Letters

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An Operatic Blend

The article about Pulitzer Prize-winner Zhou Long in the Summer 2011 issue (“An Operatic Blend of Cultures”) contains a terminological inexactitude (to use Churchill's lovely coinage). When his name first appears, it is followed by “’93GSAS” whereas in fact Mr. Zhou's handle should have been “’93SOA.” His diploma, which I signed, actually signed, in ink, clearly states that he is a graduate of the Columbia University School of the Arts, of which I was dean from 1987 to 1995.

In my view it is a tragedy that, for purely political reasons, the principal members of the composition faculty in the department of music were able to persuade the University administration to move the DMA program from the SOA to GSAS. How can any institution have a school of the arts in which the universal and all-pervasive art of our time is not taught? It is especially ironic that music composition should have been removed from the SOA because it was to enable Columbia to award the DMA degree that the school was established in the first place.

It is not too late to set matters right. All it will take is imagination and a little bit of effort on the part of the current administration of the department, the school and the university. 

Peter Smith

Buffalo, NY

 

Racism? What Racism? 

Manning Marable thought the black elite do not discuss the problems of the “underclass” because in doing so they would be forced to confront the common realities of racism that underlie the totality of America’s social and economic order (“A Message for the World,” Summer 2011). After 40 years of civil-rights legislation, affirmative action, and minority set-asides, at a time when African Americans play a prominent role in the sports and entertainment industries and can be found at every level of government, from state legislatures to the highest offices of the land (not just president, but national security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), blaming racism for the problems of the underclass is not very convincing. 

Carol Crystle ’64GSAS, ’70TC

Chicago, IL

 

Pulitzer Surprise

The College Walk piece describing the 2011 Pulitzer Prize awards ceremony (“Nibs and Nibbles,” Summer 2011) quotes DeWitt Clinton Professor of History Eric Foner as stating that the last Columbia historian to win the Pulitzer was Richard Hofstadter in 1964. While true for Columbia faculty, the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for history was won by Lawrence A. Cremin, then the president of Teachers College, for his American Education: The National Experience, 1783–1876. Cremin received his PhD in history from GSAS in 1949. Foner’s larger point, “That shows you it’s not an inside job,” is of course sustained, since all three Pulitzers were richly deserved.

Roger Muzii ’88GSAS

Sleepy Hollow, NY

 

I enjoyed Thomas Vinciguerra’s piece on the Pulitzer Prizes. The article reminded me of a question I’ve had for years: Why is Columbia rarely, if ever, mentioned when the names of the winners are announced?

Living in Greater Boston, I can assure you that if someone at Harvard so much as sneezes, it’s publicized. Does Columbia University purposefully downplay its role in the Pulitzers? If so, why?

The Pulitzer Prize is an internationally recognized and respected award, and the University would do well to more appropriately advertise its stewardship of this annual event.

Lee J. Dunn Jr. ’65CC

Concord, MA

 

Sig Gissler, journalism professor and Pulitzer Prize administrator, responds:

In a widely distributed press release, Columbia University announces the Pulitzer Prizes each April after they are determined by the Pulitzer Prize Board, an essentially independent body that meets on campus and includes the president of 

the University and the dean of the journalism school. Other important Pulitzer news is also disseminated through Columbia press releases. While the Pulitzer Prize office is not an administrative part of 

the journalism school, it is located there and has a good working relationship with the school.

 

Chemical Reaction

Paul Hond’s “Chemical Bonding” College Walk essay in the Summer issue brought back memories of Havemeyer and Chandler from a half century ago. The arrival of Gilbert Stork in 1953 marked the establishment of a renowned research program that attracted and ultimately trained and inspired many of the preeminent organic chemists practicing today. It is good to know that the Thursday-evening problem sessions created by Stork are still operating. Of course, personal computers and PowerPoint presentations did not exist, so one stood exposed at the chalkboard trying to draw and explain simultaneously. These multi-hour informal discussions were among the most exciting and stimulating experiences I, and many of my fellow students, enjoyed at Columbia. 

William Reusch ’57GSAS

Okemos, MI

 

Donovan’s Brain

Phillip Knightley’s review of Douglas Waller’s biography of “Wild Bill” Donovan, the founder of the OSS and progenitor of the CIA, was compelling and nothing short of brilliant (“Soldier, Spy,” Summer 2011). This was particularly true of Knightley’s conclusion that Donovan’s role in creating the CIA unleashed on the American people a monster that has cost billions of unnecessary taxpayer dollars, stomped all over civil liberties, and been a complete failure — the emperor with no clothes who sits in the middle of the intelligence community. Anyone who has read Pulitzer Prize–winner Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA knows what a disaster the CIA is and has always been. This agency’s only successful operations, as Weiner ’78CC, ’79JRN shows, were to overthrow three democratically elected regimes — Iran under Mosaddeq in 1953, Guatemala under Árbenz in 1954, and Chile under Allende in 1973. Knightley properly lays a lot of the blame for this horror show on Donovan. Congratulations on this spot-on, informative, and beautifully written review.

J. Michael Parish

Morristown, NJ

 

You have an excellent magazine. It is professional, prudent, timely, and comprehensive.

But one unattractive and unwarranted comment in Phillip Knightley’s review of Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage was not in keeping with your high standards. 

The final paragraph refers to J. Edgar Hoover spreading the rumor that his rival Donovan had died of syphilis. Why mention a rumor about an American who won every combat medal of the United States? We are taught that we should not repeat an alleged wrongdoing unless it is justified and relevant.

I worked at Donovan’s law firm at 

2 Wall Street in 1959 and had the highest esteem for Donovan, who died that year. In 1959, the firm had a reunion of the French Maquis. I attended and was impressed with the gratitude of the French toward Donovan for his stellar work on behalf of the French Resistance and the Allied cause.

Alfred J. Boulos ’59LAW

Houston, TX

 

Without Arms

I congratulate Columbia for reinstating Naval ROTC. I agree that, at this time, it is the right thing. As I wrote in my letter in the Winter issue, this praise comes from someone who “consider[s] myself a veteran — but one who fought for my country by blocking the steps of Low Library to prevent the ROTC from recruiting on campus; by being dragged away from anti–Vietnam War rallies by the police; and by registering voters in South Carolina for Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.” 

My letter then was in response to Paul Hond’s article on Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey ’08GSAS and his study of political attitudes in the military, from which we perhaps could summarize that there is not, nor is there a need for, a monolithic political attitude amongst military personnel.

My letter drew out a few responses that ignored what I wrote and focused on one point: that I was not a veteran. The writers assumed that the only real veterans are military veterans, and that no one else can fight for freedom or for one’s country.

But if the military was then fighting for our freedom, they left out a big chunk of freedom back here at home. Who was excluded from freedoms such as voting, or sitting at a lunch counter or on a bus? Furthermore, the protesters at the rallies I attended were protesting not against the soldiers, but against the misdirection of our leadership. It is this leadership with which many in the military have recently had problems. 

Perhaps the silliest letter was from David Clayton Carrad ’66 JRN, who invited me to visit the “local VFW and American Legion posts armed with . . . that issue of Columbia Magazine (since [I have] evidently never been armed with anything else)” to “help round out” my education. Leaving aside Carrad’s notion that only armed people can do something for their country, I would have invited him, in turn, to have faced police dogs, fire hoses, southern sheriffs, extremely hostile FBI agents — all done the MLK way, without arms. 

The U.S. military is a fantastic institution that, like this country, can still use a lot of improvement. Narrow-mindedness is a big obstacle. As Lt. Col. Dempsey stated — and as I closed my original letter — political opinions, particularly strongly one-sided ones, should be repressed until after retirement or other exit from the military. No one has responded to the main concern I expressed in that letter, the rampant and open, unmitigated disparagement of President Obama by currently active military personnel.

Claude Suhl ’65GSAS

High Falls, NY

 

Duly Noted

This elderly Glee Clubber enjoyed “Sing, Lion, Sing,” Paul Hond’s piece on the resurgence of singing groups at Columbia (“Finals,” Summer 2011). I also enjoyed singing at the 2010 Alumni Weekend. But I take some issue with the idea that the Blue Notes are now Notes & Keys.

I can’t document all the vocal group configurations between 1955 and the present, but back when I was in the College, the Blue Notes (the barbershop quartet) and Notes & Keys (the triple quartet that specialized in madrigals and “fun songs”) coexisted. I was part of Notes & Keys, its leader during my senior year.

It’s conceivable that at some point during the past 56 years there was a period when only one group might have existed and the Blue Notes might have later been Notes & Keys, but back in the early ’50s the two thrived happily, side by side.

Stuart M. Kaback ’55CC, ’60GSAS

Cranford, NJ

 

Several articles in the Summer 2011 issue caught my attention: “Sing, Lion, Sing” might have mentioned one of the most famous Glee Club and Blue Note members, Art Garfunkel ’62CC. My late cousin Andy Krulwich sang bass with the quartet.

“The Untouchables” failed to mention Irv DeKoff, the coach who was responsible for starting the fencing success and tradition at Columbia.

On a more obscure note, your news article on the retirement of Donald Keene reminded me of Henry Graff, professor emeritus of history at Columbia and presidential historian, who was a contemporary of Professor Keene. I interviewed Professor Graff for an oral-history book I am compiling. Graff, who earned his master’s and PhD from Columbia, was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1941, where, because of his fluency in Japanese, he was enlisted to translate and decode ciphers from General Oshima regarding his visit to French landing sites with German foreign minister von Ribbentrop. These translations told the Allied forces where the Germans expected an invasion and, needless to say, changed the course of the war.

Peter Krulewitch ’62CC

New York, NY

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