LINK:  University of Chicago Magazine
About the Magazine | Advertising | Archives | Contact
 LINK:  IssueLINK:  featuresLINK:  chicago journalLINK:  investigationsLINK:  peer reviewLINK:  in every issue

link:  e-mail this to a friend

In Every Issue ::

Letters: Hollywood could have done no better.

Who’s an american?

My family came to America at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1609 and at Plimoth Plantation, Massachusetts, in 1620. As old immigrants (“Fenced Out,” Jan–Feb/07), we offer the fol-lowing credo to the new immigrants from then, to the present, and into the future:

No matter where people come from, if they behave themselves, work hard, and respect our history and culture, they are Americans. And if we behave ourselves, work hard, and respect their history and culture, we are Americans too.

James A. Rogerson, AM’69, PhD’80
Charlotte, North Carolina

Big (sky) mistake

I found Rick Perlstein’s “Fenced Out” to be interesting, though I’m afraid his writing is a glaring example of America’s geographical ignorance. We citizens of Casper, Wyoming, get used to seeing the name spelled “Caspar” in some publication or another. But I was negatively impressed to see this misspelling in the pages of the U of C’s alumni magazine. While this town is named for a cavalryman named Caspar Collins, we gave up that spelling in favor of Casper well before all current residents were born. I don’t know why.

I was ready to forgive the misspelling, but in the very next sentence the writer refers to Wyoming being the Big Sky Country. Yikes. Yes, we do have and love our big sky out here, but following it with the word “country,” and using capitalization, is treading on our northerly neighbor’s propaganda. Big Sky Country is Montana’s catchphrase. Montana, not Wyoming. Wyoming is happy to be the Cowboy State, even if cowboying is a dying lifestyle. I see this Wyoming/Montana confusion time and time again, especially from easterners who have no idea which square and squarish states are which. Both Wyoming and Montana could easily be called each other’s nickname, and it would still ring true. To keep things confusing, Wyoming also goes by the Equality State, for we were the first state to allow women to vote. Granted, I claim no superiority for our local folks, as I’ve run into my share who don’t even know enough to confuse New Hampshire and Vermont on a map. 

America’s geographical illiteracy in action. I expect better in these pages. 

J. P. Cavigelli, AB’83
Casper, Wyoming 

Proactive muslim americans

Regarding Ingrid Mattson’s satisfaction with the American Muslim community’s response to 9/11 (“Glimpses,” Jan–Feb/07): yes, it’s true that many American Muslims have gotten involved in efforts to protect the civil rights of innocent American Muslims, and in efforts to explain what being Muslim means to them. But fewer American Muslims have gotten actively involved in efforts to help our government formulate sensible domestic and foreign policies to keep our country safe. Similarly, American Muslims have not made it a priority to fully answer the questions that many Americans are asking about Islamic beliefs on issues like violence and loyalty to a secular state; this leaves many Americans with doubts about what American Muslims really believe. Muslims For A Safe America
( was established after the 2005 London bombings to help educate American Muslims about issues relating to Islam and national security and to mobilize American Muslims to be effective participants in our country’s national discussion about how to make America safer.

Kamran Memon, JD’97
Founder, Muslims For A Safe America

Cost-benefit analysis

I once sent to Milton Friedman, AM’33, (“Market Force,” Jan–Feb/07) a photo of a sign I saw at a Pennsylvania chicken farm that said, “Free Manure.” In my letter to Friedman, I said, “There may not be such a thing as a free lunch; but, as this photo demonstrates, there is such a thing as free manure.”

Friedman replied, “You mean, it was costless to the person who is now anxious to give it away, at the cost to the recipient of getting it and hauling it away.”

Mark Borinsky, PhD’72

Friedman's legacy

Since his death I have read one piece after another lavishly praising Milton Friedman for his analyses and positions on, among other things, the flat tax, school vouchers, flexible exchange rates, stable monetary policy, and the voluntary military. They remind me of Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony’s piece about the dead Caesar.

But from my own experience—as an officer in a military composed largely of draftees, and as a lawyer (1) in the largest Northwest law firm, where I worked for one of America’s largest corporations; (2) in our county legal-aid office; (3) in our state attorney general’s office representing a state university and community colleges; (4) in a firm working for a publicly owned utility, helping to get five nuclear plants built (four were canceled after billions were invested in construction); and (5) in a small firm doing estate planning—Friedman reached many conclusions that are dead wrong for our country.

The volunteer military can’t touch the skills and political benefits we had in the ’50s and ’60s, provided mainly by the draftees and the volunteers who joined only because of the draft. The worst officers, including competence, were from the military academies. (Just read about the torturers in the daily news.)

The flat tax would push our country further into one resembling a Latin American aristocracy of wealth. (Since about 25 years ago the wealthiest Americans have doubled their share of our country’s wealth.)

Our major corporations are the nation’s most economically damaging criminals and need to be held to account by high legislative standards. (Just read your daily newspapers.) 

So, please, canonization is not called for. More warranted is a sigh of relief.

Bert Metzger Jr., JD’61

Uncommon commentary

I would not have applied to and graduated from the College had the information I received not conveyed the idea: This Place Is Different. Apropos the UnCommon Application (“College Report,” Jan–Feb/07), Admissions Dean O’Neill’s lament that “we find that we are almost alone” among universities suggests the man doesn’t get it. Chicago’s uniqueness—whether in different paperwork or anything else—should be worn as a badge of honor.

Marketing experts at the GSB or anywhere else will tell you that in the marketplace differentiation is a winner, commoditization a loser. Whether in instruction or administration, Chicago should continue to be the school unafraid to do things in an uncommon way. Surely it can find a way to welcome students with diverse and uncommon backgrounds without sacrificing its distinctiveness.
And it should so market its Uncommon Education to the world. A good positioning might be: Chicago: Not Harvard. Different. (Better.)

John L. Gann Jr, AB’64
Madison, Wisconsin

P.S. Trivial example: In selecting a college I noted that U of C uniquely didn’t have a football team. My high school—Forest Hills in New York City—didn’t either. Says something about the place’s values.

Argonne correction redux

I read the latest magazine (Jan–Feb/07), and I must say that it is a wonderful publication.
On page 10, however, you had a correction to the “Research We Use” about Argonne “Argonne Almanac,” December/06). I actually think that the correction you provided is still not correct. First, the prototype for the Nautilus was built in Idaho by Westinghouse, but it was not built at Argonne–West, per se. It was built at a site that is now part of the Idaho National Laboratory, but at the time, I think the “reservation” was referred to as the Nuclear Reactor Test Site.

Argonne–West is one part of that site, but it was not the whole site. The prototype was built in an area that came to be known as the Naval Reactors Facility.

Second, I don’t think the EBR-II was a prototype for any commercial nuclear-energy plants. Commercial plants are known as light-water reactor (LWR) plants, and they use thermal neutrons (neutrons from fission have energies about 1 MeV and then are “slowed” by a moderator, such as the water in the LWR). The EBR-II, on the other hand, was a fast spectrum reactor (meaning that the neutrons were not slowed by a moderator), was cooled with liquid sodium, and was designed to demonstrate that creating more fuel than was used was possible. The two types of LWR are a pressurized water reactor (PWR) and a boiling water reactor; Illinois has both varieties. Admiral Rickover used the knowledge gained in developing the Nautilus prototype to develop the Shippingport Reactor (a PWR), and that was the prototype for the subsequent PWRs. Perhaps what you mean is that the Experimental Boiling Water Reactor, which was built and operated at Argonne–East (in DuPage County), was a prototype for the boiling-water reactor plants that were subsequently designed by GE and are operated in the world today.

Adam Cohen, MBA’00
Washington, DC

(Cohen, a former chief operations officer at Argonne, is now stationed at the U.S. Department of Energy, advising the undersecretary of science.—Ed.)

Questionable economics

The Jan–Feb/07 issue featured two instances of muddled economic thinking unworthy of the University. On page 6 you published a letter by Paul Streitz, MBA’71, complaining about how supposedly “the wages of the rich have increased because they own stock in now globalized companies employing slave labor in China.” The returns from equity capital are not wages from labor, so I can’t imagine what point he is making.

On pages 17–18 you published an interview with Dean Jeanne Marsh of the School of Social Service Administration (“Talking Points,” Jan–Feb/07), in which she complained about the lack of federal financial assistance available for her students. She’d like government largesse to help her graduates pay off their average debts of $50,000. That’s called a subsidy, but she’d like us to believe that it’s necessary because their work “contributes so significantly to society.” If the work is so important, why is the consensus remuneration for it so low? Perhaps it’s only worth the $35,000 annually that she states they earn.

The ethos—and thus part of the genius—of the Chicago School of Economics is to require actual data and rigorous thinking to prove one’s points. Mr. Streitz and Dean Marsh offer neither. To brush up on the methodology, I recommend that they audit some refresher courses in either the economics department or the GSB.

James M. Hasik, MBA’97

Reg Appreciation

I so enjoyed the trio of articles on the Reg-enstein library in the October/06 issue (“The Once and Future Reg”) and was impressed with Andrew Abbott’s insights and observations as well as his findings. And I loved reading Neil Harris’s piece, much of it about Herman Fussler, whom I knew both as instructor and later as a faculty colleague in the Graduate Library School. I remember that when I spoke at Mr. Fussler’s retirement event, I thought I would look at what U of C presidents and others had to say about the library during his tenure as director and realized it was all in Herman Fussler’s style—he had either educated them or ghostwritten what there was. What a man.

Peggy Sullivan, PhD’72

Dry spell

I haven’t written a letter to any editor in a long while, and I’ll use this opportunity to say that I find Dan Dry’s photography a joy. It is surprising to find a photographer who is so astounding at portraiture, interiors and exteriors of architecture, and poetic contemplative photos. Usually photographers specialize in only one of these arenas. I consider his additions to the Magazine jewels.

Robbie McCosh, AM’85
Eugene, Oregon

The kiss

One late Saturday afternoon in the summer of ’39, after studying at the Oriental Institute, I was walking diagonally across campus aiming to go through the Classics arch, cross the Midway, and catch a streetcar at 63rd Street to go home. The quadrangles were deserted. About five o’clock on a beautiful afternoon—there was no one around.

Nearing Cobb Hall, I rounded the C-bench, stayed on the grass, and headed toward Wieboldt. Up ahead I saw two figures in dark clothing, a man and a woman facing each other, standing on the walk outside the end of Wieboldt. There she stood with long dark hair, face upturned. He was tall, looking down into her face. Then they kissed. It was beautiful. Hollywood could have done no better.

But I was heading toward them, and I was embarrassed to have witnessed their private moment. Should I turn back, slow down, veer sideways? I tried to play nonchalant, concentrated on the grass, and walked toward Classics as though nothing had happened. However, I did look up for just one instant before I hurried through the arch, and he was looking at me. A jolt of recognition—I realized it was President Hutchins and his wife, Maude, I had just seen!

Two or three times before I graduated, we walked past each other on 59th Street. As we came near, with a slight smile, his brown eyes would say to me, “I remember,” and mine would say to him, “I remember.”

Edith Davis Sylander, AB’41
Stamford, Connecticut

Caxtonians remembered

The memorial service for English professors emeriti Ned Rosenheim, AB’39, AM’46, PhD’53, and Gwin Kolb, AM’46, PhD’49, held in Bond Chapel in December, was a well-attended, heartfelt tribute to their service to the University. Perhaps less known to the University community was the role of both Ned and Gwen in the Caxton Club, one of the city of Chicago’s oldest social/cultural organizations. Ned was a past president of the club; Gwen’s Johnson collection was an inspiration to many current members. The club has honored each with a long tribute in the Caxtonian, our monthly journal. We would be happy to provide copies to anyone interested and would welcome inquiries from others who share the love of books and the book arts exemplified by our departed friends. Contact: 60 W. Walton St., Chicago, IL 60610, 312/255-3710,

Dan “Skip” Landt, AM’62

Author’s query

I am researching a book about Clyde Kennard, a U of C student in the early 1950s who later attempted to register at the University of Southern Mississippi. Sentenced to hard labor on a false burglary charge, he died in 1963 from medical neglect. An account of his ordeal is at

The author of two U.S. history books—Inside The Oval Office (Oxford University, 2002) and An American Insurrection (Doubleday, 2001)—I am trying to locate and interview people who knew Mr. Kennard for a book on his life. If you knew Clyde Kennard, please e-mail me at

William Doyle
New York

Sounds of chicago’s past

Calling all audiophiles: I am looking for amateur or professional recordings that relate to the early 20th century at the U of C. Audio of major figures such as William Rainey Harper, Henry Ives Cobb, and Alonzo Stagg are of primary interest, but I am more generally seeking recordings of things which no longer exist (e.g. a broadcast of a game at Stagg Field.) If you have such material and might be interested in submitting it for a historical recording project, please e-mail

Brian Trump, AB’02

Chicago women unite

The new University of Chicago Women’s Alliance has been sanctioned by the University’s Alumni Association as an affinity group for women over 45 who are Chicago alumnae, faculty, research associates, and/or administrators. The alliance’s primary goal is to provide an opportunity for women with significant life experience and great intellectual curiosity to meet other women with similar backgrounds and interests.

The alliance will provide a forum for Chicago women to learn more about a range of subjects as well as an opportunity to network. Also, the alliance plans to draw upon U of C women faculty and graduates as speakers, and we are currently looking for speaker suggestions. The alliance also plans to jointly sponsor or support other University of Chicago alumni events.

For more information please contact Pamela Peterson, (420 East Waterside Drive, #709, Chicago, IL 60601, 312/515-7404, or Agnes Roach (AA Roach Financial Planning, 5 Revere Drive, Suite 200, Northbrook, IL 60062, 847/356-0575,

Pamela Peterson, MBA’97
Agnes A. Roach, AM’71, MBA’80

The University of Chicago Magazine welcomes letters for publication, which must be signed and may be edited for length or clarity. To provide a range of views and voices, we ask writers to limit themselves to 300 words or less. Write: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 5801 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL60637. Or e-mail: