Letters to the Editor

Sterling’s nave remembered

Readers talk back about Sterling Library, a chaplain’s resignation, free speech, and more.

We welcome readers’ letters, which should be mailed to Letters Editor, Yale Alumni Magazine, PO Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905; e-mailed to yam@yale.edu; or faxed to (203) 432-0651. Due to the volume of correspondence, we are unable to respond to or publish all mail received. Letters accepted for publication are subject to editing.

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Thanks for the wonderful photos of Sterling Memorial Library (“Sterling Restored,” November/December), and thanks, too, to Richard Gilder ’54 and Lois Chiles for their gift. I was a student in the mid-’40s, and Sterling Library was an important place for me, not only where I worked for two summers but as a place for study and reading throughout the year. In addition, it was a cathedral, and we had the areas identified. Alma Mater was really Mrs. Harkness presenting the Gutenberg Bible to Yale, and the phone booths were confessionals. One classmate, working at the loan desk, reported that a man came up and inquired where he might genuflect. The attendant directed him to the men’s room.

Richard Johnson ’49
Oneonta, NY


I felt a pang of regret at the caption implying that the nave of Sterling Library is somehow the better for being “empty” of “encroaching” card catalogs. Card catalogs have, perhaps, seen their day. But in its day the nave offered a perfect alignment of form and function: the entrance to the building contained within it the entryways to literally millions of paths to the knowledge contained within that building. It had in it a grandeur that no amount of scrubbing, regilding—or emptiness—can replace.

Willoughby Johnson ’92
Westwood Hills, KS


I came to Yale in 1953 to work in the catalog department at Sterling. What an impression the main hall made on first sight! I thought it the most magnificent interior I had ever seen. My morning routine included hours of filing cards into the main catalog, following a detailed manual of the filing rules and traveling on a wheeled cart equipped with chair and desk. In the afternoons, I made catalog cards, putting my initials on each one and supposing it was going to last “from here to eternity.”

I have never been back to New Haven. Today in the south aisle there are “soft,” “comfy” chairs and a few empty card trays “for aesthetic reasons.” Time marches on.

Dorothy Smith ’56MA
Meadville, PA


The dazzling photographs of Sterling Library will leave Yale alumni across the country and around the world eager to get back to the Elm City to see the refurbished nave for themselves. At the same time, and in at least two ways, the restoration of the library needs to be put into context.

First, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, the Yale library has reduced resources devoted to the acquisition of new books. Sterling may be more beautiful than ever, but its collections, and with them the core mission of the library and the university, have been weakened.

Second, on November 5, the Yale Daily News revealed that in 2012—during a time of reductions in library acquisitions and other cuts—the Yale Corporation [Yale’s board of trustees] awarded “supplementary retirement benefits” of more than a million dollars each to two Yale administrators. Neither of the two retired that year, or even in 2013. Two million dollars can buy a heck of a lot of books.

Michael Montesano ’83
Ixelles, Belgium


A chaplain’s resignation

Bruce Shipman’s villains-and-victim account of the controversy over his comments about Israel and anti-Semitism in the New York Times and subsequent resignation from the Episcopal Church at Yale is a canard of the first order (“Episcopal Chaplain Quits amid Controversy,” November/December). His claim to innocence because he was merely using his title as a chaplain at Yale defies credulity, as letters to the editor in the Times typically include only the author’s name and city. University chaplain Sharon Kugler’s admonition that this was a “misstep” on Shipman’s part was appropriate: his title got his letter printed!

But the more condemnatory element in Shipman’s account involves his censure of Sharon Kugler as one of the conspirators in his demise. I have worked as a colleague of Chaplain Kugler since her arrival at Yale and have witnessed her character firsthand. In addition to her many gifts, Sharon is a community builder, having achieved a fellowship of campus ministers under the auspices of Yale Religious Ministries (YRM) that is unique in the contemporary university scene. She is a dedicated, thoughtful, and sensitive advocate of religious life at Yale in all of its remarkable diversity, hardly the villain that Rev. Shipman concocts.

To be sure, YRM is not a community where egoistic personalities would feel at home. But herein lies its brilliance, a light largely due to Chaplain Kugler’s ability to cultivate a spirit of cooperation and common purpose with leaders who are deeply committed to their own faith. Her presence is a gift to Yale for which I am deeply grateful.

David C. Mahan ’95MAR
Hamden, CT

Mr. Mahan is director of the Rivendell Institute, a Christian organization affiliated with Yale Religious Ministries.—Eds.


I was active in Yale Hillel as an undergraduate and since then have been a strong champion of Israel, past chairman of major gifts for the Jewish Federation of Stamford, past president of our Jewish Community Center, and generous supporter of all of Stamford’s major Jewish organizations. I believe that Rev. Bruce Shipman’s succinct letter to the New York Times, offensive to many in the Jewish community, was mostly on the mark.

While anti-Semitism has and always will be a fact of life, it has clearly been exacerbated by Israel’s actions. Palestinian terrorism can never be justified under any circumstances. Nevertheless, Israel’s disproportionate reactions and the resulting killing of hundreds of mostly defenseless civilians and children, extensive destruction of property, and continued settlement activity in and occupations of the West Bank not only violate international law and UN resolutions but are immoral and in violation of the Jewish faith.

At Passover, we read in the Haggadah of Hillel’s response to the Gentile who asked that the Torah be explained to him while he stood on one foot. It was “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow; this is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn.”

Since Shipman’s letter was written, the Western European democracies, Israel’s largest trading partners and supporters, have become more and more exasperated by its actions towards the Palestinians. To insist that their anger is rooted in anti-Semitism is to put one’s head in the sand. If Israel is to avoid increasing world isolation, it must change direction now.

Joel E. Freedman ’55
Stamford, CT


While I disagree with The Reverend Bruce Shipman’s simplistic opinion that rising anti-Semitism in Europe is caused by Israel’s policy toward Palestinians, it is nonetheless a widespread belief. A more creative response on the part of the Episcopal Church at Yale—and the chaplain’s Yale-based critics—would have been a forum in which this idea was debated by spokespersons for different views on the matter, and Mr. Shipman’s right to express controversial ideas honored more fully.

The Reverend Robert Morris ’63
South Orange, NJ


Salovey on free speech

Rarely have I been prouder of Yale than now. The president’s Freshman Address in the November/December issue (“Free Speech at Yale”) was an impressive aspirational exhortation of the sort one often sees, and just as often is more honored in the breach than in the observance. However, I also heard and read of the Ayaan Hirsi Ali speech at Yale and the failed attempts to prevent it, which occurred only shortly after the Freshman Address (Campus Clips, November/December). To see Yale’s actions follow its principles so clearly and in such a timely way makes this a moment of true academic leadership. Hopefully, other schools will follow Yale’s example and make their graduates equally proud.

Laz L. Schneider ’61, ’64LLB
Fort Lauderdale, FL


I appreciated President Salovey’s address on free speech to the Class of 2018, which made a compelling and useful distinction between the kind of provocation that results from careful consideration of complex issues and that which arises from the desire to be merely offensive. It is also possible, however, to be too careful.

When Salovey writes that “sexually harassing speech, for example, that is sufficiently severe and pervasive, can create a hostile and discriminatory environment, and Yale is committed by policy and bound by law to offer its education equally to women and men,” some will wonder what made him add that qualifying phrase about “severe” and “pervasive” harassment. Isn’t any form of sexual harassment unwelcome on campus? Or must it be severe and pervasive to warrant attention and action? The sentence reads clearly and forcefully without the insertion, and the word “can” is already a hedge.

That Salovey felt compelled to qualify his already qualified statement doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the declaration; the effect, compounded by the references to policy and law are, well, lawyerly and dry, as if a Corporation lawyer were standing over Salovey’s shoulder advising, “You really ought to include this.”

What if Yale didn’t tolerate a hostile and discriminatory environment to women, based on the conviction of its principles—because it was the right thing to do? If Yale wants the members of its community to believe in the meaning of its speech, it may have to demonstrate that it means what it says.

Katharine (Katy) Dion ’02
Berkeley, CA


Preppy, jock, wonk, and shoe

Re Fred Shapiro’s column (“Collegiate Slang,” November/December): I regard “preppy” or “jock” as ordinary words, nothing new (unlike “wonk”), and your date of their inception in 1951 corresponds well with my graduation from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1953.

Fred W. Martin ’64PhD
Dedham, MA


In my day, the term “shoe” was applied to preppies and/or secret society members. The term referred to the white bucks worn in tandem with khaki slacks as their distinctive garb.

Ed McGowan ’56
Roslindale, MA


More diverse trustees

I second Stoney Bird’s call for a greater diversity of perspectives among members of the Yale Corporation (Letters, November/December). I have refrained from voting in the last several elections for Alumni Fellow, because the candidates have seemed essentially indistinguishable from each other, and from too many of the current members of the Corporation. Clearly something has gone wrong with a nominating process that turns out a succession of near-clones.

John Bay ’69
Silver Spring, MD


A little bit of luck

Regarding your article on the Shubert Theater (“The Shubert at 100,” November/December), I recall that in 1956 when I was a Yale undergraduate, the musical My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews opened at the Shubert prior to its debut on Broadway. I tried to interest my roommates in going to the performance, but they all declined, saying a musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion was ridiculous and would certainly be a waste of time. So, I went all by myself. Needless to say, I was delighted by the show, which went on to be a smash hit that has endured the test of time.

Allan Wendt ’57
Washington, DC


More memories of the Bowl

Your article about the centennial of the Yale Bowl (“A Hundred Years in the Round,” September/October) reminded me of a wonderful piece written by George D. Vaill ’35, associate secretary of the university, about the oversize chairs made to accommodate President William Howard Taft, Class of 1878, while he was a professor at Yale after his presidency. The then-director of athletics “thought he would score a hit with the president by allotting him two seats at the Bowl on his single-seat subscription. Unfortunately, he neglected to consult the seating chart before making the assignment. Had he done so, he would have seen that the two seats were on opposite sides of an aisle. It was said that Taft was usually tolerant of irreverent comments about his acreage, but that on this occasion he was not amused.”

Richard Little ’74
Oxnard, CA

For images of Taft and some of his special Yale chairs, see our March/April 2013 article “Big Man on Campus.”—Eds.


Your recent article on the Yale Bowl included a photograph of Anne Morrissy, the sports editor of the Cornell Daily Sun, who in 1954 was the first woman admitted to the press box at the Yale Bowl. Anne Morrissy (later Anne Morrissy Merick) is a good friend and Cornell classmate of my stepmother, so the name was familiar and I was interested in the wider context of the story. Sadly, a quick Internet search revealed that, although Ms. Morrissy was allowed to enter on that occasion, this was merely an exception to the usual rule which remained in force, and several weeks later Faye Loyd, a reporter for United Press (a forerunner of UPI), was denied admission to the press box when she covered the Yale-Army game. It would be interesting to know when this policy was finally reversed and, more particularly, how it had managed to survive for so long in the generally progressive administration of President Griswold.

Ronald Richenburg ’68
Kidlington, England

In Rich Marazzi’s recent book A Bowl Full of Memories, sportswriter William Wallace ’45W recalled that the Faye Loyd incident caused “an uproar” and that sports information director Charley Loftus “soon changed his tune” and allowed women in the press box. Another sportswriter, Bob Barton ’57, remembered that “five years later, when Yale played Dartmouth in the rain, a woman asked for a press box seat and Loftus didn’t say a word. She was Mary B. Griswold, wife of Yale’s president.”—Eds.


Making bombs in a toy factory

I was amazed to see your pictures of “Stephanie the Riveter” (Last Look, November/December). Stephanie was working, alone (no one worked alone), on an aerial flare labeled “A. C. G.” and dated 2-42. A. C. G. stands for A. C. Gilbert Co., located in New Haven. (A. C. Gilbert himself was a famous pole-vaulter and graduate of the Yale School of Medicine, Class of 1909. He invited my track team and vaulting teammates for a special dinner every year.)

Before the war, A. C. Gilbert made those famous erector sets. During the war they made bombs and flares. Duane Folz and I, both Class of ’45W, decided to use our one-week break in September 1942 to earn money and help the war effort at A. C. Gilbert. I don’t remember seeing Stephanie the riveter, but Duane and I will never forget seeing female forklift drivers going full speed, with loads of bombs, singing the popular “I got spurs that jingle, jangle, jingle.” And they delighted in heading straight for those two scrawny kids.

Henry W. Hart ’45W
Woodbury, CT


  • Harry Mairson
    Harry Mairson, 5:28pm January 21 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Regarding David Mahan's comment above regarding Yale Episcopal chaplain Bruce Shipman, who was fired for his short letter to the editor in the New York Times:

    "His claim to innocence because he was merely using his title as a chaplain at Yale defies credulity, as letters to the editor in the Times typically include only the author’s name and city."

    This isn't accurate---the Times routines adds "The writer is professor of..." "The writer is director of..." They know because the letter writer told them so. Many writers of letters to the NYT have used their professional roles to emphasize their supposed importance, and the consequent significance of what they are writing.

    Harry Mairson '78

    The writer is professor of...

  • Arthur Seltzer, MD
    Arthur Seltzer, MD, 12:56pm January 28 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Fortunately Mr. Freedman is not responsible for the security of Israel. With terror tunnels being rebuilt by Gaza, refusal of Mr. Abbas to negotiate with Israel, attacks by Iran's proxy , Hizbullah, a growing threat on the Syrian Golan, and attempts at deligitimization by the BDS movement, only a strong and resolute Israel can survive in their neighborhood. His comments regarding Judea and Samaria clearly reflect a lack of understanding of "facts on the ground, details of UN Resolution 242 and the historical details of the West Bank, the lack of a "moderate" effective leadership at the helm of the Palestinian Authority, and lack of appreciation of the views of the Israeli electorate regarding the risks of a hostile entity on the West Bank. Israel deserves the solid support of the United States.

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