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.

A Straight Talker

The cover of the Amherst Magazine with a woman in a pink fur coat
Reading the obituary for Prosser Gifford in Amherst magazine (Winter 2021) brought back a conversation I had with the distinguished dean during the spring of 1978, my senior year at Amherst. I was struggling to decide whether to attend law school or pursue an academic career. A well-meaning faculty adviser suggested that I talk to Dean Gifford, who was both a law school graduate and a Ph.D. historian. Although Gifford was a somewhat remote figure for students, I made an appointment and showed up at his office.

“So you want to know what I think of Harvard Law School?” Gifford seemed to display an un-nerving zeal at being asked the question. “A collection of the most intellectually talented individuals I have ever met, in the most anti-intellectual environment I have ever experienced!”

I left his office quietly overwhelmed by the response.

It wasn’t long after my arrival in Cambridge that I realized Gifford was right on both points. My 1L peers were a very bright group, but the legal education indeed had its trade school aspects. Although I hadn’t appreciated his advice at the time, in retrospect I had to give Dean Gifford credit: he told it to me straight.

Kenneth Propp
’78 Falls Church, Va.

A Valentine Memory

Wow! That’s me, Tom Wattley, now Dr. Thomas J. Wattley Jr., back in the day in Valentine Hall with two friends (photo, page 69, Winter 2021). We’re probably talking about what Sister Sonia (Sonia Sanchez, associate professor of Black studies) said in class, or how grueling microeconomics with Professor Walter Nicholson was that day, or really, what I was going to wear to the party at Smith Friday night.

Thanks for the memory.

Tom Wattley ’75, P’00

A black and white photo of a young man eating in a cafeteria
Tom Wattley ’75 spotted himself in the photo above, with friends in Valentine.

The Team to Beat

Oh, my. We looked so young then (photo, page 65, Winter 2021).

Southern Conn was one of the two teams to beat us in ’66–’67 (New England championship sea-son). The other was Bowdoin. Southern Conn became a very big rival, and we vowed never to lose to them again. (The same with Bowdoin.) We didn’t. Incidentally, we of the class of ’69 beat Williams three times by the time we graduated. But that’s another story.

That’s John Phillips ’69 (in a swimsuit, third from the right) and Chip Morgan ’69 (bending over the blocks, also in a swimsuit). Adriaan Van Oss ’69 is in the water, reaching over the lane line to shake hands with his opponent. I’m not in the picture, having swum the third leg.

The 400-freestyle relay was the last event. The meet was very close, with neither team ever ahead by more than three points and the lead changing several times. We won that race, beating So Conn by seven-tenths of a second and winning the meet 49–46.

Thus, the joy.

Peter Snedecor ’69

A black and white photo of a swim meet
For Peter Snedecor ’69, this swim-meet photo sparked a happy memory.

Inauguration Art

The astute reader of the Winter 2021 edition of Amherst will note that the landscape on page 19, Maiden’s Rock, Lake Pepin is by the same artist, Robert Seldon Duncanson, whose work Landscape with Rainbow was selected for display by Dr. Jill Biden during the January 2021 presidential inauguration ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.

Keith R. Stephenson ’79
Blacksburg, Va.

Maiden’s Rock: Mead Art Museum; Landscape With Rainbow: Smithsonian American Art Museum

Two landscape paintings of a river and a rainbow over a field
Duncanson’s Maiden’s Rock (1962) is part of the Mead Art Museum collection. His Landscape with Rainbow (1859) is at the Smithsonian.