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Take alcohol out of class notes; cheers for Colin MacKay, hospitality in Iowa; the Vietnam War debate continues

'Party action' sends wrong message

The references to "serious party action" and margarita consumption in the Class of 1978 notes (Colby, winter 2001) are misplaced and unnecessary.

What is the message? When our children ask why drinking is so important that it is included in a Colby publication, I wonder. Hopefully, we have gotten beyond our adolescent over-indulgence to a point where we can drink responsibly or not at all. Every day, I see the effects of parental consumption or of adolescent abuse of this drug. Almost daily, we read about teenage deaths related to alcohol on our roadways. Our actions as adults play a large role in how our children behave. References to alcohol use have no place in a Colby journal.

Bradford S. Germain '78
Attleboro, Mass.

Mary Marshall's challenge

I am writing a brief tribute to Mary Hatch Marshall, whose death was reported in Colby, winter 2001. She taught my section of Freshman English in the fall of 1939. In my Oracle (1943) she is listed among associate professors. There were four women instructors, two in health and physical education, one in religion, and one in English. The photo roster of faculty in 1943 included 49 males.

Mary Marshall's academic specialty was medieval English, both the language and the literature. In alternate years, she offered courses on Chaucer and Spenser and Contemporary Drama. She also covered for other members of the English Department during their leaves. But if it had not been for Freshman English, she would have been known only to English majors.

Freshman English must have been a challenge. There were no Standards of Learning tests that assured minimal skills in reading and writing, and we came from a great variety of backgrounds: a few from the greater New York area, a few of us from southern New England, more of us from the greater Boston area, and most of us from the great variety of academies and institutes that made up the secondary education network in Maine.

Mary Marshall led us through Greek drama, taught us basic research techniques and read term papers that were the first such effort for a lot of us, got us on our feet in front of the class to give oral reports from notes on cards, and managed to convey to some of us that she was our friend.

She also, at least one year, produced a medieval Christmas play, complete with music, in the congregational Church in Waterville--not exactly a medieval structure, but she managed to bring to our lives a glimpse of her beloved medieval language and culture.

My special debt to her is that she told me explicitly and clearly to get ready to go to graduate school because, she said, "you can do it." Other professors at Colby engaged my mind, read my papers, and graded my exams. But Mary Marshall also challenged my spirit.

Barbara Grant Nnoka '43
Arlington, Virginia.

COOT fires still kindled

This is a letter in response to the COOT article in the fall 2000 issue. I hardly know where to start. It is spine-tingling wonderful to hear of the tremendous participation in the fall COOT trips.

Our dream 25 years ago was simply to keep the fires kindled and increase the number of trips to four. I was one of the 18 those long (but oh-so-short) 25 years ago who ventured up Mt. Katahdin with Professor [Robert] Reumann. With a great sense of adventure, along with the usual freshmen jitters, we set out from the quad behind the library.

At that time the Outing Club room was in the basement of one of the dorms and that was our initial staging area. As many of you now know and understand, there is hardly a better way to gel as a group than the rigors of the outdoors and a focused goal of a diverse group. We not only got to know other freshmen, but upperclassmen and professors in a very low-key, personal way. Back on campus we were able to spread that warmth of friendship to other freshmen, upperclassmen and professors. If I begin to name names of those who organized us, energized us and helped us bond together I will surely miss someone, but needless to say the dreams of Nancy Noreen '76 have been embraced and expanded beyond all possible hope.

Happy anniversary to a truly inspired program, and to those countless individuals who participate in the planning of the trips and those who have taken part over the years. Three cheers!

Anne Luedemann Hunt '79
McLean, Virginia

Cheers for language, Colin McKay

I was very interested to read "Print Lives" in the fall 2000 Colby. How wonderful to know that so many Colby graduates are engaged in the fascinating business of magazine production.

When I graduated from Colby in 1962, I truly believed I should marry immediately (I did), have children (I had two) and stay home. It worked until I became very restless and then I returned to college because work was still considered inappropriate. For eight years I had the joyous experience of studying art, photography and architecture, discovering parts of myself I had not valued earlier.

When I went through a divorce at the age of 46 and knew I had to figure out how to support myself, I was thrilled to discover that my combination of verbal and visual skills was rare and valuable.

I sit here today writing this letter from my office at Avenues magazine, where I have been editor since 1991. Before this I was editor of another magazine for two years. It is amazing to me that these opportunities came to someone starting so late.

Avenues goes out to approximately 50,000 subscribers in the Greater Cleveland area who are supporters of PBS. It's a wonderful audience interested in the arts, a major focus of ours, and entertainment, education, health. . . .

So many times I've thanked my outstanding high school English teacher in my mind. Even my assistant editor and interns know her name. And so often I've felt enormous gratitude for the sacrifices my parents made to send me to Colby. Freshman year I was placed in an advanced English class with Professor Colin MacKay. I used to count the hours and then the minutes until I could walk into his class again. What a privilege to be his student! I raise my famous red pen (my primary editing tool) to salute The Word. May all of us who work in print love our language, guard its use and celebrate those who taught us to use it well.

Brenda L. Lewison '62
Cleveland Heights, Ohio


In Iowa, hospitality rules

Regarding the essay by Sarah Eustis '96 ("A Road Marked with Kindness," winter 2001 Colby ), since graduating from Colby in 1976 I have lived in three countries and 12 cities more or less. Now we live in Iowa City. I am not a native Iowan, but I have come to realize, over the years, that the hospitality that Sarah described after getting stuck in Fort Dodge was the norm, not the exception. Iowa is a strange and wonderful place; protected, because East and West Coast people view it as a backwater where you wouldn't really want to go. When I joined the faculty, here at the University of Iowa, I had extreme reservations about coming to Iowa. I was completely wrong, of course!

Bill Silverman '76
Iowa City, Iowa

More on Vietnam

I would like to thank Dr. Strider for taking the time to respond to the letter that I sent in regard to Vietnam era activities at Colby. Dr. Strider said in the original article that he "was against the war", but there is, to my knowledge, little or no public record to support that statement. I did not upbraid him for not joining the AFROTC sit-in demonstrations of 1972. I said that, "I am "troubled by what it says about an institution supposedly devoted to the pursuit of the truth, that the President felt he could not share his personal beliefs on one of the most important issues of the day. I think it would have made a tremendous difference if he had been willing to share his personal views." Instead, Dr. Strider believes, "it would have been inappropriate for someone in so public a position of leadership to demonstrate against the war" and that his silence was an act of principle. I personally do not see how public silence on perhaps the most important public issue of the time, and an issue that had serious ramifications for students, can be construed as "principled". I view it as an abdication of leadership. Other college presidents did demonstrate against the war, notably Kingman Brewster of Yale. Others were public supporters of the war.

The sit-in was first and foremost an act of civil disobedience against a symbol of the U.S. military. Closing down ROTC on campus was, to many of us, a secondary issue. He thought our acts, "not only pointless, but barking up the wrong tree." Perhaps our small act was pointless, but taken in their totality all the "pointless" acts of the anti-war movement had an impact on reversing U.S. policy in Vietnam. It may have been less "pointless" for a group to board buses and demonstrate outside the White House, but I would not have given thought to making such a trip. Local action was important to raise the level of involvement among students like myself.

Despite his protests, Dr. Strider, if anything, appears to support my argument when he states, "I thought the Gulf War a great mistake but did not think it proper to demonstrate against it." The entire paragraph is a demonstration of my thesis. Was there an appropriate time to protest the Stamp Act? Was dumping tea in Boston harbor "pointless"? Was the Civil Rights movement after Little Rock or the Civil Rights Act of 1964 appropriate? Democracy is a continuous process; a work in progress. I reject the notion that there is some designated or appropriate "time" for making statements, demonstrating, or standing up for what we believe in.

Jim Heald, '74
Alexandria, Virginia

I am perplexed by former President Strider's recent letter (Colby, Winter 2001) regarding the student occupation of the Air Force ROTC during the spring of 1972. The event was a little before my time at Colby, but I have a strong suspicion that I would not have participated in such a protest nor can I imagine the president of Colby (nor any college president for that matter) taking part in such a protest.

But how can the broad-minded President Strider articulate such a narrow conception of the AFROTC? At one level, I suppose it was an organization, "….that had nothing to do with the Vietnam War…," and that Colby maintained it to encourage future military leaders to, "….read history and poetry and philosophy…." But at another level, it was the Pentagon that ultimately removed the AFROTC from Colby, and I seem to recall that both the Pentagon and the Air Force were quite active in the Vietnam War.

President Strider goes on to say, "I believe in supporting decisions the country espouses, whether my own feelings follow the reasoning of those who made the decisions or not..." Perhaps I'm taking his statement out of context, but how far down the road does he want to travel with this noble sentiment? Our country once espoused the virtue of "Jim Crow." I'm presuming our former President would have made an exception by embracing his own feelings and never supporting such a pernicious legal sanction.

I found President Strider's final paragraph very touching, but at the same time it left me a bit uneasy. At the risk of parsing words with President Strider, what exactly does he mean by writing that, "All of us will continue to be in debt to all those who are listed on the Vietnam Memorial"? There may be a few who are unfamiliar with the universal "debt" President Strider is referring to. Many have heard the term applied to the WWII generation, which after all saved the free world from Nazi tyranny. But the Vietnam War generation?

Twenty-five years and more cannot erase our heartfelt sympathies for the friends and families of those poor men and women killed in Vietnam. But I'm not sure the grieving mother and father, or the widowed bride, or the sons and daughters left behind are looking to collect on any debt. They just want their loved ones back, and that is something we cannot do.

Jonathan B. Sims '77
New York, N.Y.

I read with interest the continued debate concerning the role Colby students and graduates took in the Vietnam anti-war movement and in the prosecution of that war. There did seem to be some confusion in the inference that those who took part in the war believed that they were fighting for a just cause. Certainly my friends, some who fought and some who died in that war, questioned the reasons for their presence and whether such a war could actually have a winning side.

John Brassem correctly criticized those who would simplify the politics and morality of Vietnam in the context of that time and place.

President Strider's letter reminded me of his well-reasoned opposition to the student protests over Colby's continued participation in the Air Force ROTC program. His position was laudable in that the military does need leadership with a more clear view of history and other disciplines than may come out of our military colleges.

However, when Dr. Strider states that it would be "inappropriate for someone in so public a position of leadership as the presidency of a college to demonstrate against the war", I lose patience. What is leadership if it fears to speak and act on so important an issue, fundraising be damned? While he drummed up Ford grants, more than 50,000 of our countrymen, some friends, some family, disappeared. Please do not hide behind your presidency in explaining your inaction.

Richard H. Zimmermann '66
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

 


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An Education CEO: Robert Furek '65 brings accountability to Hartford public schools
Charting Success: James Verrilli '83 directs charter school turn-around in Newark
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