Illustration by
Dave Plunkert

An emeritus English
professor and frequent
contributor looks at how Penn's faculty
has been portrayed in
the magazine during its
first century.
By Gerald Weales



It may well be that there is a database in the offices of The Pennsylvania Gazette, monitored by a gaggle of market researchers, that clocks the motivation of alumni readers of the magazine. If so, I have not consulted it to find out the appeal to former students of articles by and about faculty members, a staple of the magazine since its inception as Olde Penn. I simply assume that, faced with a professor they know, they are moved to nostalgia or belated exasperation, depending on how things went in the classroom. Reactions to men and women who have joined the faculty since their graduation presumably range from the curmudgeonly—“The place has gone to hell since my time”—to the envious—“Why didn’t we have such academic richness in my day?”

Professors, as writers, can be seen in articles written particularly for the magazine, in pieces that might have found a berth in any general publication, and in excerpts or adaptations from published work. The first was particularly prevalent in 1918 when professors tailored their academic subjects or their experience to a nation at war: George B. Roorbach (Geography) on “Geographical Influences of the War;” James Curtis Ballagh (Political Science) on “America’s International Diplomacy;” William E. Lingelbach (History), who was in Russia when war broke out, on the Russian Revolution. Lingelbach decorated a detailed account of the shifts in power with proper Pennish suspicion: “To my way of thinking anarchy is not freedom, nor should license be construed as liberty.” This kind of essay has continued to appear in less disruptive times as in 1979 when Edward B. Irving, Jr. (English) contributed an article on the value of reading the great works of literature.

The second kind of essay, which often reflected the off-campus interests of the author, can be seen in my description of a visit to the gorillas in Rwanda (1988) or the “Asian Note-Book” (1999) of Peter Conn (English), an account of a trip he and his wife Terry Conn (Vice-Provost’s Office) took on behalf of Pearl S. Buck International, which ended with their shepherding two six-month-old Korean boys to their newly adopted parents in the States. Book excerpts, to name just two, include adaptations 20 years apart by professors of sociology—E. Digby Baltzell’s Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia (1979) and Elijah Anderson’s Code of the Street (1999). There are also occasional samplers—a page of brief excerpts buried in a profile—of, for instance, Paul Fussell (English) in 1989 or Kathleen Hall Jamieson (Annenberg School for Communication) in 1995. I never much cared for literary smorgasbord, but in the case of Jamieson at least the snippets are longer than the sound bites by which most people outside the classroom or the library know her.



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