The Rest of the Story
Some readers may be aware of an article that appeared in the April 5 Wall Street Journal in which Colby was named among several colleges and universities that allegedly falsify information sent to college guidebooks. President William Cotter, who described the article as "inaccurate and unfair," responded with a letter to the editor. In it, Cotter pointed out discrepancies in the Journal's story and clarified Colby's procedures regarding guidebook submissions. The Journal printed only a portion of the letter, omitting those sections critical of the Journal's reporting. The full text of the letter is printed below. The sentences in boldface were not printed.
"Colby College is mentioned in the April 5 Wall Street Journal article as one of more than 50 colleges and universities accused of releasing false information in order to enhance their positions in the various guidebooks.
The only error attributed to Colby was a single number given to U.S. News & World Report three years ago. It was a typographical error (a hand-written figure was misinterpreted). The number was corrected the following year.
The article also says that Colby administrators have met to manipulate the data we report. This allegation is attributed to Mr. Edward Hershey, a former director of communications at Colby, who wrote a letter to the Cornell Sun last fall decrying the methodology of the U.S. News & World Report surveys. In his letter, Mr. Hershey, while not naming Colby, used the word "cheat" to describe the purpose of meetings held concerning the reporting of numbers. Subsequently, Mr. Hershey had a half-hour conversation with the Journal reporter and has told us:
"During the conversation, I indicated that U.S. News had misread a figure I wrote in the 1992 survey report and that Colby's ranking had changed as a result. I spoke of no other statistical reporting that was at variance with the facts and, indeed, indicated that Colby had regularly protested to U.S. News that we suffer because of the exaggerations of our competitors.
"I did confirm that I wrote a letter to the Cornell Sun, without mentioning any institution, and told the reporter that, since no institution was mentioned, I felt I could take some rhetorical license in making my point. In fact, I was asked a series of questions relating to Colby's reporting and specifically confirmed that, except for the single typographical error, every survey response was accurate. I told him Colby had never cheated on the numbers."
The Journal statement that meetings are held about the numbers is correct. Those responsible for gathering this data at Colby do meet, but only to be certain that all of our numbers, sent to dozens of college guides and to others, are accurately and consistently reported.
Our current director of communications gave the reporter a long interview and, a week ago, suggested that he call me, but he chose not to.
We have not and would not misrepresent Colby to publishers of college guides or to anyone else."
Different Ways of Making the Grade
Using Colby trustees,
overseers and trustees emeriti as a sample population of all Colby alumni,
President William Cotter and Alisa Masson '95 recently conducted a study to
determine whether academic and extracurricular success in high school and at
Colby were valid predictors of "success" later in life. Might their success in
college be measured to discover whether future Colby students have similar
"At Colby we are fairly satisfied that we know what characteristics in
applicants will translate into a successful Colby student and who will
contribute to a dynamic campus life," Cotter said. "But what about success
after college? Do high school patterns predict lifetime success? Are there
significant patterns of college activity and behavior that foretell
One of the most striking findings of the survey, which received 86 completed
responses out of 96 mailed questionnaires, was that the average GPA of the
respondents (2.55) paralleled the average GPA for all students. Considering the
phenomenon of grade inflation, according to Cotter, there was little variance
between the average GPAs regardless of era. The survey also revealed that there
is no particular formula for success at Colby. "The most profound conclusion of
this study is the lack of any significant pattern in the background of these
successful Colby alumni," Cotter and Masson concluded. "Indeed, the great
variety of their experiences reinforces the general confidence in the liberal
arts philosophy of the College, that each student can find and fulfill her or
his unique potential in a multitude of disciplines and extracurricular
Among the findings:
* Many of the respondents were first-generation college students. Fifteen
percent of the respondents' grandfathers and 9 percent of their grandmothers
had attended college. Twenty-five percent of the respondents' fathers and 24
percent of the mothers had attended college. Masson noted that, by comparison,
91 percent of the fathers and 90 percent of the mothers of the Class of 1998
had college educations and nearly half had gone to graduate school.
* Two-thirds of the mothers of the respondents were housewives, although
significant numbers were teachers, businesswomen and other professionals. Among
the fathers, 64 percent were in business, 17 percent were doctors or lawyers.
* More than 70 percent of the respondents had attended public high school;
nearly three-fourths were very active in high school extracurricular
activities, including nearly a third who led student government offices. More
than two-thirds had won academic awards in high school and about half took
* The average verbal SAT among the respondents was 589 and the average math
score was 577.
* The respondents in the survey majored in 15 areas while at Colby, although
nearly 70 percent were concentrated in five majors--administrative science,
economics, English, history and government.
* One-third received financial aid; more than half worked during college. The
respondents were very involved with extracurricular activities at college,
although not quite as extensively as at high school.
* Nearly one-half had won some kind of academic award, 20 percent had been
presidents of fraternities and sororities and 10 percent had been varsity team
* Twelve percent had studied abroad, 24 percent had participated in
"One of the most heartening findings of the survey was that when asked to name
one or more professors who had a particularly strong positive influence on
them, the respondents listed 82 different individuals," Cotter said.
"Thirty-eight faculty were listed more than once."
That list included Charles Bassett, Mark Benbow, Cliff Berschneider, Kingsley
Birge, Archille Biron, Joe Bishop, Seelye Bixler, Pat Brancaccio, Walter
Breckenridge, David Bridgman, Alfred Chapman, Webster Chester, Edward Colgan,
Alice and Ermanno Comparetti, Galen Eustis, Paul Fullam, Hank Gemery, Jim
Gillespie, Jan Hogendorn, Don Koons, Mike Loebs, Tom Longstaff, Al Mavrinac,
Bill Miller, Paul Perez, Bob Pullen, Hal Raymond, Peter Ré, Bob Reuman,
Gordon Smith, Robert Strider, Gus Todrank, Lester Weeks, Peter Wester-velt,
William Wilkinson, Ralph "Roney" Williams and Walter Zukowski.
Almost two-thirds of the respondents obtained advanced degrees. High GPAs
obtained as undergraduates were an important factor for those who entered Ph.D
programs and, to a lesser extent, for those who went to medical school.
However, those who attended law or business schools had GPAs that were
essentially the average for the entire group.
High GPAs were not a predictor of financial success among the survey group.
The average GPA of those who have made capital gifts of at least $100,000 to
Colby was 2.52. Of that group, 56 percent either were economics or
administrative science/business majors, 44 percent earned M.B.A.'s or law
"Given that many of the respondents were first-generation college students, it
seems clear that strong work ethics and leadership capabilities are
characteristics shared by many of the people in our survey," Cotter said.
Cotter says the opportunity to collaborate on the project with a student made
it particularly meaningful. "Alisa did a wonderful job," he said. "She was
responsible for hours of data collection and analysis. She made the project a
No Singular Sensation
It has been an eclectic summer at the Colby Museum of Art. Exhibitions
ranging from Oriental rugs to cowboy boots were featured at the museum
be-tween June and September.
Concurrent exhibitions in June included "City, Village and Encampment:
Oriental Rugs in Context" and "Winslow Homer: Wood Engravings Portray America,
1857-1874." The exhibit of weaving featured 70 Oriental carpets and other
utilitarian items from the Near East. Rugs, saddlebags, salt bags, camel
trappings and tent decorations, including many one-of-a-kind masterworks, were
Winslow Homer prints donated by Colby alumnus Lee Fernandez '55 and Patricia
Davidson Reef of Falmouth, Maine, made up an exhibition depicting American
19th-century life. Fernandez, who served as guest curator, mounted the
exhibition to coincide with his 40th class reunion at Colby. It featured 114
wood engravings from the museum's permanent collection.
Beginning on August 2 the museum showcased more than 40 pair of Western-style
boots from all over the United States in "Sole of the West: The Art and History
of Cowboy Boots." Organized by Sheila Kollasch, curator of the Desert
Caballeros West-ern Museum in Arizona, the exhibit showed the inlay and
overlay, precision stitching and hand tooling produced by third- and
fourth-generation boot makers.
From August 9 and continuing until October 25 the museum is featuring an
exhibition of photographs by William Wegman, best known for photographing
Weimaraner dogs dressed, for instance, as characters in Sleeping
Beauty. The show, titled "Mainely Wegmans," also features quilts produced
by Wegman's sister, Pam Wegman.
No Small Fete
Ludy '21 and Pacy Levine '27 have shared a lot of meals at Colby College,
perhaps none leavened with as much laughter and goodwill as the dinner in
Roberts Union on Saturday, May 27. The Levine brothers, whose pride in and
generosity toward Colby are legendary, got back from the College a healthy
portion of gratitude at the traditional dinner for honorary degree recipients
on the eve of Commencement.
While the Levines and Commencement speaker Henry Louis Gates Jr. addressed
separate dinners downstairs in Roberts, Judith Magyar Isaacson spoke to dinner
guests who gathered on the second floor in her honor. Isaacson is an author and
a former mathematics lecturer and dean of students at Bates College. A native
of Hungary, she is a survivor of the Auschwitz and Hessisch Lichtenau
concentration camps. Seed of Sarah, her 1990 memoir, tells of her
experiences under German imprisonment and as a displaced person in post-war
Europe. But at her dinner she asked to honor the happiness of the occasion by
speaking about anything except the Holocaust.
"When I was appointed dean at Bates, Jewish alumni said they couldn't believe
it, and they predicted I would have trouble," she said. "I never had any
trouble for being a Jew, but as a woman--as a woman dean of students in charge
of men--try to sell that to security," she said. "I thought I would last a year
and make so many changes I'd be fired, but I lasted eight years and only quit
to write the book."
Downstairs, Gates visited all the tables, where he was introduced by John D.
MacArthur Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology Cheryl Townsend
Gilkes. After dinner he read passages from the introduction to his memoir,
Colored People, which began as a letter to his daughter explaining why his
family's origins are important to him. There is for all groups, he said, a
private culture and a public culture. "African-American literature is written
with an imaginary white racist on your shoulder. You are always wondering `What
will white racists think of this?' It's a way of keeping people from bucking
the norm." Colored People bucks that norm by describing the private
culture of Gates' youth in rural West Virginia in the 1950s and '60s. "I wrote
about my norm, my culture and myself with honesty. I thought we could afford
this, and that's what I did," Gates said.
Introducing the Levines, President William Cotter got a laugh when he said,
"When I first came to Colby, they were very young." Ludy, now 96, and Pacy, 90,
work daily at the clothing store their father founded on Main Street in
Waterville. They remain fixtures in the press box and along the sidelines at
football games and other College athletic events.
Recalling when the Alumni Office first wanted to buy computers to keep alumni
records, Cotter said he was skeptical: "I had talked to Ludy and Pacy, and they
knew everything." On a more serious note, he told dinner guests, and the
Commencement convocation the following day, that many students could not have
attended Colby without the Levines' support. Their extraordinary generosity to
the College, to scholarships and to students who may have needed a good shirt
on credit has benefited generations of Colby students.
L. Sandy Maisel, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government, said he has
long thought it right that Colby should honor its distinguished alumni. "And we
have no better examples than Ludy and Pacy," he added.
Pacy, speaking for himself and Ludy and the extended Levine family that
includes 42 Colby alumni, called the honorary doctorates "treasured honors,"
and said, "We've reached the highest plateau of the improbable dream. We thank
you for the biggest honor that can be bestowed upon us."
A Prized Speaker
During a Spotlight lecture April 27, Doris Kearns Goodwin '64 delighted an
overflow crowd in the Page Commons Room with colorful anecdotes and insightful
commentary about life inside the Roosevelt White House and the Johnson
Administration. Goodwin's appearance came just days after the announcement that
she had won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for History for her book No Ordinary
Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt:The American Home Front During World War
Goodwin, whose earlier book Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream drew
heavily from her own experience working with Johnson, described a man consumed
by ambition and driven by a desire for immortality. She said visitors to
Johnson's Texas ranch were rewarded with gifts bearing LBJ's likeness or name,
and each succeeding visit produced a larger, and in Johnson's mind, more
desirable, LBJ souvenir. It's a charming story, but, Goodwin said, it revealed
something about the man who "willed himself to die" in the last years of his
life because he was no longer powerful and in control of events.
Goodwin used the major portion of the lecture to describe the lives of
Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, a couple she said most historians now agree
formed the most effective president/first lady team in U.S. history. The
Roosevelt White House was inhabited by a cast of interesting, enigmatic
characters, according to Goodwin. Because polio inhibited his physical
activity, she said, the president surrounded himself with people he enjoyed
talking to, and conversation provided one of his few outlets for relaxation.
Despite his physical limitations, Roosevelt energized and passed his strength
of character to the nation, she said, even as his own body was deteriorating.
Meanwhile, Eleanor traversed the country working with various disenfranchised
segments of society to improve working conditions and opportunities for the
poor. Her efforts in promoting social justice were years ahead of her time and
inspired President Roosevelt to even greater heights, Goodwin said.
Departing students have left behind many interesting items in the past, ranging
from pet lizards to old sofas, but until this year nobody had discarded an
automobile. In what Director of Security John Frechette said appeared to be a
"mercy killing," an aged Nissan Pulsar was discovered partially submerged in
Johnson Pond by security personnel at dawn on Commencement morning. Only the
front tires were in the water, Frechette said, and the car was easily
Frechette said that the car was deliberately driven into the water. "The keys
were in it," he explained.
Attempts to contact the owner of the vehicle were unsuccessful, Frechette
says. Police have impounded the vehicle.
Post-cold war dismantling of police states has brought about the rise of
democracies but also has created opportunities for international trafficking
organizations, said Robert Gelbard '64, a law enforcement advisor to Attorney
General Janet Reno. Gelbard, who was a member of the Peace Corps in Bolivia in
the 1960s and U.S. ambassador to Bolivia from 1988 to 1991, told an audience at
the College last April that the narcotics and crime threats to our society
should be treated not as internal but as foreign policy issues.
"These are truly multinational organizations," Gelbard said. Traffickers
launder money in unregulated banking and financial systems and buy newspapers
and radio stations to promote the myth that international trafficking is
beneficial at home. According to Gelbard, one Latin American car theft
ring--about 50 percent of the cars in Belize were stolen in the U.S.--ends up
costing the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
Trafficking organizations must be attacked at the source, he said. A good law
enforcement infrastructure in any country will pay immediate dividends, said
Gelbard, an architect of U.S. policy in Haiti.
Denney Joins Dean's Office
Martha Denney, recently the coordinator of the Drew University London
Semester, has been named assistant dean of students. Denney, who grew up near
Hamilton College where her father was on the faculty, is a summa cum laude
Hamilton graduate. She holds an Ed.M. from Harvard and an M.A. in
anthropology from Brandeis. She has previously served as an English as a Second
Language tutor at Brandeis and at the American Institute for Foreign Study in
New Hoop Coach Hired
Patricia O'Brien of Nashua, N.H., will be Colby's coach of women's
basketball. O'Brien, who will assist in other sports in addition to her
basketball job, has been at Rivier College since 1992. Last year, her team
posted a 17-8 record. She holds B.S. and M.Ed. degrees from Salem State where
she earned All-American honors as a player.
Just days before she was scheduled to appear as a Spotlight lec-turer at
Colby, Doris Kearns Goodwin '64, became the fourth Colbian in five years to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Goodwin follows 1994 fiction winner E. Annie Proulx '57, Robert Capers '71,
who won in 1992 for journalism, and Gregory White Smith '73, who won the prize for biography in 1991.