September 14, 2005: Letters
Letter Box Online
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Kudos to Mark Bernstein ’83 for his article (July 6) about march king John Philip Sousa’s band and its part in the 1929 P-rade, leading the 25-year Class of 1904. When, in the late 1970s, none of the surviving 1904 men was well enough to be class secretary, this son of a former secretary volunteered. Robert Rinehart, a perennial class officer, lived until 1978 only a few blocks from my New York office. Reminiscing, Mr. Rinehart said that the Sousa band’s part in the reunion had been made possible by classmate Francis “Frank” McKelvy, who had paid the bill anonymously. Mr. McKelvy, according to the 1924 edition of the Alumni Directory, was with the Alpha Portland Cement Co., Easton, Pa.
GEORGE A. VONDERMUHLL JR. ’35
I was surprised that Mark Bernstein could write two pages on John Philip Sousa and not mention the Marine Corps. Love of military music led the 13-year-old Sousa to enlist as an apprentice in the Marine Band in 1868. He served for almost seven years, left for some civilian experience, and then re-enlisted in 1880 as the leader of the Marine Band, a post he would fill with distinction for the next 12 years. During these years he wrote most of the music that earned him the title “the march king.” Discipline acquired in the Corps served him well in the long and distinguished civilian career that followed. When America entered World War I, Sousa enlisted again, this time in the Navy. He was 62, and insisted he be paid only $1 a month. In 1932 he conducted the Marine Band for the last time. He died on March 6, 1932, and was buried amid appropriate military presence and honors.
A musical genius and fierce patriot, he lived in a time when military service was held in high regard, even at Princeton. His music, and the military he loved, survive.
G.D. BATCHELLER ’60
Kudos to PAW for two splendid, back-to-back pieces in the July 6 issue. Undergraduates in the first half of the 20th century encountered a few problems (e.g., Prohibition, the Depression, two World Wars), but at least had some great music to listen to. I didn’t know that John Philip Sousa’s band marched in the 1929 P-rade, but I bet it was grand! Sousa was of course a great showman, but was an even better composer. His music, like “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” will last forever.
And the 1938 honorary president of the Princeton Hot Club, Benny Goodman (Perspective), is another musician whose fame and music will endure. Composer, arranger, bandleader, and arguably the best clarinetist ever, Goodman provided superb music to anyone with ears in the ’30s and ’40s. There was more talent and musicianship in the 1938 Goodman band than in all the top 1,000 “musicians” of today. Same goes with Sousa’s guys: great musicians all.
CLARKE F. CAREY ’47
Open letter to the Class of 2005: Your reckless decision to follow Tiger Band — dubious in any case — onto and around Poe Field in flagrant disregard of the wise instructions of University Public Safety regarding tornados and lightning at the end of the 2005 P-rade was outlandish, dangerous, and an affront to decorum. Naughty, naughty, naughty. Harrumph. Harrumph.
Private letter to the Class of 2005: Hey, NOW you’re a Class! Hope you heard all the Old Farts hiding in the 1912 Pavilion giving you locomotives as you windsurfed by. There are some risks in life worth taking, and it’s never too early to start figuring out which they are. You go, gang.
(Of course, like the rest of us, you may still want to be cautious around Tiger Band.)
GREGG LANGE ’70
At a time when it is in vogue for college and university presidents to search for a matrix of excellence for their institutions, Dr. Tilghman need not look beyond the friendships manifested at Reunions (cover story, July 6). While I am grateful for the opportunities and discoveries that shaped my professional life, it is the lifelong friendships of my classmates that I treasure more each year. From what I have observed at Reunions, most share my sentiments.
JOHN HUSEN CHANG ’60 *67 p’87 p’94
In the July 6 issue of PAW, under books about Princeton and Princetonians, you could have mentioned the new book, Rocketman, a biography of Pete Conrad ’53 written by his widow, Nancy Conrad, and screenwriter Howard A. Klausner. Rocketman is a fun read, related much as Pete would have told it in his own witty and unpretentious way.
TOM PARKE ’53
I strongly agree with Arlene Pedovitch ’80 that hiring Rashid Khalidi (Notebook, June 8) would bring to Princeton an individual with a political agenda rather than a scholar with whom I happen to disagree. Khalidi promotes a “one-state” solution (i.e., the destruction of Israel) that negates the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, even while he promotes a similar right for Palestinians and all other peoples on earth. We don’t need this type of “pseudo-academic” at Princeton.
DAVID SCHECHTER ’80
A quick note of thanks for the inclusion of a crossword puzzle in the July 6 issue of PAW. It’s one thing to mention a news item like Stella Daily ’00’s having taken sixth place in a tournament. It’s another to be able to give a sample of her work. Now I can point to a specific page of an issue of the Alumni Weekly to which I have devoted more time than to any other.
THOMAS DRUCKER ’75
Richard Just ’01’s article, “Building Community” (feature, May 11) is a powerful article that deserves careful thought from both young and old Princetonians.
When I was chair of the Southwestern Virginia Schools Committee in the ’80s, I was aware of then-Dean of Admission Fred Hargadon’s concern about the exclusionary nature of the club system and the effect the clubs have relative to student recruitment. Hargadon was concerned, and perhaps rightly so, that the clubs would turn off gifted students in the applicant pool who were of an egalitarian bent as opposed to an elitist frame of mind. Since that time many attractive eating options have been made available to undergraduates, and I am not sure fairness or unfairness today is an important issue among undergraduates in choosing an eating option. Community concerns, which Just focuses on, and recruitment concerns, which Hargadon focused on, are different.
Discussions of bonding social capital and bridging social capital that Just describes could be a smoke screen for describing the problem of individual identity in today’s undergraduate body at Princeton. Because human nature does not change, I would argue that the club system is not any more of a problem today with respect to student individual identity than it was in 1951. History records, it should be remembered, that my Class of 1952 was concerned with the fairness of club availability and not choice. We successfully promoted 100 percent bicker for the club system.
The Alumni Council recently responded to a question by reporting that 70 to 71 percent of the junior and senior classes today belong to clubs. These numbers indicate that undergraduate concern for community and the stress of finding personal identity in that community is real, and a club, among other good options, is still the preferred way to go. Could it be that persons who would do away with the club system at Princeton may be guilty of social engineering and denying individual opportunity to develop positively in a competitive, complex, and existing undergraduate social system?
ROBERT JIRANEK ’52
When I talk to promising high school seniors about where they’d like to attend college, first choices are often Brown, Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Bowdoin, Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore, Penn ... There is a pattern here. Obviously, many thousands apply to Princeton, which is just as selective as the most selective of these, and I may hang out with a crowd whose culture does not embrace Princeton’s reputation. But clearly, the “eating-club scene” is the number-one culprit for many students who shy away from Princeton.
Some may claim that Princeton’s reputation in this regard is unfair, although I don’t think so. Ask yourself this question: How many fantastic and diverse students might Princeton attract if it weren’t the only major college in America (and perhaps the only college in America) where the majority of students take their meals and socialize at “clubs”? As Bob Levetown ’56’s letter (July 6) points out, this isn’t necessarily because these students want to, but because the University has yet to create an attractive alternative.
In the end, I believe the best thing that Princeton could do for itself, and especially for how the world perceives it, would be to take effective measures to end its romance with the eating-club system.
JEFF PIDOT ’69
When Professor J. Richard Gott III *73 (A Moment With, April 20) presents his interesting idea that you might someday be able to go backward in time, I think he fails to distinguish between a particle and an observer: He uses the personal pronoun to refer to particles.
“You” cannot go backward in time because “we” are not particles but are, at the very least, elaborate patterns from which particles come and go. “We” are the information, not the particular medium.
Furthermore, observers like us cannot be defined (in physics or otherwise) except in terms of that which “we” can observe. For a particle to go back in time may be possible. But for “us,” time travel would require an inconceivably complex pattern of never-the-same particles constituting “our” memories (of the future) to remain undisturbed while moving backward in time.
Backward time travel then must appear to us as though we are going forward as usual while every observable particle and pattern of particles goes backward. According to Norbert Wiener, every miracle would then be a natural occurrence while every natural occurrence would be a miracle: the entropy would be decreasing so that “we” would no longer be observers in the Einstein or quantum sense. In fact, I think we would be dead. Then we would be particles.
CHARLES SLACK ’50 *54
In “Doing more for those with less” (feature, April 6), it is remarked that “The proportion of students the university defines as ‘low-income’ ... has nearly doubled, to 14 percent in the Class of 2008.”
That sounds hopeful, until one considers the University’s expansive definition of low-income students as “those whose family income falls below the national median.” Translated, this means that more than six out of seven Princeton students come from families on the top half of the economic ladder. How many of us would have guessed at such disparity in this day and age? It is a surprising and shameful statistic, and makes the University’s attention seem long overdue.
GARY R. FEULNER ’69
Re “A larger, more diverse class” (Notebook, May 11) that reports those accepted for the Class of 2009 are “more diverse, with 41 percent coming from minority backgrounds”: The United States has 12 percent blacks, 12 percent Hispanics, and 4 percent Asians, so how is 41 percent appropriate? What were the mean SAT scores for the ethnic groups?
I guess I’m bitter because I interviewed five candidates, none of whom were accepted (four whites, one Asian). Two of these were extremely well qualified (the other three fairly well qualified). I must admit the two top candidates were much better qualified than I was (even though I graduated with high honors). Let’s bare the hard facts of admission.
CHARLES E. TYCHSEN ’43
I read with interest the Notebook piece (May 11) on the beautiful sterling silver and ebony cane named for the Class of 1923 and carried in each P-rade by the oldest returning alumnus. I thought it surprising and odd that you did not think to mention the noted sculptor who created and was the actual donor of the cane. His name was Adlai S. Hardin ’23, a distinguished graduate of Princeton. Dad was also the sculptor who did the portrait of Donald Griffin ’23 that resides in Maclean House and the three bas-relief sculptures on the street and campus sides of the University Store. His sculptures may be seen at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, at many other churches and buildings in the United States, and in many private collections.
ADLAI S. HARDIN JR. ’59
Relative to the 1939 Archives picture (May 11), the student seated on the chair is Robert Blair Rock ’43, who later was on the varsity swimming and gym teams. He died in 1992.
TOM GARY ’43
Providing music before the fireworks on Finney Field on the Saturday night of Reunions 2005 was the Princeton University Band, not the University Orchestra, as PAW reported in its July 6 issue.