The University of Chicago Magazine April 1996
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Class scribe citation

Excellent feature on Sherry Ortner, AM'66, PhD'70, and her research ("The Long Way Home," February/96). However, a complete reference might be in order for Ortner's paper "Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?," particularly if it is "considered required reading among anthropologists." Mr. Levine gives a first-published date as 1975, but the correct references are 1972 (Feminist Studies, 1:5-31) and 1974 (in Women, Culture and Society; M. Z. Rosaldo and L. L. Lamphere, eds.; Stanford University Press; pp. 67-88).

Donald McVicker, AB'55, AM'62, PhD'69
Brookfield, Illinois

Born at the U of C

How could you? A reprise of Chicago Nobelists in economics ("Chicago Journal," December/95) that omits Paul Samuelson?

Samuelson, AB'35, was for years the best known of Chicago's Nobel Prize winners in economics, doubling as a journalist with great facility. His college textbook on economics may be the most used in the world, having been widely translated.

Why would you limit the Nobelists in economics to those who won while on the faculty? Samuelson's base was MIT. But when he returned to the University to acknowledge the honor of the Nobel Prize, his first sentence, as I recall, was, "I was born at the University of Chicago." Which is how many of us feel; Samuelson said it for us.

Simon Bourgin, AB'36
Washington, D.C.

As Mr. Bourgin notes, the Magazine's story on Robert Lucas winning the 1995 Nobel limited its mention of Chicago Nobelists in economics to those honored while on the faculty; in all, 18 persons with Chicago "connections" have earned that particular prize.--Ed.

Still dancin' after all these years

The photo on page 13 of the February/96 issue--of students enrolled in Beginning Ballroom Dancing--took me back in time with a vengeance. In September 1939, as a freshman, I learned that there were football dances and proms for which I was not prepared. Fortunately, I also learned of dancing classes in Ida Noyes. I enrolled and was taught by a women's gym instructor who urged us to stand exactly as the students are doing in the photo. We learned to fox trot, waltz, and tango.

My "final exam" was at the home of classmate Monroe Fein, AB'43. On hearing my story of the class, his mother, a former Arthur Murray dance instructor, insisted that I dance with her. She complimented me on my "social-dance position" and told me that I danced very well.

With the confidence and skill I acquired at the classes, I made dates for and attended with great pleasure every dance on the calendar.

Although we know that some things never change, it is almost unbelievable, given the changes in popular music and dance styles, that-more than half a century later-undergraduates at the University of Chicago are still learning the same dances in the same place.

Lawrence M. Seiver, AB'43
Orinda, California

Harold L. Hitchens, AB'35, AM'36, PhD'59, also wrote to say that he and his wife of 54 years, Marilyn Buck Hitchens, X'42, met in a U of C ballroom-dancing class, held in a gymnasium in 1939, while Vernon R. Wiehe, AM'61, recalled taking his first ballroom dancing class as a U of C grad student.--Ed.

Chicago fun-damentals

Bob Levey's quixotic piece on having "fun" at the University without subverting its fundamental character ("Are We Having Fun Yet?,"February/96) reminded me of several efforts to that end that were tried without success in the Hutchins era.

On one occasion during my time as dean of the College, I proposed that the College consider opening a Spanish-language "variant" in an unsuccessful, pink-colored hotel that was up for sale in Cuernavaca. But I made the tactical mistake of offering to send Mr. Hutchins pictures of the proposed locale. "Don't send me the pictures," he responded. "They would only appeal to my carnal nature."

Undaunted, I proposed on another occasion that the College and Johns Hopkins imitate Oxford and Cambridge by playing home-and-home intercollegiate matches at the end of the intramural season. Again, no success. Instead, Mr. Hutchins suggested that the matches be debates on such subjects as the atomic bomb, adding that those students who might wish to play football "might adjourn for the purpose, and others could go boating or take in a Hopalong Cassidy movie."

Even after Mr. Hutchins had left the University, I encountered the same distrust of comfortable surroundings in the Board of Trustees, when the College came within hours of opening a branch in Aspen. The announcements were already at the Faculty Exchange when Messrs. Kimpton and Bell suddenly remembered that they had forgotten to tell the board. That body, on a particularly nasty day in Chicago, sternly directed the College administration to unlace its ski boots and get back to the Midway where there was real work to be done.

I was finally convinced that a Chicago dean can never be relieved of his hair shirt when I had my appendix removed at Billings, and the surgeon assigned to this task proved to be a grandson of William Rainey Harper who bore a striking resemblance to his forebear. As it happened, when I emerged from the anesthetic my surgeon's face was the first I saw, and it seemed entirely appropriate that a Chicago dean, immediately upon his decease, should be received by the University's Founder, poised to ask the awful and inevitable question, "What did you do for the University?"

F. Champion Ward
North Branford, Connecticut

Blinded by the fun

Bob Levey's article exposes the extent to which older alumni are out of touch with recent University developments. The New York City alumnus who threatened to cancel his yearly donations unless seriousness returned has obviously not set foot in the Administration Building in some time.

It is actually no shock that the shades of former college administrators such as Harper and Hutchins have yet to strike dead anyone on campus: The Administration has long since replaced them with venetian blinds. The shades were found to be unreliable and would frequently roll up without warning, resulting in several embarrassing moments and not a few lawsuits. The new blinds, while lowering administrative anxiety, have decreased productivity on the Dean Assembly Line, where deans in gray frocks and hairnets stand in line, systematically filling in the proper forms. The deans, it seems, have of late been stealing away from their posts to bask in the rays of Sonnenschein that peek through the slats in the early afternoon.

Rather than canceling his yearly donations, the New York City alumnus should direct them to the Dean Furnishings and Accoutrements Fund (D-FAF), in the hopes of addressing this problem head on. With any luck, seriousness will not only be reintroduced, it will invite itself over to a nice dinner and drinks after.

Joseph Bates, AB'89
Buffalo, New York
Bruce Geryk, AB'90
Waterford, Michigan

Pouring it on

It had to happen. Until now, the capitalism extant on the U of C campus was just as bookish, and theoretical, as the Marxism.

This situation could not be allowed to continue on the home turf of our Nobel-winning, free enterprise-positive economics team. The team's theory has now been put into practice; distribution of a good essential to the functioning of the University has been taken out of the not-always-revenue-maximizing University hands and turned over to the profit-conscious corporate sector.

Thus, Starbucks at the U of C.

But whatever the resulting economic benefits to the University--or to society at large--of this move, it is to be regretted that under the Starbucks aegis, today's latte- and cappuccino-fueled student body will be deprived of one of my own most stimulating U of C experiences: the Cobb Hall Coffee Shop. Styrofoam cups of watery Maxwell House infused with sweet, gritty Cremora. The keen aroma of carafes boiling dry on hot plates, while the student attendants intently perused their Plato. There, in Cobb's dank, poorly furnished basement, I discovered the one thing truly indispensable for living a productive life of the mind: Caffeine.

Starbucks' foamy milk and fancy flavors are simply clutter that, I suspect, interfere with the kind of sharp-minded analysis for which U of C denizens are justly famed.

After reading Bob Levey's account of the tactics of the University's growing No-Fun Front, I'd suggest that if the few remaining anti-corporatists on campus are interested in routing the Starbucks beast, they should take their cue from the No-Funners. The first step: some studies to prove what seems to me an eminently plausible hypothesis--the quality of a university's coffee is directly, but inversely, related to the quality of its scholarship.

That should rouse the masses. Will it shake up the Nobel team's views?

Jo Ann Kawell, AB'78
Berkeley, California

Attesting to the power of micro-markets, the Barnes & Noble Starbucks is no longer the New Caf on Campus--that honor currently goes to the Smart Caf, housed in the eponymous art museum. And the brewer's dozen of caffeinated competitors, Ms. Kawell will no doubt be relieved to know, continues to include the still-dank Cobb Hall Coffee Shop.--Ed.

Geography by the numbers

I was pleased to read in the February/96 issue of the Magazine the letter from Adena Schutzberg, AB'86, who wrote: "It...saddens me that there is no longer a full geography department at the University of Chicago." I certainly agree, but then I undoubtedly am a prejudiced observer. It is especially sad given the remarkable vitality of geography nationally. Membership in the Association of American Geographers has more than doubled since I was president some 25 years ago. Last year, the National Geographic Society, in collaboration with the AAG and the National Council on Geographic Education, published the massive report Geography for Life: National Geography Standards, which already is having a marked stimulating effect on the teaching of geography in secondary schools and in colleges. It also is sad that the University acted as it did when the Department of Geography was the first such department in a major American university when established in, I think, 1903.

Be that as it may, the editorial comment that followed Schutzberg's letter was somewhat off the mark. It's true that the 1986 department had suffered the loss of some faculty through retirement and resignation. I myself had just resigned at age 65, the long-standing retirement age at the University. Had the University wished, replacement faculty of a high order of quality could have been appointed.

The editorial comment is off the mark, however, when it spoke of "a declining number of positions available for its graduates." That simply was not the case. To be sure, budgetary constraints in academia nationally had some effect on geography as well as the other social sciences, but geography graduates always had other options than academic appointments. The federal government is a major employer of geographers. Students of mine hold offices in AID, the State Department, the Department of the Interior, and pardon the expression, the various intelligence agencies, including the CIA. Others have been employed by urban and regional-planning agencies and by environmental bodies. No problem there.

Norton Ginsburg, AB'41, AM'47, PhD'49
Professor Emeritus of Geography

Mr. Ginsburg is correct: Job opportunities have not declined for geographers, nor were they a factor in the decision to replace the department with the Committee on Geographical Studies. The Magazine regrets its error.--Ed.

Geography's on top of the world

New English and history Ph.D.s have a tougher time than geographers, yet I don't see the University rushing to eliminate those departments. Academic geography is not only alive and kicking, it is off and running, with the setting of geography standards one of the highest educational priorities of the U.S. government.

In order to get rid of geography at institutions such as Chicago and the University of Michigan, some have argued that geography is irrelevant; nothing could be further from the truth. Geography is one of the few disciplines with a long and fruitful history in such "hot" fields as environmental science, information systems, and industrial restructuring, among others. The loss of geography as a department at Chicago came more from lack of political clout in the face of academic hardball than from rational or enlightened thought.

It pays to look at the two most recent National Science Foundation rankings of top research universities by discipline. Geography at Chicago, in the earlier ranking, did not even make it onto the survey this time because it is not considered a major player. By removing departmental status from geography, the University squandered the reputation and indeed the substance of the oldest and most esteemed department in the nation. While the remaining instructors and recent Ph.D.s are known worldwide in their fields, it is no wonder that most of the country's best geography professors and students now refuse to consider Chicago--a self-fulfilling prophecy for declining numbers.

George Edward Clark, AM'89
Worcester, Massachusetts

Medical magician

In the February/96 issue, you featured "Joseph Kirsner at 86: This Doctor's Work Is Never Done." I recognized immediately the erudite and warm face of Dr. Kirsner. From my very first months as a third-year medical student in gastrointestinal medicine, his acceptance of our initially fumbling patient presentations on morning rounds, and his softly uttered suggestions for improvement helped dissipate a lot of the stomach flurries that all of us had, as we just started to learn the magic that made (student) doctor-(real) patient relationships as meaningful and enjoyable as we had forever imagined. The magic couldn't be lectured about, it simply required true magicians like Joseph Kirsner, whom we learned to watch very closely, to listen to very closely, and to try to imitate.

To all the well-deserved honors discussed in the article, along with his distinguished contributions to gastroenterology, let me add only what I hope Dr. Kirsner already knows and savors--the satisfactions which come from directly and indirectly helping so many novice clinicians to learn the real prize in medicine--the ability to listen carefully to each patient's different story.

Lee Frank, MD'72

No Blue Gargoyle without you

While there have been--and are--many student organizations at the University dedicated to community service, the Blue Gargoyle Youth Service Center is unique. This United Way agency and Department of Children and Family Services-licensed agency was founded by U of C students in 1968, is staffed by U of C alumni, and trains U of C volunteers as tutors and mentors for adults and children.

Some alumni may remember the Blue Gargoyle as a coffeehouse in the late 1960s and early 1970s, or as a vegetarian caf in the mid- and late 1970s. Others may have volunteered there more recently. Over the years, the Blue Gargoyle has evolved into a full-fledged social-service agency, providing tutoring for schoolchildren, adult literacy classes, family counseling, GED preparation, job training, and employment placement. Thousands of South Side residents have gained meaningful skills through the Blue Gargoyle Youth Service Center.

We encourage all alumni to help with the work of the Blue Gargoyle. Many of our programs are volunteer-based, and we ask local alumni who can spare two to three hours a week to stop by and sign up as a volunteer tutor. To find out about other ways you can help our work, call us at 312/955-4108, or write to us at 5655 South University Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637.

Barbara G. Cramer, AM'61
Executive Director
William Burns, AB'95
Student Volunteer Bureau Coordinator
The Blue Gargoyle

The Magazine invites letters on its contents or on topics related to the University. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited for length and/or clarity. To ensure the widest range of voices, preference is given to letters of fewer than 300 words. Write: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 5757 Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail:

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