June 11, 2008: Letters
Letter Box Online
PAW welcomes letters on its contents and topics related to Princeton University. We may edit them for length, accuracy, clarity, and civility; brevity is encouraged. Letters, articles, and photos submitted to PAW may be published or distributed in print, electronic, or other forms. Due to the volume of correspondence, we are unable to publish all letters received. Write to PAW, 194 Nassau St., Suite 38, Princeton, NJ 08542; send e-mail to email@example.com
My only interaction with President Goheen during my undergraduate experience came inside Marsh’s, the former drugstore on Nassau Street. It took place in May 1970, and if the man were mortal, he probably was there to pick up antacids. I have no recollection of why I was there, but I walked down an aisle and saw who it was. He looked up, saw a bushy-haired type who was not unlike those probably making his day-to-day life a living hell, and I braced myself for a probably well-deserved dismissal. Instead, he gave a warm smile and asked how I was doing with a palpable sense of interest.
Twenty years later, maybe even to the day, I was at Obal’s Garden Market on Alexander Road and saw President Goheen talking with young Walter Obal. After their conversation was finished, I approached President Goheen and told him about our previous encounter. I explained to him that of all the things I had learned at Princeton, his demonstration of grace under pressure was by far the most valuable lesson.
A few years ago, I read about the en masse appearance of the Class of 1889 at former President McCosh’s house to have their diplomas, already signed by the new President Patton, additionally signed by their revered former president who had retired after their junior year. Isabella McCosh’s comment — “James, your lads are nae for forgettin’ you” — struck a chord. Entering with the Class of 1972, I’d had to repeat my last semester and thus graduated with the Class of 1973, getting a diploma signed by the new president. So I called up President Goheen, told him my sad story, and asked whether he’d be willing to pull a McCosh. He was, I went to his house, we sliced open the back of the frame and extricated my diploma, he signed it right above “William G. Bowen,” and we got it back into the frame, which now hangs on my study wall. It is, obviously, even more of a treasured possession.
This lad is nae for forgettin’ him — ever.
TAD LaFOUNTAIN ’72
It was the spring of 1970, and the campus was still in an uproar about the United States’ recent incursion into Cambodian territory during the Vietnam War. Only a few months earlier, I had received a low (i.e., bad) number in the “draft lottery,” and had just made the difficult decision to enroll in Army ROTC. At the time, there was much talk about kicking Army ROTC off Princeton’s campus.
It was in this context that I happened to pass President Goheen as he was crossing Cannon Green, and I decided to engage him in what the State Department would describe as a “frank and candid discussion.” After getting his attention, I succinctly (and recklessly) stated that if he kicked Army ROTC off campus, I would sue both him and the University. A bit taken aback by such temerity on the part of a mere 19-year-old, he asked my name. When I told him, he responded, “Oh, you’re Rollo Frye [’43]'s son — that explains it!”— and nonchalantly walked on.
I was completely nonplussed, and never did figure out whether he was complimenting or dissing either me or my father. I later came to appreciate how perfect his response really was — leaving his potential adversary standing open-mouthed and speechless in the middle of Cannon Green.
ROLAND M. FRYE JR. ’72
The passing of President Goheen is sadly noted.
Although somewhat naive at the time, my game plan as a freshman at Princeton was to take as many gut courses as possible, collect a respectable number of “gentleman’s Cs,” and have an enjoyable experience skating through Princeton as a “good-time Charlie.” I happened at this time to take Lit 121, a Greek classics course taught by Goheen the year before he became president. I rarely if ever was prepared for his two weekly precepts. He took me aside one day and said, “Mr. Bednar, if you don’t straighten up, you’re going to flunk out of this great university.” (Also at this time, Dean Lippincott and I got to know each other very well.) It was then that I had an epiphany, so to speak.
As a senior several years later when he was president, we came across each other. He remembered my name and that conversation, and was pleased to know that I had “straightened up.”
STEPHEN J. BEDNAR ’60
I have been a professional recycler since 1983.
For Princeton to create a goal of a 50 percent recycling rate for 2012 (Notebook, March 19) is a travesty. Depending on the method used to calculate recycling, businesses today routinely are producing 80 to 90 percent less garbage than they had before implementing source reduction, reuse, and recycling plans and programs. The Sierra Club recently has adopted a zero-waste goal, as have numerous western cities, and many are beginning to devote substantial resources to plan and implement new programs.
Unfortunately, reducing garbage is not like switching to solar energy or installing low-flow apparatus in the bathroom; everyone thinks they have the right to throw what they want away. The nice thing about program implementation is that, unlike dieting or stopping smoking, you don’t have to do it yourself; you can pay someone else to go through your old stuff and direct it to the appropriate destination for reuse, recycling, or composting.
Princeton’s got to be able to do a lot better than 50 percent.
ARTHUR R. BOONE ’60
I read about the scheduled demolition of the Butler graduate student apartments (Notebook, April 2) and wanted to relate a family story. The photograph below shows my wife, Christy, and daughter, Stephanie, in front of a tree at 221C Halsey St. The tree was planted on September 27, 1947, by Lorenz A.E. Eitner *52. At the time Lorenz was a graduate student at Princeton. The occasion was the birth of his daughter, who would become my wife. The tree was a sapling that Lorenz took from the shore of Lake Carnegie while on a walk and transported in his coat pocket.
Lorenz’s time at Princeton was interrupted by World War II. He served as an officer in the U.S. Army’s Office of Strategic Services, doing intelligence work, liberating his former hometown of Salzburg, Austria, and later as a Nuremburg war-crimes investigator. After the war Lorenz returned to Princeton with his wife, Trudi, to complete his degree in art history. After Princeton, Lorenz taught at the University of Minnesota. In 1963 he was appointed chairman of the Stanford University Department of Art and director of the Stanford University Art Museum, positions he continued to hold until retirement in 1989. Lorenz is truly one of the great minds in the field of art history. My life has been greatly enriched through my association with Lorenz and Trudi.
Returning to the photograph: I took it in February of 2003, while we were on a tour of the campus with our daughter. The picture was included with an essay our daughter wrote in her Princeton application. Stephanie had one wish — to be able to spend four years with her mother’s tree. Stephanie graduates in June as a proud member of the Class of 2008.
BILL NEIDIG ’70
The recent article on the forthcoming demolition of the Butler housing tract (aka The Project) brought back warm memories.
Recently out of the Navy and having been accepted as a graduate student in the physics department, I and my wife, Barbara, were searching for a place to live in August 1953. Time was of the essence, as she was to produce our first child (Robert Jr. ’75) in November.
We considered ourselves very fortunate to be able to rent one of the Butler apartments in such a friendly, convenient (not to mention economical) neighborhood, among other dedicated graduate students and junior faculty. Living there was a marvelous experience, augmenting (sometimes relieving) the excitement of graduate studies and thesis requirements.
With the arrival of our second son, William, in June 1956, we were a happy family there until I received my Ph.D. in 1957. We remain grateful for the opportunities Butler provided us and hope Princeton’s plans for a modernized housing facility will provide tomorrow’s students and faculty the advantages we enjoyed.
ROBERT L. CHRISTENSEN ’50 *57
The theorem Andrei Negut ’08 proved for Edward H. Friend ’50 about which you reported (Notebook, April 2) is well known. A proof can be found in College Geometry by Nathan Altshiller-Court, Johnson Publishing Co., 1925. Somewhat different proofs can be found in Problem-Solving Strategies by Arthur Engel, Springer, 2000. Engel (and others, e.g., H.S.M. Coxeter) attributes the problem and its solution to Napoleon Bonaparte.
LAWRENCE DRESNER *59
Editor’s note: Jean E. Taylor *73 also sent in a one-page proof of the theorem cited in PAW.
Re Princeton’s Latino Coalition report (Notebook, Jan. 23): Bravo to the students for pursuing a critical issue for the University’s future. I gasp at the figure of 2.5 percent Latino representation among the faculty.
It is somewhat startling that the best university in the United States has paid relatively scant attention to Latino scholarship, given the demographic surge that portends that a quarter of the population will be Latino/a within a generation. An excellent Latino program is necessary:
• to attract the brightest Latino/a scholars;
• to remain at the forefront of academic excellence in the examination of ethnicity;
• to promote intellectual contributions to specific disciplines;
• to contribute to the resolution of the major social issues of the 21st century.
Latino/a intellectuals in academe offer new, distinctive perspectives in all major disciplines, including linguistics, literature, anthropology, politics, sociology, philosophy, and psychology. Can the University not draw together the brightest among them to study, inter alia, the impact of language and culture on thought and analysis, the sources and use of identity, and the role of image in an electronic age?
The Latino Coalition report describes well the inadequate representation of Latinos in all aspects of the University’s program. Its analysis is sound and makes it incumbent upon all members of the Princeton community to understand and discuss whether Latino studies at Princeton are necessary, and, if so, what they might look like and how we might evaluate them. Kudos, and as we say in French, bon courage.
BOB HERNANDEZ ’69
In his criticism of my support of managed care (letters, April 2), Howard Zeft ’58, M.D., reflects a bygone era in which American society granted physicians full professional autonomy, on the theory that physicians would be aware at all times of best clinical practices and always practice them. In effect, physicians were given the keys to sundry government and private-insurance treasuries and trusted to be modest in their taking from these treasuries and always to deliver the highest value for the dollar taken.
A mountain of solid empirical research in the intervening years has destroyed this trust. We now know, for example, that the per-capita cost of health care for statistically similar populations varies by a factor of up to three across the United States, without commensurate variations in the process- or outcomes-quality of health care, or even of patient satisfaction (just Google Dartmouth Atlas). In 2003, Elizabeth McGlynn and her research associates reported in The New England Journal of Medicine (vol. 348 (26): 2635-45) results from a two-year landmark study according to which, on average, individuals in a large random sample living in 12 metropolitan areas in the United States received the recommended treatments for their medical conditions only 55 percent of the time. It is now widely agreed that, left to its own devices, the medical profession cannot and will not always deliver the highest value for the dollar. The concept of externally managed care grew out of that realization although, admittedly, the concept was not invariably well applied during the 1990s.
Finally, I was amused by Dr. Zeft’s dig at my service as a paid director of a for-profit hospital. As chance would have it, the April 2 issue of PAW arrived in our home on the day The Wall Street Journal featured on its front page the headline that, on average, American nonprofit hospitals book larger profits than do investor-owned for-profit hospitals. Besides, the typical private medical practice is a for-profit enterprise as well. So what is Dr. Zeft’s point with this ad hominem?
UWE E. REINHARDT
The cover story (April 2) about Randall Kennedy ’77 did a good job of capturing a man who is comfortable in his own skin, confident that no one means him harm, and thus is not offended by what others say. What it failed to reflect, however, is his humility and humanity. Kennedy’s willingness to probe difficult issues without political agenda or ego is what we should expect of — yet too often fail to find in — our Supreme Court justices.
JONATHAN SMOLOWE ’78
Where do I begin with Poor Randall’s Almanac? He is a classmate of sorts, as he began in the Class of 1976, and he is a wonderful and brilliant conversationalist. Sadly, conversation or “talk” and theorizing alone do not solve the problem of “race” issues in the United States or anywhere else! Kennedy, like so many in academia, has never been a “hands-on” activist nor a “been-there” pragmatist. They have never been “good soldiers” in the struggle and gone on to the next level of commitment of being a community-center director or a group-home or substance-abuse counselor or a youth mentor in a church or in a reading-partners program. Kennedy is a pure theorist who has probably never been at “ground zero” of poverty, crime, adolescent-teen abandonment, child abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, or reckoned with the carnage of adolescent sexual promiscuity on a personal level.
His viewpoints are typical of academics who sit far off and run interference for the right-wing conservative agenda. He is not a “sellout” because he never “bought in.” Unlike Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint p’01, who chide black America for not investing their own resources and sweat equity toward a less-dependent state of existence, the black pundits like Kennedy just want to “theorize” the problems to death. The source and the effect of the problems are well documented; it is the cure that we need to search for!
The black community needs the courage and compassion of Medgar Evers, Nicholas Katzenbach ’43, James Meredith, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Lani Guinier, Lenora Fulani, Brian Taylor ’84, and Louis Farrakhan, who stood up for the “truth” and made a personal investment in their assessments, theories, and conclusions. These were (and are) ordinary citizens who took extraordinary action by simply standing upon their sense of moral duty! I say to all of those on the “right”: “Put up or shut up!”
THE REV. GEORGE A. BATES ’76
I applaud Robert Klitzman ’80’s willingness to be so vulnerable and to discuss the advantages of the physician’s knowledge of being a patient in terms of the development of empathy (Perspective, April 23). I have spent the past 15 years working as a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst in clinical settings and private practice. It is without a doubt that the greatest single asset in my training has been my personal experience as a patient.
Richard A. Friedman, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical School and frequent contributor to The New York Times on issues related to psychology, wrote a piece Feb. 19, 2008, entitled “Have You Ever Been in Psychotherapy, Doctor?” In this article, Dr. Friedman highlights the importance of the doctor’s empathy, based on personal experience as a vulnerable patient. He reports that the vast majority of current graduates from psychiatric residencies complete their training without the benefit of any personal psychotherapy whatsoever.
In the past, it was de rigueur that most, if not all, psychiatric residents undergo psychoanalysis as part of their training. This change is a disturbing and tragic turn of events and a sign of the times. Currently, neurobiology and psychopharmacology reign supreme. The insurance companies, including managed care, do everything to reinforce a move away from talk therapy for both patients and their doctors in the interest of the most cost-effective treatment possible, i.e., medication. Even in the state of California today, one is not required to have personal psychotherapy to become a licensed therapist, although there are some incentives to do so.
It is heartening to know that there are other voices crying out in the wilderness for the physician to “heal thyself” and to understand the importance of what it means to be a patient in order to be a good doctor.
LYNNE DENNIS OLIVA ’78