Tell Us What You Think

We welcome letter submissions that respond to our magazine articles. Letters should be 300 words or fewer. Please send them to or Box 5000, Amherst, MA, 01002.

Variety and Substance

The cover of the Winter 2019 Amherst Magazine

The Winter 2019 issue of Amherst was one of the very best I’ve ever read. Congratulations to all who produced it. The variety and substance of the articles—historic and contemporary, across different fields and genders—were outstanding. The poignancy of the loss of the three brave Amherst soldiers in World War I a century ago will always resonate. I gave the magazine to my friend Antonis Samaras ’74, former prime minister of Greece, to be sure he saw the article on the trials of the economist Andreas Georgiou ’83. It was brave of Amherst to print it. I only hope the scourge will end and he can enjoy life teaching at Amherst and raising his young daughter.

Seth E. Frank ’55
New York City

Fayerweather and Barrett: Off-Label Uses

Professor Ilan Stavans’ article about Barrett Hall (“Listen & Linger,” Fall 2018) has prompted this, my first written response to the alumni magazine. The real attraction of Barrett was the north wall, outside, which, unlike the south wall, boasted no beard of ivy. Instead there was bare rock—tough, quartz-rich Pelham gneiss, with tiny, sharp edges where the faces of the blocks had been fractured in the cutting process.

In 1971 this became a late-afternoon meeting place for the small but active community of Amherst rock climbers—a group that included myself, Peter Trinkaus ’75, Bill Taylor ’74 (whose obituary appears in the current issue of Amherst magazine), Bob Dean ’74, Nick Harris’74 and a few others whose names escape me after all these decades. Barrett had thin, difficult and—for the fingertips—painful moves on a dead-vertical wall only 12 feet high. There were often only one or two sequences that would work. A few we never solved. And the workout was short—15 to 30 minutes, sometimes much less. Fingertips can only take so much.

The original builders and planners would have been aghast at such activity—the Matterhorn would not be climbed until a decade after construction began, and climbing it was considered insane at the time—but these sessions not only helped us stay in shape for our sport, they led to climbing partnerships and lifelong friendships for years to come. Hopefully some of the current generation will enjoy the same blessing as those of us who have now grown as gray as the building we trained upon.

Bruce Thompson ’75
Saranac Lake, N.Y.

A photo of a stone building covered in Ivy

I’m not sure what building meant the most to me, but your story on Barrett Hall led me to write to you about an interesting event. I was enrolled in Professor Baird’s course, meeting on the ground floor of Barrett. One spring day, as the 15 to 20 students awaited the professor, a window was opened from the outside, and over the sill stepped in the good professor, scowling as usual. That got the attention of the class!

Pete Moyer ’49
Incline Village, Nev.

The tribute to Fayerweather Hall by Miranda Dershimer ’15 (Voices, Winter 2019) brought back happy memories of the building and my experiences in it. The building’s attic housed the College’s Ham Radio Club, whose equipment I used to chat with other amateur radio operators. The club’s gear was much better than my own. I was the only active ham at the time, and so I also used the room as a study and office.

A few days before President John F. Kennedy’s visit to campus to break ground for the Robert Frost Library, a man walked into the attic, clearly surprised to see me, demanding to know who I was and why I was there. He was Secret Service.

The attic had a wealth of fascinating stuff! There was a high-wheel bicycle that several of us took outside and rode around. There were old optical instruments, several of which were of great use to me in my honors project, which involved experiments with a He-Ne laser.

Being a ham, I decided to try communicating from the roof of Fayerweather to my fraternity brothers in the Kappa Theta house, roughly one mile away. I found a large convex lens, 10 inches in diameter, to serve as an antenna, receiving the red light beam from a laser. With a photodiode in back of the lens, coupled to a stereo, we had our receiver. The transmitter was the laser, which I modulated with a stereo receiver and microphone. Some of my brothers and I ran a phone line out to the roof to allow folks at the house to talk back with us. The laser beam is very narrow, and we were able to direct it at the lens. The experiment worked; we even played some music over the light beam.

When I read an article about a year later describing a similar experiment, I realized we had probably made the first verbal and musical communication using a light beam. This, of course, is a very common activity today.

Doug Reilly ’64
Los Alamos, N.M.

Mystery Not-So-Solved

A group of male students gathered around a piano and singing

Alpha Delta Phi or Phi Alpha Psi? We thought the mystery of the piano photo had been solved (see Voices, Winter 2019), but readers continue to ID the subjects differently. In the end, it doesn’t really matter who’s in the photo: the letters from members of both houses have been gold. Here, a ’47 alumnus weighs in.

Charlie Weiner ’47 is correct concerning the piano picture (Voices, Summer 2018)—the picture is of several of us freshmen huddled ’round the piano in the AD house in 1943. In addition to those identified by Charlie, also in the picture, sitting at the keyboard, on the left, is Jack Forte ’47, from the Boston area. He was an excellent piano player.

Charlie and all of those in the picture were wonderful individuals—clean-cut, polite, SMART humans: remarkable in their decency toward each other. I was 16 years old—from Tulsa—quite an experience for me to be at Amherst, but these fellows made the transition into treasured moments.

Hunter Martin Jr. ’47