April 7, 2004: Letters

Business today

Love notes

Our man in Mosul

Basketball rivalry

John O’Brien ’65

Athletics and academics

Science and religion

Book clarification

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Letter Box

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Our address: Princeton Alumni Weekly, 194 Nassau St., Suite 38, Princeton, NJ 08542

Business today

Two articles in your February 25 business and economics issue, “An Old Friendship, New Again” (feature), and “Financial Success Possible: Just Hold On” (Notebook), left me with nagging thoughts. I could not help but detect some obvious links between the two stories, and the heartwarming story of mentor (Philip Bell ’46 *56) and student (John Bogle ’51) surely deserves a more climactic ending.

The lost-and-found story certainly cries out for a creative generalization of Prof. Malkiel *64’s efficient-market thesis to life outside the sanitized world of financial economics. To wit: You throw a towel over the map pages covering the equivalent of 30 miles, let your nimble fingers do the walking until you stumble on the location of your friends, and then hold! This approach is obviously as efficient and much less expensive than a professional people finder.

What transpired at the reunion of Prof. Bell and Mr. Bogle, I humbly submit, also lends itself to a superb application of a principle enhanced by another Princeton luminary, Prof. Alan Blinder ’67: Combine the values of hard-headed analysis and soft-hearted application of economics, happily cherished by the two illustrious Princetonians, in the cause of better economic policy in Africa.

In this scheme, Mr. Bogle would create a small endowment, to be invested in Vanguard 500, and Prof. Bell would use the proceeds to re-engage in his lifelong mission of advocacy of better policy. This is the kind of random act of kindness worthy of being dubbed “Princeton economics in the world’s service.”

Berhanu Abegaz ’77
Williamsburg, Va.


Your cover story, “When the Ax Falls,” in the business issue smacks of political hogwash. Has there ever been a time when there have not been Princeton graduates unemployed? As John Stossel ’69 would say: “Give me a break!”

George Aubrey ’45
Sierra Vista, Ariz.


“When the Ax Falls,” by Mark Bernstein ’83, carries an important message to everyone. Learn to network; you will need it.

Your denial skills might have convinced you that you will never hit a bump in the road. Or you may have just never gotten around to thinking about needing to reach beyond your own closed circle of friends and contacts. Either way, it is time to take note of the fact that the world has been changing.

Prospects, customers, and clients are ever more demanding, and business partners find greener pastures and disconnect. What’s a person to do?

Competency and skills are not enough to protect you. In a world where entire job categories uproot and move around the planet, every niche is vulnerable.

In your own career, think about how specific the knowledge and skills are. When you want to hire someone, you are careful to find a candidate who has all the requisite capabilities and looks like a sure bet: No need to take a risk on someone who is untried in the position, let alone untried in your industry. Now, switch sides and be that person whose industry has just melted down. How are you going to take those years of skill-building and dedication and sell yourself as the answer to a hiring problem? How will you be just the right person, at just the right time, with the right skills, background, and ability? How will you move past the 10 tried-and-true candidates whose résumés are festooning the manager’s inbox with proof-positive that they have “been there, done that?”

Don’t wait to cross that bridge when you come to it; you will be trampled by others running across the bridge because they are prepared, and you are not.

Networking is a way around the problem. Networking is no longer a process of pounding the pavement and talking to reluctant would-be hiring managers. Today’s networking is building a trained workforce of counselors, intelligence gatherers, and supporters who are prepared to slingshot you to the front of the line when your opportunity surfaces. You would never be able to find it on your own, given the chaos and traffic in the pipeline. But, with a competently constructed network, you enhance your ability to be the right person at the right time.

Start yesterday; you will need the skill tomorrow.

Shepherd G. Pryor IV ’68
Highland Park, Ill.

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Love notes

Thank you for the quite wonderful Valentine edition of February 11. The delightful letters from the archives (cover story), especially the lovelorn and witty one from our own “Woodrow” 1879, the story of courage and love of John O’Brien ’65 (feature), and the deserved kudo for our devoted Katrina vanden Heuvel ’81 (A Moment With).

Wonderful stories of Caritas!

Gene McNulty ’49
Newport, R.I.
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Our man in Mosul

I appreciated your January 28 article on Maj. Gen. David Petraeus *87 (feature). I worry, though, that such a good man — well-educated, compassionate, disciplined — will come to regret his actions if he’s operating under a bad paradigm.

Demonization of the other seems to be an inevitable prelude to war. How else can one justify taking the life of an individual one knows nothing about? I wonder if Dr. Petraeus’s thesis on the lessons of Vietnam dealt with the difficulty of discerning friend from foe in an alien culture, and the urgent need to roll back suspicion after a war ends.

Sources other than PAW suggest that crackdowns on people who are merely suspects are arousing more than “some ill will.” Trigger-happy searches might be the main reason resistance to the U.S. occupation is turning from a fringe activity into a mainstream sentiment. If there is unrest and crime in a city, is it not understandable that an Iraqi will go to his door with a gun in hand when unannounced visitors come in the middle of the night? Many Americans would do the same.

Martin Schell ’74
Klaten, Central Java
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Basketball rivalry

Your January 28 cover story on the basketball rivalry with Penn didn’t go back far enough. Who could forget the great Ernie Beck, Penn ’53; a great jump shot, smooth in the high post, Penn’s all-time scoring leader with 1,827 points, first pick in the 1953 N.B.A. draft? He also had a hairstyle worthy of Elvis, something rarely seen in Dillon Gym in those days.

J. D. Coughlan ’55
San Francisco, Calif.
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John O’Brien ’65

My family knew Mr. Hershey well (feature, February 11). Nothing would please him more than to know that Mr. O’Brien is trying to restore the Hershey School with the ideas and ideals which Mr. Hershey had for it.

Eleanor Wear Rose s’61
Vineyard Haven, Mass.


John O’Brien was admitted as a student-athlete in the Class of 1965. His remarkable and uplifting life blows away Bill Bowen *58’s argument against such admissions (December 17). Can Princeton afford to reject people of his caliber?

Robert C. Wheeler ’42
Stamford, Conn.
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Athletics and academics

I am getting very cross about the bad-mouthing of athlete admissions at Princeton. A study of the Ivy League, conducted by a former president of Princeton, says that athletes are taking up space better occupied by more sedentary students.

Let’s look at my very small department, architecture, from which I graduated. Billy Kleinsasser ’51 *56, a gifted halfback on football’s undefeated and nationally ranked team, seldom had time to enjoy the camaraderie of the drafting room, but his designs always scored in the top three or four. Did he amount to anything in the nation’s service in later life? Only serving with distinction for 33 years as a member of the University of Oregon's School of Architecture and Allied Arts faculty, helping the next generation. I would fault today’s admission efforts, rather than the athlete, if they cannot accomplish the same results.

Lansing Holden ’51
Sedona, Ariz.


President Bowen and the many alumni who responded to his comments raise a number of pros and cons about the admission, contributions, and value of athletes at Princeton, as well as the value of the athletic program to the experience of these athletes at and after university. Here’s another view to consider.

After 30 years in corporate America, I have observed that a great deal of structure in that environment derives from athletic models and metaphors. Teamwork, passion, playing by the rules, thinking outside the box, integrity, leadership, practice, not to mention competitiveness, while also values learned in other activities, usually are applied in an athletic context. Those who understand and navigate aptly through this model typically do well in their business careers. That is why many corporate employers seek athletic experience and success in candidates.

It is also why, I believe, women have frequently struggled in the corporate environment — they were not afforded the experiences of their male counterparts, at least women of my age. Fortunately, Title IX was enacted, which has not only reshaped the structure of collegiate athletics, but also the experiences and education of hundreds of thousands of women. Today, women entering the workforce from college can indeed be on a level playing field with their male colleagues. The opportunity and recognition for female athletes has cascaded down to high schools, so that being a woman athlete is today seen as an achievement, not an aberration, for millions of women.

I realize that the focus of this debate is intercollegiate athletics. But that is only part of the story of athletics at Princeton.

I am extremely proud when I see Princeton ranked first among universities in the annual U.S. News & World Report annual survey. I was beside myself with glee when Sports Illustrated ranked Princeton among the nation’s best sports schools. Why? Because while Princeton doesn’t win many national championships, the ranking was based on our high participation rates of both men and women, across a wide range of varsity, club, and intramural sports. It was terrific recognition that the University’s commitment to making an athletic experience accessible to as many undergraduates as possible does matter. This broad commitment to athletic opportunity also ensures that in some measure the value and love of physical activity is woven into personal experience, leading to healthier lives for thousands of Princeton alumni.

Sure, I lament the recent poor performance of our football team, and know that when we do make the N.C.A.A. basketball tourney, at best we will be an upset special. But I wouldn’t trade greater success in those venues for the rich athletic experience available in addition to the obvious outstanding academic experience. The availability of both ensures that Princeton students can craft a balanced education on the dimensions that, for better or worse, are major determinants for success in business after graduation.

Larry Kurtz ’72
Mill Valley, Calif.


I write to counter the negative image conveyed by one of your correspondents (Letters, February 11). In my experience as a preceptor in the politics department, athletes are indistinguishable from the other students. Some are talkative and write brilliantly; others are quiet and express themselves less intelligently than most. But whether male or female, big sport or minor sport, the academic performance of athletes has been comparable to that of other students in their precepts. The admission office has chosen wisely. Princeton’s athletes deserve applause for their performance in the classroom as well as on the playing field.

Stephen T. Whelan ’68
New York, N.Y.


During our junior and senior years, I shared a Firestone carrel with Dick Kazmaier ’52. I know he studied and worked, more after the football season. He made the choice to give up basketball, and probably would have been a starter in baseball; for academic reasons he quit.

I have a theory that high school principals, ministers, and university presidents should be seen and not heard once they leave their position.

Why Bowen wants to meddle in the affairs of Princeton is a mystery. He should leave the running of Princeton to the president, the administration, the faculty, the Board of Trustees, and the alumni.

H. Pharr Brightman ’52
St. Louis, Mo.


The juxtaposition of the letters “Football woes” and “Seeking physicists” shone a light on the direction of the University (January 28). As your December 17 article on the new Bill Bowen book presages, the recruitment of athletes at Princeton, and most likely throughout the Ivies, has now been targeted to be minimized, if not proscribed, and quickly. When the yield curve for the matriculation of recruited 17-year-olds who profess a passion for relativity theory crosses that of recruited athletes, the results won’t be special, neither on the gridiron nor on the campus. The days of well-rounded Princetonians, student-athletes once revered and reminiscent of Hobey Baker ’14 and Bill Bradley ’65, are sadly numbered.

Gregory J. Winsky ’71
Medford, N.J.
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Science and religion

Two letters in the January 28 issue dealt with science and religion. Stuart Hibben ’48 wrote, “One can attach all kinds of pejorative terms to Hume’s conclusions on religion, but that doesn’t lessen their validity.” It is true that name-calling does not affect the validity of Hume’s conclusions, but neither does sympathy with them. Professor John Earman of the University of Pittsburgh attests in Hume’s Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles (2000) both Hume’s conclusions and Earman’s conviction that Hume failed signally to demonstrate them with the arguments Hume provided in his section of the Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding, devoted to miracles. Depending on Hume’s own arguments is not a safe way of attesting to the truth of the conclusions, since they can hold even when the arguments are invalid.

There was also a letter from Gerrit L. Wright ’70, speaking out on behalf of creation science. He indicates that he is looking forward to “open and constructive debate on this topic,” and there is plenty of occasion for discussion of the interplay of religious and scientific attitudes concerning evolution. The discouraging feature is the tendency of some of those endorsing a certain interpretive view of their scripture to confuse that method of procedure with how science works. They may feel that science has a stranglehold on certain subjects in the curriculum that it does not deserve. Their cause is not helped by trying to claim for their style of argument the title of “science” when it is not the method of practice of the biological community. Continued discussion of matters of science and religion can best be advanced by analyzing arguments instead of conclusions, and by recognizing the differences in approach that can help to explain differences in outcome.

Thomas Drucker ’75
Whitewater, Wis.
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Book clarification

The brief summary in the February 11 Book Shorts of my book with Ambassador James Goodby (The Gravest Danger: Nuclear Weapons), by singling out the role of “preventive military action” to “reduce the danger of nuclear weapons,” suggests a different conclusion from the one we presented. Speci-fically, in the battle against nuclear proliferation, we urge the U.S. and its allies “to call on all the tools of diplomacy balanced with credible military strength and exercised with patience and determination,” and we emphasize that military force “cannot do the job, or even a large part of it.”

Sidney D. Drell ’47
Stanford, Calif.
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