|table of contents>DEPARTMENTS> LETTERS||< Back|next >|
Possessed by Flamenco
The passionate article on Flamenco by Steve Kahn ’66 (Possessed, Autumn 2009) was a pleasure to read, giving a glimpse of joyful aspects of gypsy life. On our travels through (then) Czechoslovakia in 1991, we glimpsed some tragic aspects. The first glimpse entailed graffiti, in English, on underpasses and other walls reading “Death to the Gypsies.”
The second glimpse occurred when we visited relatives of a Portland friend in Brno. Ken and I had walked from our hotel, past a park, to their apartment. After a fine evening, while we said our goodbyes, our host insisted that we let his son walk us back to the hotel. This was absolutely necessary to protect us from the gypsies! As we walked through the quiet park, the 20-something son told us a stereotypic story of how gypsies are nomads who cannot be helped. To improve their housing, they were given new apartments in Brno. But, they continued to cook as if they were camping, making a fire in the middle of the living room rather than using the stove!
The last glimpse was in Ceske Budejovice, where we stayed in the grand pre-World War I hotel on the classical, arcaded town square. Hotel management had arranged with a nearby church that hotel guests could park their cars in the churchyard. After we had gone to bed, a telephone call awoke us at midnight, from the front desk. Since I spoke German (in 1991, still a useful language if one did not speak Czech), I went to the desk to clarify the problem. The police wanted us to close the car window. I was puzzled but went to the car as requested. Turns out we had forgotten to close the front windows completely, having opened each ¼ centimeter for ventilation!
On returning to the hotel desk, I asked the young clerk why the concern about windows being slightly open. She said something like, “Well, the gypsies. . . take. . .” I asked her whether the gypsies were the only ones who steal, and she looked at me, dumbfounded.
It is unclear whether much has changed for the Roma, especially in Eastern Europe, since then.
—Ruth Leeds Love ’58
A Grain of Salt
Thank you for the wonderful article highlighting the work of Dr. Pamela Ronald ’82 (Grains of Truth, Autumn 2009). I absolutely agree that there is a place for genetic engineering in creating sustainable solutions for world hunger and malnutrition. The particular variety of trans-gene rice she created seems particularly promising, with minimal risk for potential ecosystem disturbance, since the flood-resistant gene came from another variety of domestic rice.
However, I do think that Dr. Ronald dismisses the potential risk of genetically modified organisms on ecosystems too blithely. The most widely planted trans-gene crops are Bt corn and cotton. While these crops are likely safe, a preliminary study showed that Bt corn could have a negative effect on the growth of aquatic shredders consuming agricultural detritus from nearby Bt corn fields (Rosi-Marshall et al. 2007. PNAS 104: 16204-16208). Another area of concern is when trans-genes confer an advantage in farming situations, but could be deleterious if introduced to native populations. This is a major concern in trans-gene fish used in aquaculture, where genes increasing growth hormone (GH) levels are commonly used to increase yields. While fish with increased GH are beneficial for aquaculturists, they have also been shown to swim poorly (Farrell et al. 1997. Can. J. Zool. 75: 335-337) and have decreased resistance to disease (Jhingan et al. 2003. J. Fish. Biol. 63: 806-823), among other problems. Fish escape from aquaculture pens is common, and can lead to the introduction of GH trans-genes to native populations which in turn could lead to declines, or even extinctions, of these native populations.
Genetic engineering is proving to be a strong tool in our quest to reduce hunger and malnutrition, but it must be used cautiously and with proper controls to reduce negative impacts to natural ecosystems. After all, the original “Green Revolution” promised to eliminate world hunger, but the huge increase in nitrogen fertilizers it necessitated has now been credited with vast anoxic zones and their associated fish kills (Carpenter et al. 1998. Ecol. Appl. 8: 559-568). Hopefully, molecular biologists such as Dr. Ronald see the need to balance innovation with caution and to work with ecologists to create strategies that will allow both the use of novel genetically modified organisms and the preservation of ecosystem functioning.
—Liz Perkin ’04
Thank you for your kind words in the last issue about The Woodstock Tales, which describes the Westport Cupid incident. I would like to repeat my plea for anyone who may have a photo of the original Cupids to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am saddened to report that Marjorie Ireland ’62, one of the three Westport “Culprits”, recently died of ovarian cancer. Her sudden death came as a shock to those of us who had seen her successfully hold off the disease for years. I am so glad that she, Carol Hurwitz ’62 and I made the long-overdue pilgrimage to Reed in 2007 to tell the story of the missing Cupids.
—Kelly Pomeroy, ’61
A Certain Glow
Thank you for the kind article (Knight in Glowing Armor, Summer 2009). A small correction: Reed is not the only reactor to license undergraduates in the country. We just license more undergraduates than any other school.
—Stephen G. Frantz
In February 2009, the Apocrypha page carried Jack Scrivens’ reminiscences of a cross being dragged across the football field at halftime just before the Columbus Day storm of 1962. Two letters in May 2009 questioned the timing or even the very veracity of the event. After intensive investigation, I can now clear some of the story up. There was indeed a prank where a student dragged a cross on his back across the football field at halftime, accompanied by acolytes who chanted in Latin something to the effect of, “Rain is with us. Break out the wine cask.” This occurred in October 1959, either on the 3rd or 24th of that month (the dates of the two games played against Columbia Christian College). The identity of the leading man in this drama will probably, alas, never be known. All of the usual suspects and several unusual ones have denied it, and the eyewitnesses either don’t remember or never got a full look at him under the crown of thorns and the grime.
—Jim Kahan ’64
Crucifixion? Crucifiction? It happened. Apparently more than once. The 1962 version I don’t doubt; but that was not the first time Reedies put their iconoclasm on display at a football game with a Christian school.
I was a running back on the 1957 team. I was slow. I doubt that I ever broke a tackle. We never won a game; but I stumbled in one time for a touchdown and ruined our otherwise perfect record. There were loud boos at dinner in the commons when someone announced that we had scored.
We didn’t do it again.
But about that crucifixion. I do not remember which school we were playing, but they were Christians. And the game was in progress (before half-time) when the parade came down the hill toward the field. Fritz Fleckenstein bore the cross, and some of the others were flogging him with willow branches. It was a small parade. I have memories of some of the participants, but after 52 years I will not attempt to name them.
The football team didn’t debate any issues. We just took off, determined to stop the demonstration. I don’t know what we would have done had we caught them but they fled in disarray into the trees. We went back to losing another game. The parade did not return. I think Fritz and the crucifiers crossed a corner of the field running for the woods. But there was no half-time show.
I am not sure that all of the players got in on the chase; and I don’t know if they all shared my reaction. But we did not allow the crucifixion to amount to much. It was all over in a few seconds.
Playing six-man football was kind of an antidote for me to the shock of coming from Alder, Washington to Reed. Looking through my ’61 Griffin I don’t see any names from that team among the graduates. Maybe the NCAA should investigate. I finished my thesis over the summer of ’61 and graduated with the class of ’62. I wonder if Dorothy Johansen and Marvin Levich gave me any preferential treatment because of my football star status. Maybe Jerry Barta leaned on them.
Oh, those memories.
—David Potts ’62
Defending the Citadel
I am one of those Reed College graduates whose tenure at Reed coincided with the upheaval both at Reed and the rest of the world during the period of time that is referred to as the ’60s. I, like a large majority of my contemporaries at Reed, have not participated in school activities since graduation, given money to the school, nor suggested to our children that they apply to Reed. The only reason I am responding now, is due to Roger Porter’s excellent letter (read to me by my fellow classmate Susie Strasser ’69 while I am on vacation) which finally puts into perspective and confirms my reality of what was going on in those days when we attended the school.
I applied to the school in 1966, at the suggestion of an acquaintance of my mother’s, then Oregon Senator Wayne Morse who was the sole dissenter against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which signaled the beginning of our involvement in the Vietnam War. Senator Morse suggested that I apply to Reed as it was a center of “enlightenment” and would provide a vigorous intellectual training ground. So I arrived in September 1966, having spent the last two years in high school working with SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, in New York and Mississippi.
I took courses from Marvin Levich and Richard Jones, learning about the methodology of both philosophy and history. But I also took courses from Eugene Lund (European history), Mason Drukman and Kurt Thompson (political science), Howard Waskow (literature), John Tomsich (history), and Millie Howe (economics). They taught me the importance of primary documents, the differences between primary and secondary sources and how to think outside the box. They were dynamic. I was not aware at the time of the specifics, as reported by Roger Porter, but I did know that all of these fine young scholars (except Tomsich) were getting the ax because they did not conform to the ideas of the few old guard who dominated the academic world at Reed. And while Tomsich was not fired, he was reprimanded for being too close to the “young Turks,” and had an uphill battle in getting tenure, in part, due to his relationship to them (a sort of academic McCarthy period in Reed’s history).
The almost last straw for me during that period, was when the faculty met to discuss whether Reed would open its doors to Black Studies, after the Black Student Union took over the president’s office demanding that such courses be included in Reed’s curriculum. While I cannot remember the exact wording of the statement, I will never forget the beginning lines that stated, in effect, that “Reed was an institution dedicated to truth and knowledge and that Black Studies was neither truth nor knowledge.” The final straw was when Reed refused, years later, to divest itself of its holdings from South Africa while South Africa was still under the grip of apartheid.
Though I have always credited my education at Reed for teaching me skills that I have relied upon as a lawyer, a civil court judge and now a state supreme court judge, Reed made me and many of my classmates feel like outsiders. Thank you, Roger, for sharing the specifics of what went on and confirming my reality, even if almost 40 years later.
—Karen Smith ’70
I have a few words in reply to the very long letter from Professor Porter. The first is that I am relieved, if a little astonished, to discover that Professor Porter reserves “relevance” to a special meaning completely unrelated to the standard sense which it took on at Reed and other institutions of high learning in the sixties. For this purpose even Wikipedia will do: “During the 1960s, relevance became a fashionable buzzword, meaning roughly ‘relevance to social concerns’ such as racial equality, poverty, social justice, world hunger, world economic development, and so on. The implication was that some subjects, e.g., the study of medieval poetry and the practice of corporate law, were not worthwhile because they did not address pressing social issues.” Accordingly, “relevance” as it was used then becomes something other than a conceptual bucket into which we could spill any activity, which for any reason we think to be of some importance in this world.
It is a discussable matter whether Humanities 110 would be improved, as Professor Porter has it, by using documents from one historical period to illuminate documents produced in an earlier period. But this has nothing to do with with “relevance.”
Porter does remind us of the other colleges, Amherst, Stanford and Brown, who were more “flexible than Reed” in the sixties. It would be interesting if relevance at those institutions meant something so slight as the changes embodied in the Porter recommendation. I, for one, am sure it did not.
But Professor Porter does succeed in changing the subject. A controversy about adopting a book becomes a hidden controversy about “relevance,” and, at the very last, a novel redefinition of its meaning.
Second, I am grateful to Porter for introducing Professor Jones to the controversy, even though the introduction was a series of backhand slaps. Professor Jones is dead, but I think the alumni who knew him will remember he was not in need of defense from me, or anyone else. Jones looms very large in the academic history of Reed, and was a pivotal figure in shaping educational policy, when such things mattered at Reed. His convictions were deep and, for the most part, right.
There are many other things I would like to mention, including the purge, on Professor Porter’s view, of every non-tenured member of the faculty who was known to support the Black Studies Center. Porter conveniently forgot that a proposal to have a Black Studies Center was adopted by a vote of the faculty. I’m sure he has an explanation for why an academic program approved by a vote of the faculty was then converted into a reason for firing every non-tenured faculty member.
This is longer than it should be, but enough is enough…
And All I Got Was This T-shirt
During the period when the citadel was being defended, morale was not high among junior faculty who taught in the humanities program. Therefore, Jim Webb (assistant professor of English) did what he could to improve matters. He produced a closely limited edition of sweatshirts—each bearing the image of the griffin sunburst—proclaiming “FAC” (Faculty Advisory Committee) and offering a choice of portrait and tag, “Dick,” “Gail,” or “Marv.”
These mildly subversive items, with their suggestion of a loyalty oath, fooled nobody, nor, of course, were they meant to. It was fun while it lasted, but within a remarkably short time, the shirts and those who wore them were hard to find around the campus.
My own shirt got a lot of wear over the next few years. It grew shabby and faded, and the portrait became badly distorted. It finally went missing in a laundromat. This was a grief to me, for after it had completed its healing functions, I had hoped to offer it to the college archives.
—Bonnie Huddart Garlan ’57
Remembering Ken Davis
I learned recently of the death of Dr. Kenneth E. Davis, formerly professor of physics at Reed. He taught the sophomore class of physics. His teaching was systematic and step-by-step. This made him, I think, seem rigid and not “with it” to some—but not to me. Take the example of Newton’s Third Law, which is sometimes expressed as “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Dr. Davis would formulate this as “If body A exerts a force on body B, then body B exerts a force on body A which is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.” He taught us to imagine a membrane surrounding any body; the forces on that body were represented by arrows (vectors) piercing the membrane. Thus one could isolate and visualize all the forces that acted on any body. Dr. Davis’ description was not as fancy as the shorthand “for every action,” but it made it easier to actually solve problems. One could go from an understanding of Dr. Davis’ formulation to understand what was meant by “for every action . . .” but not the other way around. His teaching gave me a solid foundation to proceed to subsequent learning in physics, and I have never forgotten it.
—David L. Harris ’57
Ken Davis taught me sophomore physics in 1957–58. I was enrolled in a 3-2 engineering program. I would go to Reed for three years and then to MIT for two years. However, because of his inspiration, I changed my major to physics at the end of that year. Even now I can see Dr. Davis standing before the blackboard admonishing us to “draw a picture. Draw a circle around the object of interest. Draw in ALL the forces acting on the object.” He taught me that using logic and discipline, I might someday be able to understand the whole universe. I tried to pass his excitement on to my own students.
In 1958, I left Reed to go to Germany for two and one half years as a missionary for the LDS Church. I may be the only Reed student who has ever done that! While I was away, Dr. Davis wrote me several multi-page letters to keep me informed both about physics and about Reed. This shows how much he cared for his students, even students who might never return to Reed.
When I returned from Germany in the spring of 1961, the Vietnam War was in full swing. Since I was not in school, I was in great danger of being drafted before I could return to Reed in the fall. When I was called in for my physical, I panicked. I wrote Dr. Davis of my predicament and received in reply a telegram honoring me with a Baker Scholarship in physics. I took this telegram to my draft board. A few weeks later I received two letters from the draft board. The first ordered me to report for induction. The second cancelled the order. That fall I was able to return to Reed. I’ve enclosed a copy of the telegram signed by Dr. Davis.
The following year Dr. Davis found me a summer job working for a former Reed student, Dr. Edwin Norbeck, at the University of Iowa Van de Graaff accelerator. While there, I had the opportunity to design the experiment and collect the data for my Reed thesis. Dr. Davis was my thesis adviser. Once more he inspired me to do my best. He urged me to submit the results to the Physical Review, where they were published. During that year he also spent considerable time helping me choose an appropriate graduate school.
Dr. Davis cared for his students. Over and over, I was a beneficiary of his caring. I am grateful to him.
—J. Howard Shafer ’63
The summer 2009 edition of Reed included a letter written by Franz Friedrich ’50 concerning his father, A. Anton Friedrich, a Reed professor of economics in the early 1920s. Franz wrote that his father “…asked his students to do research into the role of labor unions. Not surprisingly, some of them came to the conclusion that (President Norman) Coleman’s Loyal Legion of Loggers (sic) was, as your article states, a union company.”
The correct name of the 4L organization was the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen. Its members were involved in harvesting Sitka spruce timber for wing spars and other structural members of Allied fighter aircraft on the Western Front. There was a shortage of spruce timber. Hence the 4L. Anyone who is interested can google all this and a great deal more at HistoryLink Essay 5732 in the Cyberpedia Library.
I have a small bronze button issued by the 4L organization. It has been in my family since the end of the Great War. It shows a biplane in flight, a ship, a stack of logs, and a two-man saw and an axe. I only wish the button could talk. Washington state was the scene of murderous labor warfare in the ’20s. Members of the IWW (“wobblies”) strongly opposed the war in Europe and were thrown into state and federal jails as a result. The overflow from Seattle was hauled to the Everett jail. Federal agents did not then have automobiles, so they were chauffeured by deputized locals.
—William Kirby ’65
Thank You, Leila
I took a number of courses with Leila Falk and have often looked back on those conferences in Capehart as my best and most enjoyable experiences at Reed. She arrived in my sophomore year, 1968, and deepened my understanding of what the study of music could be. My public high school in New York had a very strong music department, with no fewer than six teachers, and I had some fine piano teachers who showed me the basics of harmony and composition, so the serious study of music was not completely new to me, but Leila was profoundly dedicated to music and showed us how to explore a composition in ways that were fascinating and rewarding.
She opened my eyes to ancient music—something I had never thought about. When my classmates and I were with Leila, it felt like we were part of something special—like we were the music fanatics willing to go where few others had been.
Leila also encouraged me to compose! She helped me find a few talented musicians at Reed who played some chamber pieces I wrote. And finally, she arranged for a short work of mine to be played at a recital given in the commons on the day of my graduation. There are many Reedies, I’m sure, who will count Leila Falk’s influence on them as one of the best parts of their time at Reed.
—Seth Wittner ’73
Still Arguing With Zoloft
—Laura Fisher ’68
In August 2008, Reed College presented me the Vollum Award for Distinguished Accomplishment in Science and Technology for my role in the discovery of the antidepressant drug Zoloft, an honor for which I am deeply grateful! Subsequently, a human-interest story about me, penned by Will Swarts ’92, was published in the Winter 2009 issue of Reed. Will’s article sparked two letters, which appeared in Spring 2009. One by Dan Feller ’72 mentions our common experience working at Portland’s Chinese restaurant Hung Far Low! The intent of the other letter by Jason Seidel ’90 is harder to discern, other than to say it reads like a polemic in which he excoriates psychopharmacology, psychiatry, and the pharmaceutical industry. Zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride) with its broad acceptance, wide usage, and acknowledged effectiveness needs no defense from me. However, it is regrettable that Jason uses the personal story of a recipient of Reed’s prestigious Vollum Award as a lead-in to argue for his particular views on the treatment of affective disorders. I hope that Reedies with their sharpened analytic powers can see through that!
—Kenneth Koe ’45
|table of contents>DEPARTMENTS > LETTERS||< Back|next >|