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Biomedical Research

My Northwestern education was a passport to a fascinating world: writing copy for CBS News; covering everything from presidential campaigns to prison riots as a public radio reporter; guiding college journalism students; lobbying at my state capitol; and running the public relations operation for a statewide non-profit advocacy group.

My graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism has been my gold card, giving me access to paths that might have been otherwise closed to me.

I will always be grateful for what Northwestern gave to me. However, I am now reluctant to give back because of the University’s apparent embrace of embryonic stem cell research in “The Quest for Life” [winter 2006]. I support stem cell research wholeheartedly, but I draw the line at research that kills human embryos.

In addition to the ethical problems associated with embryonic stem cell research, there is the fact that not one successful therapy has resulted from this type of research. All the gains against diseases ranging from brain cancer to Parkinson’s disease are being made through adult stem cell research, which does not involve the destruction of embryos.

Unless Northwestern researchers are willing to draw an ethical line in the sand and resist the push toward embryonic stem cell research, I cannot participate in nor encourage others to take part in the University’s alumni fundraising campaigns.

Maria Vitale Gallagher (GJ91)
Harrisburg, Penn.

On Location Blues

Regarding “On Location” [winter 2006], who could forget the immortal Elwood Blues, in Blues Brothers 2000, just out of stir and at his new job in a strip club? He announces that the young ladies on stage were studying anthropology at Northwestern University. I was completely flattered.

Margaret Macdonald (WCAS73)
Lake Bluff, Ill.

Ryan Haggerty’s story “On Location” was entertaining, but he forgot to mention one film. The movie Never Been Kissed features Drew Barrymore as a Northwestern journalism school graduate in her first job as a reporter in Chicago. The film isn’t set at the school, but the writers make “Josie Grossey” out to be the stereotypical Northwestern nerd … until the end of the movie when she grows out of her awkward stage and experiences her first kiss.

Andrea Burns (J99)

No Escaping Holocaust’s Horrors

Howard Reich’s Purple Prose “No Escape from the Past” [winter 2006] touched me very deeply. This is such a difficult and personal subject to write about but still so relevant after more than 60 years. The Holocaust deniers may hold their meetings, but there is no denying the truth of the experiences of those who lived through it all and those of us who have been so influenced by the aftershocks.

In her later years my mother went through many similar effects as Reich’s mother from her time in Budapest during World War II. Unlike his mother, mine had been diagnosed with dementia, but the things she recalled most clearly were the horrors of those days. During her final hospitalization in 2001, she repeatedly gathered up all her bed linens in a bundle and gave them to me to “sell or trade for bread.” She, too, mentioned “running and running” many times.

Isn’t it sad that after a lifetime of making sweet memories of family, music, reading and traveling, a person has to recall and relive the terrible things in life? It’s a double dose of hell after one survived the initial onslaught.

Reich and I and many thousands like us are the descendants of the phoenixes who rose from those ashes, and we honor them by our memoirs and testimonials.

Robert Weisz (GMcC79)
Itasca, Ill.

Reich’s article touched a chord in me. My father is a Holocaust survivor, and last year at age 89 he, too, developed post-traumatic stress disorder related to his experiences. He started washing his face and forehead repeatedly and reliving stories from his past. The psychiatrist put him on medications to control his condition. He explained that my father was trying to “wash out” memories of his horrific experiences as a slave laborer for Nazi Germany from 1939 to 1945.

When I saw Reich’s article I realized my family was not alone and others are still facing the haunting effects from the traumatic tortures of more than 60 years ago.

Mark Blumenkehl (GFSM85)
Lathrup Village, Mich.

Art History Pioneer?

How delightful to pick up the last issue and read of the high-quality, energetic and progressive work of professor Sarah Fraser, chair of the Department of Art History [“Art for All,” winter 2006].

But I was equally dismayed to read that Fraser believes herself to hold the first tenure-track position in Asian art history.

That’s simply not true. When I arrived as a graduate student in art history in fall 1976, I was greeted by professor Betty Monroe, who not only taught Asian art history (her specialty was Chinese literati painting) but served as chair of the department! It is sad that she is now so completely forgotten. In the mid-1970s, as feminism was just beginning to revolutionize academe, it was very empowering to find a female chair of a department. I must also add that what I learned from Monroe while serving as a teaching assistant in her Asian art class has stood me well in decades of teaching.

Your feature on Fraser illustrates how far Asian studies have come at Northwestern (and in the United States) in 30 years. Yet I would hope that, when the story gets told, Fraser’s legacy in the department will be that she revived a specialty area that the department and the University had allowed to lapse, not that she pioneered it.

Amelia J. Carr (G84)
Meadville, Penn.

Praise for Perricone

Thanks for the great story on Gaspar Perricone [“Benchmarks,” winter 2006]. I was just 12 when Northwestern won the Rose Bowl in 1949, but I well recall the great job he did in that game, as we were all glued to the radio set for that last drive. It’s also beautiful to see what he’s done with his life. I’ve never enjoyed reading a story more than that one.

Dan L. Peterson (SESP58)

I was happy to read about Gaspar Perricone, my Alpha Delta Phi pledge father in 1948–49. As he was running through tackles, I never imagined he would become a judge.

Donald Rudy (WCAS52)
Glencoe, Minn.

A Wise Professor

What a pleasure to read about Clarence Ver Steeg and the award he and his wife, Dorothy, have endowed [“Ver Steegs Endow Award,” News on Campus, winter 2006].

I was a student of Professor Ver Steeg’s in 1970, the fall quarter of my freshman year, in a higher-level seminar class in which the newly arrived and uninitiated were discouraged from enrolling. But Ver Steeg made me feel welcome. His lectures were riveting and wise and — I can say this with all certainty — began the process that guided me into postgraduate study in exactly his field, colonial America.  More important, his kindness and friendly interest in my ideas and thinking also gave me confidence. I had read years ago that Ver Steeg had migrated to the Graduate School and to administration, but it was in the classroom where his particular gifts were felt, at least by me.

My daughter, Ali, has just completed her first quarter at Northwestern.  My greatest hope for her is that she, too, will have that same kind of “ah ha!” academic experience that helps put her on her own future path.

Susan Leon (WCAS74)
Larchmont, N.Y.

Questioning Northwestern’s Impact

I read with dismay the news story “University Has Impact on Evanston Economy” [News on Campus, fall 2006]. It starts by saying Northwestern has contributed to the Evanston economy each year between $145 million and $175 million.

Wow! The implication is how lucky the city of Evanston is to have Northwestern within its borders. This goes along with the perception prevalent in the United States that economic activity, regardless of its nature, is not only good per se but also the only measure of success of a given political entity. Almost as an afterthought, in the very last sentence, to be fair to the writer, it is revealed that revenues generated by Northwestern exceed costs attributed to the University by $2.8 million to $4.4 million dollars. Taking the midpoint of these figures and the midpoint of the previously mentioned total revenues figures means that there is a positive impact of 2.25 percent of total revenues generated. Since these are rough calculations, it is very possible that there was actually a negative impact.

As a proud alumnus I believe the University has a very positive impact, not only on Evanston but on Illinois, the United States and the world. Why do we always measure institutions by their economic impact? A larger economy is not necessarily better than a smaller economy. Northwestern is a positive force because of its scholarship, its cultural contributions, its positive impact on the students who are fortunate enough to attend this superb institution. May it continue to be this positive force for the indefinite future.

Robert Meyer (WCAS55)
Koloa, Hawaii

Return of the MOC and WOC Lounge

It was great to see that the Men off Campus & Women off Campus lounge is back. The old MOC lounge in Scott Hall was a terrific place to go and relax between classes. There were comfy chairs to sleep in, a radio playing music and a rarely used, except in the evening, television.

I also remember sitting in the lounge on a cold, very rainy November Friday and vaguely becoming aware that there had been shots fired at the Kennedy motorcade in Dallas. The room filled quickly; someone remembered that we had a television, and we turned it on to see Walter Cronkite, in shirtsleeves, giving reports as they came in from the field, culminating in the announcement that Kennedy had died.

Jim Rosenberg (WCAS66, L69)
Havilah, Calif.