Greek drama



Thank you for publishing “Greek Drama” (Winter 2012). During my senior year at Amherst, I knew George Papandreou [’75] fairly well and Antonis Samaras [’74] slightly. Whenever their names appear in the paper, it brings back memories of that year. George lived down the hall from me in Valentine, and we were involved in political activities together. Two memories stick out from that time. One was when George decided to go see the Greek owner of Bell’s, a nearby pizza place, to try to get Mr. Bell (or whatever his name was) to contribute to the Greek resistance to the dictatorship of the Colonels. If I recall correctly, Mr. Bell told him to take a hike, and George came back uttering various choice words. The other memory involves a group of George’s called “Committee for a Free Greece.” He may or may not have been the entire committee; my memory on this is vague. One evening before dinner, George printed up flyers about the Greek situation, and I helped him to place the flyers on chairs in the dining room. We proceeded to get dinner and watch what happened. The other Greek students, all sitting together at a nearby table, picked up the flyer. One asked the others, “Who is the Committee for a Free Greece?” Someone at the table looked in our direction, at George, and said sarcastically, “Who do you think it is?”

When his father and brother picked up George at the end of the year, I had the pleasure of talking with them as they waited for George to get his things together. After that, we mostly lost touch, although, until the demise of the dictatorship, I contributed a bit of money each year to PAK, the resistance movement, and received its newsletter. I wish George and Antonis all the best in their efforts to put Greece back on track.

Tom Holzman ’72
Bethesda, Md.

Expunging the record

It’s one thing for Professor Sarah T. Markgraf ’84 to wish she had been more enthusiastic in her 1996 review of Infinite Jest, but it is quite another to have “secretly hoped it could be expunged from the public record!” (Letters, Winter 2012).

If she had truly changed her mind—and had something significant to add—she might have written another, more considered, piece. But expunging the record is something nasty regimes do. I would hope that Amherst teaches that critics have to risk being “wrong” and that the history of critical response is often dismal. And that maintaining the record is part of the struggle to protect free speech.

There’s a lot wrong with Infinite Jest; Wallace was notorious for intimidating his editors and resisting their services, and the book is unruly and perhaps a third too long. I think the Canadian stuff should have been cut altogether, leaving the tennis school on top of the hill and the halfway house down below.

Professor Markgraf was left “cold,” although she recognized the “brilliance.”

That seems like a perfectly legitimate first response, even if, simultaneously, as she put it, “Professor Pritchard was crafting radiant stained-glass windows for the cathedral of American Arts and Letters.”

Ugh. Not even the Venerable Pritchard would describe his craft is such pietistic, Medievallizing terms. That is a
sentence Professor Markgraf might well want to expunge from the record.

Howard Junker ’61
San Francisco

More on the 100th anniversary issue

Thank you for choosing our 2004 Alumni News interview/story with then Army Lt. Paul Rieckhoff [’98], freshly
returned from combat in Iraq, as one of the highlights of the magazine’s first 100 years (“In These Times,” Fall 2011).

Your readers and future historians should note that our interview (and cover story) was only published after a knock-down battle with Amherst editors and officials as we fought the college’s decades-long hostility to the American military.

Our follow-up article on Amherst’s highest-ranking military alumnus, Adm. Stansfield Turner ’45, met with equal resistance, but was published only when we threatened, as we did with the Rieckhoff piece, to take the story to a national publication.

May we also thank you for letting alumni know in print for the first time about the notorious post-9/11 campus gathering where activist Barbara Ehrenreich (as recounted in the interview with Professor Barry O’Connell on page 11 of the Fall 2011 issue) told those assembled that she “believed that we [as a nation] had [by our actions] brought it [9/11] on.” Professor O’Connell notes that “a number of students were intensely hostile to this.” Can you imagine how alumni would have reacted if they had known that this was how 9/11 was being dealt with on the Amherst campus even as the smoke was still rising from the charnel pit of the Al Qaeda-destroyed Twin Towers?

We heard about this meeting secondhand. We can find no record of the college reporting on that speech to the alumni. But the college search engine does have a record of Ms. Ehrenreich being invited back on campus for a talk that November.

The counterreaction has taken a long time to have an impact, but at the least, military recruiters are no longer barred from the Amherst campus, and military service by Amherst graduates is, we trust, no longer belittled by faculty and the administration.

At Amherst today this counts for progress.

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

Enroll more veterans

Amherst and other educational institutions have given considerably more attention to what has become the new normal: diversity. Notwithstanding this ideal, it should be noted that almost all faculty are Democrats and that when a conservative U.S. Supreme Court justice [Antonin Scalia] was invited to speak [in 2004], some students and faculty mounted a protest and refused to listen. So, obviously there are limits to diversity. Setting these issues aside, we are left with a student’s race, gender, economic circumstances, academic achievements and geographic location as pertinent elements of diversity.

In keeping with this approach, I suggest that Amherst expand its modest initiative for enrolling veterans (“A Matter of National Interest,” Summer 2011) by following the lead of Columbia and other Ivy League schools that have established “general admission policies for military veterans.”

I believe this would be a win-win for faculty, students and veterans. My class and several previous classes consisted predominately of World War II veterans. Members of these classes performed tasks on surface ships, submarines, four-engine bombers and Sherman tanks; learned foreign tongues and Morse Code; deactivated mines; fought in snowy mountains, dense forests and open beaches; served on all oceans and all continents; and invaded steaming jungle islands that not even geography students had heard of. Quite a few were wounded, and many witnessed new-won friends suffer mutilation and death. Experiences ran the gamut from tedious boredom to outright terror. Some fulfilled significant leadership positions and assumed extensive administrative responsibilities that exceeded the background, when elected, of the current occupant of the White House.

When this diverse throng of serious student veterans descended on Amherst, the reaction of the faculty was positive: They appreciated us, and we very much appreciated them. It was a time we shall never forget. I hope our new president, Biddy Martin, will realize the mutual benefits involved and support a program to offer more returning veterans an opportunity to obtain an Amherst education.

Robert M. Martin ’49
Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.


Popularity contest

Every story in this magazine is also online. In March, these were the five most-viewed  stories on our site:

1. “Showstopper,” the Winter 2012 feature on the Mead Art Museum’s famous new painting

2. “Brief Interview with a Five-Draft Man,” a Spring 1999 Q&A with David Foster Wallace ’85

3. “I Was Never a Murderer,” a Summer 2010 story about Ross Firsenbaum ’02’s legal defense of  a man wrongly convicted of murder

4. “For the Rest of Her Life,” the Summer 2011 profile of 9/11 widow Tara Neelakantappa Safronoff ’97

5. The Winter 2012 sports feature on Major League Baseball hopefuls Kevin Heller ’12 and Mike Samela ’12


As Loring Danforth ’71 points out, “Greek Drama” (Winter 2012) incorrectly states that George Papandreou ’75’s father was deposed as Greek prime minister in a coup. It was actually Papandreou’s grandfather who was deposed in the coup, which took place in 1967. We apologize for the error.

Photos from the Amherst College Olio and the Mead Art Museum