[In response to a letter from Richard Coit ’76 about Steve Jobs] Hello Richard—good to hear from you again after 40 years. I cannot confirm precisely the exact months Steve Jobs would have been hanging out with us Quincy occupants, but I can confirm his presence at that general time in 1972 and 1973, and his peripatetic sleep habits on sofas and attics throughout the Old Dorm Block (I believe Westport had the best couches). Also confirmed is the accuracy of your recollection that he was lost and searching, though your phrasing is (characteristically) so charitable as to approach solicitude. Finally, confirmed is your perception of a need for prayer, and whatever you did, it seems to have worked.
In your March 2012 issue, I read of the death of one of my classmates, Tania Lipschutz ’68, who was as attractive in her photo as I remembered from 45 years ago.
I also remember the books listed by Bill Nelson ’62 in “Dog-Eared Classics” in the same issue. They are the same ones I read 45 years ago. I suppose Tania had them on her bookshelves, too. Why, though, are people reading them now? Are these the only books for sale at Bill’s “Marketplace of Ideas”?
Hesse and Asimov and Yogananda were stimulating in their time, but I’ve moved on. I discovered that there were women writers, that there were science fiction books published in the last four decades, that some minority writers published good books, too. I understand that the titles on this list are not supposed to be new, but these “classics” represent what young white men read in the 1950s.
Bohemia is a lovely place, but I wish it were more inclusive.
Editor's Note: The purpose of that (all-too-brief) list was to show that certain titles and authors have remained student favorites for 50 years. Bill says today’s Reed students are passionate about a wide range of authors, including Emily Dickinson, Anais Nin, Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, Ursula LeGuin, and Barbara Ehrenreich ’62.
If you never got a copy of The Woodstock Tales, recounting the saga of the ill-fated Westport Cupids, a new edition is now available online in Word and pdf formats, with new graphics and an epilogue telling what’s happened since the original was published. There’s also a corresponding version of “CupidsNotes,” explaining the obscure—and some not so obscure—references in the text.
I will respectfully disagree with fellow aluma Molly O’Reilly ’64, regarding the need for increased “diversity” hiring at Reed [Letters, March 2012]. Although it worked for her back in the ’60s, allow me to tell you a 21st-century story of another bright young woman.
My daughter just lost her teaching job due to the color of her skin.
She studied hard in college, earning high marks. She lived in a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn, commuting to one of the finest urban graduate schools. She volunteered. She went deep into debt to graduate at the top of her class with a master’s in education. She student taught at an inner-city school, where the kids loved “Mizz A.” Her supervisor praised her compassion. Streetwise kids of all colors cried when she left.
My daughter couldn’t find steady work her first year out of school. She substituted, tended bar, moved back in with us. I told her, “Stick with it. You’re good at what you do; you’re passionate. You’ll get your chance.”
After hundreds of rejections, my daughter landed an 80%-time job replacing a teacher on sabbatical. I told her, “Do the great job I know you can do, and they’ll find a place for you.” As a father, I had the same dream for my daughters that Martin Luther King had for his: “I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
I am proud to say that my daughter did the kind of job you see in exhilarating movies like Mr. Holland’s Opus. She inspired! Many of her students will remember her as the teacher who changed their lives. Her evaluations were stellar, and parents spontaneously wrote in to commend her work. As a bonus, my daughter is a trained musician. When the school suddenly needed someone to conduct the orchestra, she stepped in and did a great job.
A regular position opened. The administration put it out to competitive application. My daughter’s supervisor was appalled; letters of support for her poured in from colleagues. But you already know the dénouement. The one thing my daughter had no control over—the color of her skin—determined that she would not be rehired.
The school calls it diversity hiring. I call it racism. It is an excuse for judging applicants based on the color of their skin, contrary to the fundamental American principle that “all men are created equal,” deserving to be judged on their own merits. It is based on the assumption that students cannot learn as well from persons of other races. This is false. Young people are open and without prejudice—until we teach them otherwise.
Racism is no less poisonous when turned against a white person. Affirmative action was necessarily a temporary remedy, because it punishes new generations for the sins of those that came before. It institutionalizes racism, and “group guilt.” So long as we judge people on the color of their skin, nobody is safe. Today, racial minorities benefit. Tomorrow, the tables may turn. The only real protection against discrimination for all races is discrimination against none. As King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
In the 21st century, the adversity we all face is not principally determined by race. As for unconscious bias of hiring committees, it is no answer to substitute the conscious bias of diversity hiring. Most committee members are people of good faith. By setting a goal of equality, we inspire them to treat all applicants fairly. By setting a goal of “diversity,” we create a rigged game that countenances mendacity and mediocrity.
So if Reed is still committed to hiring faculty who are the best and most inspiring in their fields, I say, bravo! I don’t care what race the successful applicant is.
I read with interest Ms. O’Reilly’s “Diversity at Reed” (Letters, March 2012) and the response from Profs. Williams and McDougal. All three seem to share the conviction that ethnic diversity is a good in itself and ought to be pursued for its own sake. Allow me to dissent. Reed College—at least, the Reed of my memory—was and should be utterly indifferent to race, origin, and sex, selecting faculty and students on merit alone. A quota, as suggested by Ms. O’Reilly, is the farthest thing from the colorblind ideal. And while the College seems not to have gone as far as Ms. O’Reilly proposes (yet), it clearly has bought into the logic—why else create a dean for institutional diversity? This decision by Reed has caused me to rethink (read: reduce, and by quite a bit) my donations to the college. Perhaps quota advocates like Ms. O’Reilly will make up the shortfall.
Michael Levine ’62 was one of the contestants representing Reed on the TV quiz show College Bowl, broadcast February 7, 1960. His teammates were Virginia Oglesby Hancock ’62, Peter Stafford ’60, and Bill Jarrico ’61. The Reedies lost to Purdue in a cliff-hanger that accumulated the highest combined score, 230-220, in any match to that date.
There comes a time, in even the most backward, to finally step forward, to acknowledge those who helped out along the way. That time for me is now, and the person to be acknowledged is my former University of Southern California (USC) law professor Michael Levine ’62.
If you can imagine, he returned to his Reed undergraduate roots to recruit, found an unprepossessing senior, and said, from one Reedie to another, “You will not be disappointed if you come to the USC Gould School of Law, where some of the finest faculty in the nation are teaching, many of them recent Harvard law grads,” and he was right.
I have to say that of all my professors, undergrad and law, Reed and Harvard law alumnus Michael Levine stands alone, head and shoulders above the rest. Even now, when I dare to remember what it was like to be in his classroom, I am filled with a mixture of excitement and dread at his dominating intellect, fear and awe at his deep, booming voice, and complete respect for his well-earned, commanding academic presence.
He taught what was perhaps my most fascinating course ever taken, a law and economics class on opportunity costs, one of those small, upper-class specialty courses that few law students venture into, at their peril, and he taught it well.
And he did more than that. For reasons I will never understand, he somehow selected the undersigned to be one of two USC students to join with two more from each of a half dozen other universities, in what was called the Pacific Southwest Universities Air Pollution Association Consortium, a sort of student think tank for developing innovative approaches to the air pollution problem choking the Los Angeles basin. Never has a more impressive professor chosen a more undeserving student.
It seems strange that it has taken all these years to realize how vital it is to thank this man, while I still can.
I was enjoying reading the alumni magazine last night, in bed, about to drift off to sleep, when I came upon the letter “Burning Question,” from Richard Daehler-Wilking ’73 [Letters, March 2012] about the fire in the SU in 1969.
He writes in part: “I stood next to a pumper talking to the fireman in attendance. He took the time to answer my questions, and I distinctly remember being told that with higher pressure (pounds per square inch), the rate of flow (gallons per minute) decreased. I did not know Bernoulli’s principle at the time, so his statement caught me by surprise. I’m sure I doubted it until I next encountered it when teaching physics many years later.”
Well, that woke me up, because as a landscape architect one of the things I do is design landscape irrigation—that’s water flowing through pipes. I think Richard should have kept doubting, because higher pressure does not cause lower flow. Here’s a concise description from Golf Engineering Associates Technical Help Series: “Higher pressure will cause greater flow through any given pipe size, but as the flow increases, the pressure will decrease downstream due to friction loss because water velocities increase as well.”
Hearing of Howard Wolpe’s death brings to mind the few times when our separate lives crossed, the first of which was when I was chosen over him as the Oregon candidate for the Rhodes Scholar competition in the fall of 1959. I was myself defeated in the final round. When Bill Clinton became president, many years later, I could not help wondering if a victory by Howard back then would have eventually led him to the White House! Having grown up in Washington, D.C., well aware of the intellectual vacuity of most elected officials, it was a matter of considerable pride for me when my Reed classmate was elected to Congress and continued to serve for so many terms. I was happy to contribute to his many campaigns and attend events in his honor, including during his unsuccessful run for governor of Michigan. On election night in that contest, I joined a small band of loyal supporters in New York for what we hoped would be a celebration of political liberalism. Unfortunately, Howard’s defeat seemed a dismal sign of where the country was heading. Howard’s public service continued after he left Congress and it was always a pleasure to read about his current activities in the newspapers.
I am blessed my only child is a student at Reed. It is deserved, as it was her ambition to attend a top school from the age of 11. I know this because she then told me, “Papa, I’m going to Harvard.” As far as we are both concerned she did better than that with Reed. She loves Reed and I know it is the best place for her. So I was struck by the letter whining about the cost and the lack of financial aid for a middle-class family from Hawaii. (“What about the Middle Class?” Letters, March 2012).
I was born and raised in Hawaii and am a graduate of University of Hawaii at Manoa. I began work in the profession I followed for over 20 years while at school. Shortly after graduating I was called to work my magic for a Broadway show and so entered a successful era of employment as stage lighting designer and much more.
After I took custody of my child, it became clear that the life of a bohemian artist was not going to pay for her schooling. I then attempted to enter the academic world, as schools usually grant free (or nearly so) tuition to the children (qualified, to be sure) of faculty and sometimes staff. I instructed at two schools and discovered there was little or no connection to professional production and design within the college academic environment. As is true of Reed also, I have my standards and abandoned that environment. At that point I deliberately chose real poverty to ensure that my child would be able to attend whichever school she chose. She worked hard, I enabled as best I could, and so it came to pass.
The point is, there are ways to do this. The system does not make it impossible for a determined parent to help make a child’s dream come true. The letter outlines the case of someone who is really not in need. I gave up a lot to make this real for my only child and I have absolutely no sympathy for those who are unwilling to make any sacrifice and who then cry foul. Especially for someone who lives where I belong. I will likely never see my true home again, as now I am old and my choice of poverty is sticking like glue. But my child shines and that is all that truly matters now.
Editor's Note: This letter was originally published under the erroneous title, "What about the Underclass?", which doubtless earned us an "F" from the sociology department, since that term carries connotations that we did not intend. We apologize for the mistake.
Reed reported recently that two classmates from my undergraduate days had died. They were my age, naturally, so I was brought up short. Seventy-five is a respectable age for dying. Most of life’s experiences have been sampled: a career, marriage, family, and friends. Still, it is unsettling to read about the lives of acquaintances written in the past tense. “She lives in Pasadena,” and “She lived in Pasadena,” isn’t a matter of style; it’s the distance traveled between existence and nonexistence. That little “ed” at the end of a verb is a reminder to squeeze as much joy and adventure into every 24 hours as we can . . . while we lie above ground and not under it.
I don’t say living is easy. Disease and natural disasters are what flesh is heir to, not to mention the catastrophes we bring upon ourselves, like war. But Marcus Tullius Cicero grasped the essence of existence centuries ago (106–43 BC): “While there is life, there is hope.”
Connecticut lobsterman James Arruda Henry knew that truth as well. Illiterate all his life, he learned to read and write at 91. At 98, he has written his memoir, In a Fisherman’s Language, which will be published later this year. James Arruda Henry is a man very much in the present tense.
Reprinted from the blog Caroline Miller Write Away that was picked up in the April edition of the Oregon Women’s Report.