Letters: November 6, 1996
Regarding the intemperate readers bemoaning the university's decision to award an honorary degree in June to President Clinton (Letters, September 11), I'd like to point out that Princeton was twice honored by Presidential visits on the occasion of its anniversaries in 1946 and 1896. It is the purist of coincidences that on all three such occasions a Democratic President was invited to campus. I urge these curmudgeons and any other alumni who share their views to consider what would have happened had Princeton been founded 25 years later, in 1771. The three Presidents visiting Princeton and receiving honorary degrees would have all been Republicans-Ulysses S. Grant in 1871, Warren G. Harding in 1921, and Richard M. Nixon in 1971.
C. Thomas Corwin '62
So Clinton was a draft dodger? Great! He dodged the most criminally stupid and wasteful war in American history-55,000 American dead for what? If I had been his age I would have done the same, and I speak as a B-29 jockey who flew 25 missions in World War II.
Clinton a womanizer? If memory serves, 90 percent of the conversations in my undergraduate years concerned that subject, and I'm sure this continued into alumnihood. I doubt if there exists an alumnus who wasn't a womanizer or a wannabe.
Liar? The outstanding Presidential liars of recent years were Republicans: Nixon (no contest), Bush ("Read my lips"), and Reagan (Iran Contra). Clinton may not be Abe Lincoln (a liar on occasion), but unlike Bob Dole, he is trying to lead the nation into the 21st century and not back to the 19th.
John Clark '38
Great Barrington, Mass.
WHY DID THEY STAY?
As the son of German-Jewish refugees, I am disturbed by the tone of John V. H. Dippel '68's book, Bound Upon a Wheel of Fire, as reviewed by Marc Fisher '80 in the September 11 paw. In the book I detect an undercurrent of "blaming the victim," as though the blindness-or was it stupidity?-of many German Jews to the events around them at least partially contributed to their demise. Mr. Dippel and others greatly underestimate the psychological trauma involved when one's comfortable and seemingly secure life is destroyed nearly overnight, and one is faced with the prospect of leaving helpless, elderly relations to a desperate future if one flees. Nor does the reviewer explain that refugees were not allowed to take any money out of Germany to wherever it was that they were supposed to go. Under these circumstances, it should not be surprising that many German Jews believed what they wanted to believe, namely that Hitler would be overthrown from within or stopped from without. This possibility seemed very plausible throughout the 1930s, especially to people who faced few options that were even barely palatable.
Ronald A. Wiener '76
Although I'm a graduate of Columbia and only the mother of a Princeton alumnus, I hope you'll allow me to comment on Bound Upon a Wheel of Fire. The author wonders why so few German Jews emigrated. There was a worldwide depression, and most countries restricted immigration. To be admitted to the United States one had to have an affidavit from a blood relative in the U.S. who had at least $1,800 in the bank, and few such relatives existed. Even without this restriction, only 34,000 immigrants a year were allowed entry from Germany. The exceptions were professors and rabbis who had received invitations from U.S. universities or Jewish congregations. Albert Einstein and my father were two such nonquota immigrants.
Young German Jews found it easier than their parents to emigrate because some countries welcomed them as physicians, nurses, or teachers. They often had to leave their aged parents behind, and those in the same family who did emigrate often went to different countries-in a typical scenario, one sibling might have gone to Palestine, another to Brazil, and another to Australia or South Africa. The decisions that involved such separations were never easy.
Marianne E. Bernstein
Peter Bunzel '49's sensible letter in the September 11 paw recounts his unfortunate experience as chairman of The Daily Princetonian after penning an editorial "inveighing against mandated Sunday Chapel." He may not realize it, but he is in very good company. He stands in a long line of eminent Princetonians who have managed progressively to nudge undergraduates away from required obeisance to the Almighty. One of his predecessors as Prince chairman, Woodrow Wilson 1879, authored a similarly sane editorial urging that each week's compulsory evening prayer services be reduced from four to two. Such a step, he reasoned, would increase "both attendance and zeal" at the two remaining meetings.
It is not reported whether the rigidly Presbyterian powers-that-be reacted as volcanically as did Bunzel's superiors. But it is worth noting that when Wilson was hired as a professor of political science 11 years later, in 1890, a stern President Patton lectured the future President Wilson thus: "The Trustees of the College mean to keep this College on the old ground of loyalty to the Christian religion. . . . They would not regard with favor such a conception of academic freedom . . . as would leave in doubt the very direct bearing of historical Christianity as a revealed religion upon the great problems of civilization."
Considering, in this Bicenquinquagenary year, how minimal are the enforced opportunities for divine guidance, Bunzel would do well to exult that religion within the Princeton family today is scarcely coming up "roses," to borrow his metaphor. Instead, skeptical and free-thinking "shrubs" like himself veritably clog the footpaths of its intellectual "garden."
Jamie Spencer '66
St. Louis, Mo.
Los Angeles-area alumni invite all Princetonians to the West Coast 250th Celebration, to be held at Universal City, Hollywood, November 15-17. Led by Ed Labowitz '70 and Mona Metwalli '92, a steering committee has planned a full weekend. Activities include a regional conference, an address by President Shapiro, a Triangle show, a P-rade through Universal's back lot, a presentation by author Scott Berg '71 on Princeton and the movies, and a dinner dance with alumni film and TV stars in attendance. Families are welcome. Those seeking more information should contact Matt Cicero '89 at 818-683-8673.
Larry Bershon '55
Los Angeles, Calif.
I was surprised to learn in the October 9 Notebook that, to avoid endangering its tax-exempt status, the university tried to limit political speech on its computer networks.
Why stop at the Internet? Administrators should also ensure that no students place political campaign posters in their dormitory windows. All books that could be interpreted as endorsing one candidate over another should be removed from Firestone Library. And the university should also monitor outgoing phone calls, to make sure that no political discussions take place on its phone lines.
I thought that one of the purposes of a university was to ensure robust, open debate on political issues of the day.
Jeffrey Shallit '79
THE COLLEGE OF N.J.
In your September 11 Notebook article on the squabble over the name "the College of New Jersey," you probably meant that both institutions (Princeton and the former Trenton State College) had filed for trademark registration, not patent applications. The patent and trademark organizations of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are distinct divisions that do very different things.
Jon Radel '85
Re the unidentified student in the September 11 From the Archives: Jack Honoré's heroine-in-the-making is my classmate Charles C. "Chuck" Northrup '37. The show was Take It Away, the 1936-37 Triangle production.
Alex Armstrong '37
Editor's note: Larry Mills '40, of Saratoga Springs, New York, also ID'd Northrup.
I read with sadness in the September 11 Notebook that Professor Martin Summerfield had passed away. I have vivid memories of his graduate course in combustion principles, which he taught at the old Guggenheim Center's temporary buildings, near Palmer Stadium. I was a Guggenheim Fellow at the time, and we had a class of 10 or 12 graduate students.
I had selected the course because I thought it would be an easy refresher. The first day, Summerfield asked us how many had already taken courses in physical chemistry and quantum mechanics. We were puzzled by the question. When only one person raised his hand, Summerfield said, "O.K., I guess I'm going to have to teach you those subjects as well." And he did-with verve and enthusiasm.
We got a hint of his seriousness when he announced that he would give a short written quiz, graded on 100 points, every Friday. Early in the course he included a question on electron diffraction. The grades were horrible. When I protested that electron diffraction hadn't been mentioned in class or in the reading assignments, Summerfield responded that he had assigned chapters 7 and 9 in our textbook, then noted that electron diffraction had been discussed in Chapter 8. "Ph.D. candidates," he said, "don't skip chapters." This got our attention! With a different teacher it might have led to outright antagonism, but Summerfield's lectures and jovial ways motivated us. Two other professors at the Guggenheim Center were Luigi Crocco and Lester Lees, who, while extremely different in temperament, were equally inspiring. We owe a debt to these teachers and the contributions they made to their students, and through them to the progress of science and technology.
C. Budd Cohen *54
Redondo Beach, Calif.
Regarding the future of Princeton's Army ROTC unit (Letters, September 11 and October 9), I can offer my own experience as an example to any student considering joining ROTC but doubtful about what it may offer. For me, ROTC was an enjoyable extracurricular activity that gave me some pocket money, not a consuming commitment. I was a voluntary cadet and did not apply for a scholarship, but was as active as any scholarship student. When a civilian medical school accepted me, the Army gave me a full scholarship-financial freedom but even more years of obligation. After my civilian internship, I entered active duty and was sent to Germany as a medical officer. These years were filled with medical and military challenges intermixed with fantastic European travel. After my assignment in Europe, I took a break from active duty for a civilian residency in neurology. Next, I volunteered for an assignment in Korea, where I worked on military and medical issues and traveled extensively through Asia. I am now assigned to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, as director of neurologic research. Later this year I'll be moving to Washington, D.C., to join the staff of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
My first two assignments were my own choices, and my most recent two were negotiated. Contrary to myths about the military, at no time have orders simply arrived from some faceless bureaucrat sending me to some place I had no desire to go. The Army has enabled me to face and meet many challenges and to travel around the world. I enjoy the camaraderie, community, and challenges of a rewarding, multifaceted career.
Maj. Michael B. Russo '81
San Antonio, Texas