June 7, 2006: Letters
Letter Box Online
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I would like to thank Pam Belluck ’85 for her extraordinarily sensitive and insightful article on the life and illness of Doug/ Donna Nadeau ’62 (feature, April 19), and PAW for publishing it.
Doug was a classmate, a fellow member of Campus Club, and, if my hazy recollections do not fail me, we also shared a major. As such, we collaborated and socialized almost daily for over two years and, while we went our separate ways and never corresponded or met after graduation, Doug remains one of the few classmates whose name and image I have not forgotten.
Not a reunion-goer, I did not attend our 38th, when Donna first made herself known to her classmates. I do not know how I would have reacted to her, but I suspect I probably would have disappointed her — and myself even more, for I prefer to think of myself as open-minded and tolerant. Even after reading Ms. Belluck’s article, I can only begin to imagine what an incredible daily challenge the combination of transgendered identity and the degenerative effects of illness must have had not only on Donna but also on her family.
I would like to express my utter admiration for Lynn, Doug’s wife and Donna’s partner, who could so understandably have left the relationship, but who not only chose to honor and respect the essence of the person she loved and married, but who also so courageously chose to reveal to us who Donna really was. Lynn could have just let her die and fade into an awkward and puzzling memory. Instead, she chose to trust the Princeton community of scholars, most of whom never knew Doug/Donna personally, with the intimate details of a profoundly challenged life. I thank her for that trust.
I also respect and appreciate the honesty and forthrightness of sons Greg and Ted ’87, who chose to support their mother in this effort. Doug/ Donna’s life may have been confronted by unenviable rigors, but it appears to have been blessed by a wonderful family.
MICHAEL OLDS ’62
Thank you for your article on my classmate, Doug Nadeau. I found it both enlightening and difficult to read of his struggle. He obviously had enormous courage. The other reaction I had was tremendous admiration for his wife, Lynn, who also demonstrated amazing courage and love. She indeed took seriously those marriage vows about “for better or worse, in sickness and health.”
JOHN TITUS ’62
Thank you for the moving article on Doug/Donna Nadeau. I am inspired by her story and triumphs, as well as those of her family. How difficult it is to be different in a society so insistent upon conformity and “same.” How sad the ignorance, fear, and inability to learn from Donna’s extraordinary life and lessons.
MARY W. FOULK ’91
Mark F. Bernstein ’83’s article praising Woodrow Wilson 1879 (cover story, April 19) contained a by-now outdated and unacceptable condescension: “Presidential scholarship has taken note of Wilson’s racism; a son of the South, he failed to pursue racial justice.”
He went on to quote approvingly a historian as saying, “Wilson was simply typical of his generation of Southerners in his attitude toward race.”
If either Mr. Bernstein or the historian had read the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1910–11), then they would have found racism in that most authoritative and celebrated of referenced works. Its entry for “Negro” stated, “Mentally the negro is inferior to the white.” At the time, professors at Harvard and Yale were spewing out similar white supremacist drivel. The sad, awful truth is that racism was accepted throughout the whole of the United States, as well as of Europe. It was not limited to the American South. Racism at that time contaminated virtually all white Americans. Regrettably, in his attitude toward African-Americans President Wilson was a product of his age and country, not just of Dixie.
WILLIAM A. PERCY III ’55 *64
As a member of the editorial advisory committee on the Papers of Woodrow Wilson and a one-time colleague of its distinguished editor, I am dumbfounded by the fact that the essay on Wilson’s legacy makes no mention of Arthur S. Link. A few weeks after your issue appeared, Professor John M. Blum stated that every writer on the Wilson period is indebted to Link. Perhaps you will run that statement in a subsequent issue.
RICHARD W. LEOPOLD ’33
As one of the lawyers working with the University on the lawsuit brought by members of the Robertson family, I was disappointed but not surprised by William Robertson ’72’s recent letter (May 10). Even in writing for a Princeton audience, he apparently feels no hesitation in making assertions that are simply not true.
It is quite remarkable that he identifies the intended beneficiary of his parents’ gift as the U.S. government. Their beneficiary was not the government; it was Princeton University — a point his parents made again and again to the IRS in securing tax advantages, but a point Bill Robertson never makes in his letter.
His letter repeats a long-discredited assertion that “the private sector is the largest employer of WWS M.P.A. graduates.” In fact, between 1973 and 2005, 67 percent of all graduating M.P.A. students who took jobs chose employment in the public and nonprofit sectors, with over 41 percent taking positions in government service. Last year, 87 percent took jobs in the public and nonprofit sectors, with 53 percent working for governments or international organizations. A recent survey of all current WWS graduate alumni shows only 21 percent working in the private sector.
Finally, the Robertson letter makes a number of allegations about finances that are simply not true. The alleged $207 million in improper charges has already been discredited by the University’s accounting experts; to give just one example, the plaintiffs mistakenly point to a $10,000 charge in 1965 as “improper” and then apply an escalation factor to convert it into a current overcharge of over $788,000. That’s the kind of math they use to get to the number they allege.
One of the saddest aspects of this case — apart from the time and resources it has absorbed — is the fact that it has occurred at a time when President Tilghman has brought exceptional leadership to the foundation (its governance has been significantly improved and its assets have grown dramatically since the retention of Princo) and when Dean Slaughter has brought such dynamic leadership to the Wilson School. I have been privileged to watch this leadership in action, and I can assure my fellow alumni that the University, the foundation, and the school are in very good hands. I am sorry that Mr. Robertson is so determined not to see this.
GREGORY B. REILLY ’67
The recent memorial for Ken Keuffel ’46 (April 19) and the mention of his “brilliant football record” reminded me of the part of that record he wrote in the Penn-Princeton football game of 1946. Penn that year was a national power, ranked No. 3 in the country the week of the game, and undefeated. Princeton had lost two of its first four games and was expected to be completely outclassed by a very good Penn team. To make matters worse, the game was to be played on Franklin Field in front of 72,000 largely Penn fans. I had a bet with an older family friend, a Yalie, who gave me 40 points, and I was ready to bid $5 goodbye.
The game was quite a surprise. Princeton went touchdown for touchdown with Penn in the first half. Princeton lost one of its finest athletes and its place-kicker late in the first quarter when he was tackled simultaneously from three directions, his hip was displaced, and his football
ended for the year. Ken came on to kick the second extra point. The kick was blocked through no fault of his, but the ball spun around in the air and was retrieved by another Princeton back, who passed it into the end zone for the point. It was one of many signs that afternoon that good fortune was riding primarily with the Tigers.
With the score tied at 14, the teams went without scoring in the third quarter. Ken failed on a field-goal attempt from the Penn 26-yard line late in the quarter. They continued scoreless into the fourth quarter, though Princeton had good yardage deep into Penn territory several times. Finally, with little over a minute remaining and Princeton on the Penn 13-yard line, we failed on two plays for a touchdown, used third down to move the ball directly in front of the Penn goal, and on fourth down, with one minute left to play, Ken kicked a field goal dead-center and Princeton had a 17–14 point lead. Penn broke off for a long run on first down, threw a long pass that we — sitting back waiting for it — intercepted, and the game was ours.
Though I believe that Princeton had a far better team than anyone saw then, the game will live as a stunning upset, and Ken’s stepping up to make that kick in the final seconds will stand as a great and brave moment in Princeton football history.
ELTON REED PETERSEN ’48
Exactly 70 years ago, in early spring 1936, a spark erupted on the Princeton campus that quickly became a wildfire spreading across the United States. The flames were fanned by an organization known as the Veterans of Future Wars. The Museum of Hoaxes said the movement was the “second-greatest college prank of all time” and described the group’s rise this way:
“Times were tough during the Great Depression. To ease the economic pain a little, veterans of World War I lobbied Congress to pay them their war bonuses 10 years early. Congress readily acquiesced and passed the Harrison Bonus Bill in January 1936.
“This pre-payment was a source of inspiration for Lewis Gorin, a senior at Princeton University. It seemed logical to him that if present-day veterans could get their war bonuses early, why shouldn’t future veterans also receive their money up front? After all, given the global political situation, it seemed inevitable that all the young men in the country would soon have to go off to fight. Why shouldn’t these men be given their money now, while they could still enjoy it?
“While attending a tea party at the Terrace Club in March, Gorin shared his idea with his friend, Thomas Riggs Jr. ... [and] the Veterans of Future Wars was born. A few days later the manifesto of their organization appeared in The Daily Princetonian.
“Gorin’s prank got picked up by the wires, and soon similar organizations were sprouting up all over the country. ... This was an honest-to-goodness student movement. They had their own salute (arm held out toward Washington with ‘hand outstretched, palm up and expectant’). They had 50,000 members in 584 chapters. Gorin quickly wrote a book, Patriotism Prepaid. ...
“Gorin’s group sparked outrage from real vets, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, whose leader called them ‘insolent puppies.’ Gorin was denounced in the halls of Congress. But within a few months’ time, the joke was over, and the Veterans of Future Wars disbanded.”
Lewis J. Gorin Jr. ’36 was a remarkable man: a Princeton graduate of keen wit and political insight, national commander of the Veterans of Future Wars, Army artillery officer in the European theater of World War II, author of two books, a loving husband and father of two.
Of course, I may be somewhat biased. Lewis J. Gorin Jr. was my dad. He passed away on the first day of 1999.
JEFF GORIN ’65