Osage Avenue became a meeting place for a lot of Penn students that remained in the area until we all began to fan out, take on new jobs and lives.
The blend of cultures, generations, and perspectives was wonderful, looking back. It was my parents way of insuring investment protection, the old fashioned way, the likes of which they never taught at Wharton! Very smooth. A conspiracy of love, hopes, dreams, and achievement all wrapped up in a multi-ethnic tapestry. The texture of this experience carries me through. I wish this type of experience for all students coming through University of Pennsylvaniathat they may not simply attend Penn, but also link to the rich heritage of neighborhood residents that border the hallowed halls of the Ivy towers.
Writer Leslie Esdaile-Banks is the subject of an Alumni Profile in the November/December issue.
I was so excited as I crossed the Ben Franklin bridge the first time into Philadelphia. My first day at Penn was soon to begin. I grew up in the hills of western Maine and this was my first foray into a BIG city. I drove to the apartment I had on 42nd street, emptied my belongings into it and headed for campus. My first stop was my studio in the Furness Building. What a warm day it was that September day in Philadelphia, I had left a very cool Maine, and was enjoying summer once again. I didnt realize how huge the campus would be and how long it would take to walk from my place to my studio. This walk was one of many I made to the incredible Furness Building over the next four years. Eventually, I invested in a pair of rollerblades.
Donna Frisoli was born in Rumford, Maine and now lives in Harpswell, Maine, and works for Harpswell Community Television.
One of my fondest memories as a student at the University of Pennsylvania was a giant rally held at Franklin Field when the Penn mens basketball team made it to the Final Four. The enthusiasm and joy of the victory was special since many of the players, especially Tony Price W79 and James Boonie Salters ??? were friends. My joy was only tempered by my inability to afford the trip to Salt Lake City for the Final Four tournament. Also, because of a make-up class retreat in a course I was taking called Peace Science scheduled for the Saturday of the semi-final game, I did not even get a chance to see the game on television. We lost to a Michigan State team led by Magic Johnson. (By the way, the retreat was also memorable.) The joy of being a small part of the last Ivy League team to make it to an historic NCAA Final Four in which Magic Johnson and Larry Bird both played is something I brag about quite often when people in New Orleans mistake us for Penn State. I tell them that were the academic and basketball powerhouse.
Marc Morial is the mayor of New Orleans.
What a pleasant respite from the urban downtown where I worked while attending evening classes. Yet it was so much a part of the citysuch an attractive urban campusin a great cityparticularly in the Fall.
Ken Rohrbaugh is a business consultant/CPA in the Denver area.
It was the September of 1979. I had received my MS in architecture from Iran and wanted to study urban design at Penn. Everything was new to me. I was overwhelmed by the amount of information facing me everyday. I had met memorable characters such as Dean Perkins, Ian MacHarg, and Ed Bacon. I was a good student and could not take all of this lightly. I remember one day having a meeting with my advisor, Jon Lang, sitting by the entrance and thinking. Suddenly, I noticed a girl standing by the Furness building and crying. After a while I went over and asked her if I could help her. She told me she was an undergrad student on her first day out of the dorm could not find her way back. As you may have guessed, I was not familiar with the location of her dorm either. But I offered my help. We started walking towards the middle of the campus. She told me she was from Ireland. I tried to comfort her as much as I could and draw a bright picture of tomorrow for her. After asking many people finally we found her dorm. We said goodbye. I missed my appointment with my advisor but gained a much more valuable feeling: that we are all taken care of.
Cyrus R. Sabri is professor of architecture and landscape architecture at SBU in Tehran and adjunct professor of landscape architecture at Virginia Tech, and also a lecturer at colleges in Northern California.
I had to come to graduate school at Penn to learn how truly crazy my first husband was. Not that I should have had any doubts. The summer before I was set to become a teaching fellow in Penns English department, my husband suffered a mental breakdown and became totally convinced that he had murdered me with an axe. I was safe at a Latin course, but his delusion was so vivid that he drove himself to our local hospital, crashed the car, and was admitted to the psychiatric wing.
Wed had what sociologists now call a starter marriage. I was 18 and David was 21 when we took our vows. I was an overachiever with grand plans to conquer the world of medieval literature. He was a potter who also made puppets and had dreams of building a yurt on an overgrown field behind his mothers house. But where will I plug in my electric typewriter? I asked. Needless to say, our relationship was not destined for a long run.
Moving to Philadelphia was a natural break, I thought. It was a positive new beginning. I hadnt actually been ax-murdered. And Penn was paying my tuition, plus a stipend. I couldnt believe my good fortune. Theyre paying me to read! I told all my friends. So I packed up my things and made a new vow of celibacy. I was going to be a nun for Old and Middle English.
But my husband followed me.
I cant stroll down Locust Walk today without thinking of the many times I would see David hiding behind a tree or a statue, waiting and watching. And this was in 1976, before Penn installed the giant Claes Oldenberg button, and well before stalkers entered the pop-culture mainstream. I would often leave Van Pelt Library with a male friend of mine who happened to be gay. David never approached us, but would call me later in the evening to scream about how he knew I was sleeping with a snobby Ivy Leaguer. Im so glad he never owned a handgun, because my poor friend would have perished for a sin he didnt commit. Maybe I would have died, too. But I was 21 and emotionally ignorant. Looking back, I cringe at how casually my friend and I acted whenever my insane husband crouched in the shadows outside Van Pelt waiting for a glimpse of me. There he is, my fellow grad student would say, dont pay any attention. And I didnt.
Cathy Crimmins is the author of Where Is the Mango Princess? [Off the Shelf, January/February 2001].
Freshman year I received a 2 a.m. phone call from an English House hallmate and pledge for Fiji fraternity, asking: Can you come and pick me up at Pats Steaks? Oh, and can you bring clothes, too?
As the one freshman with a car, I had the privilege of helping out!
Donna Price Henry is a professor of biology at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. She has been on the faculty for seven years, having moved from St. Thomas University in Miami in 1996. She is married to Allen Henry, a Federal Express pilot, and has two daughters, Jessie and Maggie, who are three years old.
What I needed then was quiet, and where I found it was on long walks beyond the campusout west or east, or, when I was feeling brave, towards the more perilous north. And sometimes I would burrow in at the library, in a cubby beside some unpopular stacks, or Id find an empty bench outside near the fruit vendor and sit, unbothered, amidst the smell of MacIntosh apples, Bartlett pears, and ruby-colored grapefruits. Id sit unbothered and alone. But it was at the end of my freshman year when I discovered the sweetest quiet place of all, and that was Franklin Field, whenever it was empty, whenever it was only my own footsteps Id hear echoing up high in those stands. Id take a book there near the end of day and use it as a pillow. Id lie with the ebbing sun on my face, and Id look up and count the birds or turn the cloud drift into an alphabet of letters. Franklin Field was, back then, for me, a huge, accommodating space, and I was the small person in it. I was as alone as Tom Hanks and Wilson on that island they crashed into. I grew smarter, more determined, in the classrooms at Penn, but I found peace, something like calm, in a stadium devoid of crowds. I found myself as I lay alone with a book beneath my dreams.
Beth Kepharts most recent memoir is Still Love in Strange Places, which was excerpted in the May/June issue.
Ask me what one of the best parts of going to Penn was, and Id have to answer, the ice cream. After we paid academic dues, my 1980s undergrad pals and I often visited the Steves Ice Cream that once sweetened Walnut Street between 39th and 40th streets.
The Boston chains arrival was pivotal. Its offerings easily eclipsed not only Wawas éclair Popsicles, but even Baskin Robbins just-took-my-last-midterm cones. Any dessert shop on a college campus is a blinking beacon to students clinging to life rafts in a swirl of prerequisites. But the swirls were especially kind, and individually tailored, at Steves: e.g., the winding trail of raisins ordered as a mix-in for a serving of Peanut Butter Dream.
The typical junk-food junket involved four of my hungriest friends and I traipsing from Hill House and the Quad, with our hard-earned financial aid office or dining service wages, toward a much preferred indulgence over drinking at Docs or Smokes. This was back when fat was almost as mysterious as the human genome map, but it was still fattening. And substituting low-cal frozen yogurt for ice cream still equated you with the natural foods fanaticism of Yul Brynner and his Grape Nuts. So we tried not to engorge ourselves with more than three heaping cups of mocha mint or banana berry each.
That was nearly impossible. Because to Steves, we brought our tedious Econ 1B formulas, our roommates annoying habits, three weeks worth of unwashed laundry, inchoate research paper notes, sudden cold shoulders from previously flirtatious sophomores, and guesses as to why we were expected in the deans office the next morningso we could drown them all in dairy.
First, we picked a poison from the list of flavors. My favorite was Honey Vanilla, which I asserted was far superior to my friend Anns consistent choice of Sweet Cream. She and I would stand in a painfully long line and listen to the Tennessee homeland stories of another friend, Kellye. Mike the pre-med would teach us how to say my name is in Russian: meen-ya zah-voot Holly. Vicki would decide that her vegetarian dinner had left room for only a kiddie-sized milkshake.
When I finally reached the server, often identifiable as ones lab partner, he hacked out an abstract glob of my indicated flavor and deposited it on the counter. Forget reluctant droplets clinging desperately to the inside of ketchup bottlesthis was Anticipation. Next, delightfully sans the restrictions of a seafood shopper trying to stick with what looks freshly caught, I chose a mix-in, i.e., the adjunct treat for my ice cream. Butterscotch chips and Heath bar bits always won out over less sophisticated choices like M&Ms or granola. However, two mix-ins would be called for if that day had secured me a traditionally mediocre grade on a physics test. If I was six chapters behind in criminology, Id buy a soda, too. It was all very scientific.
Watching the server then incorporate the candy into my ice cream, with two metal spoonulas, was about the most meditative experience I was capable of as a twenty-year-old. The more skilled workers blended with the panache of Japanese chefs sculpting stir-fry at Benihana. All of them were subject to scrutiny for their candy and ice cream portion sizes, which could range anywhere from sadly sagging below the paper cups rim up to erupting way over it. A beloved classmate from music theory could quickly turn into an archenemy if her frozen concoction outweighed mine. There are still people I havent forgiven for this.
On the shop wall was a chalkboard with a daily trivia question, and if you could answer it, your ice cream was free. One night a friend erased the question on the board and replaced it with, When is Holly Loves birthday? This, I kid you not, was just about the most roguish act I can remember being committed amongst my cadre of compatriots in the four years we spent at Penn together. And, of course, it did not net any one of us free grub, even though I was pretty sure I knew the answer.
Sitting at Steves tables, while communally digging into our selections with plastic spoons and sharing tastes of each others recipes, seemed like the one class we didnt have to pass. Ann would tell me about how her boyfriend Seth was coming to visit that weekend, only I wouldnt have to take notes on their itinerary. Kellye would ask me why I was so determined to ditch math as a major, but I didnt have to have an eloquent response. Vicki would give me the last of her milkshake, with almost no regard to its function as a study aid. Mike would foreshadow the fact that all four of us would have the most educational of times living together in a house on Locust Street for the next two years, but I wouldnt have to notice any literary allusion.
Yes, definitely. One of the best parts of Penn was the ice cream.
Holly Love is a freelance writer.
People often ask me what veterinary school was like. The short answer is tough. But when I reflect on some of my most vivid memories there, my mind rewinds itself back to the days I spent at New Bolton Center, Penns large-animal hospital located deep in Chester County. During my training there, other-worldly experiences abounded. The one that topped the list: the reproduction lab exercise where the only thing separating a charging, libidinous, 800-pound stallion from an apathetic teaser mare was little meand the foot-long, leather-bound cylinder I was holding to intercept the copulation and collect the frenzied horses semen.
Then there were the cold February afternoons I and my fellow students spent elbow-deep inside cows rectums, palpating their ovaries to determine their reproductive status. The late-night calls to assist with colicky horses (seems they always came to the hospital after midnight). The rhythmic, nocturnal munching of horses in their stalls, which cast a serene glow of well-being over the unpleasantness of being woken from a deep sleep to tend to a sick animal.
Who can forget the professor whoduring casual walks through the treatment barnswould shine her ophthalmoscope in almost every animals eyes in hopes of finding even the subtlest ocular abnormalities to point out to her students? Or being drilled over the operating table with questions by a surgeon who, though he was busy repairing a fracture on an expensive racehorse, was just as intent on making the surgery a learning experience for his students? Or watching a horse being recovered from surgery in a swimming pool to prevent injury during the excitement phase that sometimes occurs as the anesthetics wear off.
While at New Bolton, I often witnessed the human-like maternal bond in equines, like the mare who I watched as she slung her neck over her stall to rest her head on her sick foal, recumbent in the adjacent stall in the NICU. And the superior medical care, which was doled out in equal portion to every patient, be it the valuable Holstein with the impressive resume of print and commercial work, the show horse who was there to have her eggsworth $10,000-a-popretrieved for embryo transfer, or the fat, dusty, backyard ponies that often trudged in with their teenage girls in tow. Large animals and sometimes larger-than-life experiencesI would call those days at New Bolton uniquely unique.
Joan Capuzzi Giresi wrote about chemistry Nobelist Dr. Alan MacDiarmid in the March/April Gazette.
At the beginning of my senior year I auditioned for Quaker Notes, after three years of auditioning for Counterparts and not making it. I was a shy girl from Taiwan, and I really didnt know how to behave around cute guys on campus. I had hoped to be able to sing with some of them! Once I gave up on that idea I discovered the joys of singing with a group of talented and wonderful young women. I am so glad and honored that they selected me! I remember singing a Japanese pop song by Akina Nakamori, and it didnt matter that they didnt understand Japanese. Thank you Quaker Notes for being part of my Penn and American experience. I think of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy every time I go to karaoke.
Jane Shing Wang (now Jane Wang Beck), originally from Taipei, Taiwan, now lives in Los Angeles, where she is a composer, songwriter, and mom of a two-year old.
I saw the floor break at Pi Lam when The Dead Milkmen played there. Pi Lams Human Barbeque was always a blast. Lastly, the Cobalt Blues Band and The Johnsons rocked.
Terry Dennehy is a financial analyst at a commercial bank in New York; He lives with his wife and 14-month-old daughter in New Jersey.
1990s back to index
It would be nice to say that my most vivid memories of Penn were generated in its classrooms. Ah, those hallowed halls (I might say, loosening my regimental necktie and leaning back in my $7,000 leather office-chair): the dust motes moving through a shaft of sun, the stentorian caw of Professor Peabody describing the development of gunpowder and its implications for the military campaigns of the Han dynasty ... But the sensations I actually remember are the painful shocks I received on my lips as they brushed against a poorly grounded microphone; the flavor of Yuengling Porter washing away the last remnants of an Arbys meal eaten with one hand while the other tuned a Stratocaster; and of course the gentle pitter-pat of fraternity brothers urine as it cascaded down on my amplifier.
Dont get me wrong. Im fairly certain I took some classes. But nothing could compare to the thrill of fronting the trombone-driven rock juggernaut called Wicked Bison. Believe me, it was hard to attend to some mere lecture with the screams of between five and seven fans still ringing in my ears. It was even harder to study when I knew that I had as much as $15 from the gig tucked into my wallet. And career plansforget it. Who needed them when Wicked Bison cassettes were selling at a rate of approximately 20 over a two-year period?
The truth is, any academic institution is a diverse collection of voices. At least thats what Penn is to me. The threatening voices of landlords, of insomniac neighbors. The voices of adoring inebriates shouting out requests for Free Bird. My own voice, shrill and tuneless over the PA. And the voice of Kent, our drummer, exclaiming, Oh no! Theyre peeing on us! No, a Penn education comes not from some stuffy old book in a library, but these voices, the voices of our peers and our betters, showing us the way: If you screw up that solo one more time, they still grumble in my memory, Im gonna shove that guitar down your throat.
And to those who doubt the importance of these recollections, let me remind you: Ivy League universities founded by legendary American statesmen may come and go, but rock and roll is here to stay.
J. Robert Lennon is the author of three novels, most recently, On the Night Plain.
Before the end of sophomore year at Penn the Today Show telephoned me for an appearance. I roller-bladed to Phi Delt to visit my friend Mike Lingle. I got a message from my mother that the Today Show wants me at the end of August, I told Mike. Why?! he said. He was enjoying the sun on the steps to the fraternity house, across from the Ben Franklin statue. Because Im part of the first group of American students to go to Vietnam since the war, I said. Are you going to do it? Mike asked. I dont know. I held onto the railing and rolled the back wheels of one of my rollerblades. Why not?! said Mike. I was planning to go to China at the end of August. Why? To use my Chinese before I start learning another language. I want to go to Yunnan Province. It has a lot of minorities and mountains. It sounds really cool. It does sound really cool, Mike agreed. But cant you go there later? People were walking by on Locust Walk, talking in groups or carrying big textbooks. I know that once I start learning Vietnamese Ill lose my Chinese. My professor, Eugene Liu, taught me that learning a language is like learning a sport. Your vocabulary is kind of like muscle cells, and grammar is kind of like coordination. When you switch a sport or switch a language it will kind of mess you up for awhile, I said. It wont be totally gone, but my Chinese will atrophy. Mike flicked on and off a lighter, then started melting a plastic bottle cap. Once you learn a language, it doesnt just sit up on a shelf, ready to pull down and dust off whenever you need it. You have to keep it in shape, I said. Whatever. I think you should go on the Today Show, said Mike.
Felciity Wood wrote about her experiences living in Vietnam for the Gazette in December 1997. The above will be included in her upcoming book, Dating in Vietnam. She has a website at www.felicitywood.com.
What are the charges against Bill Clinton? Dr. Jamieson said during class. Draft-dodging, inept marijuana smoking, adultery, and [being] the failed governor of a small state.
Not only had the 1992 presidential campaign taken over public discourse in America; it had taken over the lives of my classmates and me. Suddenly, we were swept up in the optimism of a new presidential election, and it consumed our free time and coursework. In fall of 1992, one of my classes had been custom-designed for the election: 1992 Election Rhetoric, taught by Annenberg School Dean Kathleen Hall Jamieson. Another course was Candidates, Consultants and Campaigns taught by Republican pollster Frank Luntz C84. Combine that with the sudden pride stirring in us former Reagan-era youths, who had just missed being old enough to vote in the last presidential election, and my peers and I were eating, sleeping, and inhaling politics.
For one brief shining moment, I thought Id picked the wrong major. Why was I concerning myself with the travails of Oroonoko and the Mariners ancient rimes when I could work for those who ran the country and made the world a better place? Why hadnt I concentrated in political science or political communications or Am Civ? In Dr. Jamiesons class, four of us calling ourselves the October Group created a fake campaign ad. For Luntz, we tried to figure out whether Perot would put himself back into the election.
The first presidential debate was televised on a big screen TV as part of a Jamieson class project, and each of us was required to bring two friends. A room full of juniors and seniors erupted into hysterics as Perot cupped his hands behind his head and said, Im allllll earrrrrrrs. On election night, shouts and boos could be heard from high-rise towers as the results poured in. The next morning, in the High Rise North elevator, someone had written simply Pres. Clinton! in pencil. The band president saw me on the Walk and said the exact same thing. It was the first time we had really known a president before he had the title, and it sounded strange. And, to some of us, nice.
On November 6, I had nothing to do. The Jamieson coursework was over, save for our final paper. I was no longer getting four calls a day to do volunteer phonebanking downtown at Victory 92. Some of us harassed our professors for leads on White House jobs. A former Annenberg T.A. already had been working for Hillary during the campaign. President Sheldon Hackney was rumored to be headed to the NEH. We wanted to follow.
Luntz told us hed give us advice on our resumes. But working on a campaign, or for a politician, is the kind of job you do when youre young and have boundless energy. Washington did seem like the place to be, a place where ideas for reinventing government supposedly burst forth like red, white and blue Mylar balloons on election night. But as with many things, most of us returned to our original interests. Today, I write for a newspaper, and other classmates serve as lawyers or college counselors. One, though, runs a successful polling firm.
I still have Perot and Bush stickers from 92 for safe keeping, as well as a Clinton Vote your hopes/not your fears pin. But even Clinton has gone back to private citizen. I dont gorge myself on the news anymore, and I dont have 200-page bulkpacks to read about universal health care, but occasionally I remember the excitement and optimism of those days, even if some might say it just came from being a naive or idealistic college student.
Caren Lissner has a novel, Carrie Pilby, coming out in June.
My most vivid memories of Penn revolve around Franklin Field and The Palestra, toast and soft pretzels, hardwood and Astroturf. There were no better times than sitting in the upper deck at Franklin Field watching Brian Keys, or behind the backboard watching Jerome Allen. I also remember what a pain it was to sit in the good seats with the alumni at the Palestra and have them tell you to sit down because they couldnt see. Once, I did sit down, and when nobody in front of me sat down, I turned around and told one such alum, now that didnt do any good, did it, and stood right back up. He ended up leaving in a huff. Streamers in the Big Five games are also a big memory for me. They always brought on Technical Fouls. What a shame.
James Saint currently lives in Pittsburgh with his wife, Hilary, and nine-month-old daughter, Sierra Katherine; he is employed at Strategic Energy, LLC, as a senior data analyst.
It was the summer of 1991 and I was indecisive about whether or not I should transfer to a new school. I had applied to several universities during my first year at Carleton College but could not visualize the change well enough to convince myself which one was right. It was an agonizing summer.
I spent several weeks at my familys cabin on Priest Lake trying to sort things out. Although I sought the kind of adventure that change would bring, I struggled with the contrast of moving from a small, rural college in Minnesota to a large, urban university in Philadelphia. It was a study in opposites.
After some grueling debates with my mother and several lists of the pros and cons for each school, I was given sage advice by a friend. She asked, Have you seen the campus? I was shocked by the sound simplicity.
However, I was approaching all suggestions at this point with an uncertain resistance. Overhearing the question, my mother booked a flight from Idaho to Philadelphia and before I knew it, I was pounding the pavement in Philadelphia. Quite a shock, but as they say, the rest is history.
Scott Carpenter has an MBA in finance from St. Johns University in Rome, and currently lives in Los Angeles. He manages the Los Angeles branch of a private security company, and is married to his Italian wife of two years, Anna Maria.
Each and every Tuesday afternoon, I would trudge into the Daily Pennsylvanian buildingthrough the glass door, down a hallway lined with panic buttons, up to the second floor, and into the newsroomknowing full well that I wouldnt emerge again until the following morning. I was managing editor of 34th Street, the magazine that comes folded inside the DP every Thursday. In it, we triedtriedto thoughtfully document social issues, trends, campus happenings and arts & entertainment, all woven together with an ironic sensibility and an extremely sophomoric sense of humor. And each week, any attempts at calm and careful planning inevitably gave way to a frenzied, caffeine-fueled race against the clock.
With Street scheduled to print on Wednesday, and 20 blank pages to fill, sleep was simply never an option on Tuesday nights. Seated at computers inside the Pink Palaceso named for the Pepto Bismol color of the DPs interior wallsour little staff would furiously write, edit and design, all the while stuffing our faces with cold Powelton Pizza. We brainstormed for our humor pages, agonized over photo captions, discussed the proper use of über as a prefix (which we saw fit to use at least once per page), and invented words altogether (a favorite was the adjective AEPi-esque). We made late-night phone calls to find items for our bawdy gossip column, Street Society. As the hour grew late and deadline tensions mounted, so did our general wackiness. There were giggle fits and a great deal of awful singing. There were headline debates that turned into rubber band fights and some that turned into real fights.
Working under that kind of pressure, and in such close quarters, we got to know the best and worst of each other. Certain boundaries are forever erased once youve curled up on the couch with somebody for a 4 a.m. nap, or held a conversation through a bathroom door, or cried the irrational tears of sleep deprivation together, or witnessed the occasional flashes of creative brilliance in one another that reminded us why we were there in the first place.
We never fooled ourselves into thinking that anyone at Penn actually cared about the magazinewith the possible exception of the gossip column, of coursebut to us, Street felt important. While the rest of campus slept, we were wide awake, doing something. When we finally straggled home on Wednesday morning, squinting into the dawn, we were galvanized by the knowledge that wed created something real and fun and entirely new, and that we had done it together. In my post-collegiate life as a professional journalist, I think Ive been trying to replicate that 34th Street experience ever since.
Sabrina Rubin Erdeley writes for Philadelphia magazine.
My first visit to Penn was as a high-school senior; I had just received my letter of acceptance, and was hoping that a campus visit might clinch the decision. So I flew over from my hometown of Honolulu for an unstructured four-day tour. Spring Fling had ended a day or two before my arrival, and the grounds were still strewn with evidence. I was staying with a freshman who had attended my high school; I remember entering the hallway of her Quad residence and encountering a stale, reproving odor. Four years here? I couldnt picture lasting the four days!
But in the morning I took a stroll across campus. Sunlight dappled through the trees on Locust Walk; the students seemed happy, whether sunbathing on College Green or dashing purposefully to class. That night I caught a professional production of Othello in the Zellerbach Theater. I spent the following day in Center City, contentedly lost; I think I walked the entire length of Walnut Street. And at some point I stumbled into the Houston Hall concourse and discovered a tiny CD retailer then named Classical Choice; its interior was smaller than the Butcher-Speakman double I was staying in, and twice as cramped. Force of habit prompted me to ask the proprietor whether he had a particular out-of-print jazz album; I had been unsuccessfully trying to track it down for the past two years. I was shocked to learn that he did have it, used, for eight bucks.
I spent the next hour or so chatting up this guywho, as it turned out, had come to Penn from Hawaii some 15 years prior. His endorsement of the Penn experience was equivocal (as was his enthusiasm for most of the records we discussed), but I left Houston Hall somehow encouraged. Later, taxiing for takeoff, I realized that my mind was made up. I sent in the paperwork as soon as I got home.
Nate Chinen lives in New York. His writing appears regularly in the Philadelphia City Paper, JazzTimes, and Down Beat, and he is co-author of a forthcoming memoir by jazz impresario George Wein. He profiled avant-garde pianist-composer Uri Caine C81 in the January/February 2001 Gazette.
At the end of my first year at Penn, a friend of mine and I entered the lottery to get an apartmenta one-bedroom doublein what was then called High Rise North. All of our friends already lived, or were going to live the following year, in High Rise North. We were allotted such a high number that by the time they got to us, there were no doubles left in any of the high rises. Over the summer, we were contacted to inform us that there were now two doubles available: a two-bedroom double with no kitchen in High Rise North, and a one-bedroom double with a kitchen in High Rise South. After much anxiety and debate, we selected the double with the kitchen in High Rise South.
When I arrived at Penn for the beginning of the fall semester, I proceeded immediately to my new apartment to get settled. I walked into the apartment and almost burst into tears. We had no couch, but had instead a dilapidated bed in our living room. The living room curtains were burnt. There was a hole in the wall of our hallway which was the size of a brick! There was another hole in the wall above our stove, this one only about the size of a hand ball.
I proceeded to the bedroom to find my roommate and her parents had almost finished arranging her side of the room. The problem was that all my furniture only fit in that bedroom because the dresser was in the closet and the bed was turned perpendicular to the closet, preventing me from opening the closet unless I stood on the bed. We could think of no way to rearrange things within the room to make everything fit and allow both closets to be usable, so we moved my desk out into the livingroom.
The double we had been assigned was not configured like the one-bedroom doubles with kitchens we had seen our first year at Penn. In this one, you could not stand in front of the oven to open it because, when open, the oven almost touched the opposite wall. The bedroom, as I have already described, was not quite big enough for all the bedroom furniture. Lastly, it was missing the lovely walk-in closet I had so adored in the one-bedroom doubles I had seen. After moving my desk to the living room that first day, I went across to High Rise North to visit all my friends and sob on their shoulders. I did not brave my hideous apartment again until many hours later.
Over the course of the year, the awful bed in the living room did get replaced with a couch; the burnt curtains were removed and replaced with standard, uncharred curtains; and even the hole the size of a brick was eventually filled in. I almost grew to like the apartment, but I always wished I were in High Rise North instead.
Post Script: I did make it into High Rise North for my senior year, and I even got the exact one-bedroom double I had wanted ever since my first semester at Penn. I ended up buying it out as a single, and I had the whole walk-in closet to myself.
Miriam Yondorf, a native of Chicago, returned there after graduating from Penn and has been working in human resources at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago since July 1998.
My dormitory, Van Pelt College House (now part of Gregory College House), was home to the four Fsthis is not exactly the right forum for an explanation, but those who were there will grin.
The dorms unfortunate location at 40th and Spruce meant two things: a long, long walk to classes and (for that reason) total obscurity:
Where do you live?
Van Pelt College House.
Wow, I didnt know the Library had dorm rooms.
God, youre dumb.
This conversation was the foundation of our 160-person community; obscurity was our only theme. Peltians mostly knew each other, if not by name then by face. We said hello to each other on the walk, participated in residential programming, and lived with the highest faculty:student ratio on campus. There were seven faculty members during my years. We all ate together in the basement of 1920 Commons, back when college-house residents were required to hold meal plans. In short, we were dorks.
You probably chose it for the giant bedrooms and private bathrooms. If you stayed, it was because you knew you wouldnt find that kind of community anywhere else. And besides, the thought of sharing a poorly ventilated room in the rank, underground hallways of Butcher-Speakman was all I needed to put the quad as my very last choice. In Van Pelt, vomiting frosh used their own private toilets.
I lived there all four years, and wouldnt have done it any other way.
Myra Lotto is candidate for the Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies 18th-century and Romantic poetry.
2000s back to index
Its somewhat embarrassing to admit now, but I was really intimidated by Penn my first two years. I was from a small town in East Tennessee and wasnt mentally prepared for the city, the size of the school, or how smart my classmates were. The turning point came the fall of my junior year as I sat in Professor Thomas Childers office hours. A long line of students waited to discuss his popular Rise and Fall of the Third Reich class with him. My purpose there was different, even though I too was enrolled in the class. I just wanted to talk about the University of Tennessee football team.
Dr. Childers and I are from about 20 miles away from one another back home and had both been hopefully watching the Volunteers season progress. He sat me down and seemed relieved to be talking about UT Football rather than National Socialism. Toward the end of our lengthy discussion, he leaned in and said, I want you to know that I dont grade on the curve. Students in my class earn their grades solely on the merit of their work. I was nodding my head in understanding when he added, Unless youre from East Tennessee. Then you automatically get an A.
He smiled, and I picked up my bag to go. It was a quiet conspiratorial moment between two exiles. From that moment on, though, it never occurred to me to do anything but my best work for Dr. Childers. I worked especially hard in his class, did all the reading, and took copious notes during lectures. That carried over into my other classes, my grades soared, and I really began to enjoy college. Tennessee went undefeated that season, and I never felt like I didnt belong at Penn again.
Andrew Exum recently served with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan [Alumni Profiles, September/October].
Although I entered Penn as a transfer student after my freshman year at a small liberal arts college, rather than feeling overwhelmed, it was as if I was coming home. Growing up in Philadelphia, I had attended summer sessions for kids on the campus and gone on field trips to the University Museum as a grade-school student. Once in middle school, it was all the rage to buy your school supplies at the old Penn Bookstore so you could whip out your Penn logo notebook on the first day of class or carry your gym clothes in one of those stylish bookstore bags with the university seal on the front.
Upon becoming an official Penn student, one of my first acts was to sign up for housing. After receiving my rooming assignment, I found that I would he sharing a high rise quad with three juniors. I was admittedly nervous (what if theyre all friends and they dont like me?) but a phone call from one of my new roommates welcoming me into the Penn community quickly dispelled my worries. It turns out that a housing shortage had turned their triple into a quad but she and the others werent disappointed. Were happy to have you and are going to do our best to make sure you have a wonderful sophomore year, she said and they absolutely kept their word. I soon was able to add to this a wonderful junior and then senior year and before I knew it, I had reached the end of what turned out to be an incredible period of both academic enrichment as well as personal growth.
Whether throwing toast at football games, studying through my first sunrise, making friends from across the globe or having the chance to do an independent study with an amazing professor, I often look back on my time as a Penn undergraduate as some of the happiest years Ive experienced. In my newest role as a member of the College Office advising team, I am fortunate to be able to share my memories with current students (the story about the Spring Fling 2000 near-riot in 1920 Commons over the free midnight breakfast pancakes is always a popular tale). As Im beginning my third year as an employee and have just started a masters program in the Graduate School of Educationensuring that most of my waking hours are indeed spent on campusPenn truly has become my home away from home. All in all, this will be my sixth year as a member of the University community and I can hardly believe how the time has flown. I wouldnt have it any other way.
Dahlia Morrone is the help desk and pilot curriculum coordinator in the College office. She is an M.S.Ed. candidate in intercultural communication.
Upon my graduation from the College in the Spring of 2000, I made the transition from Penn student to Penn staff. The surroundings were the same, but things had suddenly changed: no more sleeping in for 12 oclock classes, no more charging meals to my parents, and those nice administrators I said Hi to on the Walk were now piling on real responsibilities. But I made the transition readily enough. Soon I was programming community arts-events and working to introduce the student body to the newly opened Perelman Quadrangle. The only time I felt out of sorts was when I got calls from my friends making tons of money in dot-com jobs in San Francisco, New York, and beyondremember those days? Sometimes I feared I had gone from being one of Penns bright millenial graduates, world as my oyster, to that guy who works at Houston Hall.
That feeling came to a head during my first Homecoming. As I was busily planning Soulcoming, an R-n-B celebration of community featuring Penn alumni performers, friends were making plans to come back. Since I had never left Penn, I felt no reason to share their nostalgia. Besides, I had too much work to do; it was my job to plan their Homecoming. But the weekend soon arrived, and I was at my usual post, in the Rotunda, setting up equipment and fussing over banners and decorations.
The show was an enormous successas bunches of people poured in, they were wowed that this was my job, that I used arts to bring Penn and West Philadelphia together, that I had my own space to promote my vision. I thanked them and moved onI was too busy running a show to really hear their enthusiasm. Finally, the show settled into its groove, and I realized what was happening.
I slipped into the Rotundas sanctuary, a space off-limits to the public, and took a seat in one of the pews. I heard the music blaring beyond me, muted by plaster and wood. I heard friends and strangers voices combine into a collective. Waves of emotion overcame me. This was home, this concert I had created. This space Penn had helped me envision, helped me implement. This project, where people shed their prejudices and pretensions, where people forgot their inhibitions and celebrated. I was here, at Penn, and I was home.
Andrew Zitcer is a program coordinator in the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life.
My favorite Penn Law memory is how excited, yet sad everyone was to graduate. Law school is not easy, but we had all made such close friends during the three years, none of whom we wanted to leave. Having started my practice, I realize that most law students did not form the long-lasting friendships that my classmates and I did at Penn Law.
Dana S. Douglas is currently a second-year associate at Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw in Chicago, practicing in the litigation department.
My most poignant memory is from my very last day at Penn. I was chosen as the student speaker for the Wharton graduation ceremony. As I addressed my classmates, I felt not only blessed to be given such an opportunity but also saddened that my time at Penn was ending. As I concluded my speech, I spotted my proud parents sitting in the stands of Franklin Field. I saw the huge smile on my moms face and tears coming from my dads eyes and thats when I knew it was all over: they would never give me money ever again.
Aaron Karo is the author of Ruminations on College Life [Briefly Noted, September/October].
I remember Freshman year orientation in the Quad feeling like the first day of summer camp. The best part was, it lasted four years. So with all my memories and friends made, I will always be able to say much more than I went to Penn and all I got was this stainless-steel travel mug for sharing my thoughts. I miss Penn and all that it meant to me over the years.
Neil Parris is currently attending USC Graduate Film school, getting his masters in fine arts in the Peter Stark Producing Program
I thought it would be a difficult decision. The next four years of my life would be determined by the environment and school I decided upon. However, the choice was unexpectedly easy: The University of Pennsylvania chose me. I distinctly remember visiting campus with my father during Spring FlingMTV was on the College Green hosting a swimsuit contest. The energy was high, and I could feel school spirit swarming around me. I knew that the next four years had to be spent strolling down Locust Walk, studying in Logan, or procrastinating on the Green. Just a few months later, I was accepted early decision. I distinctly remember the tears of joy streaming down my familys face. More importantly, I was finally excited about changethe girl who couldnt stand to see her living room couch moved to the other side of the room was enthralled to move on.
Almost every moment of my time at Penn was unforgettable. Now that I have graduated and begun my life in the real world, I wish I could go back. Dont get me wrongI lucked out. I graduated from an Ivy League school and secured a job doing exactly what I wanted to doworking for a major record label. The people at work and my friends from high school always mock my love for Penn. I just maintain that no one I know had the same experience I had. Penn changed me. From my wacky freshman roommate who is now one of my best friends, to my semester in Seville, to the drunken Walnut Walk and finally the tears at graduation, Penn has guided me to becoming the woman I am today. I recently had a friend say to me Jess, youre obsessed with your school. I loved college, but Id never go back. Granted, I wouldnt go back unless I could transport my entire class back four years to start again. Then again, every experience starts with a path that you chose. I chose the path that felt right in my heart and believe me, it has made all the difference.
Believe it or not, it was the end of the 20th century and we were still in many ways segregated. I remember one evening, during my freshman year, walking into 1920 Commons for dinner with some new friends I made. As a freshman, people tend to travel in groups, but this particular evening it was only a few of us. We walked into Commons and saw all these decorations and heard music playing and saw the staff wearing all types of funny costumes. Apparently, Dining Services decided to spice up our dining experience with a taste of New Orleans, or something like that.
Well, despite their efforts, the right side of Commons was where the Black and Latino students were sitting, and the left side is where everyone else was sitting. While there was space on the right side and the left side was packed, maybe a handful of people even dared to join the right side of Commons. It was a that moment that I realized Penn was NOT all that different from the rest of the world.
Well, after my friends and I made our way through the various carts displaying all kinds of foods prepared in remarkably odd ways, we sat down and commenced the discussion on the decor and the food. As we conversed, a band was playing and a woman was singing. At first we were not sure who they were, but a closer look showed us that they were the staff of Commons. For freshmen, that was funny in itself. What was even funnier was that that the singer was absolutely horrible. Funnier still was the fact that if you looked around the room, everyone had a look on his/her face that resembled someone holding in serious laughter. Then, the singer hit one note, and EVERYONE began to laugh hysterically. Looking around the room, all one could see was laughter pouring out of the mouths of all the diners. Faces were red, tears were streaming, and I am sure stomachs were hurting from laughing so hard.
Then she singled out one young man after his friends betrayed him and revealed it was his birthday. She went up to him and attempted to do a sultry Marilyn Monroe-version of Happy Birthday. At this point, people began to get up and leave, I assume because they could no longer hold in what laughter they had left inside. This poor young man turned beet-red and seemed quite mad at his friends. Until my senior year, my friends and I continued to laugh at this night. I am sure if I were to bring it up to one of them, we would both fall into a serious fit of laughter.
Michelle B. Watson currently works as the housing coordinator for the Partnership For The Homeless in New York City. While at Penn, she served for two years as editor-in-chief of The Vision. She was also involved with many other organizations, including the African-American Arts Alliance and UMOJA. Her senior year, she was awarded the Malcolm X award by the Black Senior Awards Committee. She currently lives in Jersey City, N.J.