Class Notes - October 7, 1998
Class notes features
Mile of the Century
When Palmer Stadium was a mecca for track-and-field enthusiasts
Not long after the demolition of Palmer Stadium, I visited my local library and browsed through its micro-film of sports pages from the 1930s, searching for stories about the Princeton Invitation Track Meet, held annually at Palmer Stadium between 1934 and 1940.
I began by looking up the 1939 meet, held on Saturday, June 17, which had been billed as "The Mile of the Century." It had drawn 35,000 spectators and probably more international attention than any event ever held in Palmer, then considered to have the fastest running track in the world.
At the time, I had just completed my junior year, and as a member of the Press Club I was stringing for United Press. The UP's top sports writer, Henry McLemore, was covering the meet and had assigned me to be at the finish line to interview Sydney Wooderson. A British runner, Wooderson held the world record for the mile and was the odds-on favorite in the field of five world-class milers. The others were all Americans: Glenn Cunningham, Blaine Rideout, Chuck Fenske, and Archie San Romani.
The mile was the closing race of the meet. Moments after it ended and my interview with Wooderson, I made a mad dash up the concrete seats of the stadium to the press box. Wooderson had finished a dismal last, and he claimed he had been jostled and fouled by Blaine Rideout on the final far turn of the open end of the stadium. "I'm sure I would have won if that had not happened," he had said, in short bursts of breath just after crossing the finish line.
Suddenly, instead of a humdrum foot race (Chuck Fenske of Wisconsin won in the very ordinary time of four minutes and 11 seconds), Princeton had a fast-breaking news story, one with international repercussions.
I reported Wooderson's remarks to McLemore, who rewrote his lead. The claim of foul became the story of the day and one of the major track stories of the year.
The Princeton Invitation Meet was the brainchild of Asa S. Bushnell '21, the graduate manager of athletics (a position equivalent to today's director of athletics). When he instituted the meet in 1934, Bushnell was capitalizing on widespread national interest in track and field generated by the 1932 Olympics, in Los Angeles, and the impending 1936 Olympics, to be held in war-clouded Berlin. He also was inspired by the wide press coverage Princeton received when it hosted the Oxford-Cambridge vs. Princeton-Cornell track meet of 1933, an event in which two runners broke the world record for the mile. They were Jack Lovelock of New Zealand, a Rhodes scholar representing Oxford, and Princeton's Bill Bonthron '34. Lovelock was the winner, setting a record of 4:07.6 seconds, with Bonthron second at 4:08.7, a time that also broke the world mark.
At the first invitation meet, in June 1934, Bushnell invited top athletes from all over the globe. The meet drew over 30,000 spectators and featured one of a series of famous duels between Bonthron and Glenn Cunningham of Kansas in the mile. Cunningham won, setting another new world record of 4:06.8. However, Bonthron atoned for this loss two weeks later by setting his own world record of 3:48.8 for 1500 meters (the "Olympic mile" distance) at a meet in Milwaukee, nosing out Cunningham.
With the success of the 1934 meet, the Princeton Invitation Mile became a prominent annual feature of Reunions weekends. In England in 1937, Wooderson had shaved Cunningham's mark by four-tenths of a second and was the record holder at 4:06.4 in 1939 when Bushnell scored a coup by attracting Wooderson to compete against Cunningham and others in the Princeton meet. The stage was set for the Mile of the Century. Though Fenske's wininng time was a disappointment (he was followed by Cunningham, Romani, Rideout, and Wooderson) the claim of foul produced a loud and extended aftermath.
Covering the race from the press box, track-and-field writers disagreed on whether actual physical contact had occurred between Rideout and Wooderson. A movie taken of the race was studied, but the grainy film of that era proved inconclusive. Back in England, Wooderson issued a challenge for a return match, and the British press gave the story big play. One writer claimed the Brits had been "robbed," and another said the outcome threatened "to wipe out all the international good will created by the recent visit to America by the King and Queen." For a few weeks there was talk of staging a rematch, but eventually the story died a quiet and natural death.
The Princeton Invitation Meet never again captured such headlines. The football story has been thoroughly told in connection with the demolition of Palmer Stadium, but there are some of us who still feel twinges of regret as we recall those invitation meets, which are an important part of the stadium's legacy.
--Herb Shultz '40
Herb Shultz, a retired college administrator, lives in Kingston, New York.
Funding for kids to attend parochial school
In 1986, Peter Flanigan '45 founded the Student Sponsor Partnership, a New York City organization that pairs high school students with sponsors who provide tuition at parochial high schools and mentoring. The first year, the program benefited 45 students, and now, more than a decade later, 1,100 students are taking advantage of the help offered by SSP.
"I believe many of the poorest public high schools condemn kids to failure," says Flanigan. "I know that's a strong word, but that's how I feel." Other sponsors include actor Tom Selleck, newspaper columnist William F. Buckley, Jr., and John Stossel '69 of ABC's 20/20; 40 Princeton alumni are also involved in the program.
Two years ago, Flanigan expanded his efforts to reach younger children with his School Choice Scholarships, offering $1,400 scholarships toward any accredited private elementary school. Those students eligible for free lunches in the federal program qualify for aid, and ultimately 1,500 children were chosen by lottery out of 23,000 applicants. This year, the foundation can offer 1,000 scholarships. Flanigan also founded the Patrons Program in 1987, encouraging individuals with greater resources to sponsor entire (private) grammar schools in financial crisis. Today there are 39 such patron-school relationships.
Flanigan, who graduated summa cum laude in economics, served as a Navy carrier pilot during World War II. He joined Dillon, Read & Co., an investment bank, just after graduating, and continues there as an adviser. (The company has since become Warburg Dillon Read.) His financial career was interrupted several times: when he served as an economic analyst for the Marshall Plan in England; as executive director of volunteers for Richard Nixon's 1960 presidential campaign; as the deputy campaign manager for Nixon in 1968; and as an assistant to Nixon in the White House.
(Student Sponsor Partnership, 420 Lexington Ave., Suite 2930, NY, NY 10017, 212-986-9575, fax 212-986-9570.)
--Kazz Regelman '89
Searching for sound in faraway spaces
Seth Shostak '65 seeks sign of alien life
|Is it possible that somewhere in the universe, in a solar system light years away from Earth, an alien civilization is emitting radio waves, deliberately or otherwise? If the answer is "yes," Seth Shostak '65 and his colleagues at the SETI Institute are poised to detect the signals, and if or when they do, nothing will be the same. "I don't think we'll understand the message, but we'll know in an instant that the human race is not morally, culturally, or intellectually special," says Shostak, public programs scientist at the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), in Mountain View, California, and the author of Sharing the Universe: Perspectives on Extraterrestrial Life (Berkeley Hills Books, 1998).|
Popularized by the novel and movie Contact, the search for alien radio waves has been underway sporadically since the 1960s. Astronomers aren't actually listening, Shostak points out, so much as pointing powerful telescopes at the stars and looking for faint radio signals that cannot be traced to human or natural sources. Ever since federal funding for NASA's program was killed in 1993, the private, nonprofit SETI Institute has carried on the search. After using telescopes in Australia and West Virginia the last several years, the institute last month attached its receiver to what Shostak calls "the world's largest ear"--a radio telescope in Puerto Rico, owned by Cornell University, that is 1,000 feet in diameter.
The fact that four decades of surveillance has yet to capture a single peep from the universe is absolutely not daunting to Shostak and others engaged in the search for intelligent alien life.
"I don't think the lack of data is at all significant," Shostak says, noting that astronomers have scrutinized only a few hundred stars out of the millions and millions known to share the Earth's general neighborhood. "We're looking for a needle in a haystack, and we've gone through just a few teaspoons of hay so far. We feel like Christopher Columbus would have if he'd been asked, two days out of port, whether he'd seen anything yet. As Carl Sagan said, it's far too early to conclude that the absence of evidence is evidence of absence."
Fascinated with astronomy since his childhood, Shostak majored in physics at Princeton but ended up focusing his senior thesis on measuring the diameter of stars--a project closer to astronomy than his major. During graduate school at Cal Tech, he made the switch to astrophysics outright and began using radio telescopes to explore galaxies and puzzles such as the "missing mass"--the as-yet undetected something in the universe that causes galaxies to rotate far faster than they should according to conventional models.
While at the State University of Groningen in the Netherlands in 1981, he performed his first SETI experiment, working with a colleague, Jill Tarter, who inspired the Jodie Foster character in Contact. He joined the search for intelligent alien life full-time in 1991 when he took his post at the SETI Institute, a job that entails as much public relations work--speaking, writing, and appearing on talk shows--as science.
Shostak says recent astronomical discoveries lend more credence than ever to the belief that life has occurred elsewhere in the universe. He points to growing circumstantial evidence that life exists or existed on Mars and on Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. Even more important, science in the last three years has verified something about which people have speculated for hundreds of years--the existence of planets in other solar systems.
"We now know that planets really are a dime a dozen. There are probably plenty of homes for E.T. to phone," Shostak says. "That suggests that life is common. Of course, it's a bigger leap to say that one of these planets has life that can hold up its end of the conversation."
Shostak is betting his career on the proposition that a universe teeming with life is bound to produce, in at least a few instances, life that is intelligent enough to send radio waves in our direction. It's not that E.T. is necessarily trying to communicate with us, Shostak says; aliens may be communicating across their own planet or to their comrades or machines on another planet or asteroid. (Humans, Shostak notes, have been unwittingly reaching out to aliens since the invention of television. Imagine advanced inhabitants of a planet 40 light years away getting their first look at Mr. Ed.)
It might strike some as depressing to end each work day with the same result--or lack--as the day before. But Shostak says it's anything but. SETI abounds with new techniques and technologies, and with constantly evolving thought about how to examine the stack of hay faster and better.
"It doesn't get tedious," Shostak says. "It's not as if you're sitting around with earphones on waiting for some magic moment that never comes. It's the only field I know of that, while it has no data, has such a tremendous ferment of ideas. So far, it seems endless in its appeal."
Self-control, not self-esteem, is key
Roy Baumeister '74 *78 researches addictions and human personality
A day at the office for Roy F. Baumeister '74 *78, the Elsie Smith professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, might touch on Nazis, gangbangers, alcoholism, bulimia, educational fads--and the siren call of chocolate-chip cookies.
They are all areas of study for Baumeister, whose academic focus is on human personality, addictions, and evil. His work has resulted in a series of compelling books that combine academic rigor with a writing style that's unusually lucid for the social sciences. Through Losing Control: How and Why People Fail at Self-Regulation (1994), Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty (1996), and Your Own Worst Enemy and Escaping the Self (1997), Baumeister has examined many of the grimmer sides of the human condition. (Dianne M. Tice *87, Baumeister's wife and an associate professor at Case, has collaborated with him on lab research.)
"If you look at everything I've researched, you'd think I have an exotic lifestyle, but I don't," explains Baumeister, who wrote his undergraduate thesis on self-esteem. "I'm a basic researcher. Some people do the grand theories, and others do the applications." His research for the book Evil, which looks at, among other events, the Crusades and My Lai, did rattle him until he learned to distance himself and regard his findings intellectually.
Baumeister's work on self-esteem brought him a lot of attention, especially since the topic is highly debated in educational circles as a vehicle for improving student behavior and performance. American Educator, published by the American Federation of Teachers, ran an article in which Baumeister wrote, with typical verve, "The enthusiastic claims of the self-esteem movement mostly range from fantasy to hogwash. The effects of self-esteem are small, limited, and not all good."
Baumeister reached that point reluctantly, based on extensive research that demolished his earlier, positive views on self-esteem. He says, "My conclusion is that self-control is worth 10 times as much as self-esteem. In raising our one-year-old daughter, that's the way we are going to go. Self-control is the key to success in life."
And the topic of self-control leads to those chocolate-chip cookies. Last year Baumeister and Tice won a $1 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct up to 25 experiments on whether there is a form of mental energy that helps people make decisions, control actions, and resist temptation.
In one study, Baumeister and a graduate student divided 67 undergraduates into three groups after they had skipped a meal. Fresh-from-the-oven cookies were placed in front of students in two groups; one group was allowed to eat the cookies, the second was given radishes to gnaw on and told not to eat the cookies, and the third group skipped the food phase of the experiment. Then the groups had another test of self-control that involved a difficult and unsolvable puzzle. The researchers measured how long each student tried before giving up. They found that the students asked to refrain from eating the cookies gave up faster than did the students who ate the cookies and those who had no food at all. "They were assigned to eat radishes, and the temptation was the point," explains Baumeister. Comparing self-control to a muscle that can get tired, he adds, "Resisting temptation took something out of the students, so when they tried to solve a complex puzzle, self-control was no longer there to help them."
Another aspect of his research involves control over emotions and thought processes. For this, he asks students to refrain from laughing at a Robin Williams performance video, or from crying at a sad movie scene, such as from Terms of Endearment.
Baumeister, who enjoys jogging and windsurfing when not prodding undergrads to emotional extremes, finds that his sometimes grueling subject material colors his world view in a positive manner. He says, "Writing the book on evil helped me appreciate that living in America now is a blessing. We don't have to worry about having our homes burned down by enemy soldiers or being arrested and tortured by secret police. Most of middle America's woes are self-inflicted --that's one eternal side of the good life."
--Van Wallach '80
"What's playing at the movies, Hon?"
The answer is a $20-million dollar business
Andrew Jarecki '85 knew MovieFone, the interactive telephone movie guide he started in 1989, had really achieved success when the Seinfeld character Kramer spent an episode imitating its recorded voice. The 1995 cameo on America's favorite sitcom confirmed MovieFone's place in the nation's cultural consciousness; the more than 280 million calls it has received since its launch demonstrate that it's now a habit for millions of moviegoers.
In 1988, Jarecki was working in venture capital on Wall Street following stints at Salomon Brothers and his family's gold and silver bullion trading business. He'd had a brush with the movie industry when he and a friend produced a short film that was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. Now he was looking for a new movie or marketing venture, and hit on the idea for a centralized film information source after he tried to call a theater for schedules and was frustrated by busy signals. "It struck me that the domestic film industry is a $20 billion business, but they couldn't figure out how to get my $7.50," he says. He and his friend Adam Slutsky surveyed 670 people waiting in theater lines about their filmgoing habits, asking them whether they'd be interested in accessing movie listings with a single local phone call. The answer was an overwhelming "yes."
But Jarecki and Slutsky were slightly chagrined to discover that two Los Angeles entrepreneurs were launching a similar service. Jarecki called the West Coast company's president, J. Russell Leatherman, and the two groups decided to combine forces, investing an initial $13 million in the venture. Jarecki became chief executive officer, Leatherman president, and Slutsky chief financial officer and chief operating officer. (Leatherman is also the less than dulcet-toned signature "Welcome to MovieFone" voice.) They launched the service simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles, and have since expanded to more than 30 cities. Callers dial a catchy local phone number-- 777-FILM in many areas--and, using their telephone keypads, access recorded movie times, descriptions, and locations. In about half of MovieFone's markets, callers can purchase tickets with a credit card, and at a handful of New York theaters they can reserve specific seats. Before getting any information, callers hear a 20-second ad for a current movie, and that, along with ticket service charges, is where MovieFone makes its money. Hollywood studios pay about 15 cents per call to advertise their films.
Persuading studios to buy time on MovieFone "was a haul," says Jarecki. With newspaper readership dropping, studios were definitely looking for alternative ways to reach moviegoers, but they were also flooded with marketing proposals. "We got lumped in with the 'crazy ideas' pile, then a little later we were slipped into the 'pretty crazy, but maybe interesting someday' pile, and then we got into the 'let's give it a try' pile." Columbia was the first to sign on, and other major studios followed, albeit slowly. Now they all advertise on MovieFone. "It was driven by the consumer," Jarecki says. "We knew if we got millions of people using the service, the studios would come." MovieFone went public in 1994 and now employs 120 people.
Jarecki's initial stab at marrying entertainment and marketing came at Princeton. An English major, he sang with the Tigertones and was involved in the theater program; for his senior thesis, he produced an adaptation of French dramatist Alfred Jarry's three Ubu plays. After putting in so much effort--including constructing elaborate sets and lighting in the theater in 185 Nassau--Jarecki had no desire to just "throw something up and hope people would come." So two months before the play, he launched a publicity blitz that included handing out thousands of logo buttons. His thesis production sold out. "Knowing that I was going to deliver a good piece of theater, but that I had also done a really methodical, Procter & Gamblestyle marketing campaign, was the most fun I had at Princeton. That feeling of excitement is what drove me to do the MovieFone thing--you provide a quality experience and a way of getting people to it in a way that's convenient, smart, and interesting," Jarecki says.
Jarecki still sings and writes and produces music, but the bulk of his creative energy goes toward expanding MovieFone. The company, which saw revenue jump 34 percent to $20.6 million last year, keeps growing. Its MovieLink Website went online in 1995. The company now sells research data, since requests for schedules and information have proved to be a strong indicator of a movie's actual box-office performance. And the seat reservation system is set to roll out in Los Angeles. Reserved seating has its critics, admits Jarecki. "But even the naysayers, if you get them on a Saturday night when they end up sitting in the front row of Jurassic Park, would rather have called ahead and gotten reserved seats," he says. "It's a matter of adapting people's moviegoing behavior."
--Katherine Hobson '94
Natasha Bult '91 teaches photography to the chic set in London
The trendiest place to learn about art in London isn't a museum or auction house, according to Harpers & Queen magazine. It's Black and White Photography--the photography school founded by Natasha Bult '91. The school, which started as an introductory course taught in a basement, has proven enormously popular--particularly among high-society women.
"It's been a fight and a struggle," says Bult, recalling how she started the school five years ago with a handful of students. A kitchenette served as the darkroom, and the plastic photo enlarger frequently broke down. "I started from scratch," she says. But praise for the course and Bult traveled by word of mouth, and today the school's roster of current and former students reads like a society column: Kay Saatchi (second wife of famous adman Charles), Marchesa Elisabeth Ferrero, and Lucy Ferry (wife of rock star Bryan) are all alums.
The school is based in a townhouse in an arty section of London's posh Kensington. Courses range from introductory to advanced black-and-white photography. Master classes and lecture tours to photogenic locales such as New York City, Tuscany, and China are also on offer. Students learn to take photographs in the school's Moroccan-flavored studio and in nearby Holland Park. There's a darkroom in the basement where students develop their film, and a chic street-level gallery where they exhibit their prints at the end of each course. Part of being a photographer is working toward a show, says Bult. The gallery "completes the students' experience and gives them a final sense of achievement."
Bult's courses emphasize the importance of printing. Her students spend about half their course time in the darkroom. Bult's interest in the printing process started at Princeton, where her teachers included Peter Bunnell and Emmet Gowin. Bult, an art history and visual arts major, describes Gowin's instruction as "a completely life-changing experience." She says Gowin's philosophy of photography as a combinatory art was a strong influence. "The way photography combines two dimensions with abstract ideas makes it one of the most poetical arts. It brings everything together." Like Gowin, Bult often works in collage, creating her pictures in the dark room. "With collage," she says, "you see things as they are, but also as they aren't."
Bult's senior show at Princeton received the Francis LeMoyne Page Award, and four of her photographs, self-portraits, were donated to the Princeton Art Museum by Bult at the request of the faculty curator of photography. After graduation, she spent two years as apprentice to photographer and architect Frederick Sommer in Arizona, before moving to London. Bult, who is Dutch and grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, and New York City, speaks English, French, Spanish, and Italian (she can teach in all four). She chose London as her home because, as she says, it's "between America and Europe, geographically and culturally, and it has a lot going on, creatively."
Bult started Black and White Photography to support her own photography. Her work has been exhibited in London by the Michael Hoppen Photography Gallery and sold through Sotheby's. She recently received a commission from Saks Fifth Avenue to do collage portraits of British fashion photographers. But balancing work with teaching isn't always easy. Until now, Bult has run the school single-handedly, doing all the teaching, administration, marketing, and public relations. This fall she plans to hire another teacher, so that she can spend more time teaching advanced courses and focusing on her own work. "I've finally gotten to the point where I'm not going to be such a control freak," she says, laughing. "It's difficult to get anything done if you're trying to do it all!"
One big challenge she's faced as a photographer working in London is getting the British to take photography seriously. Unlike American institutions, London museums and dealers often treat photography as a second-class art form. When Bult opened her school, there was only one photography gallery in London. Christie's didn't have a photography department, and Sotheby's photography department was known as the Applied Art Department. Bult found her students knew very little about the process of making a photograph. "They didn't even know there's a negative and a positive, that it's a two-step process. I've had to push hard to teach them." But things are slowly changing--perhaps, in part, due to Bult's efforts. The Victoria & Albert Museum recently opened a new photography gallery, and dealers are starting to show interest in limited-edition prints. "It's been very, very backwards," sighs Bult. Then--livening up--she adds, "Londoners are learning about photography. They're catching up fast."
--Tamsin Todd '92
(Black and White Photography, 10 Thackeray Street, London W8 5EY, England. Telephone, 44-171-938-4111; Fax, 44-171-937-5725; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.)