We welcome letters from our readers. Send them to: Amherst Magazine Office of Public Affairs, AC #2202, Amherst College, PO Box 5000 Amherst, MA 01002-5000 or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A deep bow
The Spring 2007 magazine just hit my mailbox today, and I think the cover (with artwork by Lloyd Schermer ’50) is breathtakingly beautiful. A deep bow and a tip of the sombrero.
Claude E. Erbsen ’59
The Orioles lost
Josh Fischel’s article about Ben Cherington was very interesting, but he made a serious error in citing some baseball history when he credited Harry Dalton ’50 “with assembling the Baltimore Orioles teams that won World Series titles in 1969 and 1971.” Fischel, being in the Class of ’00, cannot remember that it was the New York Mets who won the World Series in 1969! (I’m old enough to remember, and I was there, at Game 5.)
Judy Handelman P’88
Baltimore lost the World Series again in 1971, to Pittsburgh, but won the title in 1970. Also, Dalton is a member of the Class of ’50, not, as stated in the article, the Class of ’46. —Editor
Called to serve
Thank you for the great article by Bonnie Jenkins ’82 (“Reporting for Duty,” Winter 2007). My good friend Diana Swanson ’82 gave me your magazine, thinking that I would find the article of interest due to my service in the U.S. Army Reserve. Like Lt. Cmdr. Jenkins, I was recalled to active duty. Like her, I served at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.
Lt. Cmdr. Jenkins has articulated perfectly the contradictions that I now feel. I am overwhelmingly proud to have served my nation in uniform and have incredible respect and admiration for fellow comrades-in-arms. At the same time, I question the invasion of Iraq and am heartsick over the losses of life among our troops and among the Iraqi people.
Dawn E. Jones
The writer is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Beyond reporting for duty
There can be no doubt of Bonnie Jenkins’s sincerity in serving her country. Unfortunately, her article stopped short of addressing the questions and contradictions that are the stuff of a sorely needed debate: What are the “lessons about foreign policy” that Ms. Jenkins claims to have gained from her military duty? How does serving in an atmosphere where there is “little questioning of current U.S. policy” help her future work at policy-forming institutions? How has her experience changed her outlook?
In the same issue of Amherst, Stansfield Turner ’45, retired U.S. Navy admiral, states that we need more well-educated people to lead our military (“Military Training,” Letters). Agreed, but where does this education lead us when graduates like Ms. Jenkins can help choose targets and weapons in peaceful Tampa, Fla., without having experienced the necessarily nasty business of war, as Turner puts it, or, for that matter, without having visited the far-away lands they attack?
Perhaps the lack of this experience, even at the highest levels of civilian leadership, paired with unprecedented military power, explains the willingness of the United States to wage war in Iraq—a war whose basis Ms. Jenkins herself doubts, and a war that continues to cost lives while further destabilizing an already volatile part of the world.
Myopia and arrogance have weakened more than one world power. It is ironic that the arrogance of those wielding power is sometimes born of naiveté and cloaked in good intentions. For that, there is no good excuse—not given what we know of today’s world, not given an education with which to help solve the world’s problems constructively.
Mark R. Handy ’80
Legally mandated servitude
The article by Bonnie Jenkins inspired subsequent praise in a letter from Dave Williams ’75 for her “service to our country” (“For country,” Letters, Spring 2007). Dr. Williams goes on to describe how he and his son both worked for the military in Iraq.
I detect a possible disconnect between Dr. Williams’s praise and Ms. Jenkins’s article. Ms. Jenkins conveyed clear misgivings about the Iraq war, to the point of pondering whether she should fight against reporting for duty. Her doubts stand amply verified by subsequent events. There were no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and no links between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. Intelligence reports conclude that the invasion has exacerbated terrorism in Iraq. The war, which we will inevitably lose, has cost hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars and weakened us militarily.
The notion of service to our country should not be lazily conflated with legally mandated servitude to the U.S. military-industrial complex, which has pocketed exorbitant profits in Iraq and which stands as the invasion’s primary (and likely sole) beneficiary. The dots between the individuals who deceived us into war and their financial ties to oil and arms are easy to connect, but the plutocrats who control the U.S. war machine are not, at least in any conventional way, “our country.” From this perspective, and sad as it may seem, the unfortunate personnel stuck in Iraq are not serving our country, but instead serving those who harm it.Matt Orr ’87
Last spring my family and I returned to Amherst to watch my oldest son, Tim ’09, play lacrosse in a match against Bowdoin. It was a dream day, with temperatures in the high 70s and Frisbees everywhere. I smiled as I watched the coaches prod, challenge, question and encourage the team. Perhaps it was the fact that the lacrosse field is adjacent to the soccer field, or that Milton Gooding was one of the coaches encouraging my son, but my mind easily went back 30 years, to a time when the soccer field was my favorite classroom and Peter Gooding my favorite teacher (“Peter Gooding retires,” College Row, Winter 2007).
To me, passion is the cornerstone of any definition of excellence. Peter Gooding had a passion for soccer and for his players. He taught us that the power of many, working as one, would always best the selfish. Like all great teachers, Peter brought a sharp wit and critical eye to all that we did. It was not always a love affair, but it created a bond between coach and player that has deepened throughout the years.
The Classes of ’80, ’81 and ’82 have had the great pleasure to reunite, on the pitch, six or seven times since graduation. Thanks to the generosity of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco (’81) and Jerome de Bontin ’81, we have traveled to Monaco twice to play soccer and have hosted a team from Monaco two other times. At Reunion weekend in 2006, we challenged the other reunion classes to a friendly match to honor Peter Gooding. We used to joke that this bond amongst teammates was forged in spite of Peter. Now we all realize that Peter was the reason we all stayed connected.
In Peter’s honor, I challenge the college to better balance its approach to athletics. Why do so many people look upon athletics as an unimportant part of the educational process? A fine institution is one that supports many diverse avenues through which a student can pursue excellence.
Tim Thornton ’80
Garden City, N.Y.
The notice of Ted Greene’s death (“In Memoriam: Theodore P. Greene ’43,” College Row, Winter 2007) brought back a wave of memories. They were vivid, fond memories of the paradigmatic teacher. Ted quite literally changed my life. He switched me from the business track on which I was headed to an academic track and guided me in choosing a graduate school and mentor. In my first year at graduate school, Ted secured for me a grant from the college to help defray my expenses.
It was as a teacher that Ted excelled. He respected all of us and listened with enormous patience as we tried to explain our ideas or arguments. In debate, he was gentle yet forceful. Though not much given to publication, he read widely and well so that he brought to his classes and tutorial sessions great understanding of the subject matter.
Once, I was on my way to his office to discuss my undergraduate thesis and found him pacing the floor, puffing on his pipe and obviously much exercised. I asked him what was going on. His response was that a colleague responsible for a session of a large class had made a terrible presentation; Ted was concerned that the professor had misled or confused the class and that it would take weeks before students would be able to follow the sequence of lectures and readings again. Ted was angry that the teacher had violated the trust of the college and the students.
Having just retired after more than 40 years in the academic profession, I can honestly say that I never saw the likes of Ted Greene after I left Amherst. He was an asset of which the college should be proud.
Joseph S. Tulchin ’59
East Falmouth, Mass.
A student from Uganda, Jamada Luzinda ’62, came to Amherst on a unique airlift sponsored by the African American Students Foundation, an initiative of Tom Mboya of Kenya. I served as executive director of the foundation and as a member of its board, together with Harry Belafonte, Jackie Robinson, Ted Kheel, Frank Montero and others.
Pamela Mboya, Tom’s widow, and I are collecting stories from and about the 779 students who arrived on the planes, funded by the Kennedy Foundation, between 1959 and 1963. We are interested in the impact the airlift had on American education, culture and politics; the civil rights movement; foreign student admissions; and anything else.
If you would like to participate in this project by sharing your memories, we would love to hear from you by e-mail at email@example.com or by mail at 185 West End Ave. #27F, New York, N.Y. 10023.Cora Weiss
New York, N.Y.
Bring on the failure
I second Aaron Britt’s call for more honest, well-rounded class notes (“A Modest Proposal,” Winter 2007). I am one of the few in my year who has submitted notes that relate self-doubt and failures. At my fifth reunion, an acquaintance said it was refreshing to talk to someone who didn’t pretend to have a perfect life, someone who was sincere. That said, at times I have refrained from contributing to the notes. The relentless barrage of over-the-top achievements and fantastic relationships can be daunting. I think that Britt put his finger on something when he said that “perhaps we feel the only element of our lives worth reporting is the triumphs.”
In the notes, more of us should paint a more accurate picture of our lives. It is not just our successes but our struggles that make us who we are.
Rebecca Rose-Langston ’97