I am all but certain that the student dozing over Reason in History is moi (Fall 2020, page 51). The year would probably be 1955; the location, the Phi Alpha Psi house, of which I was then a resident member.
That conclusion rests on this evidence:
I have seen the pic before, though not for decades, and I recognized it then as yours truly. Not sure who took it or why, probably a Puckish brother out to demonstrate that I was less than a diligent reader of assignments.
The chair, from what can be seen of it, looks very much like the one I enjoyed sitting in, a real leather piece with big, “rolled” arms located in a sort of drawing room just off the Phi Psi entrance hall.
The subject is wearing chinos and a sweatshirt, which was for me all but a dress code in those years (inexpensive, durable, easy to wash).
The subject’s haircut, I am now appalled to see, is a military-style buzz cut that I favored for, again, purposes of economy.
If a prize is offered for IDing the photo, I would like a faithful copy of the leather chair, shipping paid.
Roger M. Williams ’56
I do recognize some of the faces in the “Fayerweather Friends” photo (Spring 2020, page 77), including Rob Widener ’79, though I don’t see my own. Most notable is the student with his back to the camera wearing the shirt inscribed IMIGRANTS. The Imigrants were an intramural softball team (hence the apparent misspelling “IM”) I played for, usually pitching or in the outfield. The name was the brainchild of my friend and teammate Vincent Internicola (1952–1979), class of 1978.
Vinnie came from a classically Brooklyn-based Italian-American family. At his funeral, his parents greeted me as if I were a long-lost cousin, insisting he talked about me “all the time.” Vinnie seldom spoke of his family or of Brooklyn. Though the literary sort one found many examples of at the College, he saw himself and his circle as outsiders at Amherst, and “Imigrants” was an ironic reference to that, as well as to his own family heritage.
I doubt Vinnie has been mentioned often in Amherst magazine over the years, so it’s nice to see this little indirect tribute.
Roy Oser ’79
West Orange, N.J.
I saw in Amherst magazine that there is a picture of Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck from 1963 (Fall 2020, page 61). I am not in the play, nor did I watch it (I am a freshman at Amherst right now!) but my grandfather Peter Brett Prentiss ’63 is the man kneeling on the far left!
Malia Chun ’24
Palo Alto, Calif.
On page 59 of the Summer 2020 Amherst you published a photo from the 1955 Olio that you assumed showed the College’s switchboard and the woman who ran it.
You were right. That’s Maude Miner, the College’s very longtime operator. All calls went through her, and she came to know more about Amherst faculty, administration and staff, and their whereabouts, than anyone else. Students, too. She seemed to know all of us, and we knew her.
Maude was mentioned in the obituary of Dick Flynn ’55 in 2007. He had worked for her as a student 55 years earlier, and he gave her some credit for pointing him toward a career in telecommunications.
She had to be fast in her work, and she was. Often, she was too fast. We joked that people calling the College might think they had reached “Erst College,” because she sometimes answered before her switchboard plugs were completely in place. When that happened, the first syllable in the College’s name went unheard by the callers.
Maude lived in the small red house that stands at the corner of Woodside Avenue and Northampton Road, across from Newport House. The College acquired it around 1989, and it’s listed in the town records as the “Maude Minor (sic) House.”
Ken Rosenthal ’60
The retraction appearing in the letters section of Amherst magazine (Fall 2020) is the most intellectually dishonest thing I have ever seen in these pages. This is not about whether Short Takes is a worthwhile addition to the magazine. It is about surrendering to political correctness and makes me ashamed to be associated with Amherst College. The censored book could have provided an opportunity for a healthy discussion about the issues raised by the scholar. I took the time to read the book in question. I disagree with many of its assertions, but censoring it is what one might expect in a totalitarian society, not in what purports to be an educational institution.
Phil Steele ’66
West Hartford, Conn.
I have always enjoyed reading about books by Amherst authors in the magazine. But the Fall 2020 issue suggests we have entered a truly Orwellian world. In the “Retraction” we are told that one of the books listed in a previous Short Takes was condemned as racist. We are not told what book or why. We are also told that the offending mention of this book that cannot be named has been scrubbed from the website. Have you ordered alumni who kept a hard copy of the issue in question to cut out the mention as well? In Stalin’s day, that was the drill when someone was purged from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
Andrew Nagorski ’69
St. Augustine, Fla.