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Enter the debunking article

Say it is so, Joe
When I worked at a museum, curatorial staff members were always telling stories. They particularly liked to tell the one about the “lost office.” Over the main entrance there was an office occupied by the director, but at some point the museum decided to brick it up. I’m pretty sure the director was allowed to leave first, but, museum politics being what they are, you never know.
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IMAGE:  August 04 issueSailing into the mythic
I greatly enjoyed the article on campus myths, especially the discussion of Ida Noyes Hall. I must confess to having done my part in spreading the story about the poor girl’s suicide (or murder) and the absence of sorority houses, although to my slight credit I believe that I usually said that the tale might be apocryphal.
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As to a swimming requirement, there was none in force when I dropped out of the University in 1952 to enter the Navy’s aviation flight training at Pensacola, Florida. The best that I could do was a few yards of dog-paddling, and thus, during the 16 weeks of rigorous preflight indoctrination, I was sent to the “sub-swim” class for two hours every day. After I learned to relax and to take advantage of one’s natural ability to float I emerged with a Triple A qualification card, not at Olympic level, but able to save my life if necessary.

The program involved a lot of physical conditioning and, although a rather unimpressive athlete, I was able to perform at a level sufficient to remain inconspicuous, or so I thought. One event was a three-mile run. Long-distance running was something at which I was average, and, although it was a typical Florida summer day with the temperature in the high 90s, I was able to trot along over the rolling terrain without much difficulty. At one point, however, as I came up over a grassy knoll I saw a group of fellow cadets standing under a tree and encircling the supine form of my totally exhausted friend from the South Side of Chicago, Jack. I arrived just in time to hear our tough-as-nails, cigar-chewing coach, Commander Weed, ask Jack, “What college did you go to, son?”

“Roosevelt College, Sir,” Jack replied in a barely audible voice.

Weed then turned to the assembled group and said, “Men, you just heard this cadet say that he attended Roosevelt College. That is a school that is under the influence of Robert Maynard Hutchins. You know, he is the man who said, ‘When I get the urge to exercise I lie down until the urge passes.’ [This, too, is a myth; sorry.—Ed.] I am surprised that we have no one here who is from the University of Chicago. Then you would really see a puny specimen of manhood.”

Needless to say, I spent the rest of training in mortal fear that the commander, in reviewing our personnel folders, would somehow learn I was from the U of C. Fortunately, my dark secret never became known and I survived without further incident.

Benjamin King, AB’58, MBA’60, PhD’64
Delray Beach, Florida

Fermi: up close and too personal?
Re: “Myth Information” and “Are Fermi’s notes radioactive?” I can contribute a nonmythic memory: in pathology class we examined slides of Enrico Fermi’s stomach cancer. No one considered that they might be radioactive, however.

Arnold Knepfer, MD’58
Corte Madera, California

Wrong on three counts
Legends delight those associated with institutions old enough to have begotten them, but getting the stories straight is, as Mr. Liss allows in “Myth Information,” a challenge. For instance, he refers to the 1915 Ida Noyes pool as the University’s first. Actually, it was preceded by the pool in Bartlett, a building dedicated in 1904. It is reported that Bartlett was built in anticipation of being a venue for the 1904 Olympics, but it lost out when St. Louis snatched the games from the city of Chicago.
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More on the presidents’ ashes
The quotation—“HIC IACET PRAESIDUM SUORUMQUE CINERES”—seems to lack an N in the second word (i.e., “IACENT”). Even then, the printed translation is odd, as the meaning of these words in American is “here lie the ashes of the presidents and their families.” The translation “the presidents and their ashes” is a logical mistake, but its meaning is puzzling; in what state but ash do we have the presidents?
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Begging to raise the issue
My enjoyment of Joseph N. Liss’s otherwise fine article on campus myths was marred by the author’s misuse, in the final sentence, of the phrase “beg the question.” This sentence reads, in full, “[S]uch tales beg the question: what might students say about Max Palevsky Commons in 40 years?” Mr. Liss uses the offending phrase incorrectly to mean “raises the question.”
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No sentiment, just news
Rick Perlstein’s discussion of sentimentality as a substitute for analysis in the news (“If Journalists Listened to Media Scholars…,” August/04) is on target. I want to puke when the local as well as national TV reporters stick a microphone into the face of five- or seven-year-old children and ask them what they think about some event, usually a crime or tragedy. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. I don’t even care what the adult neighbors think.

Werner Zimmt, PhB’47, SB’47, SM’49, PhD’51
Tucson, Arizona

Reviving dormant memories
I enjoyed A. Gray Fischer’s remembrance of Woodward Court (“Requiem for a Dorm,” August/04). My own remembrance is from 1964–66, when I was an assistant resident head in East House. East was a men-only dormitory; North and West Houses were women only.
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A tree grows near Woodward
Is the leaning tree still there? When I was a student in the Divinity School, we lived and worked as resident heads in Upper Fisher, one of the six houses in Woodward Court. We moved into the dorm when our oldest son, now a junior in high school, was only 14 months old. We believe that Kyle helped us land that lucrative job. We were told the housing office wanted a “family presence” in the dorms.
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Milking the market
You cite economist Allen Sanderson (“By the Numbers,” August/04) in claiming that students value their time at only $3/hour when they wait in line for a milkshake. I think your judgment has malted. The students could value the milkshakes at $50, rather than the $1 selling price, and the vendor could merely be vastly underpricing the shakes relative to demand, as evidenced by the lines. Also, you’re assuming the time spent in line has negative, or at least no, value. It might well be part of the fun. Delaying study might be priceless.
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Chapel of philanthropy
The reply made by Rockefeller Chapel Dean Alison Boden to the letter written by Denis Cowan, AM’42, PhD’60, both published in the August/04 issue, was most restrained and polite, as befits her position. However, as a volunteer fund-raiser for the College for the past 39 years, as well as a modest donor to the College and the Biological Sciences Division, I would like to comment further on Mr. Cowan’s remarks.
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Letter by letter
As an avid letters-to-the-editor reader of my alumni magazines from both the University of Chicago and Harvard, I decided to compare the two groups of letter writers and the contents of the letters in the two most recent magazines (Chicago’s August/04 issue, Harvard’s September/04 number).
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Old videos for new archive?
As a rising second year in the College, I’ve been working over the past year on a project that may interest and excite alumni of the University. The RSO Media Project hopes to consolidate films made by registered student organizations, otherwise known as RSOs, into a single RSO Media Library, where students, alumni, and faculty may explore our shared history. Over the past week, for example, a few members of a student filmmaking group and I sifted through reels of forgotten celluloid, discovering student videos dating to 1956, with titles like One Man Dies and Escape from Hyde Park.
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The University of Chicago Magazine welcomes letters. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited for space and clarity. In order to provide a range of views, we encourage writers to limit themselves to 300 words or less. Write: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 5801 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637. Or e-mail:



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