Letters to the Editor

Letters: September/October 2017

Readers talk back about John Kerry ’66, Directed Studies, 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.

View full image

I enjoyed reading your article about John Kerry and Yale’s newly hatched global affairs institute (“Career Change,” July/August), but I was struck by the pompous tone of the questions posed to Secretary Kerry in the “Q&A” section. A particularly stomach-turning question asked how the “elite group” of young people might be able to engage the world, given suspicion of elites in today’s society. “The best and the brightest will be coming through your shop,” the interviewer informs Mr. Kerry.

Really? Certainly, some of his students will be extremely bright. Definitely, some of the students will have been the busiest in high school, and many will be extraordinarily talented. Some of us plebeians who have been living outside of Yale’s ivy walls for a while now realize that the “best” means a lot more than scoring at the top of standardized tests and loading up on AP classes in high school.

There are plenty of “best” students at local community colleges, in the military, and even (gasp) at non-selective universities. Yale students do not corner the market on integrity, service, honor, and kindness. Let’s hope that students participating in the Jackson Institute can lead by focusing on the best and highest values that humans can demonstrate and not being so smitten by their own school pedigree.

Sharon G. Forman ’88
Scarsdale, NY


Your story on the appointment of John Kerry to the Yale faculty was an attention-getter. This relentless self-promoter, branded by his US Navy fellow officers as “Unfit for Command” and a conspicuous failure as Secretary of State, will now be provided a forum to teach young people about “public service.” As a loyal son of Old Yale, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Edwin S. Rockefeller ’48, ’51LLB
Washington, DC


I wish to compliment you on the excellent overall appearance and technical presentation of the Yale Alumni Magazine. As a constructive suggestion, I recommend that you provide coverage on both sides of current political issues. It is important that we hear from the left-wing liberals like ex-President Levin and John Kerry as to why they think the American public made a serious error in electing Donald Trump and a Republican Senate and House, along with Republicans across the board to state governorships and most state legislative seats in the past decade.

On the other hand, I and many alumni voted for the Republicans and continue to support their efforts to reform the Supreme Court membership, deregulate government controls of business, reconstitute our catastrophic Israeli, Syrian, and Iranian policies, improve our trade balance, health care, etc. There are many reasons that the voters repudiated the liberal agenda of the last eight years at the past few elections.

There are numerous opportunities for the alumni magazine to feature information or personalities who reflect favorably on the outlook that the American voters endorsed in the past few elections. The failure of the alumni magazine to give any space or credence to the views held by a substantial portion of our country fosters the viewpoint that Yale is becoming yet another mouthpiece for the largely biased media.

Thank you for giving consideration to broadening your coverage in the future.

Harry A. Richardson ’51E
Staatsburg, NY


Secretary Kerry’s statement that “there are going to be, obviously, tensions with respect to extremism that exploits religion and ethnicity,” presumably in reference to the daily worldwide atrocities of militant Islam, is perfectly in tune with the emotional appeasement that has characterized President Salovey’s regime. They are dancing on the lip of a volcano.

Charlie Finch ’74
New York, NY


Yes to the Great Books

I may be the ultimate renegade Yale alumnus (MA in philosophy, 1972—awarded under strange circumstances), a man hardly fit for joining in your discussions. However, I read with rapt attention Molly Worthen’s article on Directed Studies (“Who Needs the Great Books?” July/August) and it has elicited a rare response, out of the abyss of 45 years of silence.

I have assumed for decades that Yale alums wouldn’t understand me, all the more so because, as Worthen writes, Yale has become a “modern research university,” with all the vocational preoccupations that implies. I didn’t even know that the Directed Studies program existed. I assumed that my fellow alums had cleverly leveraged whatever Great Books training they had in high school into lucrative positions in a well-connected global elite; and that Yale was cool with that.

The opening Worthen has given me is because, on the issue of Directed Studies, we are all one, aren’t we? Conservatives (like David Brooks), liberals (like Juan Williams), and incurable lefties (like me). Reading texts together—Plato, Confucius, Nietzsche, Du Bois, Arendt—can unite strange bedfellows.

I have given my views on this in a recent article entitled “The Loss of an Intellectual Orientation at Community College,” recently published in a book called Educating for an Ecological Civilization. I’m afraid my remarks about Yale in that article are critical. If I’d known about Directed Studies, I may have had to modify them.

Nevertheless, thanks for raising the issue of reading texts together about ultimate questions. It helps me remember more fondly professors George Schrader, John E. Smith, Karsten Harries, and others at Yale, mellowing my memories of a lonely, politically torn 1970–71.

Fran Conroy ’72 MA
Riverton, NJ


No representative of Yale Admissions who visited my high school in 1969 mentioned the Directed Studies program. Nor did anyone when I visited the campus in the summer before my senior year of high school, nor anyone among the faculty and administrators at the small provincial prep school I attended, nor the alumnus with whom I interviewed here in Virginia. Professor Worthen’s article was the first I ever heard of it.

I declined Yale’s “cordial invitation to join [its] community of scholars” and hied myself off to a small liberal arts college on the Charles. Had I known of DS, my decision might have been different. Every prospective Yalie must be made aware of this gem of educational opportunity.

Montague Gammon III
Norfolk, VA


Make room for veterans

In the May/June Q&A with President Salovey (“WWI, Yale, and a Tradition of Service”), I was heartened to read of his support for military service and veterans—at Yale and beyond—as well as his comments about the efforts to enroll more veterans across the university.

If the president wishes to make a substantial effort, he can ensure Yale takes an action that has been advocated for years by me and others: raise the number of Post-9/11 GI Bill “Yellow Ribbon” slots and contribution amount to unlimited, university-wide. No other single action will have greater immediate effect to increase Yale’s reputation on veteran issues and veteran applications and enrollment.

The university should learn from the best practices of schools—including Yale School of Management—that have led the way in targeted recruiting and increased financial aid, including “Yellow Ribbon” funding, resulting in increases in the proportion of veteran students.

After over 15 years since the start of the current US military conflicts, it is wildly past time for Yale to do more to increase the small student veteran population—starting by increasing financial aid. It is time for deeds, not words.

John Perez ’12MBA
Gillette, NJ


Measuring sea level rise

As a geoscientist and the director of an undergraduate research program entitled “Hazards and Risks of Climate Change,” I was excited to see your article about how New Haven and other cities in Connecticut are actively pursuing adaptation strategies that will mitigate the effects of sea level rise on the community (“Close to the Edge,” July/August).

However, the way the author describes sea level rise is not quite accurate. The author states that many structures are located near “an ocean that is expected to rise four feet in the coming century.” There are two problems with this statement. First, although sea level is indeed expected to rise, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change uses the term “projections” to describe the possible magnitude of that rise. The language is meant to be precise: we expect sea level rise to be in the projected range, but we do not expect a particular outcome. In addition—and more importantly—four feet (about 1.2 meters) is twice as much as the highest projections for the end of the century. The mean of the projected range of sea level rise for New York is 0.6 meters, or a little under two feet, by 2100.

Thank you for writing about how universities can partner with communities to conduct research that benefits society.

Anne Egger ’95
Ellensburg, WA


More Yale marriages

We were delighted to see your May/June feature on Yale couples who got married on campus. We were likely the last couple to do so in 2016. On a bright winter Wednesday, December 21, we were married in an intimate Bahá’í and Jewish ceremony at the Faculty Lounge in the Hall of Graduate Studies. The jubilant reception that followed celebrated some of the best of the Elm City: dinner at Miya’s with Willoughby’s coffee and Ashley’s ice cream! (The Pepe’s pizza party took place the night before at the groom’s family home, just outside New Haven.)

We join the ranks of proud and grateful alums who found each other after Yale. New York City has been home for both of us for some time, but New Haven and Yale will always remain dear to us, as the site of our coming of age, the expansion of our minds, and the sanctification of our union.

Roya Shanks ’00 and Aaron Bender ’07
New York, NY


I’ll come clean; I’m a University of Chicago alum who’s always believed a “Yalie” is a Yale College grad. Now I’m convinced otherwise. Yes, I proclaim I’m a Yalie—’73 MDiv—and everything in the May/June issue persuaded me: a superb cover story on Ed Bennett ’84, great pieces on Paul Sears and J. Willard Gibbs (my vote for one of the new colleges, but no one was listening), and last, but hardly least, the marriage at Yale piece (“For Better, for Worse, and for Yale,”)! After 43 years with my “Yalie wife” (Carol Davidson ’72MSN), I am delighted to count us a Yale couple, though we neither met nor married on campus. Both events took place in a little church—alas, now closed—in the Hill, where very few Yalies ventured in our day.

All in all, a happy association with Yale!

Michael Tessman ’73MDiv
Wakefield, RI


Memories of the Yale Club

On opening the July/August alumnae magazine, in an advertisement for the Yale Club of New York City, I looked at a picture of the room in which my wedding reception took place, on June 14, 1958, after my marriage to John Sutherland. As John was Harvard ’53, my father, Carl Hitchcock ’11, thought the venue fitting revenge.

Ever since I was a little girl and we went to New York City, the only place my mother liked to go was to the ladies’ dining room at the Yale Club. They had the best filet of sole meunière.

In 1942, the doctors allowed my sister, who  was recently recovered from pneumonia, to attend the Metropolitan Opera. She boarded the train in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she was a student at Smith, rode to Grand Central, went directly to the roof of the Yale Club, changed to suitable attire, back down to the station for a subway to the opera, up to the performance, and then reversed the entire trip and never set foot outdoors in New York City.

As you see, the Yale Club and its roof have many happy recollections for me.

(P. S. My Harvard husband died in 1982. I am now Mrs. Richard K. McLaren ’51.)

Carol McLaren
Charleston, SC


Bittersweet reunion

This year the Yale Class of ’57 celebrated its 60th reunion (“Reunion Notes,” July/August). Toasts were given, recollections shared, and gratitude expressed that we had survived for more than seven decades. But it was also a bittersweet event, acknowledging the many friends and classmates gone since those bright college years. Still, as the sand in the hourglass continues to drain down, I will collect it and create a beach from which I can enjoy the sunset.

Ray Sipherd ’57
Newtown, CT



In one of our interviews with graduates (“Commencement ’17,” July/August), we wrote that Alexandra Cadena ’17 received a BA in Theater Studies and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. In fact, she earned a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Theater Studies. In addition, some of her statements in our interview were outdated. (She sent corrections, but because of a miscommunication in our office, we didn’t receive them in time.) The update: Cadena is an artistic producer in a small film company, but she doesn’t own it; and their film hasn’t yet been scheduled for a premiere.

The comment period has expired.