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.

Imitating Beavers

Cover of Fall 2018 issue of Amherst magazineI enjoyed the interview about beaver impacts on stream ecosystems (cover story, Fall 2018). One thing the interview did not touch on is that ecologists are now sprinkling Western stream systems with “beaver dam analogs” (BDAs), which are structures built to mimic beaver dams and recreate their beneficial effects. In summer 2017, my ecology students and I built five BDAs on the South Fork of the Crooked River in Oregon. Our site is located in a region where the British Hudson’s Bay Co. implemented its “Fur Desert Policy,” which sought to disincentivize the movement of American rivals into the region by trapping out all fur-bearing animals. My students are monitoring BDA effects on water temperature, sediment deposition and the recovery of woody streamside species like willow that have suffered under centuries of beaver removal and cattle grazing. When I was at Amherst and told people I was a biology major, the next question was always, “Are you going to medical school?” I wasn’t, and couldn’t have known I’d end up imitating beavers.

Matt Orr ’87
Bend, Ore.
(Orr is an assistant professor of biology at Oregon State University—Cascades.)

Matt Orr
Matt Orr in Crooked River, Oregon.

Ode to Barrett Hall

I loved Professor Stavans’ chronicle of the history of Barrett Hall (“Listen & Linger,” Fall 2018). My memory of Barrett relates to the many classes during my Spanish major that I had with the inimitable Jim Maraniss in that building. Every class began with the same one-minute routine. In his characteristic rose-colored glasses, Jim would start every session by pulling down all the blinds in the classroom. Even if it was a beautiful autumn day in Amherst, the blinds would go down. I was never able to confirm if Jim was indeed a vampire, but sometimes it did seem as if he felt that El Quijote was best discussed in the dark!

Lee Clancy ’90

Very Funny

Your article by Professor Allen Guttmann (“The Day I Took People Magazine to Pratt Field,” Fall 2018) is one of the funniest articles you’ve published. Kudos!

Donna Young
Marshfield, Mass.
(Young is the wife of Champ Young ’56.)

Your Favorite Places

We asked: What Amherst building means the most to you? Here’s what a few of you said.


Johnson Chapel
I was a switchboard operator for four years in a room on the first floor (’56 to ’60). I would plug in one line for an incoming call and the companion line for the on-campus extension—an out-of-date system even then. I did have to work four hours the night before my freshman physics exam (I passed, but just barely). In my day, the dorms had just one telephone on each floor, and students were reluctant to answer it. Once, as a freshman, while waiting for someone to pick up, I exchanged names with a Smith freshman, said I was a junior in XYZ fraternity. I had a blind date two weeks later—it was the same lady! I fessed up, and we had a good laugh. An extra benefit was taking dates to the tower roof for the wonderful view

Bill Colby ’60
Richmond, Va.


As a pre-med student struggling through the basic sciences, there dropped from the heavens the major of neuroscience, under the direction of the incomparable Professor Stephen George. My senior research thesis landed me in the lab of Dr. Charles “Al” Sorenson, on the top floor of Appleton Hall, the psychology building at that time. Appleton was an easy commute to/from my room in South. Many late evenings were spent at Appleton working with Al, whose patient guidance and fierce intelligence, mixed with his California mien, were refreshing to a staid New England campus and this suburban New Jersey kid.

Rick Roseff ’76
Ridgefield, Conn.


Feyerweather Hall
Fayerweather, I’ve always loved you, from the high school visit that convinced me to choose Amherst; to my first-year seminar “Eros and Insight,” which, simply put, changed my life; to my senior thesis show in your gallery; to my recent visits in dreams. We made memories together: staying up late with a friend pulling prints, visiting professors’ office hours, spending Interterm in your basement with my hands coated in plaster, lying on your top-floor staircase landing under the skylights to write essays, spending hours locked in your darkroom developing film… I miss you.

Miranda S. Dershimer ’15E
Pacifica, Calif.

Mystery Solved

Members of  Phi Alpha Psi gathered around a piano singing

I think I recognize some of the men in the photo on page 5 of the Summer 2018 issue. It is a photo of the Phi Alpha Psi double quartet practicing for the Interfraternity competition, which we won in the spring of 1950.

Of the two guys sitting at the piano, I’m the one on the left with my mouth open and my face partly hidden behind the man standing next to me. Shad Hartwell ’50 is standing at right with dark-rimmed glasses, bending over the keyboard. Bob Huggins ’50 is the shortest one in the back row to the right, looking down at his sheet music, I hope. I’m sorry I can’t recognize the other faces anymore.

Thanks for the chance to enjoy this photo once again!

Milt Zimmerman ’50
Rifton, N.Y.