“Obama’s election victory will serve as a powerful symbol of the diversity and openness of American society.”

Cover art

The Nov–Dec/08 issue was a solid philosophical, humanistic, artistic, and scientific pleaser with intellectual butting and sparring of innovative ideas. I read the Magazine from cover to cover. The real test was the cover—high quality. The glossy stock is of the right crispiness to withstand repeated creasing and folding (see the enclosed three-horned Triceratops with plated armor). Nothing to waste, I recreated the notorious bat that dwells in the amphitheater attic of Ida Noyes, much like the one described on page 59 (“Child’s Play,” Nov–Dec/08). For future covers, how about mottled green for a Tyrannosaurus?

Penélope V. Flores, PhD’84
San Francisco

Found in the Second City

I have a very good copy of the Chicagoan (“Lost in the Second City,” Nov–Dec/08) I purchased at an antique shop a couple years ago. Dated May 1934, the cover is a beautiful illustration highlighting the 1934 World’s Fair, A Century of Progress.

Sherry Lopata
Skokie, Illinois


This concerns Mark Twain and the University’s list of Great Books, as described in “A Good Read about the Great Books” (“Editor’s Notes,” Nov–Dec/08). You note that Huckleberry Finn made the list (in volume 48). Wrong. Volume 48 contains the work of another great American author, Herman Melville (Moby Dick). As for Mark Twain and Huck Finn, they are nowhere on the list.

Velma Whitgrove Burke, AB’43
Washington, D.C.

Burke is correct; an editing error is to blame. In fact, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn appears in Vol. 48 of the second, updated edition of the collection, published in 1990. The 60-volume set (the first edition numbered 54) made room for Huck and others by dropping some material from the earlier effort, including Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy and Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones.—Ed.

Wrong again

Alex Beam in his book A Great Idea at the Time has it all wrong. The Great Books seminars taught by Robert Hutchins and Mortimer Adler at the University of Chicago in the late ’30s and early ’40s were packed with students, and any extra chairs were filled by visiting statesmen and celebrities. Reading Plato’s Republic or St. Thomas with them was exciting and mind-stretching. They never lectured. They asked questions that made the books come alive. They used humor and satire. No one ever fell asleep at a Great Books seminar.

And really, Mr. Beam, quoting medical remedies from Hippocrates as if we would use them now is like taking literally some of the more violent ideas in the Old Testament. Reading the classic books of the past provides a foundation for scholarship of the present. Hutchins and Adler were serious scholars and dedicated to improving education in the United States.

Shirley Shapiro Barsky, AB’41, AM’42
Port Washington, New York

Barsky was on the editorial staff of the Great Books Syntopicon from 1943 to 1946.—Ed.

Still wrong

The “Editor’s Notes” subhead states, “Long before Oprah’s Book Club, there was….” This implies that the 1952 Great Books of the Western World was a first. It wasn’t. Sir John Lubbock’s late-19th-century The Pleasures of Life surely must qualify as an earlier (Western Civilization) Great Book compendium.

Mitchell J. NewDelman, JD’65

Sometimes a great notion lasts

I enjoyed reading your column about the Great Books movement at the University. Sixty-one years after Hutchins, Adler, and a group of Chicago civic leaders with attachments to the University formed it, the Great Books Foundation is still alive. While our primary impact has been and continues to be on K–12 students, many millions of whom have participated in our reading, writing, and discussion programs, we reach tens of thousands of adults through our Great Books discussion groups around the country. The program retains its pride in our origins at the University of Chicago, and I would hope your readers would be pleased to know of the survival of the Socratic-dialogue program the University spawned back in 1947 when it created our foundation.

Our mission remains true to the U of C’s commitment to the value of an enlightened education: “The Great Books Foundation is dedicated to helping people learn how to think and share ideas by educating them to become participants in, leaders of, and advocates for Shared Inquiry. Through text-based discussion, Shared Inquiry strengthens critical thinking and civil discourse, promotes reading and the appreciation of literature, and provides people of all ages with a powerful instrument for social engagement and lifelong learning.”

We can be found at www.greatbooks.org and look forward to hearing from those who have benefited from our programs over the years.

George L. Schueppert, MBA’69
President, Great Books Foundation

Market theology

As a student, I learned much from Mr. (that’s what we called them then) Friedman’s Price Theory course and am grateful for having had the opportunity. Nevertheless, I might console the objectors to the newly formed institute in his name (“What’s in a Name?” Nov–Dec/08) by reminding them that it is being appropriately housed in the former premises of the Chicago Theological Seminary. When the late Harry Johnson joined the faculty at the U of C, he commented that the University of Chicago was the only institution at which you could earn a PhD in economics and theology at the same time.

M. June Flanders, AM’52
Tel Aviv, Israel

Consider the history

Laura Putre’s article, “Before Saddam” (“Investigations,” Nov–Dec/08)—about Orit Bashkin’s work on mid-20th century Iraq—says, “Bashkin, who holds an Israeli passport, has never actually set foot in Iraq. Israel considers Iraq an enemy nation and prohibits its citizens from traveling there without special permission….” What is “considers” supposed to mean here? Iraq was among the countries that sent troops to destroy Israel in 1948; its nuclear program, disrupted by Israel in 1981, was targeted at Israel; it attacked Israel, and only Israel, with missiles during the Gulf War; it is a member of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, both of which have charters committed to the destruction of Israel. Has the current regime done anything suggesting a major change of direction? No. Iraq is an enemy of Israel’s. Saying “considers” suggests that there is some dispute about this, or that maybe Israel is being irrational or just plain mean—preventing research and all that.

And as to prohibiting its citizens from going to Iraq: did Bashkin try to arrange a visit to Iraq to pursue her academic work? Did the Iraqis promise her cooperation and hospitality? Did the Israeli government then refuse its permission? All these questions would have been easy to answer. We’re supposed to conclude that the mean Israeli government is preventing its citizens from carrying out scholarly work, whereas there’s absolutely no evidence that this is the case, and it’s far more likely that if Bashkin tried to arrange a scholarly visit to Iraq, she would not have been allowed into the country. Or maybe the author of the article doesn’t know that not only do many Arab countries not admit Israelis for any reason, many won’t even admit people of any nationality who have an Israeli visa stamp in their passports.

Although the statements are literally true, their intent is to communicate a falsehood: that Israel, for some strange reason, “considers” Iraq an enemy and prevents its citizens from traveling there for scholarly work even when they’ve been offered a warm welcome by the Iraqis.

Paul Burstein, AB’68
Mercer Island, Washington

More details on disability, please

I recently read Lydialyle Gibson’s article “Time Heals” (“Investigations," Nov–Dec/08). I’m interested in knowing whether Jung-Hwa Ha’s conclusion that “…parents adjust to the stress of their child’s disability as they develop skills to better respond to their family circumstances” is perhaps a function of whether the child with the disability is placed in a group home. The article does not specify whether placement out of the home was considered in the conclusion. I have two children with developmental disabilities myself, and the conclusion that stress is reduced over time as parents develop skills to better respond seems oversimplified. I am concerned that therapists and other helping professionals might use this conclusion and tell their “patients,” “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it,” which could alienate those seeking professional help.

If one’s adult child with a developmental disability is placed in a group home, then I can understand the phenomena of well-being narrowing between those with and without children with developmental disabilities. The level of functioning of the child with the developmental disability should also be considered. I just wanted to pass on my opinion as one who is living it now.

Susan Moon Oros, AM’88
Carmel, California

The Magazine’s account of Jung-Hwa Ha’s research should have noted, as Ha and her colleagues reported in the September 2008 Journal of Health and Social Behavior, that the MIDUS data the researchers used did not specifically assess the severity of a child’s disability and so they were unable to examine its effect on parental well-being.

Ha and her colleagues found that, “Surprisingly, parents who co-reside with a child with mental health problems reported marginally lower levels of somatic symptoms,” while “co-residing with the child with developmental problems was not predictive of any outcome variable.” At the same time, they reported, “having more than one child with a disability was associated with significantly higher levels of negative affect and marginally greater somatic symptoms for parents of children with developmental problems.”—Ed.


It is disheartening to read such sour responses to your recent Barack Obama article (“Elemental Obama,” Sept–Oct/08) such as the two lead letters you decided to feature in your Nov–Dec/08 issue. A casual reader might think there is actually some credence to the notion that the University “endorsed” then-Senator Obama. Of course, the article does no such thing but merely harvests numerous media reactions (including those of conservative columnist David Brooks, AB’83, certainly an admirer of Obama in some ways, but even he probably voted for Senator McCain) and professorial commentary (including those of Obama’s former Law School colleague, Richard Epstein, he of the ungenerous remark, cited in of all places, the New York Times). I dare say that if a former U of C lecturer were the Republican nominee for president, the Magazine would similarly publish an article exploring whether he or she is reflective of the U of C, and it would hardly be viewed as an endorsement by most alums.

But let’s be frank: it is unseemly for the Magazine of the University of Chicago to print Marcia P. Saper’s [MBA’76] dissent. Were there no anti-Obama letters more thoughtful or temperate, or was the idea to find the most vituperative specimen, as if it had emerged from Rush Limbaugh’s lair? Would it have been too much for Ms. Saper to give an example of the “racist undertones and hyperbole” that supposedly infects Obama’s views, or is ugly innuendo enough to get the Magazine to run your letter? I almost thought I had before me a transcript from the low-lights of talk radio when I saw the gem, “I won’t even call him Senator Obama because he hasn’t actually spent enough time doing the job he was elected to do.”

Nicholas Hoyt’s [AB’08] response—the No. 2 ranked letter in the Magazine’s array—while more earnest, also disappoints, as he repetitively harps on the notion that the article endorses Obama. Although he asserts that Obama does not embody the University, Mr. Hoyt never explains the basis for his opinion. And for what it is worth, there is actually one practicing intellectual among the three politicians he discusses, and it is not someone named McCain or Palin.

Gary D. Levenson, AB’86
New York


I was disappointed to read Marcia Saper’s response to “Elemental Obama,” as it was typical of much of the ad hominem attacks against Candidate Obama during the campaign. Her letter was a litany of name-calling: “racist,” “preachy oratory,” “an empty suit,” “misleading rhetoric,” “lefty,” etc. Ms. Saper gave no examples to support her pejorative labels. Her harsh and emotion-laden rhetoric was similar to that of angry AM radio hosts and vituperative bloggers. Instead of reasoned criticism of his policy proposals or political philosophy, the right-wing opposition to Obama resorted to name-calling throughout the campaign. It is disappointing to learn that a graduate of the University would also express that kind of irrational anger about her next president. It makes one hope some of the Booths’ $300 million (see “Principles”) will be spent on providing business students with classes in political and personal analysis.

Jeffrey S. Rasley, AB’75

All letters aren’t created equal

I am disappointed that the Magazine’s editors would choose to showcase such mean-spirited letters...

Was this the Magazine’s idea of equal time? Any attempt to present a “balanced view” in fact was unnecessary. Ms. Gibson’s article struck me as quite neutral, quoting from President-elect Obama’s U of C colleagues from the left, right, and center. Her article also identified well what many alumni, including me, remember as the unique heart and soul of both Hyde Park and the U of C. In fact, many of us are swelling with pride to have been a part of the same University community that has been the home and setting for Barack and Michelle Obama and their two daughters.

As a student in the College during the turbulent years of the late ’60s and early ’70s, when the University was torn apart by differing views on the Vietnam War, the University’s relationship to the South Side, and “student power,” I was just plain excited to read this article. Moreover, I was glad to see the issue’s front cover and to reflect on the theme that it aptly suggests. Many of us who were students during the ’60s left U of C with ambiguous feelings about the experience (particularly the University’s heavy-handed response to our protests).

Gibson’s article and the cover made me remember why I chose to attend the College in the first place. I hope that the U of C is a big enough tent under which many with diverse opinions can search for the truth without fear of recriminations or toxic name-calling as last issue’s letters reflect. And that is why I for one am delighted to think that U of C is Barack Obama.

Susan L. Waysdorf, AB’72
Washington, D.C.

Making the U of C proud

Obama’s election victory will serve as a powerful symbol of the diversity and openness of American society. As a child of two refugees from World War II, I can relate to Obama’s immigrant roots in Kenya. As the first African American president, Obama can also be a powerful healing force in American society and a huge challenge to less inclusive societies, including many in Europe.

When I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Obama four years ago at the Standard Club—as he was on the way to sealing a once unlikely Senate victory—I was struck by his intelligence and humor. I am confident that an Obama administration can carve out an important leadership role for the United States in issues from international security to human rights all the way to global environmental threats. Best of all, an Obama presidency will make both the University of Chicago and Hyde Park very proud.

Michael J. Szanto, SM’01

Too U of C?

In answer to your question in the Sept–Oct/08 Magazine, “How U of C is Barack Obama?”—he is sufficient and adequate. As a Caucasian who grew up in Mississippi and graduated from college in Chicago, I read the article with interest and was pleased to have information about the relationship of Obama and Chicago. He and I never walked the campus together, but it is good that the campus still represents diversity and a search for knowledge.

After reading the responses from some of my fellow graduates in the Nov–Dec/08 issue, I went back to read your Sept–Oct/08 story. My sympathy to those who were “disappointed” or “shuddered…at the press paean” or found the story the “antithesis of…the School of Economics.” Whether the story presents an accurate review of the relationship of Barack Obama and the University can be judged individually by alumni. Whether the policies promoted by Mr. Obama are appropriate for our nation can best be determined by the electorate and not by the Chicago School of Economics.

In my opinion, the story was timely. Anytime a candidate of a major political party is nominated for the presidency of our country, there are many questions. If that candidate has a past connection with U of C, the Magazine should take note. Had a candidate had a connection with U of I, the University of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas, or Northwestern, they probably—rightfully—would have taken notice. If it happens again in the future with U of C, please run a story.

Mirl W. Whitaker, AM’51
Springfield, Illinois

Too South Side?

The Obama story by Lydialyle Gibson was fascinating, and the question posed there whether Obama is “too South Side” took me back to some time in 1958, when I spoke before a chemistry seminar at Northwestern University.

I was introduced as a graduate of “a school on the South Side of Chicago.”

Seymour Meyerson, SB’38
Asheville, North Carolina

Open letter to faux bowler

[To Jack Tucker, PhD’72, author of “Spare Me,” Sept–Oct/08]: Anyone who knows anything about duckpins knows that a cyclone would hit the Midway before anyone would roll the first line of duckpins in the Midwest.

But why bother with facts. Your article was a smash hit. And you pulled off the hoax of the year among the sophisticates who knew nothing about what you were saying.

As for your knowledge of the “game,” you may not know about boccia, quille, skittles, ninepins, Rip Van Winkle’s scores, hall-of-famers Earl Anthony, Don Carter, Dick and Pete Weber, Walter Ray Williams, Betty Morris-Laub, and Aleta Sill. Also there is a newcomer, the outstanding Danny Wiseman from your hometown of Baltimore, who switched to tenpins from duckpins.

You may not know that John McGraw and Babe Ruth initiated the development of duckpins in Baltimore to see the pins “fly around like ducks.” You may not know about hall-of-famers “Toots” Barger, Jimmy Dietsch, Jimmy Wolfensberger, Dave Volk, Lorraine Gulli, Edna Brockwell, Dorothy Clark, Jeff Pyles, and then, my wife is also outstanding.

You missed the opportunity to comment on the fun and excitement of the game. The joy of rolling the rare doubleheader, making the five-seven-ten split, bouncing the pin out of the pit to make the spare. You didn’t comment on the frustration of cutting through the center, the one-five combination, and then following through with two more balls hitting nothing. You may not know that no one has ever bowled a perfect 300 game.

As for your actual bowling experience, maybe you did no more than pose holding the ball at a bowling establishment. But it was a fun article.

Jack B. Ralph, AM’50
Silver Spring, Maryland

Picture perfect

After 30 years of medical practice, I have now joined the ranks of the permanently (and voluntarily) unemployed. As such, I now have time to enjoy more fully the University of Chicago Magazine and to return to my passion for photography.

I first embraced photography during my undergraduate years. The College had a lavishly equipped darkroom that was not in use at the time. For the cost of some chemicals and paper, I was able to create, enhance, and mount enlargements of the images that I caught all over campus and the city at large during the turbulent late ’60s.

Now, of course, the photos are digital and post-production can be done in daylight. But as my eye gets better and I have time for the Magazine, I am struck by the sensational photography of Dan Dry. His images, across so many settings and themes, are creative, artistic, informational, and a joy to look at. They complement the stories they are meant to illustrate, and sometimes they steal the show.

Keep it up, Dan!

Richard A. Sachs, AB’70
Grantham, New Hampshire

Terkel remembered

Studs Terkel has had a profound influence upon me. Not only his thought, but also his “hands-on research” methodology has impacted significantly upon my life and work.

The enclosed poem is my inadequate attempt to pay tribute to one who has been so influential and the enduring legacy he has bequeathed us all.

Daniel O. Holland, AM’65
Plover, Wisconsin


Is not demeaning...
Unless you think it is.
Of what others say,
There is no indignity
In cleaning a barn,
Digging graves,
Even writing poetry...
He taught us:
Work does not demean...
Only ennobles!

In Memoriam
Studs Terkel

Oral historian Studs Terkel, PhB’32, JD’34, died October 31 (see “Studs: A Lifetime of Listening.”). —Ed.

The University of Chicago Magazine welcomes letters about its contents or about the life of the University. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited for space and clarity. In order to provide a wide range of views and voices, we encourage letter writers to limit themselves to 300 words or less. Write: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 401 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1000, Chicago, IL 60611. Or e-mail: uchicago-magazine@uchicago.edu.

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