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Letters: “I said, ‘Err, grad school?’ He said, ‘Let me make a couple calls.’”

Sally salutes

I enjoyed your article on Paul Sally (“Sally Marks the Spot,” May–June/08). Mr. Sally has touched tens of thousands of lives in his long career; I hope I may share some of my favorite personal anecdotes.

Early on in Math 207 (the famous Honors Analysis in Rn course), I answered correctly a question that Mr. Sally had posed to the class. He wanted to show some praise, but as we were just getting to know each other a handshake was too familiar. Instead, he deigned to allow us to touch fingertips. Even then I could tell his bravado only barely veils the warm affection he holds for all his students.

The following summer I worked in his Young Scholars Program. In those pre–cell phone days, he was the one who received and had to relay to me the news that my grandfather had died. During my fourth year, he predicted not only which graduate schools I would get into (something he had more than a little to do with, I’m sure) but my score on the GRE.

After my PhD, I continued in mathematics, undergraduate teaching, and outreach to K–12 teachers, drawing much of my inspiration from experiences with him.  One of the benefits of such a career is that I get to see Paul from time to time. Last year I gave a well-received talk at a conference on Inquiry-Based Learning. Mr. Sally spoke in the same session a bit later, and in one of his characteristic asides took credit for me. “By the way,” he said, “Matt Leingang was my student at the University of Chicago. I taught him everything he knows.”  I’ve never been prouder.

Matthew Leingang, AB’95
Highland Park, New Jersey

In 1971, as with quite a few undergraduates, I was nearing the completion of my AB in mathematics with no real clue as to what I would do next. Paul Sally approached me in the hall (I had never taken a course from him) and asked what my plans were.  I said, “Err, grad school?” He said, “Let me make a couple calls.” After he inquired as to where I might want to move and what my interests were, we parted. Some days later he told me, “I talked with the University of Massachusetts—they don’t have any support, but you can be a student… .” As the saying goes, the rest is history. 

I received a PhD in 1976, taught at Texas and Texas A&M, moved on to industry to enjoy the mountain west in New Mexico, and subsequently started a scientific consulting business that has taken me to such places as Tomsk, Russia, to give addresses. I will return to Siberia this summer to present another invited address. I have also started a photography business. Somehow my life would have proceeded without Paul Sally’s intervention. But I doubt the trip would have been nearly as interesting.  My heartfelt thanks to Paul Sally!

Gordon Lukesh, AB’71
Corrales, New Mexico

Great article! Paul Sally was one of my teachers and stands out in my mind for knowing and caring about his students.

The article was an encouragement to me to try to inspire my students as he does his.

Andrew Rich, SM’78,  PhD’89
North Manchester, Indiana

Spring eternal

How odd to read in my e-mail last night “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Maroon” (May–June/08). The balmy evening, with its aromatic blossoms, range of pink-white shades, and jewel-green grass, reminded me of 1970s springs around the Chicago campus. At that time, I found it extremely difficult to study and instead took many walks with various people, to the detriment of my college career.

My family and I are now very busy, and the family dog has passed on, so I rarely take walks in my current Boston neighborhood. When I do have lovely encounters with spring evenings, such as on the Harvard campus in Cambridge yesterday evening (after managing to get a bit more studying done), I am taken back to my first college years.

Carol C. Reiman, X’76

Keeping house together

Ray Munts, AM’49, and I lived at Howarth House, a cooperative house for graduate students on Greenwood Avenue, where, as I have often said, “we lived together before we became acquainted.” However, our cooperative style of life was good training for our marriage in July 1947.

Our house residents hired a chef to cook our meals and divided up the kitchen and housekeeping chores among ourselves.  We lived like a family, as we were forced to prove in court when we were charged with violation of the city zoning ordinance. The reason for neighborhood opposition was actually because our group was interracial rather than because we were not a family. Leon Despres, PhB’27, JD’29, the wonderful Hyde Park lawyer and alderman, made a successful case for us with the testimony of my mother and the mother of another resident (Carl Christ, SB’43, PhD’50).

I would love to hear from any of our Howarth “family” who should read this letter and particularly from Jeanne Ramsey and Clancy Bunyan, the first couple in our house to marry. (Clancy was the only Roosevelt University student in our Chicago gang).

Mary Lou Munts, U-High’41, AM’47
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania

Another love story

It was with a deep sense of regret that I encountered your article in the May–June issue, reminded as I was of my avowed intention to add our story to your log of Hyde Park romances/weddings. Hopefully you’ll be able to find a place somewhere for a story that’s somewhat different (but not so very).

Dan Massad, AM’77, and I first set eyes on each other on the second-level oval track in what was still, on the implausibly beautiful evening of June 6, 1973, the Bartlett Gymnasium. Though I regularly exercised there, I’d entered the place that evening—dressed, I blush to add, rather like Brad Davis in Fassbinder’s Querelle—for the sole purpose of finding Someone Available. So what particular Hyde Park deity sent to me the love of my life?

We kept catching glimpses of each other all over Bartlett, and then out on the street, not exchanging a word until we somehow both reached Nichols Park. And then we couldn’t stop exchanging words. We talked up a storm out on the 51st Street Point until after midnight, and then, in the wee hours, on the roof of the Blackstone Hotel, where I had a student apartment.

We lived in Hyde Park for the next six years. Talk about a liberal enclave: the only comment I can recall receiving as we strolled about the streets arm in arm was from an old woman raking leaves. “Hmm,” she murmured, “Damon and Pythias, eh?”

So we were. And after five years we had decided that we were ready to pledge lifelong fidelity to each other.  Our by-then-friends Harvey Lord, the minister of University Church, and his wonderful wife May agreed to be the witnesses of our vows, but we invited no one else to Harvey’s small office adjacent to the main sanctuary—didn’t even tell anyone else about the “event,” in fact. It was 1978, after all. And we did not want a party, or kitchen appliances. We wanted to make promises, and to have someone we trusted and respected hear them. May did give us a piece of driftwood, however, because it was “unique, like you two.” And Harvey offered a prayer which said, in part:

Bless the promise these two men
now make to one another.
In Your presence and in ours.
Plant it firmly in their memories
And in the crucible of motivations.

I always felt that Harvey had a direct line to the Almighty. In any case, he was clearly “hot” that day. After 35 years together, Dan is still my comrade, my lover, my best friend. And the conversation is as rich and seamless as ever.

Scott Eggert, AM’79
Annville, Pennsylvania

Unknown legacy

I really enjoyed the short article on Carter G. Woodson (“Legacy,” May–June/08). I teach American politics, and each semester when I teach the Constitution, I assign a few pages from The Mis-Education of the Negro, in which Woodson discusses how black children in the South were not allowed to read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The section I assign ends with the same passage cited in the article: “When you control a man’s thinking, you do not have to worry about his actions.”

Many students find the Constitution less than exciting, and I want to impress on them that they are lucky indeed to be learning about it. I did not realize Woodson was a U of C graduate.

Russell Brooker, AM’76, PhD’81
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

In the ’70s, when I attended, the University of Chicago was a cold, hostile place to be a black student. We were told, in thousands of little and big ways, that we did not belong, that we weren’t smart enough, not good enough to be there.

It has taken me 30 years to make peace with the place. How differently might I have felt, had I known at the time that I was following in the footsteps of the great Carter G. Woodson?

Afi-Odelia (Stephanie) Scruggs, AB’75
Euclid, Ohio

More to Big Ten than football

I found a small error in the answers to the “The Final Degree” quiz (“Lite of the Mind,” May–June/08). The answer to question No. 6 states, “A fierce proponent of higher education’s mandate to produce responsible citizens, Hutchins was no fan of intercollegiate athletics—pulling Chicago out of the Big Ten Conference in 1939.” Chicago did not withdraw from the Big Ten Conference in 1939; we only discontinued football. Participation in all other sports in the Big Ten continued until after WW II. If I remember correctly, we dropped out of the conference in 1946, and Michigan State took our place. 

I myself competed in many Big Ten Conference meets in track and cross-country, lettering in both prior to leaving for pilot training in the Army Air Corps in February 1943, as did several of my teammates.

In the interim, Chicago had several Big Ten champions in various sports—note that the Murphy twins (Chester and William, both AB’39) won conference titles and NCAA championships. We were so dominating in water polo that after our last conference championship in 1940, there was only one other school in the Big Ten besides Chicago—and not very many competing nationally. We had Big Ten Conference and NCAA champions in gymnastics as well—the Shanken twins (Courtney and Earl, both AB’42), particularly. And we continued outstanding efforts in fencing, wrestling, baseball, and ice hockey.

We also continued with competition in basketball, although not very successfully; our star player, Joe Stampf, AB’41, set both free-throw and total Big Ten scoring records in his three years as a varsity player (in those days rules only permitted three years of varsity competition in all sports). While setting the scoring record his last year, Joe played on a team that had the most points scored against it (us) than any other conference team, and the least points scored by any team in the conference (us).

So, we did very well for a small school as far as the number of athlete students was concerned—I think in those years we had only about 1,500–2,000 undergraduate students, and I estimate that there were only about 200 actually interested in intercollegiate sports.

Ray E. Randall, AB’43
Rogers, Arizona

Divestment and Darfur

We write to echo Barbara Hoff, AB’95, MAT’97 (“Letters,” May–June/08), regarding the University’s official stance on the Darfur tragedy: “While I feel ashamed of my affiliation with Professor Stone’s version of the University of Chicago, I am proud to be associated with the one that uses education not merely to debate and inquire about issues, but to make a hands-on difference.”

While it may well be that divestment of any University of Chicago holdings wouldn’t have any positive impact on this ongoing genocide, we would like to hear that a Chicago-style evaluation was made, based, for example, on the very carefully researched and articulated guidelines available through www.savedarfur
.org (where it is concluded that “simply divesting” is not always the best course). We would like to hear that divestment was at least considered as an option in theory, even if it was ultimately rejected as ineffective. But it appears that it wasn’t even considered, because it is felt that this genocide does not affect the University directly. Have the trustees never heard of “And then they came for me”?

In addition, by not considering this or any other divestment, the University (unlike some others) has purposefully avoided a significant opportunity to further the moral stance it has in fact taken implicitly by helping victims. This opportunity stems from the University’s position in geographical and institutional communities. Entities look at what their peers are doing. If the next guy isn’t doing anything about a problem, that fact can be used, and frequently is used, as an excuse for one’s own inaction. If no one leads, there can be no followers: we’re all stuck in the mud.

Gerald H. Lovins, SM’34
Sante Fe, New Mexico
Julie B. Lovins, AM’70, PhD’73
Mountain View, California

Response to Darfur,” a report on  how the University reached its 2007 decision not to divest,  appeared in the Mar–Apr/07  “Chicago Journal.”—Ed.

Against Interpretation

Jason Erwin’s comments in the May–June/08 “Letters” are both cruel and logically inconsistent. Based on Kathleen Vance’s short note in the Mar–Apr/08 “Letters,” he insists that she is lacking the basics a U of C education should have provided. This over-reaching and hurtful statement was Mr. Erwin’s reaction to her, in his view, uncompassionate criticism of some comments of a beloved former professor of Mr. Erwin’s. Based on her comments and her matriculation at the U of C, Mr. Erwin asserts that Ms. Vance should be, but is not, aware of the multiple possible interpretations of his former professor’s comments. First, he assumes that Ms. Vance’s written comments were the only interpretation she considered. Second, Mr. Erwin falls into the very trap he has just described. He has not allowed for multiple possible interpretations of Ms. Vance’s comments and assumes the worst: that she has condemned the professor entirely.

I do not know the professor in question and I make no assumptions about his character. I will merely say that I also found his comments on that particular occasion to be discomforting and hope that he will take Ms. Vance’s comments, uncompassionate or not, into consideration.

Christine Chambliss, AB’95
Madison, Wisconsin

Department of Corrections

In “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Maroon” (May–June/08), the editors inadvertently merged the names of one couple, Wendy Lin, AB’85, MD’89, and Ed Guillery, MD’87. The same issue’s “Original Source” item on data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey should have noted that the online database is managed by the University’s John Crerar Library. We regret the errors.

The Magazine welcomes letters from readers about its contents or about the life of the University. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited for space and clarity. We encourage letter writers to limit themselves to no more than 300 words. Write: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 401 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1000, Chicago, IL 60611. Or e-mail: