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Home from Iraq
I was touched to read the wonderful item about Mike Proctor’s live feed from Iraq to the Amherst reunion (“Passages,” Summer 2007). You did an extraordinary job tying in Mike’s Marine Corps service with the legacy of Amherst veterans who had preceded him and with the world-changing historical events that prompted their call to arms. Perhaps because I’m Mike’s mom, I was especially moved by the last line.
You might like to know that Mike (Class of ’02) recently returned from Iraq and is now stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. While he was in Iraq, he earned five air medals as a C-130 pilot for more than 400 hours of air combat missions. He also earned the Navy Achievement Medal for his work as director of aviation safety for his C-130 unit, the Raiders.
Vero Beach, Fla.
Unlike Dan Chiasson ’93, who arrived at Amherst after the demise of the old English 1-2 (“The door-window experiment,” Amherst Creates, Summer 2007), I confronted and was confounded by that course as a freshman in the fall of 1957. I knew there had to be some objective behind the syllabus, but darned if I could figure it out. (One series of writing assignments began with the question, “Do you believe in ghosts?”)
Thirty-nine years later, as a member of the faculty at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., I was asked to deliver the Convocation Address welcoming to the college the Class of ’00. In preparing those remarks, I looked back to my Amherst experience and, finally, understood what Professor Baird’s course and liberal arts education had been all about. Baird and his colleagues were trying to push me into uncharted waters where I would be forced to become my own navigator, without maps drawn up by others on which to rely. In my Convocation remarks, I urged our entering freshmen to “get lost,” to eschew accepted wisdom in order to formulate their own answers to life’s myriad questions.
It is apparent to me that there is now a sound reason for contributing to the college’s financial aid fund. I refer to President Anthony W. Marx’s pioneering policies of increased diversity and the replacement of college loans with grants to students on financial aid (“Out of debt,” College Row, Summer 2007).
And I applaud President Marx’s comments at Commencement, mixed as they were with the usual remarks on the accomplishment of the seniors, about the dangerous direction in which our society is heading (“Lessons from Ancient Rome,” Summer 2007). Triumphalism has also infected places like Amherst. At last, the college has a president with guts and some real-world awareness.