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Sappho, bipolar disorder, the Winants, a famous headline

3.1.01

I have read the comments by various respondents in "Whither Harvard?" (January-February, page 52) regarding the issues facing a new president of Harvard, and I presume to make a suggestion. In light of the increasing reality of "globalization" and the "global village," and also the real limitations of electronic communications, Harvard should consider establishing mini-campuses (perhaps like Professor Arthur E. Levine's "brick and click" versions) in a few key countries around the world, such as: China, probably at Beijing; India, perhaps at New Delhi or at Madras; Argentina, probably at Buenos Aires; Australia, perhaps at Canberra or Melbourne; and Mexico at Mexico City. This could be done in cooperation with the finest local and regional schools. Such mini-campuses could provide useful bases for both teaching and research, and they would anchor important international bridges in a modern world that needs maximum mutual understanding.

John A. McVickar, M.P.A. '59
Bar Harbor, Me.

 

Your seven perspectives on the search for a president shared one disturbing theme: smug overconfidence. Even the exhortations against complacency seemed to waft from some ivory tower of, well, complacency.

Let's not pretend that discussion of greater public-mindedness (David Breneman), or the threat of alternative learning venues (Arthur Levine), or the strategy of partnering (Nannerl Keohane) will resolve anything. It won't, because these are tactical issues, not articulations of vision.

Charles Maier's piece was the only one to link a vision with tactics, but there is one piece of gritty reality that neither he, nor your other commentators, addressed. The reality is that Harvard is losing the respect of many whose respect counts.

As a Harvard (and Stanford) graduate who has been part of the Bay Area community for 21 years, I am alarmed at the growing scorn directed at Harvard by many in that community. Yes, we could always count on Stanford officials to lace their speeches with a few barbs directed at Harvard, but it was done in a spirit of grudging respect. In the past few years, however, respect has turned into outright dismissal. Just during the past year, in speeches and articles by professors, students, executives, and members of the local press, I have heard Harvard referred to as "irrelevant," "backward," "arrogant," and "doomed," and as a "dinosaur, oblivious to the approaching asteroid." I volunteer in a program that mentors gifted Bay Area high-school kids about college choices, and while 100 percent of them apply to Stanford and Berkeley, we have had as few as one (out of an annual cohort of about 24) apply to Harvard.

All the blather about distance learning, commercial on-line schools, et cetera, is beside the point. Public-spiritedness, political involvement, "new economy" methods, and innovative partnering could serve a vision, or not serve it. They are not the point. Harvard needs a vision, and the tactics will follow.

The next president of Harvard must address the challenge of (1) not only preserving, but promoting, the notion of a broad and deep humanistic education, and (2) resurrecting the notion of education as primary value, while (3) modernizing the University and its image.

Modernizing does not mean putting more laptops into the hands of students, or wiring (or wireless-ing) every classroom. That will be done anyway. It especially does not mean giving into the temptation, so overwhelming at places like Stanford, to become a glorified trade school. That is what some of the scorners seem to advocate.

If modernization is to be compatible with objectives (1) and (2), then it does mean putting more emphasis on teaching as a criterion of success for faculty members; reforming the tenure process to retain more of the gifted junior faculty; making a conscious effort to address student concerns about relevance, while reviving their excitement about learning for its own sake; and bringing fresh blood to the mix even in ancient and highly tradition-bound disciplines. It also means being very public and up front about those changes.

This process will require the guts to challenge some powerful and hidebound constituencies. Example: Is Harvard proud of its role in legitimizing the SAT (per McPherson and Schapiro)? It should not be. It is time for Harvard to lead the way in admitting that the SAT has at best outlived its usefulness, and has long been an embarrassment.

Charles Hsu '79
San Francisco

 

SAPPHO'S PERSONAL LIFE

Poet Jorie Graham says (Craig Lambert's "Image and the Arc of Feeling," January-February, page 39) that she was concerned that having a child would hamper her as a poet, commenting that of the women poets who had strongly influenced her work--Sappho, Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore--"Not one of them had children. They were all maidens for one reason or another, by choice or by sexual preference." Although she is generally thought of as a lesbian, Sappho was married and had a daughter, whose name was Cleïs (after Sappho's mother). Motherhood does not seem to have limited Sappho's "creativity, ambition, scope" in any way.

Cecily Martin
Annapolis, Md.

 

Sappho was married, had a daughter, fell in love with men, and in the end died --committing suicide at Lefkas by leaping into the sea--over the love of a man, proud Phaonas. Graham's errors only convince me once again that most women poets, in boastfully claiming Sappho as being an influence on their work, have no real knowledge of or interest in her and are merely looking for a bit of self-aggrandizement-by-association. Furthermore, I hate to be uncharitable, but I am quite certain that Sappho of the pure and lucid lyric would have been unable to identify that formless and prosaic word-hoard you include of Graham's called "Afterwards" as anything close to good poetry.

Alexander Theroux
West Barnstable, Mass.

 

Editor's note: Both Martin and Theroux cite an edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica as a source. Charles P. Segal '57, Ph.D. '61, Klein professor of the classics, notes that the idea that Sappho had a daughter, with which he agrees, rests on a fragment of one of her poems in which she appears to be addressing her daughter. Modern critics, he says, tend to reject the view that Sappho's poetry gives evidence that she was lesbian.

 

BIPOLAR REACTIONS

John Lauerman's assertion that Freud may have had bipolar disorder ("The Feelings Are Mutually Exclusive," November-December 2000, page 22) is an example of irresponsible journalism. By suggesting that a person who is generally regarded as among a handful of the most creative and influential thinkers of the twentieth century was psychotic, Lauerman inevitably casts suspicion on the validity of that person's ideas. Many who believe in the neuroscientific/psychopharmacological approach to mental illness exemplified by Lauerman's article on bipolar disorder are critical of psychoanalysis, but that is a subject to be debated on its own merits and not ad hominem. Meanwhile, as a psychoanalyst who is reasonably conversant with the literature about Freud, I am unaware of evidence that, whatever his quirks of personality, he suffered from mental illness of any kind. Nor is there any reason to believe that Lauerman, identified as a person who "writes about health for Harvard Magazine," has the training, the credentials, or the opportunity to examine him.

Michael Robbins, G '56, M.D.
San Francisco

 

I commend you on the article on bipolar disorder. One thing I wish it had noted is that symptoms often reveal themselves for the first time in college- or graduate-school-age people. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder my first year at Harvard Law School, when I was civilly committed to McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. I spent most of law school depressed, searching desperately for the right combination of medications to control my condition. People often asked if "Harvard" made me ill, to which my only response was that when I was in the hospital the first time, there were two other law-school students there, along with someone who had graduated from the College the previous year.

I did graduate and am now living happily in Connecticut, working as a legal-services lawyer and married to a wonderfully supportive husband who has been with me through the ups and downs of this illness. The illness can be a living hell at times, but it in fact has truly been a blessing for me. I met wonderful people during my stays at the hospital, whom I would not have met but for this illness. I have to thank the school psychiatrist for committing me to the hospital. Believe it or not, as a first-year law student I had absolutely no idea that one could be sent to a hospital against her will for treatment she didn't want. It was a true legal education and has not only made me a better lawyer, but, more importantly, a better human being.

Kathleen Flaherty, J.D. '94
New Britain, Conn.

 

I have a grandchild of eight suffering from what some doctors are now classifying as "symptoms of bipolar disorder." It would be helpful, I think, if the national study now underway could include children in the patient mix.

Sidney H. Stires '51
Bay Head, N.J.

 

STUDENTS' MENTAL HEALTH

I happened to hear Kay Redfield Jamison speak just after her Harvard visit to discuss mental illness (January-February, page 76). She was amazed at the large number of Harvard students who approached her afterwards to tell of their emotional problems and the inadequate services available to meet them.

Though you report that a brochure entitled "What can I do?" was given every faculty member, I wonder how many teachers actually have sufficiently close contact with students to know they are severely distressed. As a freshman, I had serious depression, which my close friends helped me survive. As a senior, I found myself in the position of being the sole person who knew a fellow student needed to be hospitalized. Luckily, she was willing to let me and a few friends take her to student health services. At that time, we had to operate on pure instinct, with no useful information or support. Students, rather than teachers, are far more likely to know of serious distress among their peers. They are the ones to whom a brochure such as the one given to teachers should be addressed.

That this recent outreach campaign was "Harvard's first-ever University-wide effort on an issue of mental health" is sad. The effort was far too long in coming.

Marion Hunt '63
Chapel Hill, N.C.

OR VICE VERSA

Harvard Theater Collection

Peep-Bo, Yum-Yum, and Pitti-Sing, as seen in the first stage production.

Savoyards throughout the realm have enjoyed your article "Innocent Merriment" (January-February, page 44). Of particular interest were the photographs of the Mikado's opening-night cast, who appeared to be dead ringers for the cast of Topsy Turvy, the recent Mike Leigh movie.

James N. Blair '70
New York City

 

GOOD TEACHING

The thoughtful article about Professor Richard J. Light, "The Storyteller" (January-February, page 32), emphasizes the role of teaching as actively getting in the students' way. Light's meaning becomes clear: make sure that the student gets involved in her (his) own educational process and takes personal responsibility for it. Would that more educators would learn the distinction between being "the sage on the stage" and "the guide on the side."

Gerald D. Levy '45, M.B.A. '47
New York City

 

DAGUERRE

Jim Harrison's review of Melissa Banta's recently published book, A Curious and Ingenious Art: Reflections on Daguerreotypes at Harvard ("The Browser," November-December 2000, page 25) states that Daguerre visited Boston to publicize the photographic process he invented. In fact, as Banta writes, Daguerre, who is not known ever to have left France, sent an agent, whose first stop was New York, not Boston. The image of Daguerre reproduced with the article is misleadingly captioned, making it seem as if it is a portrait of the inventor made by the Boston photographer John Adams Whipple in 1851. The picture is merely Whipple's copy of one of the five daguerreotype portraits of Daguerre made in Paris by Charles Richard Meade in 1848.

Gordon Baldwin, L '63, Ds '66
Los Angeles

 

THE WINANTS

May I add a note to James O. Freedman's "Vita" on John Gilbert Winant (November-December 2000, page 48)? It grew out of Winant's wartime friendship with the Reverend Philip "Tubby" Clayton, a priest in the Church of England.

During World War I, Tubby had served as chaplain at Talbot House (known as "Toc-H" in the signalers' parlance of that time) in Belgium, not far from the front lines. After the war, Tubby and some of the men to whom he ministered at Talbot House created a charitable organization dedicated to comradeship and Christian service and called "Toc H."

Tubby and Winant became friends during World War II. One of the projects that Toc H decided to undertake to provide postwar relief to youth in the bombed-out cities of England was to invite young Americans to volunteer for a summer's service in England, providing work and play activities for English youth. Tubby came over to the United States in the fall of 1947 to raise funds and build up interest in the project.

One evening, Winant telephoned Tubby, telling him that he urgently needed to see him. Tubby declined because of a speaking engagement, but promised to see Winant as soon as possible. Winant committed suicide the next day, before they could arrange to meet. According to Toc H lore, Tubby felt somewhat responsible for his friend's death, reasoning that if he had seen Winant the night of the telephone call, he might have prevented his suicide.

A few days later, Tubby gave an impassioned speech and call to service to the students of St. Paul's School (Winant's alma mater) and, so the story goes, to a man the sixth form rose to volunteer to go to England the following summer as the first class of what Tubby had decided to call the "Winant Volunteers." Fifty-two years later, the Winants, joined in 1957 by British "Claytons" who come to the United States, are still serving youth. I am thankful to have had the privilege of being a Winant in the summer of 1975.

The Reverend J. Parker Jameson '75
Austin

 

FAMILY-OWNED NEWSPAPERS

Your article largely about the Los Angeles Times ("Work at its Best," January-February, page 23) is bafflingly wrong in its fundamental facts, even though they have been well reported elsewhere. As a result, the sweeping conclusions Professor Howard Gardner attempts to draw about the world of publishing are unjustified.

The article posits that the Times had been one of the nation's leading newspapers under the Chandler family, but that in the mid 1990s, "the ownership changed," leading to the arrival of Mark Willes and Kathryn Downing as publishers and to the Staples Center fiasco. In fact, however, there was no change of ownership at all. The paper (and the parent Times Mirror Corporation) remained under the control of the Chandler family throughout the Willes-Downing period. It was the Chandler-dominated board of directors that brought in Willes and gave him a mandate to raise profits, leading eventually to the Staples saga. By virtually all accounts except yours, the Chandler family bears considerable, if not ultimate, responsibility for what happened.

Your writer and Gardner, whose work he was profiling, seem to have equated the Chandler family with Otis Chandler, the admirable former publisher. But Otis Chandler was only a single member of the family and not the dominant voice within it; his commitment to great journalism appeared to represent a minority strain within the family. Worse yet, Gardner, who claims to be studying journalism, doesn't seem to understand that in today's world, the publisher of a newspaper, like Willes or Downing, isn't the owner but is a hired agent of the owner or corporation.

Based on these misconceptions about the Times, the article suggests broadly that family-owned newspapers are more willing to forgo profits than newspaper chains. I'm afraid the reality of the Times supports only the conclusion that some families have had a greater and more lasting commitment than others to the newspapers they inherited.

James Mann '68
Columnist, Los Angeles Times
Washington, D.C.

 

Howard Gardner replies: The Los Angeles Times became a publicly traded company in the 1970s. Its management changed dramatically in the middle 1990s. The major published accounts of the Staples incident, including the 14-page supplement published by the Times on December 20, 1999, all place the blame squarely on CEO Willes, publisher Downing, and editor Parks. It makes no more sense to exonerate these individuals and to blame the corporate board than it would to exonerate physicians of malpractice because they happened to work for a profit-hungry HMO. Nothing in the article equates newspaper ownership with the job title of publisher.

 

WHEN IS 29 - 29?

Alan Schwarz asks ("The Saga of a Great Headline," November-December 2000, page 83) that the author of the Crimson headline "Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29" come forward and identify himself. I write here to do that. I was at that game. I called the Crimson that afternoon, giving the afternoon editor those words and telling him to use them as a headline. I walked under the stands on both sides that day, when all concerned refused to leave Soldiers Field for some time after the outcome: the Yalies because they were stunned in silent disbelief, our side because of a delirium that we still sometimes feel to this day. John D. Roberts, a freshman classmate of mine, encouraged and witnessed my phone call that day.

The league title was on the line, so the air had a charge to it. Fans of the sport know that Yale halfback Calvin Hill went on to help the Dallas Cowboys become "America's Team." Vic Gatto. Brian Dowling. Pete Varney. Frank Champi. Tommy Lee Jones. All played that ballgame. I sat on the 50-yard line, but during the famous climax, I was in the aisle, standing. Classmate Rich Genz left the Stadium with about five minutes showing on the clock to sling plates at work in the dining hall. Thanks be to God for my scholarship. I learned something that day. A football game cannot end on a defensive penalty.

Suffice it to say that no college football game has ever looked the same to me since. Not until 42 seconds show on the clock and one team leads the other by more than 16 points, can I declare a winner--and then not because I don't believe that such a deficit could be overcome, but because I've never actually seen it happen, the way I saw a 16-point deficit erased that day. Thank you, Harvard Football, for a Great and Classic memory.

Thomas M. Zubaty '72
Plymouth, Mass.

 

Editor's note: John D. Roberts '72, M.D., of Richmond, Virginia, testifies as follows: "It's true, and it's actually one of my clearer undergraduate memories (harp glissando--thinking back...)

"It was after the game, and several of us were gathered in my room, Hollis 32. Tom said words to the effect of, 'Wouldn't it be cool if the Crimson had the headline "Harvard Beats Yale"?' I thought it was a great idea and encouraged him to give a call to the Crimson office, which he did.

"The next week Newsweek included a copy of the headline in its report of the game. Newsweek had queried the Crimson concerning the origin of the headline, and reported some lame story that it sort of bubbled up in newsroom discussions. For more than 30 years I've harbored some resentment that Tom never received his due for his stroke of headline-writing genius."

 

I feel like a citizen of Mark Twain's Hadleyburg, where everyone tried to lay claim to a virtue they did not possess. No doubt there will be many claiming to be the person who talked to Crimson photographer Tim Carlson '71 on the field that day and gave him the famous headline.

I had driven up from New Haven, where I was enrolled as a graduate student after obtaining my Harvard College degree in 1967 (though I stayed social '66, the class with which I had entered with sophomore standing). My wife was with me, and we sat with my sister and the Dunster House senior who later became her husband. We were all in the senior undergraduate section, thanks to a complaisant non-attending senior who had proffered his coupon on our behalf.

When the game ended, we all streamed enthusiastically onto the field, giddy not so much with alcoholic spirits as with the euphoric wine of the last 42 seconds (I remember telepathically telling the Harvard team to try an onside kick, and, when that worked for a touchdown, to try it again). I accosted a person with press credentials somewhere in midfield, toward the open end, and asked if he worked for the Crimson. He answered yes. I said, "Harvard beat Yale 29-29. There's your headline. Use it!"

He seemed a bit startled by my vehemence, but nodded and edged away toward wherever he was going. I think he may even have uttered a quick "O.K." to bring our interaction to a speedy close.

After that the four of us repaired to Dunster House to watch the quiz show College Bowl. I will long remember the feeling of gratification when the Crimson ran "my" headline.

William J. Clark '66
Greenwich, Conn.

 

Editor's note: Mary Clark, the claimant's sister, and her husband, Gaillard L. Schmidt '69, well recall being at this game, but have no memory of sitting with William Clark, or of watching television with him afterwards. She has spoken with someone who did see her brother at the game; that person also has no memory of Mary or Gaillard being with William, but does recall that William was wearing a horrid black coat. "I am a librarian and a researcher, and I believe in caution in matters of this nature," says Mary Clark. "I can't deny my brother's story, but I certainly can't confirm it." She spoke with another person who attended the game and who recalls that the air was full of cries of "Harvard Beat Yale." Her view is that her brother is remembering a collective creation as his own.