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Fighting satire with satire

It takes a lot of chutzpah to launch something as outrageously ridiculous as the "Chicago Enquirer" (December/98)! Yet in humor lies a grain of truth. It also takes a lot of guts to try to explain the Advanced Photon Source ("X-Ray Visions," December/98). I imagine that the APS will eventually be used to discover what causes cancer cells to multiply.

Here's a new subject for a future "Chicago Enquirer": "U of C'ers Live to Ripe Old Ages!" It's definitely not a random sample, but starting with the first person listed in the December/98 "Deaths" column, the ages are: 92, 62, 85, 85, 91, 100, 86, 85, 82, 84, 81, 79, 79, 82, 76, 90, etc., etc. Could there be something in the water? I gave my stat books away a few years ago, or I might look for some appropriate nonparametric test that would make sense of the longevity of university people, not just at the U of C. Maybe common sense says that they are smarter and take better care of themselves, therefore live longer

Keep up the good work, editors! Great job!

Melvin H. Tennis, Jr., AM'60

Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Another Chicago show-biz type

I sort of enjoyed the "Chicago Enquirer" as a part of the December issue. I'm not sure if I would like the publication on a permanent basis, but perhaps it will grow on me.

You might want to add another omitted U of C graduate who inhabited show business, namely the late Severn Darden, X'50. He was in at least two films, The President's Analyst (1967) and Fearless Frank (1967). The latter was less well known, but had a bit of charm for those of us who love the city of Chicago. Severn did a lot of colorful things, like walk around campus wearing a cape and drive around campus in an antique Rolls Royce.

For a time he had a program on Radio Midway called "The Poets' Hour." He was in at least one play in Mandel Hall. I believe he once got into Rockefeller Chapel after hours, was found out, and when finally apprehended, hollered, "Sanctuary!"

James A. Lessly, PhB'50

St. Louis

Volume I, No. 1 of the "Chicago Enquirer" was also the last "issue," so there's no need to look for us in your local checkout line.—Ed

Ageless ad man?

The December/98 issue had a brief discussion of William Benton ("Chicago Enquirer"), who was a vice president of the University and friend of Robert Maynard Hutchins. For those who want to know more about William Benton and the times during which he lived, you can read his biography, The Lives of William Benton (Chicago, 1969), by Sidney Hyman. I stumbled across this book at a book sale in a small-town library when traveling in Colorado several years ago. I have read it a few times, and think other alumni might find it of interest.

Stephen E. Woodbury, AB'79

Salem, New Hampshire

Making the O. J. connection

In your latest issue, you note with apparent regret the lack of a Chicago connection to the O. J. Simpson trial ("Chicago Enquirer"). I bring good news.

During the trial defense attorney Peter Neufeld cited the statistical work of Northwestern professor Sandy Zabell during his cross examination of expert witness for the prosecution Bruce Weir. Sandy spent a year or two early in his career as an instructor in the statistics department at the U of C. As a graduate student in the math department, I attended a weekly seminar in his office in the basement of Eckhart Hall.

Recently I learned that Sandy graduated from New York's Stuyvesant High School, as did I some years later. Sandy was active there on the chess and debate teams, and the captain of the debate team his senior year was future presidential adviser Dick Morris.

Arthur Rothstein, SM'74, PhD'79

San Francisco

Tasteless of Chicago

The item on Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber ("Chicago Enquirer"), specifies "born in the U of C's Wyler Hospital." Poor taste!

This is the only time I have seen fit to so accuse the University of Chicago Magazine.

Ralph K. Meister, SB'38, PhD'51

Aurora, Illinois

Not-ready-for-mainstream editors

To the fact-checker of the Verner Suomi news item ("Chicago Enquirer"): Who the heck is Al Roper? Do you mean Al Roker?

I did love all of the bits of trivia about U of C's history.

Scott C. Schweighauser, MBA'89

Glencoe, Illinois

Yes, we meant Al Roker, of NBC's Today show.—Ed.

Getting Chicago right

I thoroughly enjoyed the "Chicago Enquirer" in the December Magazine. It's encouraging to see the Magazine tracing the steps that connect the ivory towers—or in this case limestone arches—of Chicago to mainstream and mass culture. Too often, the University is solely associated with all that is best and brightest in the academic world.

What helps to add spice to the rigors of academe are Chicago's connections to pop culture and other elements that are not considered part of the academic canon. The disparate worlds merge into one exciting place.

As a film and television junkie (though I keep my critical faculties intact and in play), I especially liked the breakdown of Chicago scene-stealers from film and television. The best mass media cultural references to the University of Chicago show the University for what it is. By that criterion, My Best Friend's Wedding misses the mark: Kimmy, the College third-year and Julia Roberts' nemesis in the film, is majoring in architecture! In contrast, the ABC series Cupid, which filmed a significant portion of its second episode on the quads, showed the University for what it is—a place of higher learning with faculty (sometimes a bit nerdy, sometimes a bit socially inept, but always human) dedicated to teaching their students. The only thing about the Cupid episode that wasn't true to life was the transformation of the C-Shop from a student coffee shop to a faculty lunch room. Still, it was a small price to pay for a realistic and loyal portrayal of our alma mater.

Again, thanks for showing Chicago's lighter side. Every once in a while we're fortunate enough to realize that our education comes from a place that has seen both the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction and the birth of Second City.

Julia Dumarier, AB'93

Rock Island, Illinois

A topic worth teaching

The article on the human-rights course taught by Jacqueline Bhabha ("Course Work," December/98) was a welcome sight. So much of the "bragging rights" stuff offered in the Magazine glorifies a system of education and development that ignores and even perpetuates the Average World Citizen—she's destitute and lives in the underdeveloped (Third) world. I wonder if subsequent course offerings will come from our world-famous economics and business professors on the tie-in between human-rights abuses, the banana-republic elites, and the capitalist world system.

I work for a ministry that annually raises millions of dollars for the poor in the Caribbean and Latin America. While Americans can be very generous, many of us do not like to hear that the source of our abundance (and therefore our generosity) is the same economic source of Third World poverty, inequality, oppression, and violence. Any course that gets that across is at the top of the class. Bravo, Professor Bhabha!

William R. Beers, PhD'89

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Light-weight description

I very much enjoy your magazine, even though I can't say that I enjoyed my time at the U of C's Graduate Library School in 1964–66. Still, I enjoy reading about creative efforts under way at the University, one of the hallmarks of the institution.

However, on page 8, in the article describing the class "Contemporary Issues in Human Rights," the following description of Jacqueline Bhabha, teacher of the course, appears: "In dark pantsuit, bright sweater, and pearls, she looks like a slender Hillary Clinton."

I find that description possibly insulting to Hillary Clinton, and would appreciate it if in the future you would discourage such descriptions. Hillary Clinton looks fine, and slender, to me!

Robert G. Cheshier, X'64

Cleveland Heights, Ohio

A book with global impact

The article about Saskia Sassen ("Investigations," December/98) is so important. I am grateful to you for publishing it.

Sassen's work puts us on alert that expanding globalization is not just something that grows of itself, but rather has been created by industries and governments, and will have "devastating consequences for the poor, and also for large sectors of the middle class."

And she is writing a book for 2000 to wrestle with "how we govern the global economy and introduce some accountability into the system." Let's look for her book!

Mary Walter Woodrich, AB'38

Chagrin Falls, Ohio

He mourns, and yet shall mourn

The University's new master plan ("Chicago Journal," August/98) would demolish Whitman Laboratory to build an interdisciplinary research institute. This institute is a worthy goal but it would be a pity to destroy Whitman, a noteworthy building. While not in Gothic style, it is by Coolidge and Hodgdon, who created many fine buildings for the University—including the splendid Bond Chapel. Whitman Lab was the gift of biologist Frank Lillie and his wife in tribute to Lillie's mentor, the distinguished biologist Charles O. Whitman.

Chicago is highly unusual among century-old universities in never having demolished a notable or "permanent" campus building, as may be seen from the list in Jean Block's The Uses of Gothic (the old Stagg Field wasn't strictly a building). It would be a shame to set this new precedent. But if Whitman must go, perhaps pieces of the facade such as the rooster above the front door could be preserved in the new institute. That would be in the spirit of the University's policy toward the Common Core—having demolished the core, they retain bits and pieces as decorative memorabilia.

Robert C. Michaelson, SB'66, AM'73

Evanston, Illinois

The College's brand equity

This letter is offered as commentary to the article in the December 28, 1998, New York Times, regarding the current debate over the College's core curriculum (For a synopsis of the NYT article, as well as a flurry of publicity, see "The College in the News," page VI of the "College Report."—Ed.)

As vice president of marketing for a company, my task is to build a "name" for the firm. Conveying our internal culture to the masses, building a "brand" to create demand for our product, is a task that has given me great respect for high-quality "brands" that already exist.

The University's "brand"—all of the things that it stands for and its cumulative history—is incredibly valuable. An understanding of this brand, of the school's place in the academic world, exists worldwide—pervasive enough, in fact, that the current debate over softening the College's core curriculum is front-page news in the world's finest newspaper.

With such standing, with the power of its rich history, I am highly disheartened that the University has done such a poor job of meeting its recruitment goals. I contend that this is a marketing problem—a failure to understand the value of the school's unique identity and harness its power. Our beloved University offers students an education second to none in the United States by a world-renowned faculty, in a beautiful and vibrant city. Above all things in importance is the quality of the education. Rigor = Quality. It's tough here. Tough, but worth it. Students are not "trained" at the University of Chicago, they are "taught." Students enter, thinkers emerge. We all know these things to be true. But why haven't they been enough to maintain enrollment needs?

The problem is not the core curriculum. The problem is that the "value" of a Chicago education has not been properly marketed and the quality-of-student-life problem has not been adequately addressed. Life is difficult at Chicago because rigor comes without adequate support. Only recently has there been proper focus given to the career placement office, the student center, and sports/recreation facilities. But what about the guidance office? What about student government? What about psychological counseling? Is the amazing city of Chicago and all that it offers truly available to the University of Chicago student? In a city of innumerable options, do students feel that their school is helping them to take full advantage of what the city offers?

It is difficult to imagine the attractive power of the country's best education, of the ability to succumb to the life of the mind, knowing that there is an integral and accessible network of comfort, support, and activity. Children of alumni are attending in fewer numbers than at peer institutions because of quality-of-life issues, not quality-of-education issues. Ask any graduate of the College whether she or he would trade her or his U of C education for a diploma from Harvard. Just how many trades do you think would take place? Our graduates are a skeptical bunch, however, and they depart campus with fewer shackles than their Ivy counterparts. They do not want to contribute to a University in decline, but would line up to contribute to a school on the rise! One that has grappled with its shortcomings, understood its strengths, and proved it could change and continue to lead the way. We don't want to hear the University is in danger of falling apart. We want to hear about what it has done for the very first time and what it has done right. We want our alma mater to be continually proactive, rather than reluctantly reactive.

The argument exists that the College will always remain rigorous, regardless of changes made to the core. Personally, I and many others see no guarantee of this. Changing the core means tinkering with the brand. It means risking the reputation. It means, quite possibly, squandering the University's most valuable asset. This would be shameful.The only change to the core I fully support is an exchange of required quarters for study abroad. The value of such study is clearly evident, and access to such programs is a highly effective quality-of-life recruitment tool.

The problem of money is a problem of marketing. There are ample qualified applicants. They and their parents want the highest-quality education and are willing to pay for it. They just don't want to feel buried and alone. They want to be able to experience and learn about life as they learn about the history of Western civilization.

Rather than simply spout off, I hereby volunteer my own time and energy to assist the University with its marketing efforts and its student-life changes. I also pledge to invest a great deal more of my hard-earned money as the College seeks to solve its problems. Finally, I seek the support of others who feel as I do, who offer skills or resources the school can use, and who would like to be part of Chicago's history in a period of ascendancy, rather than a bystander during its time of decline.

Thomas K. Franklin, AB'86

Cliffside Park, New Jersey

Joys in the attic

Thank you so much for printing my plea in the October/98 Magazine. You were my last hope, and I'm glad to report that I now have a copy of the Autumn/75 Magazine in mint condition—and under lock and key! Since the October issue, I've heard from several gracious people. Some were willing to make me a copy from their originals. Others thought they might have a copy and would look around. Then it turned out they didn't. One wonderful Class of '53 alumna in Baltimore had saved all the magazines since her graduation and, incredibly, was willing to part with this one. But I couldn't possibly have taken it from her.

I was beginning—more than beginning—to lose hope. Then, a few days ago, there it was! Just sitting in my mailbox among all the catalogs! It could have been the Star in the East! Enclosed was a note from Michael Wireman, AB'65, AM'66, of Parksley, Virginia, saying he was glad I wanted it, as it was probably destined for the recycle bin. So I don't even have to feel guilt.

I loved the Magazine before, but it's now my all-time-favorite periodical.

Mary Jane Kunnath

Homewood, Illinois

WHPK wants your memories…

The University's student-run campus radio station, WHPK, is embarking on a project tracing the history of the station back to its inception in 1946. We are looking for historical accounts, anecdotes, photographs, or anything else that might throw light on the history of student radio at the University. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive history of the station that is both helpful to future station members and interesting in its own right.

We ask that alumni with any sort of previous involvement at the station contact us. Please direct your responses to: WHPK, 5706 S. University Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637. You may also contact us by phone (773/702-8289) or by e-mail ( We look forward to hearing from you soon!

The WHPK History Project Committee


To find out more about WHPK, readers can check out its Web site: .—Ed.

…and so does Doc

This is a plea to Doc Films alumni and audiences: I'm a fourth-year in the College who is beginning to put together a history of the Documentary Film Group at the University of Chicago. I would be very interested in speaking to people who were involved in Doc Films, simply attended film showings, or could speak to me about the cultural atmosphere on campus in the 1940s, 1950s, or early 1960s. If you are interested in sharing your stories and impressions for the sake of posterity, please contact me at: 773/363-3376 or via e-mail at

Eleanor Chiari, '99


…but the Discmonsters want you

If you played on the University's Ultimate Frisbee team, known as the Discmonsters of the Midway, a group of alumni are organizing a reunion team for the Poultry Days tournament in Versailles, Ohio, June 12 and 13. If you are a Discmonster alumna or alumnus and are interested in playing, please contact Liz Schmidt at

Liz A. Schmidt, AB'94

Washington, D.C.

The Magazine invites letters on its contents or on topics related to the University. Letters must be signed and may be edited. Write: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 1313 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail:

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