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February 2000 (print version)

The University of Chicago Magazine invites letters on its contents or on topics related to the University. Letters must be signed and may be edited for length or clarity. Preference is given to letters of 500 words or less.

Write: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 1313 E. 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637


Our kind of letter

Let me compliment you on the high quality, imaginativeness, and seriousness represented by the December/99 issue of the University of Chicago Magazine.

I especially enjoyed finding out that Marian and Leon Despres are still going strong (“Coming of Age”), since I knew them many years ago when I was associated with the University in the 1970s.

The next time someone sends me a fund-raising letter from the U of C, I will be happy to make a contribution.

Peter Barglow
Berkeley, California

Alumni board nominees sought

Do you know some alumni who could make a difference? The Alumni Association is seeking new members for its Board of Governors, a 25-member group that sets policy for the Alumni Association and advises the University on matters of concern to alumni. At the Board’s April meeting, new members will be elected for three-year terms beginning July 1, 2000.

Board members are chosen from the whole alumni body on the basis of past service to the University. To ensure that the Board is as fully representative of the alumni population as possible, the Nominating Committee also weighs demographic factors, such as age, gender, race, location, and academic diversity.

If you would like to propose someone for Board membership, please send us one or two paragraphs describing your nominee, summarizing his/her involvement with the University, and indicating why this person would be a strong addition to the Board. The deadline for nominations is March 1, 2000.

Send nominations to: Nominating Committee, U of C Alumni Association, 1313 E. 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637; fax: 773/702-2166; e-mail:

We welcome your help in identifying candidates for leadership of the Alumni Association.

Elaine Hanauer Ravich, AB’70
Chair, Board of Governors Nominating and Membership Committee

Nobel hat trick

Is this Chicago or what? Robert Mundell, 1999 Nobel Prize winner in economics, was Chicago’s 71st, Chicago economics’ 19th, and the third and final supervisor of my dissertation committee to win the prize (“For the Record,” December/99). Milton Friedman, AM’33 (1976), suggested my dissertation topic title, “Peel’s Act, Deposits, and the Currency--Banking School Controversy,” after reading Frank W. Fetter’s book, The Development of British Monetary Orthodoxy, 1797–1875. He then handed me over to George Stigler, PhD’38 (1982), who was the history of thought professor at the time. Robert Mundell (1999) came to my thesis seminar, showed some interest in the topic, and got drafted to my committee.

Has there been another dissertation committee of at least three, composed of all Nobel Prize winners (economics or any other subject)? Could this anomaly only happen at Chicago?

Douglas K. Adie, PhD’68
Athens, Ohio

How MAB got U2 to U of C

The December issue’s notice regarding MAB (“Major Activities Board lures MTV to campus”) brought back a few pleasant memories. In the article, MAB president Kelly Snow lamented current budget constraints, venturing, “Way back in the day, we had U2. Now it’s ten, 15 times our budget.”

I was fortunate enough to be a member of MAB “back in the day” (circa 1981), when we indeed did bring U2 to campus for a concert. Our ability to do so was a matter of timing.

The agency handling the then-unknown group was eager to book the show--money was not the issue; they were primarily looking to build a fan-base. In contrast, the board members’ major concern, as we sat and listened to our promotional copy of the band’s first album, was whether such “unusual” music would be right for a U of C crowd.

We held the show in the International House auditorium, and the $1 admission fee entitled attendees to all the beer (Augsberger, as I recall) they could drink. At the end of the evening we paid the band in cash...the princely sum of $1,500, virtually all of it in $1 bills.

I still have that promotional album, signed by all the band members before they departed Hyde Park for rock’s pantheon.

L. Paul Sandberg, MBA’82, JD’82
Los Angeles

Medieval theology

Regarding Jenny Adams’s article, “Positively Medieval” (December/99), I find it strange that Adams describes Fulton as seeming to assert that “Before that time [the turn of the first millennium], pious Christians prayed to Christ as the all-powerful King of Heaven rather than as the man who died a humiliating death.” My understanding of the early Christians was their joy in proclaiming the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

I quote from Raymond E. Brown’s The Birth of the Messiah (1977): “The oldest Christian preaching about Jesus concerned the death and resurrection, as may be seen in the formulas of Acts 2:23, 32; 3:14–15; 4:10; 10:39–40; and I Cor 15:3–4. Not only did these events constitute the clearest instance of God’s salvific action in Jesus, but also it was through them that the disciples came to a more adequate understanding of who Jesus really was.”

Irving E. Fasan, AB’47, JD’57
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Medieval muddles

The Magazine might be misrepresenting the excellence of the University by reproducing a fine Trecento painting in the Smart Museum of Art accompanied by an outdated attribution and a typographical error (“Positively Medieval”). Those interdisciplinary efforts on which the article focused should also extend to the staff of the alumni publication, especially since they are able to call upon the distinguished art history faculty on campus.

The “Ugolino Lorenzetti” to whom the painting is attributed never existed; the name was a fiction invented long ago by Bernard Berenson to describe an anonymous artist now generally known as the Ovile Master, after a painting in San Pietro Ovile in Siena. This much can be obtained from the Kress catalog of Italian paintings where this gift to the University is listed. If your readers were confused by the date of “ca. 1530” in an article of a medieval subject, it was obviously transposed from 1350, the correct date according to the catalog.

John S. Howett, AM’62, PhD’68

Mr. Howett, who is professor emeritus of art history at Emory University, is correct about the date: we inadvertently transposed two numbers in the date of the 14th-century Italian work. As to the attribution given the piece, while an entry in the Smart Museum catalog chronicles the still-continuing scholarly debate regarding the artist’s identity, the Smart Museum attributes it to Lorenzetti, and we followed suit. --Ed.

More on wandering wombs

It is of interest that the Hippocratic Corpus describes the wandering womb syndrome (“Coursework,” December/99) in the Parthenoi (“Illness of Maidens”), stating that its cure is early marriage followed by childbirth. Plato, in the Timaeus, also describes the womb as straying about the body until the woman gives birth to a child.

It is, however, not clear how the Greeks of the fifth century B.C.E. reconciled the view that the uterus could move through the body with their knowledge of the anatomy of the human uterus that is evidenced, for example, by votive offerings at various healing temples.

Arnold M. Katz, AB’52
Norwich, Vermont

Déjà view

This year my son Ben is happily enrolled in his first year as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, which provides me with the new and pleasant experience of being an alumni parent for the first time. To the enormous surprise and delight of our family, Ben not only happens to be in the same dorm that I was in for my freshman year at the U of C, but in the very same room I was in. As far as we know, this is entirely a coincidence, since Ben did not even request that dorm.

When the announcement of Ben’s room assignment arrived this August, I let out a howl of laughter. To go there in person with him on entering day in September was even more powerful. It was the first time I had set foot in Woodward Court in about 30 years. And there was my boy, standing on the same floor I stood on, hanging his towel on the same towel bar, clothes in the same closet, posters on the same cinder block walls, looking out the same window at Robie House across the street.

I must say, it gives new meaning to the phrase “déjà vu”! And it certainly made it easier for me to let my little (6 foot) chickie leave the nest, knowing that he is in the same place that I once called mine. It is a kick! I thought U of C friends and fellow alums would enjoy learning about this. I think it is a wonderful thing the housing office did, and I recommend it to other families. I don’t think it diminishes in any way my son’s chance to make his college experience his own, it just gives it some contextual history and an added dimension. Cheers to the housing office!

Mary Eisenberg, AB’72
Lexington, MA

Why crime has dropped

The October/99 issue presented the rather interesting thesis of University of Chicago economics professor Steve Levitt (“Chicago Journal”), which was summarized as follows: “[A]s much as half of the U.S. crime drop in the 1990s can be explained by the legalization and high frequency of abortion in the 1970s, which prevented the birth of many potential criminals.”

I disagree with Mr. Levitt, and reason that the relatively high employment rate of the 1990s provides more secure and immediate income than crime, and in effect, motivates many to seek an honest means of earning a livelihood. As for abortions, I am inclined to argue that abortions in the 1970s had little effect on crime, but instead diminished the educational talent and pool of applicants to universities.

R. Mark Katz, AB’84
Los Angeles

Delighted with decal

I wish to thank the University of Chicago Alumni Association for the splendid University decal that came with the October/99 issue [included with the Alumni Gateway]. It worked well on my 1960 Fiat 600. The decal seems to complete the statement [“RADIOACTIVE HEAP”] that existed previously. The Fiat is of Italian extraction, somewhat like Fermi.

David G. Bowman, MAT’63
Warrenton, Oregon

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