Best coach ever

During the 1980s I was director of the Museum of Art at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, long known as a great place of academic studies and research, and also as home to one of the greatest big-time college football programs in the nation. One winter, the college president asked me to help host a private dinner at the museum to honor the team, which had just returned from Pasadena, Calif., after a close loss in the Rose Bowl.

At the dinner, I mentioned to Coach Bo Schembechler that I had played football at Amherst for Jim Ostendarp (Sports, Summer/Fall 2006). Bo and Jim were old friends and sometimes roomed together at national coaches’ conferences. Bo immediately called over some of his assistant coaches and star players—including All-American quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who went on to play for the Chicago Bears, and Jumbo Jim Elliot, who became offensive center for the New York Giants. With the group gathered around, Bo said that I had played for the best college football coach in America.

Bo said that at a small college, Jim had built a great football program, one with a superb record and, just as important, one that emphasized the player as a student and a man. Bo noted that Jim cared about his players and their lives long after they graduated.

Bo was right! All who played for Coach Ostendarp were blessed by that special relationship.

Evan M. Maurer ’66
Minneapolis, Minn.

Skewed world view

While reading my wife’s Amherst magazine, I came across “What Pakistani students learned during a summer at Amherst” (College Row, Summer/Fall 2006), and felt I must respond to express my disgust and anger.

The article quotes Hiba Tohid as saying, “And what happened on 9/11 was a consequence of Americans being unaware.” What caused the attacks of September 11, 2001, was not the blindness of Americans or our lack of sympathy for the rest of the world but rather the bastardization of a religion to fit the world view of a criminal and a murderer. By pointing the finger of blame toward the American people, Mr. Tohid excuses the actions of Osama bin Laden as somehow justified. That position is morally reprehensible, whatever your views of current American foreign policy.

I felt perhaps a greater sense of loathing for the writer’s choice of words to describe Mr. Tohid’s political stance. Anyone who chooses to describe Mr. Tohid’s statement as “a poignant complaint” is drifting toward becoming a bin Laden apologist. Mr. Tohid’s complaint is neither factually correct nor particularly poignant. It is, at best, the utterly banal and immature ramblings of a young student. More likely, it represents the skewed world view of a sheltered and angry young man. Either way, I find it disappointing that Amherst would choose to support it.

Matthew Plunkett
Brooklyn, N.Y.

ROTC on campus

The interview with Admiral Stansfield Turner ’45 (“An Officer and a Gentleman,” Spring 2006) was a solid piece. The comment by Jon Peirce ’67 (Letters, Summer/Fall 2006) that bringing ROTC to campus “would signal the college’s approval of today’s military and the ventures it is currently engaged in” is off the mark. Given that the Authorization of the Use of Military Force resides with the Congress and the executive branch, it is unfair to make the military the whipping boy for political misadventure and mistakes. Our military men and women serve at the behest of the authorization whether public opinion is for or against their efforts. Reflexively banning ROTC from campuses is misdirected and myopic. 

Alan Fraser Houston ’64
Durango, Colo.

Do you remember Professor Commager?

The Archives and Special Collections office is undertaking a year-long project to arrange and catalog the papers of Henry Steele Commager. The papers were a gift to the library from his widow, Mary Powlesland Commager. We are looking for additional letters and memories of Professor Commager. If you have any correspondence or photographs tucked away, please consider sending them to the archives to be added to the Commager Papers. We would be happy to provide you with photocopies of your letters. We would also welcome your memories of Professor Commager.

Please e-mail or write to Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, Robert Frost Library, PO Box 5000, Amherst, Mass., 01002.

Daria D’Arienzo
Head of Archives and Special Collections