Letters - June 7, 2000

100 years of paw

Many congratulations on your 100th anniversary issue (April 5). It was fascinating!

The cover of the December 10, 1937, issue, showing José Ferrer '33, was particularly interesting to me. I was a lowly freshman, in the Class of 1937, the only time I saw Ferrer. I was in the pit band for a production of Theatre Intime, and at the dress rehearsal (I think the band was dumped after that) Ferrer gave an impersonation of FDR, that went like this: "I hate Wah! Eleanor hates Wah!" (short pause) "I hate Eleanor!"

Ho, Ho, Ho . . .

Rem V. Myers '37
Southbury, Conn.


The photograph of the cover of the April 13, 1951, issue (back page, April 19) did indeed depict our outstanding pitching staff of Sisler, Brightman, Reichel, and Chirugi. We were not a heavy hitting team that year and had to scratch for runs. They pitched us to the Eastern League championship and the College World Series in Omaha in June 1951. Sisler went on to a pro career with the Red Sox, and several teammates turned pro as well. Will Prior '51 (rightfield) was our captain and played in the Giants organization, but his career was interrupted by a tour in the Air Force.

The Korean War affected most of the seniors on the team. Immediately following the series, Reichel joined Chuck Weeden (catcher), Larry Becker (second baseman), and me (centerfield) in the less glamorous environment of the Parris Island boot camp. The transition to the USMC was rapid. Three of us ended up in Korea, with a number of other Princeton classmates, as participants in the U.N. police action, which ended in 1953.

Jack Reydel '51
Blue Bell, Pa.

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Paw's independence

Philip W. Quigg '43 deserves thanks for his forceful defense of the endangered independence of the Princeton Alumni Weekly (Letters, April 5), an issue that has come to a head at the exact time that the magazine enters its second century of publication.

Paw's independence provides not only an important vehicle for alumni expression, but an important vehicle for such expression when the university acts in a way that is unpopular with alumni. After President Robert F. Goheen '40 *48 proclaimed coeducation, paw's editor, the late John Davies '57, wrote that "the mail came in on donkey backs." While I am certain that Nassau Hall received its share of mail, the letters to paw were published, and the issue was debated publicly. What a tremendous benefit the university gained from the magazine's independence at this important juncture. The same can be said of a more recent event, the appointment of Peter Singer as professor of philosophy. I doubt such a safety valve would exist if alumni suspected that the university had a role in the content of the magazine.

Further, independence allows views to be expressed that the university would rather not be associated with. Princeton presidents have at many times in the past pointed out to disgruntled alumni that they had no control over whether a certain article appeared in the magazine.

Now the university's far increased subsidy of paw's costs means a far increased presence and power on the magazine's editorial and advisory boards. Although the editor is sheltered by language guaranteeing her editorial control, and I have full confidence in new editor Jane Chapman Martin '89, nonetheless, the vice president for public affairs and the president are her bosses. This is the same arrangement as at almost all other alumni magazines, and resignations because of university pressure, including among Ivy League alumni magazines, are not uncommon.

Paw's independence makes it special, just as the honor code makes Princeton special. As the honor code shows, the university trusts its students, and no one can doubt how effective the code has been over the years, and how much it adds to the luster of the university and the character of the students. It is a profound irony that the university can trust its students to act with integrity but not its alumni.

Stephen R. Dujack '76
Former associate editor of paw
Alexandria, Va.

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President's page

I am astounded and appalled to read the letters of Rocky Semmes '79 (February 23) and E. Haring Chandor '42 (April 5) regarding the President's Page in paw. This page is the first item I read in each issue. I even framed Dr. Shapiro's column about the campus walkways a few years ago. It must be that this president's vigorous, imaginative, inspiring presentation of policy objectives and action of enormous scope for Princeton are beyond the capacity of these two alumni to comprehend. Were our trustees blind in their tribute of February 9, 1998?

Henry Gardiner '38
Hightstown, N.J.


Congratulations to paw for its willingness to publish E. Haring Chandor's appropriate characterization of the Shapiro columns as "boring, pretentious, self-aggrandizing displays of unbridled egotism." What appalling introductions they are to the magazine! Please relegate it to the rear, or, better yet, dispense with it except, perhaps, for a Christmas or New Year's greeting.

Paw's independence from the administration is crucial for open alumni communication. May it long be clearly manifested.

Edgar F. Harden '53
Port Moody, B.C.


In a set of books called Stevens' Facsimiles, there is a long letter that Paul Wentworth sent in 1778 to William Eden, the head of British intelligence during the War of Independence.

Of one of Harold Shapiro's predecessors Mr. Wentworth wrote: "Jno. Witherspoon, is become a Pennsylvanian-an able-indefatigable-cunning-well informed Person-great talents & address-a Zealot, a Republican, but prone to the love of Power & Riches."

Compared to this, don't you think Dr. Shapiro comes off rather well?

Miles Warner '42
Chadds Ford, Pa.

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Trustee election concern

For many years I have made a point of voting in elections for alumni trustees. The recent ballot I received makes me wonder if I should continue to bother.

Elections for alumni trustees are one small way in which alumni can seek to influence the path taken by one of the world's great universities. In the past, ballots included information on what the candidates saw as the priorities for Princeton. Not so now. There is a lot of information about each candidate but little or nothing about where they think Princeton should be going and what they think the priorities should be. If I don't know where they stand, why should I vote?

Does anyone else share my concern?

Russell R. Willis '66
Millner, N.T., Australia

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Ethics, religion, and Peter Singer

I believe that the struggle between doctrinal law and democratic law will be the battleground of the next century. The bitterness will be manifest in a way we have only known in more ancient times. Many see the beginning battleground as East Timor or Bosnia or Kosovo or Northern Ireland or the secular/fundamentalist struggles of the Islamic world. Others see the conflict threatening to tear apart Israeli society between the orthodox fundamentalist and secular Jews. In a pattern set two hundred years ago, America will again be faced with dealing with the reconciliation of individual rights of religious, nonreligious, or other philosophical beliefs with the secular right to be free from religious doctrine.

Religion or philosophy can have much to offer individuals in this current world. The issue is whether or not the religious world can free itself of dictatorial leadership, organizations, proselytizing, doctrine, and law. With this freedom, religious leaders may find the strength to offer support and meaningful interpretation to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness among all ethnic groups in all nations.

In a similar vein, I would hope that Dr. Shapiro will find a way to develop his role as chair of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission such that new paradigms can be developed without a simple balancing of existing doctrinaire religious beliefs on his bioethics commission. There must be a new understanding, which I believe the public in this country holds, that bioethics in the broadest sense are not in the realm of religious law and limitation. If the religious practitioners have a role, it will be in helping the individual make his or her choices within the parameters defined by any legislation resulting from the recommendations of this commission.

Arvin r. Anderson '59
West Charleston, Vt.


As I read various articles about Peter Singer in the mainstream press and in paw, I too wondered about the propriety of offering a position to someone with views that seemed so extreme. However, rather than simply call for his dismissal, withhold Annual Giving funds, or engage in some other activity to voice disapproval, alumni may be better served by actually reading Practical Ethics, rather than the articles' short summaries, before reaching a conclusion about his qualifications.

The February 23 issue of paw with its additional criticisms of Singer arrived the same day that I finished reading Practical Ethics. While I forcefully disagree with parts of it, am quite impressed with other parts of it, and think Singer makes inappropriate leaps in logic in other parts, I cannot say in any manner that he is unqualified to serve as a Princeton professor. On the contrary, because I doubt any ethicist's views will be accepted universally, Singer is as logical a choice as any other scholar. Those who worry that Singer will unduly influence young, impressionable minds obviously have a poor impression of the student body.

Robert S. Altman '82
Whitestone, N.Y.


It should be noted that in December 1947, during Britain's nationwide debate about whether the state should quit sending murderers to the gallows, a figure of considerable intellectual presence wrote to the Times of London to make his views known. These views were, to say the least, draconian, in that he argued for the "liquidation" of every criminal who could not be reformed into a useful law-abiding citizen.

"The public right and power of civilized states to kill the unprofitable or incorrigibly mischievous in self-defense can never be abrogated," he wrote. "A vitriol thrower should be got rid of as ruthlessly as a cobra or a mad dog. A man who lives by promising to marry women and deserting them as soon as he has spent all their money is a social weed to be uprooted no less than if he drowned them in their baths. Dangerous insanity, instead of exempting from liquidation, should be one of the strongest grounds for it."

The author of these words was George Bernard Shaw. I may not agree with either, but I would no more countenance the stifling of Shaw's views than I would those of Peter Singer.

John Gregory Dunne '54
New York, N.Y.


In Josephine Mineo Harrison '73's letter questioning continuance of the debate about Professor Peter Singer's ideas (February 23), she asks, "Is it possible that any educated person can take Singer's ideas seriously?" I for one do and suppose that I can claim to be educated, with A.B., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees and classroom teaching that spans over half a century.

She challenges the originality of the questions Singer raises, not understanding that ethical issues, unlike scientific ones, are as old as the human race and have been raised throughout its history. They have not been finally resolved and probably never will be, but as we face them we must reflect on them and reach as informed decisions as possible. Professor Singer is doing just this for us, because we often obscure problems by deeming them resolved (as is evidently true for Ms. Harrison). A public example of a current issue is physician-assisted suicide in Oregon.

I find that Singer has raised many issues worth reflection (and only then to be accepted or rejected). One that I found especially pertinent today is that perhaps "the American tradition makes people think in terms of their rights rather than their responsibilities or obligation to others." Obvious? Mostly ignored? I find this well worth reflection.

William B. Hunter '37
Greensboro, N.C.


As an ex-European who never ceases to be amazed/warmed/fatigued by the many non-institutionalized forms charity takes in North America, I see an ironic twist to the Princeton appointment of "gadfly" Peter Singer. The article suggested that the meagre proportion of U.S. GNP allocated to third-world countries might be due to lack of concern for those less fortunate (cover story, January 26). Isn't it rather that here the concern is expressed individually? I wonder whether the financial statistics include all the private funding Americans send abroad? Europeans often, and correctly, assume most funding is done automatically through taxes, and very few become personally involved. It seems to take the cream of the American establishment, intelligent and well-off inheritors of Puritan ethics, who invite a charming and thought-provoking Australian to tell them how "bad" they are and how they can improve.

Anja Pearre s'56
Halifax, N.S., Canada


At the risk of this being just another Peter Singer letter, I feel compelled to write my first letter to any editor. I have two points to make.

First, it is striking how willingly people accept the existing thought paradigm within the culture of their birth. It is equally striking how offended people are when dissident, or simply new, thought deviates from the accepted norms. I am always reassured how relative "truth" is when I see how threatened people are by any challenge to their previously secure, and narrow, truth. Much of the Princeton community should be ashamed of their myopic response to Peter Singer's unique ideas. So much for an open forum.

Second, objection to Peter Singer's ideas is largely of a religious nature, if not explicitly, then implicitly. All the major religions view humans as special and, in essence, more important. This is quite an assumption, and one that has led to many negative consequences (not the subject of this letter).

What leads us to believe this and other religious tenets? Three major forces are at work: inheritance of our parents' religion, "hearing what we want to hear," and gullible faith. It strikes me as particularly odd how willing people are to accept the religion of their birth. This seems like an assignment, certainly not a choice. The resultant "absolute truth" derived from one's religion, therefore, seems to be on very shaky ground indeed.

Naturally, this engenders a great deal of apprehension. Any challenge to religious ideas is therefore a challenge to this tenuous "absolute truth" we call religion, which in turn challenges our own self-identity. History is replete with the consequences of threats to the existing "way to believe." Religious wars, the Spanish Inquisition, Galileo's observations, the medieval repression of science-the list is long.

Enter Peter Singer. Unencumbered by the narrow limitations of religious thought, he is able to consider ethics more objectively. This is a freedom woefully under-represented in traditional ethical discussions.

In the present, his clarity of thought will, of course, be vilified, as most paradigmatic shifts are. Such is the predictable ebb and flow in the history of intellectual thought. In time, however, Peter Singer's ideas will be seen as intellectually obvious, refreshingly honest, and morally liberating. The consequence will be a broader compassion which will be to the benefit not only of the human race, but of all living things, of which we are, after all, but a small part.

Thomas S. Weisel '81
Stormville, N.Y.


The lead letter in the February 23 issue makes false and defamatory statements about Jewish and Chinese traditions.

The letter, which responds to Professor Peter Singer's views on infanticide, states that "traditional Jewish thought included that infants who died in the first month of life were not truly alive." This statement is false. Judaism does distinguish the first 30 days in the life of a premature baby as a period when the viability of the baby is uncertain. The distinction affects mourning practices for the baby, if it dies during this period. (The baby is buried, but close relatives are not obliged to rend their garments and say the kaddish prayer, etc.; see Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Avel 1:6-8.) Also, rabbis have cited this distinction to justify saving a mother's life at the expense of her baby's, during the final stage of birth, if otherwise both would die; see I. Jakobovits, Jewish Medical Ethics (New York: Philosophical Library, 1959, pp. 188-189). The letter, however, implies that Judaism condones infanticide, which is false.

The letter continues with the following statement: "The Chinese have traditionally believed that infanticide was permissible for the first year of life." To one of us (Tu) who lived in Taiwan for 13 years and has studied Chinese literature, culture, and tradition all his life, this statement is obviously false. To other readers, unfortunately, it may not be. To remove all doubt, Li-li Ch'en, professor, emerita, of Chinese literature at Tufts University and an eminent authority on Chinese culture, confirms that the Chinese have no philosophical, religious, or cultural tradition of sanctioning infanticide.

Daniel M. Rohrlich '75
Jerusalem, Israel

Loring W. Tu '74
Cambridge, Mass.

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At Reunions, we are all one

As the incumbent podium narrator of the P-rade, I wish to support the stern criticism of the adulation of the famous from Jon Murphy '57 (Letters, March 8), and supported so enthusiastically by Thomas F. Daubert '52 (Letters, April 19).  It is quite easy to do so in that it does not occur and has not in my tenure. Mr. Daubert's point regarding the (extremely orange-and-black) egalitarianism of Reunions is precisely to the point; it is for that reason that only the following are mentioned by name as they pass in the P-rade: the president of the university and his spouse (for service rendered; he has to put up with alumni, she has to put up with students in the living room); the P-rade officials, notably the grand marshal and the chair of the trustees; and the retiring officers of the major reunion classes, whose service to the alumni body richly deserves recognition. Perhaps some confusion has arisen on occasions when the class officers are coincidentally well-known individuals, but otherwise the number of Rhodes Scholars, admirals, composers, college presidents, senators, Internet titans, cabinet officers, NFL players, and ambassadors who have gone unnamed would fill this column, and more. This is perhaps a proper forum in which to thank them for their service and the honor they bring to Princeton, knowing full well why they are not personally cited on an occasion when the classes are celebrated as much more than the sum of their members.

Gregg Lange '70
Chair, Alumni Council Committee on Reunions 
Upper Montclair, N.J.

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Dancing to The Hot Nuts

Your From the Archives picture in the January 26 issue is of a dance you thought might have occurred around 1968. My husband, Thomas R. Leuner '71 *72, believes he is the tall, blondish-haired guy on the left, three people in, bending near his then date and current wife of 27 years, Ellen Daly (all you see of me is hair and forehead). The gentleman in the center of the picture with dark hair and glasses is his freshman roommate, Dennis Badger. Dennis was only at Princeton for the fall term in 1967. That would indicate that this concert/dance was the one at Dillon Gym, which had a few bands playing from elevated stages. One of the groups I remembered playing were The Hot Nuts. I'm sure others from the Class of 1971 can fill you in on the other groups.

Tom and I debated his likeness in this picture because his face was permanently rearranged playing rugby for Princeton. I can hardly remember that straight nose. Gary Walsh '71 believes Tom is correct in his identification.

Ellen Leuner s'71
Bridgewater N.J.

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Press Club reunion in 1950

You couldn't have picked a more appropriate time than the April 19 issue to run the From the Archives picture you did. It was taken at the 50th anniversary celebration of the University Press Club at Reunions in May 1950. This spring, of course, it reappeared in the same issue you ran a story on the club's upcoming 100th anniversary.

Those in the picture who looked older than undergraduates were former Press Club members and their wives who attended the event.

The three of us young-looking guys were Press Club members at the time. Standing at the front with his portable typewriter is Bill Norris '51, president. He arrived at Princeton as a freshman from Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, by way of the Navy. He went on to have a distinguished career in the federal judiciary filling a judgeship in the 9th District U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Jeremy Main '50, the previous club president and a New York Times stringer in his senior year, is sitting near the back of the near side of the vehicle and wearing a light-colored trench coat. Following his graduation, he pursued a career in journalism, starting out as a Time magazine staffer. In time, he became a member of Time's Paris Bureau, after which I lost track of him.

Standing at the rear is yours truly. For a year I wrote Alumni Weekly articles that highlighted minor sports. After an assortment of jobs following graduation I wound up 18 years ago on the staff of a weekly in Media, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia.

As for the sign, the vehicle in its earlier years had been a fire engine, hence the sign "We'll put out the fire when the story's on the wire."

The photographer, Alan B. Richards, a local freelance photographer with a gift for gab, boasted to anyone who would listen that he had taken more pictures of Albert Einstein than any other photographer, living or dead.

Thanks for the memories!

Bob Bodine '51
Newtown Square, Pa.

Editor's note: We also heard from Richard Gray '50, of Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Jeremy Main '50, of Ridgefield, Connecticut, who well recalls the photo and added, "Since I was copresident of the Press Club at the time, I must bear some responsibility for the slogan, 'We'll put out the fire when the story's on the wire.' I can't remember what it was supposed to mean, but I can guess that it was an attempt at humor, suggesting the hard-boiled journalist who would put getting the story ahead of helping someone in need."

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Of Father Haig

Thanks to you and to Sam Schreiner '42 for his good piece on Bob "Father" Haig '41 (Institutional Memories, April 5). Bob brought journalistic class to the '41 delegation of the University Press Club, from which he resigned in midcareer to found and edit The Princeton Sunday News. The rest of that Press Club delegation (Ernie Stewart, Mort Wright, and I) found it difficult, and dull, to carry on without him. Surely one of a kind.

Stuart F. "Pete" Raleigh, Jr. '41
Fayetteville, N.Y.

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More Marilyns

I am personal evidence that Princeton has educated women with the first name of Marilyn since the inception of women as undergraduates. While at Princeton, I became best friends with another Princetonian, Marilyn Schlachter (Berger) '74. My mother tells me that I was named in memory of my grandfather, Max Rubin, and not the actress Marilyn Monroe. I find that Marilyn uncommonly occurs as a first name in women of any age.

While I did not have the opportunity to be Professor Deffeyes's student while at Princeton, I look forward to meeting him during a future visit.

Marilyn Green Larach '73

Owings Mills, Md.

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Of Walter Nollner

It should be remembered that the late Walter Nollner, professor, emeritus, of music, also took the Glee Club to Europe at least twice, a number of countries in South America, the Far East, and Mexico four times. I was happy to have coordinated the Mexico trips, which were musically outstanding.

During the first trip to Mexico, about 1969, the Glee Club (all male at the time, but with the addition of the Smith College Choir providing women's voices) was rehearsing the Messiah with the Mexican National Symphony and its conductor. He was having a particularly difficult time with one chorus, and Walt went up to him unobtrusively to make some suggestions. The maestro handed Walt his baton and invited him to conduct. Walt lifted the baton and began, conducting the piece very differently. When he finished, the orchestra, as one, stood and applauded him. Walt could have been a fine orchestral conductor but felt his mission was at Princeton.

Raymond F. Fitzsimmons '55
Orange, Calif.

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Missionary query

As a graduate student in American history at Columbia University, I am gathering materials for a possible Ph.D. dissertation on children of missionaries who became involved in U.S. foreign policymaking during the World War II era, either in government or in academia. If you can provide information, names or other suggestions, please write to me at 231 West 96th St., Apt. 6C, New York, NY 10025, or by e-mail at jp508@columbia.edu.

Jung H. Pak
New York, N.Y.

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For the record

In our story about the African-American Studies Program (Notebook, April 19) we misidentified the photograph. It is in fact a photograph of Princeton students who participated in a summer orientation program for newly admitted students of color. The picture was taken in early September 1970, and the adult (fifth from the right in the front) is Arnold G. Hyndman '74, of Belvidere, N.J., who wrote us to clarify the provenance of the image.

In our March 8 Books Received, we incorrectly stated how to obtain Heroic Symphony by William F. Bottiglia '34 *48. The correct address to purchase the four-volume set is 34 Mary Chilton Road, Needham, MA 02492-1138; the price is $85.

In our In Memoriam for Walter Nollner, professor, emeritus, of music (Notebook, April 5), we misstated his age and year of retirement. He was 77 when he died, and he retired in 1993.

In our May 17 issue, we neglected to give credit for the photographs that accompanied "The Making of a 25th Reunion" (cover story). The photographer was Philip W. Smith.

We regret the errors.

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