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Burton Legacy Resonates

The Burton Legacy” [spring 2006] brought me back to the beginning of my freshman year. It was August 1979. I had never met anyone who had applied, much less attended Northwestern. On that August day I was not on the Evanston campus but in a Boston suburb, at the home of Ron Burton [SESP62].

It was the freshman “send-off” party for those of us who would eventually become the class of ’83. I vividly recall seeing purple everywhere, being taught the fight song and hearing Ron speak about what a “life changing” place Northwestern can be. If there were any doubts at all about whether Northwestern was the place for me, Ron’s hospitality, friendly demeanor and enthusiasm made it clear to me, and in fact to all of us in attendance that day, that we had made the right choice.

Rob Freedlander (C83)
Irvine, Calif.

Ron Burton lived for a few years at Hinman House, which was known as a “jock house,” on the fourth floor directly above the room my roommate, Tom Moffett [WCAS61], and I occupied on the third. One night there was a tremendous racket up there, a lot of hammering and banging that went on for hours.

Finally we became concerned, and I went up and knocked on the door. It opened a crack.

“Ron,” I asked, “what’s going on, man?”

“Trophy case,” he said.

James D. Dilts (WCAS62)

I first met Ron in Boston when he was president of the Northwestern Alumni Association club here. In addition to organizing club activities, he made his home and training village available for alumni family outings.

Ron told one alumni group that Woody Hayes was his mentor while in high school, and it was expected that Ron would go to Ohio State. But when it came time to select a college, he told his alumni visitors, he chose Northwestern because of its educational excellence. It was, he said, “among the best decisions I ever made.”

Dick Coyle (C52)

What an inspiring life Ron Burton lived and what a wonderful story.

Thank you.

Ken Bloom (WCAS82, KSM87)
Highland Park, Ill.

Yes, I did enjoy your story on Ron Burton. The article tells of his outstanding accomplishments as an athlete, father, husband, professional and member of the community. However, there is one characteristic that is not mentioned … FRIEND.

I am from Panama, and I had the pleasure of knowing Ron. We lived in the same house (Hinman House), and when our paths crossed, he would always have time to chat for a few minutes. Of course, we were not “buddies,” but he always made me feel that he was sincere, honest and not condescending. Even when he passed through the cafeteria line in Sargent Hall, where I worked, he always had a good word.

I recall one night in the rec room watching TV with a bunch of other guys (there were no co-ed dorms back then), and I had the temerity to get up and change the channel (there were also no remote controls). Of course all the others came down on me, threatening bodily harm (or so I thought). Ron was there and he simply said, “Leave the kid alone,” and everything was fine. Naturally as soon as Ron left the room I followed close behind.

I will always remember him.

Carlos Williams (WCAS61)
Paitilla, Panama

I loved the article about Ron Burton. He was an unbelievably special man — someone who “touched” everyone he came in contact with. I was lucky enough to cross paths with him on my flight home to Boston after graduating in June 2000. He was seated next to me on the plane. I had no idea who he was, but by the time we landed in Boston he had changed my outlook on life.

We kept in touch now and then, and then I found out we had a mutual friend, Northwestern professor William White (McC61). So when Ron came back to Evanston every year to give a lecture in Professor White’s class, I would be sure to attend.

David Shaffer (WCAS00, GJ01)
Andover, Mass.

Thank you for your article on “The Burton Legacy” in your spring issue.

I met Ron many years ago when we both attended Alumni Leadership Conference on campus each year. He was such a warm, gracious man.

I remember one night at the Orrington I came down to the restaurant to have a cup of coffee. He and his family were just finishing dinner. He saw me and stayed behind to speak with me for a while. I asked about his children. He was very proud of their accomplishments.

The last time I saw him we were at another leadership conference. I took him aside and told him a story from my childhood.

I told him when I was 8 or 9, after the Saturday chores were finished, my father (the late professor Robert Breen [C33, GC37, 50]) would say, “Let’s go up to Dyche Stadium and watch Ron Burton play. And, if you’re good, I’ll buy you a big Baby Ruth.”

Ron loved the story and asked if I got the Baby Ruth. I said, “Of course!” He laughed and gave me a big hug.

I am so glad Northwestern is honoring him in this way.

Kelly Breen (C70)
Overland Park, Kan.

Remembering Jules Marcus

I was sad to read of the death of Jules Marcus [In Memoriam, News on Campus, spring 2006]. I studied introductory physics with Professor Marcus as a freshman in 1980–81, and it was an enriching experience.

I learned that simply finding the correct answer does not necessarily connote understanding; I still have a homework problem on which he wrote “right answer for wrong reasons.”

Craig Bina (WCAS83, G85, 87), Wayne V. Jones II Chair of Geological Sciences

As a premedical student, I first encountered Professor Marcus when he taught a required physics course in electricity and magnetism, which I attended in my sophomore year.

I found his enthusiasm, for what certainly must have been well-worn territory for him, quite refreshing and stimulating.

After I finished my next required physics course, I approached Professor Marcus about arranging an independent study in the more practical aspects of electronics and electronic circuitry.

We met several times a week in his remote and obscure basement office in Tech. Our routine consisted of me asking questions about various topics to which Professor Marcus would provide truly interesting answers — often using real world applications of these sometimes-abstract concepts.

I acquired a tremendous amount of practical as well as theoretical knowledge not available to me within any structured course curriculum. And I also enjoyed his company immensely.

Nearly 10 years later I found myself in an ophthalmology research fellowship at the Schepens Eye Research Institute and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston. The success of my research project depended entirely on my designing and building a novel, electronically shielded, moist chamber containing delicate hand-manufactured microelectrodes that would measure ion concentrations of tiny volumes of rabbit and human tears before they evaporated (and changed the very parameters being measured by the device). I believe that Professor Marcus would have been pleasantly surprised, if not delighted, to learn that my brief experience with him 10 years before had given me the basic knowledge and, more importantly, the confidence to take on this project without any engineering training whatsoever — and to succeed. This research led directly to the development of a popular artificial tear solution, known commercially as TheraTears.

I wanted to assure that this significant achievement was properly added to Professor Marcus’ legacy, and I’m truly grateful to Northwestern and Professor Marcus for having provided me with that unique educational opportunity so long ago which has paid such rich, unexpected dividends to me and so many others over the years.

Richard C. Rothman (WCAS78)
Las Vegas

Want More Banderooge?

It was great to read about what Robert Leighton [J82] [“A Puzzling Career,” Where Are They Now? spring 2006] has been up to since graduation.

If alumni want to see more of Banderooge, they can visit and enjoy the entire four years of cartoons.

Ben Slivka (McC82, GMcC85)
Clyde Hill, Wash.

Virginia Landwehr’s Gifts

I was deeply saddened to learn of the recent death of Virginia Landwehr [C54] [Deaths, spring 2006]. I can attest that her involvement with and love for students went back further than her dates of formal employment at Northwestern.

She was my counselor at Niles North Township High School (1966), and I remember her as one of those important people who shine as a beacon along the road of life. Landwehr was outgoing, dynamic and very positive — nothing wishy-washy about her. She helped many young high school students make some difficult decisions at an important time in their lives. And when it came time for applying to and selecting a college, I clearly remember her top recommendation — Northwestern!

David E. Weiner (D73)
Oklahoma City

Without Ginny Landwehr’s friendship and gift for listening and guidance I probably never would have graduated. I always left her office feeling on top of the world, wondering what had made me feel so low before I entered. Ginny was someone so very special in this big world of ours.

Ginny, you will be missed. Lucky were the students you touched in your brilliant career.

Mekealoha Pumehana, dear friend!

Marianne E. W. Schultz (SESP79)
Kaneohe, Hawaii

Still “On Duty”

I guess I’ll have to send a monster donation this year to make up for David Landis [Mu78], who is surprised that Northwestern alumni actually can bring themselves to wear the uniform. [“‘On Duty’ Draws Fire ... ,” Letters, spring 2006] Since I’m a retired Naval officer, I spent years and years being vile, honing my turpitude, so he and Bruce Norris [C82] can be glad I live near the dear old campus and not on one of those left coasts.

Margaret Macdonald (WCAS73)
Lake Bluff, Ill.

When I went to Northwestern 20 years before Landis, I never once recall being “ ... taught to question authority.” I was taught to ... learn. After that, what I did with that knowledge was on me.

Like Landis, I did not participate in ROTC, nor have I ever been in military service. Like almost every American living overseas, I look at our government’s foreign policy differently than those living on U.S. soil. But I am neither pro-military nor anti-military. Like everyone else, I’d rather there was never another armed conflict.

But I was a child during World War II and have had friends and family members in every war in my lifetime. Some of them died saving our nation in WWII. My three uncles came home in one piece physically but broken mentally and became alcoholics. So I respect what those people did, and Northwestern magazine simply portrayed those soldiers today.

It’s not the job of Northwestern magazine to espouse any particular cause or political point of view. It’s the magazine’s job to let us know what the University’s many alumni are doing. Some are in the military, and the magazine showed us that and even had the courtesy to print dissenting letters. Not unlike the Northwestern that I knew in the 1950s.

Dan Peterson (SESP58)
Milan, Italy

Freedom to read pieces such as “On Duty” [winter 2005] should be an unquestioned right for those of us who happen to think that we may be in a war with an Islamo-fascist ideology that hopes to destroy us.

There is the inescapable fact that in this war, as in all wars, terrible mistakes are made and human tragedy and suffering are the rule. I disagree with many of the decisions that have been made in the conflict, but I disagree with much of what was done in previous ostensibly nobler wars, too. The history of war, politics and economics has always been about the struggle to choose the lesser of several evils and not about perfect solutions.

Ralph C. Friedenberg (WCAS59, FSM63, GFSM69)
Gig Harbor, Wash.

David Landis’ letter “’On Duty’ Draws Fire … “ [spring 2006] suggests that the “best way” to support the troops is to bring them home now. If this unlikely scenario were to happen, Landis might sleep better if the daily carnage that this war visits upon our volunteer soldiers and their families were to stop filling our newspapers, computers and TVs.

For the 2,400 soldiers who have been killed in action and the 10,000 who have been wounded, he might ask just one of those families from his neighborhood what he can do to support them. If he lives in a middle-to-upper-class neighborhood he may have to open his electric garage door and travel to his local barrio to find a family whose son or daughter was killed or maimed for the honor of becoming a United States citizen. They will accept a “thank you.”

Bringing the troops home is only half the battle. The scars of war last a lifetime. As citizens, we need to take responsibility for our inaction as well as our actions. These kids deserve better.

Paul Schneeberger
Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.

Like [David] Landis, I also attended Northwestern in the ’70s. However, one of the skills I gained there was not so much to “question authority” as it was to examine reality. Perhaps that explains our very different conclusions.

While that letter writer and another decried an article about Northwestern alumni serving in Iraq, one did want a feature on Peace Corps volunteers.

What irony — those Northwestern grads in the military operate in the greatest peace corps on the planet.

One writer threatened to withhold his donation this year. Fine. I threaten to resume my donations. (If these letters were cons to attract givers — it worked on me!)

George Ertel (KSM76)
Scottsdale, Ariz.

I am appalled that graduates would make the article “On Duty” into an anti-war issue. It just shows that even people who graduate from one of the finest institutions of higher learning do not necessarily possess common sense or decency. The article was well written and focused appropriately on Northwestern graduates.

Edward A. Leach (CPS57)
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

I’m a Marine, and my mother (a Northwestern alumna) sent me a clipping from the Mailbox section in your spring 2006 issue. I had to write after reading the comments of David Landis and Bruce Norris, both complaining about the cover story on your alumni in the military.

This hostile and offensive hyperbole is tolerable, in part, because it’s a stark reminder of the freedom of speech rights we Americans are fortunate to enjoy, something those of us in uniform fight to protect.

True, innocent civilians have been killed in Iraq by U.S. military forces, but no service member takes any kind of killing lightly — whether it’s the enemy, or the “little Iraqi boy” or one of our own who ends up dead. There is nothing “glorious” about spilling human blood and guts, and U.S. soldiers and Marines understand this.

Your military force today is going to great lengths — more so than at any time in history — to restrict the use of precise force so that only terrorists and insurgents are killed.

Obviously, mistakes happen, and our enemy encourages and thrives on these mistakes, but Landis and Norris imply that those in the U.S. military are callous in the way we fight. This simply is not so. Not to suggest that tragedies such as the Abu Ghraib scandal or the occasional civilian death are tolerable, but it is disheartening that some Americans choose to focus on these rare incidents, rather than acknowledging the routine barbarism, evil torture and cold-blooded kidnappings and murder by the enemy — or recognizing the countless triumphs and sacrifices of the common Marine.

Glen Butler
Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Bravo for Alternative Energy

Regarding the news article “Energy Initiatives to Ease Utilities Budget Deficit,” [News on Campus, spring 2006] I’d like to thank the University for striving for the wise use of the monies it receives from all resources, including alumni giving.

We are in an age where alternative energies must no longer be just an alternative choice. Two years ago my husband and I outfitted our house with solar thermal tube collectors. Our gas therm usage is now cut 50 percent. The initial outlay may appear large, but rebates — state and/or federal — may be available. Based on this, our payback period is estimated to be five years.

Cheryl Kline Bottje (Mu72)
Roselle, Ill.