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.

More on Tamara Johnson ’73

Two magazine spreads with a black woman in a dress and on a New York City street
I was so pleased to read about Tamara Johnson ’73 in your Spring 2022 issue. What a bold, brave, talented person she was. Though the gay liberation movement had begun to expand possibilities for gender and sexual freedom during her time at Amherst, it could not have been easy to be so out and proud at the College, and as a student of color to boot.

Thank you to Katharine Whittemore, who, in telling Johnson’s story, did not shy away from mentioning the great personal price Johnson paid to be unapologetically queer at Amherst, and the homophobia (and transphobia) she endured there. But how nice to learn that Norman Birnbaum, who was once my professor, too, was an ally, along with others.

I only wish I had known Johnson’s story, and the stories of other LGBTQI alumni, when I arrived at Amherst several years later. I hope and trust that today’s Amherst students have greater access to information about the hidden history of sexual and gender diversity at the College and beyond.

Arlene Stein ’80
Jersey City, N.J.


My thanks to Katharine Whittemore for her superb piece on Tamara Johnson. I couldn’t help but feel sad, however, to realize that while I was her classmate—and sang in the same section (first tenor) in the Glee Club—I never allowed myself to get to know her. I’ve no doubt my own discomfort provided the excuse I wanted to keep a distance from someone who seemed different. I regret this. I know now the role fear plays in keeping people apart, people who have much to learn from each other. This too ought to be part of an Amherst education. Honoring Tamara’s memory, for me, will be allowing myself to keep on learning, and to have a high regard for those who, like her, are being authentic and fully human.

Peter S. Buehler ’73
Santa Barbara, Calif


Your very thoughtful story about Tamara Johnson reflects some of the ways times have changed at the College. Your article got me remembering the ways that Tamara and some of her classmates challenged Amherst’s traditional notions of gender and sexuality. Many of us were not ready.

In the mid-1980s I was the project manager for the Amherst Biographical Record, a compendium of biographical data for each Amherst alum. One day I received a call from a transgender alum from the mid-1960s who asked that the name she currently used be listed in the book.

After running it up the flagpole, the answer came back an emphatic no. I do not remember the policy for alumni who assumed a spouse’s last name or who changed their names to reflect religious conversions. I suspect we were inconsistent.

Thank you for shining a light on this talented, courageous woman.

Richard Ammons ’74
Durham, N.C.

A photo of the Holyoke Range with a bolt of lightning coming from the clouds
Terras Irradient! Facebook fans loved this photo of a late-summer thunderstorm over the Holyoke Range. “After my four years, I know that mountain line like the back of my hand,” wrote Stevens Miller ’80. “But I never saw anything like that.”

Social Media Comments

The College’s LinkedIn and Facebook followers responded to three recent magazine features, “The Dots Were All There. We Just Couldn’t Connect Them” (Summer 2022), in which journalist Michele Berdy ’78 recounted her escape from Russia; “Grammar School” (Spring 2022), by Tess Taylor ’00, who recalled a course taught by Chick Chickering and Michele Barale; and “A Glorious Woman” (Spring 2022), about Tamara Johnson ’73, the first known trans graduate of Amherst. Read all three stories at

A magazine spread with a snowy woods with the headline "The Dots Were All There. We Just Couldn't Connect Them."
The Dots Were All There. We Just Couldn’t Connect Them.

Jayson Paul ’16: Incredible story. Glad Michele made it out safely.

Grammar School

Derek A.R. Moore ’78: What a lovely piece! An excellent concept for an essay, and beautifully done. And what a delight to read about Professor Chickering! To know that he was applying his genially exacting method with such impact in 1998, more than 20 years after I had a course in medieval lyric poetry with him in the fall of 1975, left me in awe of that extraordinary teacher all over again.

Amanda Weiss ’97: What a beautiful remembrance of this course, which I, too, so loved!

Peter Elliott ’98: I remember this class so well, and it has formed such an impact on how I teach English. Excellent essay.

A Glorious Woman

Gary Hudson ’87: One of the best articles I’ve read in the Amherst mag—and beyond.

Hanna Campbell ’07: This was an incredible read. Thank you for sharing her story with us.