Northwestern Magazine
Spring 2006 Home Alumni News Class Notes Student Life Mailbox Purple Prose Back Issues
Submit a Class Note
Submit a Purple Prose
E-mail the Editor
Read Our Back Issues
Update Your Address
Advertise with Us
Contact Us



“On Duty” Draws Fire . . .

Imagine my surprise when I received your latest issue of Northwestern magazine with its “oh-so-patriotic” cover story, “On Duty, Alumni in the Military” [winter 2005].

How the world has changed since the days I attended Northwestern in the ’70s. Back then we were taught to question authority. We actually had the nerve to protest war, standing up to what we knew was wrong-minded and fought at the wrong expense.

There’s no doubt that our troops do a great job. But, frankly, the best way we can support our troops is to bring them home and bring them home now.

I find it highly offensive that your magazine would see fit to run a cover article basically glorifying a war that should never have been fought and for which thousands of people are losing their lives.

By choosing to run such an article, you are complicit with those in Washington who have chosen to keep us in Iraq.

Instead of profiling those who go to war, how about profiling Northwestern alumni who are working for peace, including those who are helping the Peace Corps?

My solution?

Northwestern won’t be seeing my donation this year. I encourage others who disagree with this war to do the same.

David Landis (Mu78)
San Francisco

How delightful to find that my alma mater has jumped on the bandwagon of glorification of military service. It has become a popular shibboleth of the educated and sensitive class (such as Northwestern grads) to say that while we may disagree with a particular military adventure, we nevertheless “support the troops.”

The collective purpose of military service is the exporting of death, mutilation and now torture in defense of U.S. economic and strategic interests, and any journalistic attempt to divert from or sugarcoat those facts by focusing on the supposed good deeds of prosthetic limb-providing individual soldiers (Hmm ... I wonder how that little Iraqi boy’s leg got blown off?) is something less than journalism. It’s something called propaganda, and your readers aren’t falling for it.

Bruce Norris (C82)
Brooklyn, N.Y.

I attended Northwestern on an NROTC scholarship and served more than three years in the Navy on the destroyer USS Floyd B. Parks.

I must take issue with the unjustified quote in “On Duty” by Professor Moskos wherein he indicates Northwestern graduates have “a more enlightened worldview” than the typical military officer. I view this remark as a disservice to every man and woman who has donned the uniform of our country.

He indicates the “abuses like we saw at Abu Ghraib prison…” could have been avoided if Northwestern graduates had been involved.

To indicate that officers without a Northwestern education are less likely to understand the particular social significance of a given military action is just plain wrong and smacks of elitism. Let’s give our military men and women the credit they deserve for doing a very tough job in a very professional manner. Their courage keeps us safe and their sacrifices make others free.

Keith R. Knoblock (WCAS59)
Falls Church, Va.

. . . and Kudos

“On Duty” highlights, in a meaningful and personal way, the outstanding job our brave, dedicated, and capable men and women of the U.S. military are doing.

We should all be proud that Northwestern is so amply represented. This is praise for the University, which not only has high academic standards but also imparts a strong sense of community and citizenship responsibility. Cheers to Northwestern and to this magazine for publishing this informative article!

Joan Gallicchio Caviness (G58)
Tiburon, Calif.

Israel and Palestine Revisited

I’m not sure what’s more troubling — the letter by Samer Hasan [“Israel Just One Country in the Middle East” winter 2005] attacking Northwestern for its Metropolitan Chicago Jewish Federation-subsidized plan to use recent Tel Aviv University doctoral graduates as teachers of undergrad classes about the “modern Middle East” or the lack of a response from the University to Hasan’s assertions.

Among Hasan’s statements that clearly warranted a response were one presuming that the visiting instructors would lecture “insidiously” about the Middle East and another that “Northwestern should do better than get lured by pro-Israeli lobby scheming, because that is motivated by marketing and spin, not education.” If Northwestern magazine is willing to print such a rip job, it seems imperative to include a reply from the school.

William Weinbaum (J82, GJ83)
Bronx, N.Y.

Editor’s Note: The new postdoctoral position in Israeli studies is just one component of the expansion of the curriculum on the Middle East. Faculty who teach in the area of the Middle East and on Islamic studies now include three historians, a religionist who specializes in African Islam, a philosopher of Islam, a political scientist, a postdoctoral fellow who works on Islam and democracy, two literary scholars who study the Arab world and two anthropologists, along with the fellow in Israeli studies. Courses have been added on Turkey, the teaching of Arabic has grown considerably, and Turkish and Persian are now being offered.

I am writing this letter to express my anger about Tom Peter’s letter “Palestine Another” [winter 2005].

“The Holocaust never happened,” he writes. If he had lost all members of his family, as I did; if he had witnessed the mass killings of his people, as I did; if he had had a broken clavicle from beatings, as I had; if he had been shot in the head jumping out of a transport train bound for Auschwitz, as I was — he would not say that the Holocaust never happened.

If he needs some education about the Holocaust, he might read Joan Peters’ book From Time Immemorial, with the picture of the Mufti giving advice to Adolf Hitler about the “final solution,” or my book Why Me?

Joseph Rebhun (FSM54)
Claremont, Calif.

In response to Samer Hasan’s anti-Semitic letter condemning an Israeli grad student lecturer, I say: I would welcome any qualified Palestinian lecturers to teach at my alma mater if they are qualified to teach anything but hate. Israel is a place where millions of non-Jews are citizens, and its people learn and live productive lives. Northwestern is wise to tap Israeli know-how and should continue to do so often.

James Grant (WCAS87, GJ90)
Fort Worth

Northwestern Not Trivial

I write in response to Walter Olson’s letter “Trivial, Trite and Superficial” that appeared in the winter 2005 issue. In it, he complains about how shallow, trivial, trite and superficial Northwestern and its alumni and students are. He views them as part of the problem rather than part of the solution “with respect to the issues facing our human race today.”

As a graduate of Northwestern’s School of Law, I am tremendously offended by these comments. While I was in law school, I was one of several students who, with the help of the faculty, opened the Legal Aid Clinic [now the Bluhm Legal Clinic] in the basement of the now gone Thorne Hall in the summer of 1969. The clinic provided legal help to those unable to afford it in civil cases. There was only one professor and seven students. The clinic has now grown into quite a large program, with several different branches helping juveniles and criminal defendants, and of course there is all of the work that the students do on the death penalty.

Clearly, while I was a Northwestern law student, I considered myself part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

If Mr. Olson would merely look through the rest of the magazine in which his letter appears, he would find articles dealing with Professor Kanter’s preparing teachers to use a newly devised curriculum on disease for high school biology students and an article about Professor Dunlop’s work on how exercise may be the best medicine for those suffering from arthritis. There is a two-page article about Northwestern students providing community service in the city of Chicago. There is a multipage article about alumni in the United States military. Then, of course, there are the class notes from all of the alumni.

It appears to me that a reading of the winter 2005 Northwestern magazine shows that alumni and students are really working on solutions to the issues facing the human race today rather than being part of the problem.

Gary L. Schlesinger (L70)
Libertyville, Ill.

I wonder why Walter Olson went to Northwestern and what he did with the education he received. We are the continuous extension of the University by how we contribute from and give our advice to it.

Years ago I had a dream in which I was asked this question: “What have you done with the life I gave you to show my glory before man?”

The answer was very slow in coming, but it certainly met the criteria of the asker. It was “I have learned to love, honor and obey you so that I may teach those you give me to love, honor and obey you so that they may teach their children and their children’s children to the fifth generation to love, honor and obey you so that none would be lost from your kingdom.”

The answer holds true for every parent, teacher, and school leader and every person given a leadership position by God. When you ask why something isn’t moving, first look where your handprint depressions are from your pushing.

Daniel J. Krenzel (D60)
Cullman, Ala.

Walter Olson’s letter triggered some very ragged memories for me. At Northwestern I had the powerful impression that the point of attending was to eventually live in a gated community. The students I knew were the wealthiest and most corporate-oriented I have encountered. The faculty, on the other hand, were superb: Bill Byron, Lacey Baldwin Smith, Bill McGovern, Richard Leopold, Bergen Evans, Richard Elman, Deming Brown, to name only a few, were individuals who inspired emulation.

One evening at dinner in my fraternity house, a group of my “brothers” said in effect: “Willis, we’re sick of your existential, left-wing cant. Why don’t you go down to the South Side of Chicago and work with black kids if you’re really so concerned with the poor?”

So I did go to what amounted to an African American public middle school and got involved. Up to that point, I had intended to follow my father into the U.S. Foreign Service, but I was so moved by my experience with the kids that I chose to become a teacher. I taught for 39 years in the U.S. and abroad and retired in 1998. So, in a sense, the trivial, trite and superficial that Olson referred to motivated me to seek meaning.

Arthur D. Willis (WCAS58)
Quaker Street Village, N.Y.

Standing Ovation for Community Performers

I would like to thank Carolyn Graham Tsuneta for her Purple Prose essay “Stagestruck Still” [winter 2005]. She has given a voice to all of us who spent four years studying the arts but followed our muse in the nonprofessional sphere — a voice that is lamentably ignored by major organizations that disseminate and report on the arts.

I was a music major at Northwestern but then put music aside to attend business school. Eventually I found my way into the nonprofessional music scene in New York City. I went on to found a woodwind quintet that gave performances in Manhattan for about eight years and also played the occasional “semi-pro” gig. Now I am co-principal oboe with the South Orange Symphony, a community orchestra.

There are many fine musical and theatrical productions to be enjoyed in small towns and suburban communities across the country, performed by talented and highly trained artists who have found rewarding “careers” playing with community ensembles, bringing the performing arts to people who may not have access to presentations at our major cultural institutions. I encourage all of our alumni to support their local community-based arts groups.

Bob Renshaw (Mu83)
Maplewood, N.J.

Taking Issue with Annual Fund Ad

Permit me, as a proud alumnus, father of a Northwestern graduate and founder of the NU Club of Long Island, to comment on the full-page advertisement on the inside back cover of the winter issue.

The image of a professor on a stage in a packed lecture hall, addressing hundreds of students, probably none of whom he really “knows,” is absolutely NOT the image anyone loyal to Northwestern wants to show to the outside world. Whatever Charlie Moskos is doing up there on the stage, it is not “teaching” in the sense the caption suggests.

Far better would be to show a gray-haired professor with a dozen or so students sitting in a classroom, or on the lawn, looking like they are engaged in an animated conversation, an exercise in give-and-take, a true exchange of information, ideas and insight.

Let’s be a little more sensitive to what we’re telling alumni, parents and students, past and present!

George Haber (GJ67)
Jericho, N.Y.