Ghost writer

No offense meant to the amazingly overachieving Amherst alumni we hear about all the time, but as I read the gripping account of Dave Stringer ’64 and his brother, John ’72 (“Ghost Writer,” Winter 2008), I found myself thinking, with an awareness of the tragic irony: Finally, an alumnus I can relate to. As I learned about John and the demons he struggled with, and as I saw the pictures, I was starkly reminded of my own time at Amherst and demons that sound similar to his. I would like to say to Dave that it sounds like he did all he could to help his brother. When one finds oneself homeless and alone, it helps enormously to know that there is caring family out there somewhere. I am sure that John found that knowledge very comforting.

Dean Randall ’72, Colorado Springs, Colo.

We read with great interest your moving story about David Stringer’s relationship with his brother. We both experienced the story as a kind of reunion with David. The article mentions his work as a high school teacher, but it hardly does justice to what he did in preparing these two students to thrive at a place like Amherst. We had the good fortune to have David as our teacher in our senior years at Ann Arbor Huron High in Michigan. David was head of an elaborate and innovative humanities program that did everything possible to create the atmosphere of a small, liberal arts college at a large, public high school. The class was a genuine introduction to serious learning and—it’s not too much to claim—an early stab at adulthood. David is the model of what a high school teacher should be: highly professional yet keenly interested in the personal and
intellectual development of his students.

We wish David all the best as he copes with his loss and attempts to gain as wide an audience as possible for his eloquent writing.

Helen Shepherd ’88, Takoma Park, Md.
Fred Shepherd ’85, Birmingham, Ala.

Military recruiting

Regarding your article “Military recruiting at Amherst” in the Winter Alumni News…

As those of us who oppose racial, religious, gender AND anti-military discrimination know, it takes more than a change of policy to remove darkness from the Amherst community’s hearts and minds.

Let us not forget that for decades, even without the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as an excuse, Amherst leadership proudly “stood in the school house door” to bar military recruiters from the campus.

We cannot emphasize enough that it took a unanimous Supreme Court decision, and a federal appellate court decision, which said quite bluntly that academia could not bar military recruiters while accepting federal dollars, to prompt President Marx’s change of policy.

It boiled down to this: the College could either have declared itself a “military-free zone,” ban all recruiting, and turn down all federal monies, or accept the federal monies, obey the Supreme Court and appellate court decisions, and allow military recruiters on campus without preconditions.

On October 1, 2007, the New York Times reported Yale University was accepting military recruiters unconditionally. With Yale’s capitulation, the question, of course, was what would Amherst do? It took a painfully long six weeks after the Times story for President Tony Marx’s follow-on action to be announced on the College Web site.

We are intrigued that it is the U.S Navy which, as you report, will be the first recruiter in decades to visit the campus. We interpret this as a way for the Navy to honor Admiral Stansfield Turner, ’45, who even as head of the Naval War College could not show up on the Amherst campus in uniform without risking a an anti-military demonstration.

Only time will tell to what extent the College holds itself apart from the armed forces.  As four young Iraq and Afghanistan Amherst veterans– Paul Rieckoff ’98, Todd Nichols ’99, Matt Flavin ’02, and Mike Proctor ’02 –were recently heard addressing a packed Converse Red Room, so too might the faint drumbeat of "Taps" someday be heard across campus as Amherst awakens to a brave new world indeed. We can only note that Amherst graduates have escaped the fatal wounds of combat zone war since the end of World War II. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, the only exception to that has been Amherst attendee Kwesi Christopher ’03, who died in Iraq on March 31, 2007 in a roadside bomb attack while working for a British firm as a civilian contractor.

So we welcome the new court-ordered environment. We hope it lasts. We hope military recruiters are not harassed by vitriolic anti-military faculty and/or administration members. Any institution of higher learning that claims to represent the “nation’s elite” must train its students to be active participants in the defense of liberty, and that means military service. President Marx reports to us that three students, upon graduation, are planning to serve in the military this year.  We wish them safety, success, and we thank them for their service to country.

Dick Hubert ’60 (US 51507088), Rye Brook, N.Y.
Rob Longsworth ’99, New York City 

Theater people

I was surprised and disappointed that the article on the Folger Shakespeare Library (“An Unlikely Love Affair,” Fall 2007) made no mention of Curtis Canfield’s Kirby Theatre produc­tion of Julius Caesar. In 1949, it became the first production to be staged in the Folger’s replica of the Old Globe Theatre.

Ray MacDonnell ’52 played Anthony. He has been on the cast of All My Children since the show’s inception in 1970. James Maxwell ’49 played Brutus. He became a major stage and television actor in England before his untimely death several years ago. Peter Soderbergh ’50 was Cinna. He became a DJ and radio producer. The late Doris Abramson played Portia. Nesbitt Blaisdell ’51 was also in the show. He continues to work regularly in regional theaters. I played Octavius. After a busy career in England, the United States and Canada, I am currently touring my own show.

James B. Douglas ’51, Belfountain, Ontario