Letters to the Editor

The new colleges: pro and con

We welcome readers’ letters, which should be mailed to Letters Editor, Yale Alumni Magazine, PO Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905; e-mailed to yam@yale.edu; or faxed to (203) 432-0651. Due to the volume of correspondence, we are unable to respond to or publish all mail received. Letters accepted for publication are subject to editing.

Kudos to Dean Robert A. M. Stern and the Yale Corporation for paying homage to James Gamble Rogers’s masterpieces in the design of the new residential colleges (“Déjà Vu,” March/April). As a native of New Haven, I recall at age four touring the campus with my parents and feeling the deep reverence for learning on display in those buildings. I also recall entering as a freshman, relieved that I had been placed in Berkeley rather than Morse or Stiles. While those two colleges have their loyal alums, as Yale architecture they remain disparate and disappointing. The new colleges will surely bring all the majesty that Rogers intended for us.

Jack Flynn ’77
La Mesa, CA


I hope the new Yale colleges will be more successful than the phrase “no place for aesthetic experimentation” implies. What better place than Yale for “aesthetic experimentation”? Fear of failure and timidity about new ideas are clearly the enemies of creativity. Attending Yale and revisiting the campus, I have admired the creative architecture of Louis Kahn, Eero Saarinen, and Venturi and Scott Brown. I also admired the creations of James Gamble Rogers: experimentation for the early twentieth century. What does Yale now represent as the challenges of the twenty-first century loom: harking back to an earlier time, or looking forward with courage? Shouldn’t the architecture set an example for students?

Peter Chapin ’60
Santa Fe, NM


About the design of the new residential colleges: back in the 1950s, we smiled indulgently at James Gamble Rogers’s pastiche recreations of Oxbridge Gothic and Williamsburg colonial. Now, it appears that Robert A. M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, is to provide the university with a pastiche of Rogers’s almost century-old pastiche.

During Whitney Griswold’s tenure as president in the 1950s and ’60s, he understood that Yale’s building should stand as an expression of its values. Hence his hiring of architects who designed boldly and creatively, facing to the future, not the past: Saarinen, Rudolph, Kahn. What does it say about Yale today when it engages an architect best known for retro palaces and luxe condominium towers for the very rich to produce an architectural statement that looks deliberately to an irrelevant and outworn tradition, turning its back on the new and exciting?

“Play it safe” is a sorry substitute for “light and truth.”

Standish Meacham ’54
West Lake Hills, TX


The plans for the new undergraduate colleges are most impressive. They also offer a perspective on Yale’s sense of its social compact with the larger world: we will work hard to excel and to give back to global society when we can, but we also expect extraordinarily nice accommodations while we are in New Haven.

Five hundred million dollars to accommodate 900 students amounts to more than half a million dollars per student accommodation. In broad perspective, is this truly the most socially useful way that Yale alums could invest in the world?

Edward L. Goldstein-Golding ’73PhD
Hadley, MA


I could not believe how insipid and uninspired the new residential colleges were. Then I realized the months covered by that issue of your magazine. Congrats on a fantastic April Fools’ joke! Can’t wait to see what the new colleges will really look like.

Mark Bernhardt ’76, ’80MD
Boca Raton, FL


May I cast one vote against a Harkness Tower Lite? The real thing is one of a kind, unmatched in its beauty, and anything even reminiscent of it would only detract from it, even from blocks away.

Think Walt Disney World’s knock-off of the Doge’s Palace. Don’t do it.

George F. Gitlitz ’52
Sarasota, FL


When “hack” meant “fail”

The Birth of the Hacker” (March/April) reminded me of another meaning of the word, dating back to my sophomore Quantitative Analysis chemistry lab in 1950–51. We were given unknown solutions and were required to determine the exact concentration using chemical analysis. Those who got the right answer received a “P” for pass, and those of us who were wrong got an “H” for hack, with the results posted on a chart for the public to see. I was the leading “hacker” in the class, and believe I set a record for the most consecutive H’s, which may stand to this day. Somehow I managed to pass the course, get through medical school, and enjoy a long medical career.

Fredric Reichel ’53
Santa Monica, CA


Redefining the wheel

In your article about volvelles (“Going Around in Circles,” March/April), it was disappointing to see the third example on page 44 described simply as a “color wheel.” Its purpose, clearly, is to decode the color code used in electronic resistors.

Ivan Tubert-Brohman ’06PhD
New York, NY


The story of science

I am writing to thank you, your staff, and Richard Conniff for the fine article “How Science Came to Yale” (March/April). Having been privileged to attend classes and work in the midst of some of those great collections, it was especially rewarding to read the summary. I have been especially appreciative of the advantages offered in geology at Yale.

John R. Coash ’54PhD
Bakersfield, CA


Jauron was a Bill, too

While you mentioned Dick Jauron’s coaching career at Chicago and Detroit (“Fame Catches Up with Dick Jauron,” March/April), let’s not forget that he subsequently was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills for several seasons.

Rene Reixach ’66
Rochester, NY


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Casual Night at the Anchor

Your article regarding the Anchor Restaurant (“Adieu to the Anchor,” March/April) brought back memories of an evening in 1947. A group of us in Silliman made a bet with Andy Eldred ’49 (now deceased) that he would not go to the Anchor dressed only in a Yale banner (see photo). We lost the bet, but it was worth it.

Charles F. Lowrey ’50
San Francisco, CA


HGS remembered

It’s been almost a half century since I began my graduate study at Yale, and much has changed. I see from your article on the planned renovation of the Hall of Graduate Studies (“An Overhaul for the Hall of Graduate Studies,” March/April) that some things have not.

While the superb faculty in the economics department made my years at Yale both pleasant and productive, my colleagues and I were always aware that in the eyes of the university, graduate students were second-class citizens. That Yale is now eliminating graduate student housing and only replacing about half of it, at the same time as two new residential colleges are under construction, is sad, but I suppose it should not be surprising.

Carl Gambs ’72PhD
Highlands Ranch, CO


As a foreign undergraduate student, I spent three summers in New Haven, and I was fortunate to be able to stay in HGS once Branford College closed for the season. The price was reasonable, and one met many interesting folks in the course of the summer weeks, plus being able to take advantage of the common room and other facilities.

The rooms were on the top floor, with lovely views of the courtyard and, of course, no air conditioning. There were no “en suite” restrooms, so if one had company it was necessary to temporarily stand guard in the hallway outside the common facilities to ensure privacy. Dinners were as often as not taken at the nearby small Howard Johnson’s, where a daily special was offered for 99 cents.

I am looking forward to seeing the planned new dorms, which undoubtedly will be more modern than the old HGS, but probably without the atmosphere and nostalgic memories.

Peter H. Tveskov ’56
Branford, CT


Your brief article on the Hall of Graduate Studies took me by surprise and caused me to reach out to a few of the lifelong friends whom I first met in HGS between 1979 and 1981. We all agreed that the terse declaration, “most notably, the dining hall and 168 dormitory beds will be eliminated,” doesn’t do justice to the place. It certainly doesn’t begin to tell the story of our two years there: the football pool that ran in the fall; the sound of the Russian Chorus rehearsing on Monday nights; the plumbing that malfunctioned in the bathrooms even back then, causing toilet-flushers to shout “Stand aside!” as warning to those showering; the ritual Sunday reading of the New York Times in the common room; the weekly debriefings about each episode of Dallas (who did shoot J. R.?); the toaster ovens hidden from campus firemen; the scramble to order a half cord of wood; the hidden pets (at least one cat, and for a while, a small dog); the mysterious but delicious “black goop” dessert in the dining hall; the courtyard that hosted snowball fights in winter as well as a group preparing for English doctoral orals in summer who, on long evenings in slowly fading light, read one Shakespeare play a night, three times a week, relieved by a book of the Faerie Queene on Thursdays.

It certainly doesn’t tell the story of the two marriages that we know about that began with chance meetings in the dining hall: Jeffrey Hamburger ’79, ’87PhD, and Dietlinde Roell Hamburger ’81MA; and Darlene Berkovitz ’86PhD and Bob Zinn ’82JD. And the reason I went to HGS in the first place was because my long-time Houston friends from Rice, Paula Eisenstein Baker ’61MA and Steve Baker ’63PhD, recommended it, telling me they had met over dinner at HGS in the early 1960s.

The very end of the article—“It’s a place where graduate students can build a community”—only begins to express what HGS meant to us. Yale’s unofficial alma mater, we believe, captures it much better: “Time and change shall not avail / To break the friendships formed at Yale.”

Anne Walters Robertson ’84PhD
Chicago, IL


Heated debate

An alumnus contends that scientists who are concerned about global warming have been “discredited” (Letters, March/April). They are, we’re told, “ideologically driven pseudoscientists” who are engaged not merely in “linguistic trickery,” but in spreading an outright “lie.”

A few days after I read that edifying harangue, a team of international scientists reported (in Nature Geoscience) that the ice pack in Antarctica is melting substantially faster than had been previously recognized. On the other side of the globe, anyone who has taken an Alaska cruise in recent years can testify to the remarkable retreat of the glaciers in that state. And farther north, polar bears are now listed as an endangered species, largely because of the shrinking ice floes in the Arctic Ocean.

It is disheartening to be reminded, once again, that there are individuals with Yale degrees who can still proclaim that the earth is flat. It might be helpful, in other circumstances, to urge such folk to get out into the world a little more, to see for themselves. But in this case, what’s the use? “My mind’s made up. Don’t confuse me with the facts.”

Charles F. Hinkle ’71JD
Milwaukie, OR


Yale should reach out

It is not clear what Peter Salovey is trying to get across in his remarks on reducing student debt (“Q&A: Peter Salovey,” March/April). He makes much of the reduction in debt that Yale graduates currently experience, but there is little evidence in his remarks relating that achievement to a larger societal impact on education as “the surest route to social and economic mobility.” Of course, a Yale education may give a few individuals from low-income families a better crack at “the American Dream,” but does Yale have a strategy for leveraging its iconic status and institutional strength to ensure Salovey’s own hope and conviction “that the dream of a better life will be woven permanently into the fabric of societies around the world”?

There is an enormous literature on statistical claims for economic, ethnic, and racial diversity at elite universities like Yale. But no matter, a focus on the opportunity for what will inevitably be a few select individuals at Yale misses the larger opportunity (and obligation) of an institution as important as Yale to promote economic and social mobility.

If Yale, in fact, wants to do something equal to its position in American life and truly transformative for the education of low-income and ethnically and racially diverse populations, it will reach out beyond the significance of its own student catchment and build on the potential of its innovative community outreach and assistance initiatives to both students and schools in New Haven. Commendable but modest steps.

It is only in those kinds of ideas and initiatives at scale that America will find the promise of transformative change. Similar programs could be promoted in cities across the United States where Yale alumni are congregated in numbers—promoting promising initiatives in support of high-quality neighborhood schools, charter schools, and community colleges. If Yale can find its way to Singapore, there is no reason it cannot find its way out of New Haven to Hartford, Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis, and Los Angeles—or even Pretoria and Ponce, as Salovey opined in his welcoming address to the Class of 2017.

Owen Cylke ’60, ’63JD
Bethesda, MD


An accidental dean

Your brief notice about the death of Charles Forman, longtime professor at the Divinity School (Milestones, January/February), brought back a flood of memories. In the early 1960s, Forman was appointed acting dean of the school when the previous dean was forced to take an unanticipated leave of absence to recover from a major illness.

A gentle and soft-spoken person, Forman seemed on the surface somewhat ill suited to the role of dean in that turbulent era. Further, he had not wanted the position, both because administrative tasks did not excite him and because the role took him away from classroom teaching.

Nevertheless, he did an excellent job in every way, particularly in bringing healing to the Divinity School community in the wake of the sudden departure of his predecessor, as well as other difficult losses (the untimely death of H. Richard Niebuhr and the retirement of Roland Bainton, both hugely revered figures). Forman was a wonderful and successful dean, earning deep admiration and respect from the Divinity School faculty and student body, as well as other stakeholders, and causing many to forget the word “acting” in his title.

Beyond his short stint in the deanship, Forman was also a highly regarded teacher and a warm presence in informal student gatherings. He was neither flashy nor flamboyant, nor was he a best-selling author, but hewas a well-loved leader who left a significant mark at the Divinity School.

Robert Tiller ’66BD, ’67MUS
Silver Spring, MD


Naming opportunity

Philip S. Weber ’78 hits the onomastic nail on the head in writing “the alumni I know groan at the prospect” of the two new colleges being named on grounds of “political correctness” (Letters, March/April). Both colleges will indeed front on Prospect Street, with Prospect Walk running between them. Clearly, then, one college must be called Groan. The students of Groan College shall be called Groan Men and Women. (Groan.) With that in mind, name the other college for Louisa May Alcott, so its female and male students can be nicknamed, respectively,…

Randy Alfred ’67
San Francisco, CA


Undoing urban renewal

Regarding the new development at the New Haven Coliseum site (“Stitching a Downtown Back Together,” March/April), urban renewal in New Haven in the Lee era was ill-conceived and ill-executed. Viable residential and commercial areas were completely demolished, including Church Street, State Street, and Legion Avenue. Urban renewal started as a program to eradicate slums. In New Haven, the program then went on to eradicate areas that were not slums. It was a program gone awry.

New Haven has suffered for 60 years because of urban renewal. Fortunately, work is under way to undo the damage. The new 360 State Street development and the development at the old Coliseum site will breathe new life into the downtown area. Congratulations to the past and present mayors of New Haven for providing the necessary leadership.

Edward J. Bayer ’76
New Orleans, LA



In an item about cellist Aldo Parisot ’48Mus (“From the Editor,” March/April), we referred to Parisot as Yale’s longest-serving faculty member. But both Professor of Chemistry Martin Saunders and Sterling Professor of Humanities Harold Bloom ’56PhD have taught at Yale for 60 consecutive years, three years longer than Parisot. And although he officially retired in 1997, Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering Peter Schultheiss ’45W has continued to teach every spring in the School of Engineering, giving him 68 consecutive years teaching at Yale. Parisot has held the title of professor (non-emeritus) longer than anyone teaching today, however.

In our article on the design of the new residential colleges (“Déjà Vu,” March/April), we reported that the tower in North College will include a set of bells for change ringing. The Office of Facilities tells us that the bells have been eliminated from the project to save money.

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