The University of Chicago Magazine October 1995
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The Magazine invites letters on the contents of the magazine or on topics related to the University. Letters for publication, which must be signed, may be edited for length and/or clarity. To ensure the widest range of voices, preference is given to letters of no more than 300 words. Address letters to: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 5757 Woodlawn Ave., Chicago, IL 60637. The Internet address is:

Chicago Blues: The story continues.

Swedish blues

As a colleague (university magazine editor), I was happy to stumble upon your World Wide Web site [at -Ed.] I liked your August magazine a lot, especially the feature "Shooting the Blues." As a Chicago blues fan (and also a musician-I have toured in Sweden with Theresa's regular Lefty Dizz), I really enjoyed the great photos.

Bo Carlsson

University of Karlstad, Sweden

Color-blind blues

In your August article "Shooting the Blues," you characterized the Paul Butterfield Blues Band as popularizers of the blues among "mostly white audiences." The implication is that because there were white players in Butterfield's band, somehow they were guilty of producing "watered-down" blues.

It's true that a lot of British Invasion bands in the Sixties made some pretty lame imitations of the music, but the Butterfield Band took on electric Chicago blues with all the grit, power, and passion of the classic ghetto bandstand kings. And it's no crime that the group took its main inspiration from Muddy Waters-so did a lot of other South Side bluesmen, regardless of color. But Butterfield did more than imitate; his band made some original contributions to the blues repertoire. Their experiments with non-western and jazz influences weren't always successful, but their willingness to push boundaries and accommodate diverse musical influences were profound and positive influences on some of the best music of the times.

That the Chicago blues scene has become "known worldwide," as your article asserts, has more than a little to do with Paul Butterfield's band. As B.B. King once said of the group's influence, "It opened some doors for us that seemed like they were never going to open."

Jonathan B. Finder

Los Angeles

Legendary blues

In case you're interested in reading more about the Chicago blues scene and its U of C connection, Nick Gravenites-a minor Chicago blues legend-has written a bluesy memoir of his U of C days in the magazine Blues Revue (issue no. 19, September/October 1995).

Donald C. Dowling, Jr., AB'82


According to Blues Revue editor Andrew Robble, Gravenites, X'60, is writing a series of columns for the magazine about his life in the '60s blues scene-including his associations with Paul But- terfield, Mike Bloomfield, the Electric Flag, and Janis Joplin. An extended article by Gravenites on Butterfield will appear in the February/March edition. Gravenites' latest recording is Nick Gravenites and Animal Mind-Don't Feed the Animals, available on Waddling Dog Records.

Robble noted that another U of C alumnus-Mark Naftalin, AB'64-will soon add his byline to the magazine. Naftalin, who played piano in the Butterfield Band, is still active in California's music scene as both a producer and recording artist. (Subscriptions to Blues Revue are available by calling 304/782-1971, or writing Blues Revue, Route 2, Box 118, West Union, WV 26456.)-Ed.

Lax Latin

An unspeakable and inexcusable grammatical abomination [the writer is referring to the Reunion banner in the August/95 "Chicago Journal" proclaiming "Emeritus Alumni"-Ed.]. Photographically advertised to the whole of academe. For shame! For shame!

J. Periam Danton, PhD'35

Oakland, California

James E. Powell, AM'49, also spotted the grammatical error in "emeritus alumni." ("Guess who never put foot in Classics?" he wryly noted.) With a sigh of "Errare humanum est," the Alumni Association promises that next's year banner-carried by alumni emeriti during the Reunion cavalcade-will receive a thorough copyedit.-Ed.

The minister's gang

Thank you for your article on Professor Irving Spergel's comprehensive approach to gang violence ("Investigations," August/95).

According to the December 1, 1958, edition of Presbyterian Life (and to the sources of Leonard Rust, DB'62), another comprehensive approach had even greater success. In the 1950s, Ben Moring, a Presbyterian minister, formed a gang in Harlem to prevent juvenile delinquents and others from joining criminal gangs. He figured that kids join gangs for protection and status, and he could give them that, plus values.

About 75 young men joined. Moring taught jiujitsu every day until the members were experts. That gave protection. He established military ranks, which gave status. He taught values, such as no stealing, carrying weapons, or using dope.

The other members were occasionally attacked by member of other gangs and won so often that the attacks diminished. Then they issued a challenge to all gangs in New York to fight-oh, yes, no weapons. No gang accepted the challenge. Then the minister's gang had the status of being the toughest gang in New York.

In the three years of the gang's existence before Moring went on to other things, only five crimes were discovered to have been committed by members of his gang. That's a high record for many groups of citizens, let alone gangs.

Richard Wendell Fogg, AM'60


Fogg is director of the Center for the Study of Conflict in Baltimore.-Ed.

True source

For all your readers who wrote expressing pain regarding Tim Andrew Obermiller's article "Comp Time" (June/95), I propose a truly great read worthy of the Chicago I knew: Robert Maynard Hutchins: A Memoir, by Milton Mayer (University of California Press, 1993). Edited by John H. Hicks, the book includes a foreword by Studs Terkel, PhB'32, JD'34.

Irving Scott, AB'47

Marina Del Rey, California

A fair test

In your August/95 "Letters" section, George Hilton, AM'50, PhD'56, complains that the comps were given to students who, until taking them, had "no objective indication...of how well [they were] doing."

He seems to have forgotten the quarterly exams. These were optional, had no bearing on the final grade, and were given precisely to provide that feedback.

I agree with Donat Wentzel, AB'54, SB'55, SM'56, PhD'60, whose letter in the same issue states that the multiple-choice exam was a taxing and fair test of knowledge acquired. The formidible Leo Nedelsky wrote the exams during my sojourn in the College and showed me the sophistication possible with multiple choice. He was also a master of the Socratic style in classroom instruction. And he was a writer of lucid simplicity, as I found out when his contributions arrived for inclusion in the first edition of the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, which I helped prepare for publication in 1960.

Stuart Boynton, AB'49

New York City

A comprehensive overview

As someone who both endured and and inflicted the College's legendary comprehensive examinations, I would like to correct some impressions conveyed in "Comp Time."

The comp system was not, as the article implies, dismantled after Hutchins resigned in 1951, but continued through most of that decade. In the first flush of the enthusiasm for "objective" multiple-choice questions, the early exams did indeed minimize the role of writing, but by the late Forties, many of the 14 comps had a substantial written component.

The 1947 OII (later OMP) exam was one-third essay; Humanities I was equally divided between written and machine-scored answers; Humanities III required two two-hour essays; and the English exam consisted entirely of two three-hour essays. To insure consistency and fairness, sample essays were discussed by the staff before grading, each essay received two independent readings, and when judgments diverged significantly, a third reader came into play.

Nor were the multiple-choice items as as naively conceived and open to examsmanship as they had been initially. In our Humanities II exams, for example, each sequence of questions was constructed to sustain several plausible lines of interpretation based on common misunderstandings of the material, discriminating reasoned comprehension from mere recognition of catchwords and notions.

Before use, each of these examinations had to satisfy the critical scrutiny of a course teaching staff with diverse opinions; after, students responses were subjected to statistical and substantive analyses to detect flawed items.

At its best, the comp system produced a fair, reliable, and uniform assessment of students' understanding and competence. It shielded students from the caprice of faculty judgments and it freed faculty to concentrate on instruction. By isolating the evaluative function, it made the instructor the student's ally in the quest for knowledge. But it also perilously assigned the weight of a whole year's work to a single instrument. That liability, and the system itself, ended with the breakdown of yearlong courses around 1960.

Homer Goldberg, AB'47, AM'48, PhD'61

Setauket, New York

Homer Goldberg taught English and humanities in the College (1950-60). His byline appeared most recently in the Magazine's June/95 issue ("Other Voices")-Ed.

The bomb's beginnings

In connection with the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing we have seen a number of documentaries on the subject of the Manhattan Project. One such story opened with: "The bombing began in a little New Mexico town called Los Alamos...."

Not correct, as I recall it.

As a University student in 1951, I attended the inauguration dinner for the incoming chancellor, Lawrence Kimpton, during which Mr. Kimpton related how he came to meet his predecessor, Robert Maynard Hutchins.

Kimpton was dean of students at Stanford when he received a call to meet with Hutchins. Over lunch, Hutchins had just one question, "What do you know about physics?"

"Nothing," Kimpton responded.

"Good," said Hutchins. "You're just the man I was looking for. I want you to organize and manage something for the federal government. It's called the Manhattan Project."

None of the documentaries I have seen mentions anything about Chicago, Hutchins, or Kimpton. This is a terrible oversight. Would you please remedy this in your next issue? Thanks.

Ted Reynolds, MBA'51

Renton, Washington

This issue's "Chicago Journal" section reports on several campus events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. A seminar on interdisciplinary science is also scheduled for this month to honor the 50th anniversaries of the Fermi and Franck institutes, which continued atomic research at the University of Chicago after the war.-Ed.

Ringing phrases

Writers' Blocks" [April/95], by Jane Chapman Martin, AM'90, neglects to mention Robert Penn Warren's A Place to Come To, in which Jediah Tewksbury, late of Dugton, Alabama, studies medieval literature at Chicago in the Thirties. His mentor is one Dr. Stahlmann, a man of towering learning, who gives Jed "an image of what life could be."

Into the mouth of Dr. Stahlmann, Robert Penn Warren puts the image. Here, Stahlmann's is the "gently cadenced voice." Jediah's is the voice of the narrator:

"I dreamed," the gently cadenced voice was saying, "of a world not of the nations. Of a timeless and placeless, sunlit lawn, like that of Dante's vision, where the poets and philosophers and sages sit, and where we who are none of those things may come to make obeisance and listen. We may even, if a little grace is vouchsafed, report something of what we have heard. That others may come.

"As the Civitas Dei, for the Christian, sheds light on the cities of men, so the imperium intellectus may illuminate and quicken the world of our bewildered body and bestial members. For that was the name that to me-imperium intellectus-and there the humblest might enter, if-"

The phrase rang in my head. I was not seeing the speaker, not even now aware of what was being uttered, only vaguely aware of the rhythm, for the words that filled my head, imperium intellectus, were like the slow, commanding tones of a great bell, and on the instant, a joy suffused my being.

These are powerful words. They catch the essence, if any words could, of a vision that has animated our own institution. But ambigious, at least if you relate them to the circumstances of Dr. Stahlmann who, scant hours after speaking the words, takes his own life.

Andrew Varcoe, AB'95

Brackney, Pennsylvania

The Magazine invites letters on the contents of the magazine or on topics related to the University. Letters for publication, which must be signed, may be edited for length and/or clarity. To ensure the widest range of voices, preference is given to letters of no more than 300 words.

Address letters to: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 5757 Woodlawn Ave., Chicago, IL 60637. The Internet address is:

Alumni Relations director sought

After seven years as director of Alumni Relations and executive director of the University of Chicago Alumni Association, Jeanne Buiter, MBA'86, resigned this September to establish her own business.

Under the leadership of the Alumni Board of Governors, Buiter and her Alumni Relations staff, working with a corps of volunteers, planned and implemented a number of programs and services, including the distinguished-faculty series, alumni winter weekends, an expanded College Reunion with an Alumni College Day, and expanded clubs and travel programs, including a residential alumni college abroad.

In addition, Buiter and her staff, working with the Alumni Centennial Committee, were responsible for the successful year-long program of events around the world that marked the University's Centennial year, 1991-92. Other programs introduced during Buiter's tenure include the Student Alumni Association and the ProNet career service.

While a search for Buiter's successor is under way, Mary Ruth Yoe, editor of the University of Chicago Magazine, will serve as acting director.

Alumni wishing to nominate candidates for the directorship or to submit their own resumes should do so in writing to Randy L. Holgate, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, 5801 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637.

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