Letters to the Editor

Letters: September/October 2019

We welcome readers’ letters, which should be e-mailed to yam@yale.edu; mailed to Letters Editor, Yale Alumni Magazine, PO Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905; or faxed to (203) 432-0651. Due to the volume of correspondence, we are unable to respond to or publish all mail received. Letters accepted for publication are subject to editing. Priority is given to letters of fewer than 300 words.

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I read with interest your article on unbuilt Yale (“Left on the Drawing Board,” July/August), and I would like to contribute another example that may not be known to most Yale graduates.

On Law School Alumni Day in the spring of 1961, when I was a second-year student, I was walking through the first-floor corridor and spotted a small table not usually located there. On closer look, I saw that it was being used to display an architect’s model of a tall tower. A paper explained that it had been proposed to demolish two small guest rooms in the Law School courtyard and to erect a modern dormitory structure in their place.

The thought of tearing down the neo-Gothic buildings that graced the lovely courtyard—buildings that were used to house important guests and job interviews by persons from law firms—was very painful. I rushed to my room and emerged with a yellow pad on which I wrote “The following persons are opposed to the erection of this structure” and signed my name. I pulled up a chair and called the petition to the attention of passersby, whether they be students, alumni, or guests. Nearly everyone who passed by signed the petition. When I had to attend a class, one of my classmates took over my post. By afternoon, the yellow pad was about as filled with signatures as there were people in the building, so I trotted into the office and presented the petition to the registrar, who took it to Dean Rostow.

Later there was a feeble response to the effect that it was a “trial balloon.” We will never know the amount of the fee paid to the architect who designed the structure and made the model, but I am proud to have preserved the beauty of the Law School facility as it remains to this day.

Sidney G. Saltz ’62LLB
Evanston, IL

 

The Yale Daily News photo at left shows the model and drawings of the proposed 12-story tower—designed by Henry F. Miller ’38, ’48MArch, of New Haven—and a student reading Mr. Saltz’s petition.—Eds.

 

Your article on unbuilt projects at Yale speaks several times of proposed architectural “axes.” The section on the “Class Day courtyard” that never was built has an accompanying recent photo of the quad with the Stars and Stripes atop a flagpole.

In 1955, Vincent Scully sent Directed Studies art history students out to observe Memorial Hall and Hewitt Quadrangle. He said he wanted us to appreciate the axis running through Memorial Hall in line with that very same flagpole—a line in the tradition of both ancient and modern architects and many Renaissance artists.

In your photo, the pole has shifted toward the cenotaph and away from the axis. Was the pole diverted after the 1950s to avoid interference with Cross Campus tunnels? And, will the Commons renovation, which kept this year’s reunion class dinners al fresco, have relocated the pole in its former memorializing, if not also architecturally gracious, place?

Victor Dupont ’59
New York, NY

 

The Ledyard Flagstaff was moved closer to the cenotaph in a 2005 renovation of Hewitt Quadrangle. It will be replaced in that location when the plaza reopens next year.—Eds.

 

Regarding unbuilt Yale projects: the north face of Pauli Murray College on Prospect at Sachem remains an L-shaped blank wall. The empty space it defines was to have contained a performing arts center for undergraduate plays, operas, musicals, and dance concerts.

Joseph Roach
Sterling Professor of Theater, Emeritus
New Haven, CT

 

Dreams pursued

I loved Richard Panek’s wonderful article about Joan Steitz! (“Don’t Listen to the Naysayers,” July/August.) My mother, a photojournalist in the 1940s and early ’50s, traveled all over the world writing articles for Collier’s and Sports Afield about preserving our animals and fish. (Way ahead of her time, eh?) Thus, her sons never developed the attitude about the “proper roles” for women held in that day.

What particularly interested me was the male professor’s advice to Steitz to discourage her from pursuing her DNA dream. The same thing happened to me as a freshman premed in 1952. I did poorly in a required course: chemistry. Yale’s physician adviser told me to select another major as I would never get into medical school. Although devastated, I loved writing and moved to an English major.

In the middle of my junior year, I had an epiphany and moved back into premed. After all, I was not going to be a chemist. I graduated from Cornell medical school and completed my surgical training at Columbia. I am currently retired, after a malpractice-free career, authoring a number of published articles, and even an interview on national television.

Amazingly, the Yale physician’s advice turned out to be serendipitous, as I devoted the last 20 retired years to nonprofit efforts and the arts. I published five novels, coming full circle back to my English major.

H. Clay Alexander ’56
Oceanside, CA

 

I worked for chemistry professor Peter Moore for many years. Your well-written article captured Joan’s beauty, brilliance, strength, and graciousness.

Betty Freeborn ’64Grd
Guilford, CT

 

Admissions and athletics

Illegal bribery (“Soccer Coach Charged in Admissions Fraud,” May/June) is but the tip of the iceberg of condoned practices elevating athletes then trapping them once they arrive. In one of the sports I played, hockey players arrive after two years of post–high school training and skate from September to April. Many live off campus in a privately rented hockey house. They have no chance to be in a chorus, play, choir, art studio, or afternoon science lab.

College presidents founded the Ivy League in the 1950s to put boundaries on football programs and resist preoccupying professionalism on the playing fields, rinks, and courts. These boundaries need revisiting. The flood of early specialization trickles down to junior high schools, where private and parochial high schools recruit players and send them along to semiprofessional college teams. Rise up, fellow hockey alums. Support a new policy. If skating started on November 1, and games started December 1 and ended March 15, we would no longer win national championships. But we’d have the joy of amateur sport and give fuller lives to the players.

Dan Warren ’70
Brunswick, ME

 

Although the juicy details about individual parents, coaches, and organizers of the admissions fraud caught in flagrante made good press, the more significant story has not been adequately covered. Yale admits around 200 students each year with endorsements from varsity coaches. In effect, the regular admissions process is bypassed for these athletic applicants.

Furthermore, these slots apply not just to football, baseball, soccer, and the other “big-time” sports, but also to sports such as golf, tennis, sailing, crew, and the like. These “minor” sports are typically dominated by more-privileged applicants. So the real and continuing issue partially unearthed by the admissions fraud (and also by the pending Asian students’ suit against Harvard) is to what extent athletic coaches will continue to have control of over 200 slots for admission each year, and what effect that will have on the fairness of the composition of the entering class.

George J. Grumbach Jr. ’62
New York, NY 

 

Cheers for the sailors

All alumni/ae should applaud the achievements of Yale spring 2019 sports teams, including the men’s crew repeat championship season and the men’s lacrosse team’s NCAA silver medal season. But your article (“Spring Sports: Victories on the Water,” July/August) continues the magazine’s tendency to shortchange the sailing team’s accomplishments. Yes, Eli sailors won team race nationals, and the coed team scored national silver, but that is only the beginning of the story. Zach Leonard’s Bulldog squad again won the Fowle Trophy as the top overall sailing team in the country, and Nicholas Baird ’19 won College Sailor of the Year honors, equivalent to the Heisman Trophy in college football. One must go back to Clint Frank in 1937 to find a comparable achievement by a Yale football player. Kudos to Yale sailors and to Nic Baird: let’s doff our hats to them!

Timo Platt ’77
Bozeman, MT

 

Men, women, and processing

Re your article about multitasking (“It’s the Thought that Counts,” July/August): I have written numerous articles about female dual processing and male single processing, not a unique idea on my part. Let me describe one experimental result. One male and one female were asked to spend 15 minutes copying your article and were told they would be asked a yes-or-no question every three minutes. They were to continue copying the article while responding to the questions but were told, “There is no failing the test. If you have to stop, that may be the point of the exercise.”

There were two control questions, 1 and 4, that required processing time in the area of milliseconds. On question 2, the male subject paused, looked up and said, “Yes. No! No.” The question was, “Is seven times seven twenty-one?” 

Of course, we all have many processors, but I speak of central processors or CPUs, each of which can perform “one main cognitive operation at a time.” An example in a computer: a memory transfer is initiated by a CPU, then proceeds without further central processor involvement. An example in a human: one central decision-making unit calls on the training of the muscles to do a turning side kick; this is handed over to a peripheral processor.

Samson Howard ’77
Leominster, MA

 

Happy birthday to my room

This summer marked a centennial, though I am almost definitely the only person in the world who marked it. In Yale Manuscripts and Archives is a large set of linen-backed photographs documenting the construction of Memorial Quadrangle (now Branford and Saybrook Colleges). In connection with a course on the history of Yale, I had occasion during my senior year to study these photographs in depth. I was able to determine that the brick and stone walls of the room I was then occupying in Branford College, on the first floor at the southwest corner of the building (York Street at Library Walk), were put up during the third week of July, 1919.

Happy 100th birthday to Room 888, Branford College.

Richard Little ’74
Camarillo, CA

 

A missing book

I was impressed with the variety of backgrounds the 17 Yale professors bring to their teaching and research at Yale (“Can a Book Change the Course of Your Life?” May/June). Sadly, none of them expressed significant influence of the Bible on their lives and practices.

David E. Frederick ’52
Huntington, WV

 

Correction

The July/August “In Memoriam” list mistakenly included the name of Carolyn Craven ’91PhD. The list is provided to the magazine by the university’s Gift and Records Services office; they, and we, regret the error and offer our apologies to Professor Craven and our readers.

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