Letters to the Editor

Letters: May/June 2021

We welcome readers’ letters, which should be emailed to yam@yale.edu or mailed to Letters Editor, PO Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905. 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. Priority is given to letters of fewer than 300 words.

The Schwarzman Center

Congratulations on the wonderful article about the spectacular repurposing of Commons and Memorial Hall (“A Place for All Yale,” March/April). As an architect interested in Yale’s architectural history, it would be nice to know the original architects of these masterpieces and the dates they were built. Who paid for them?

We should not forget.

Also, being physically challenged by age, handicap, and injury, I look at the photo of the grand exterior staircase pictured on page 40 with concern. Normally, up and down traffic would stay to the right on a stair like this, which means you have to hold onto the center railing with your left hand, if you’re unsteady, as I am. My left hand is crippled, and I have to hold on with my right, which means I have to walk down the up side of the railing.

A thought offered for safety’s sake for old alums who will want to see the new center and use those dramatic stairs to get there: railings along the walls would address the issue.
Neil Hoffmann ’64
Bryn Mawr, PA

The photo we published of the stairs was taken just before railings were attached to the side walls. As for Mr. Hoffmann’s questions, Commons and Memorial Hall—along with Woolsey Hall—are known as the Bicentennial Buildings, since they were dedicated in 1901, when Yale celebrated its 200th anniversary. The architects were Carrère and Hastings, who also designed the New York Public Library. The buildings were funded by donors to a university capital campaign.—Eds.

The article about the Schwarzman Center and the accompanying images are exciting. As a Divinity School alumnus, I look forward to visiting the new center when it opens to the public and all Yale in a few months. Although the areas within the center will become popular places, I hope that the entire center will be known by the name of the Schwarzman Center to honor and recognize the generosity of the donor. Although YSC made sense for editorial purposes in the article, I hope that the center does not become known by the acronym and the donor’s family name set aside.
Robert Loesch ’66BDiv
Springfield, MA

Women's gift

Regarding Judith Ann Schiff’s column about women donors (“Old Yale,” March/April): I wasn’t in the celebrated first group of females to enter as first-years, but when I arrived in the fall of 1970, it was still a very male Yale. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered much to me back then if I had noticed such an article or seen some wall plaques, but looking back, I’m struck that some of the spaces on campus that meant most to me were donated by women, including both Battell Chapel and the Branford College courtyard with its carillon tower. Please continue to share hidden gems of Yale’s HERstory.
Ann Larson ’74
Essex, VT

Judith Ann Schiff mentions the gift of William Wirt Winchester Hospital to Yale by Sarah L. Pardee Winchester. This was not the first building given to Yale by a woman named Winchester from the great arms fortune. Her mother-in-law, Jane E. Hope Winchester, the widow of Oliver Winchester (founder of the company), gave Winchester Hall (1892), the engineering building at 15 Prospect Street on the site now occupied by the Becton Center. In its final year, it housed the classics department in 1965–66 while Phelps Hall was being renovated, and my letters home remark on the leaks that caused problems in the slide library, where I was working.
Roger Bagnall ’68
New York, NY

Poison pen

Regarding your article on the Beinecke Library’s tablet containing an ancient Greek curse (“Curses!” March/April): could you ask the author or someone from the School of Public Health how defixio written on lead and thrown in a well would affect the health of those who drank the water? I imagine that they were literally poisoning their water supply with their hate. A metaphor for our times.
Steve Schewe ’79
Eden Prairie, MN

Eli appointees

I was delighted to see your full-page listing of alumni in the new administration (“Biden’s Bulldogs,” March/April) and proud that Yale had produced so many leaders!

However, you must have overlooked that Maggie Thomas ’15MEM was appointed chief of staff for the Biden administration’s new Office of Domestic Climate Policy, even though John Kerry ’66 was mentioned as a “special presidential envoy for climate.” Ironically, her appointment is reported on the next page in an item about the trustee election.

Hopefully you can correct this omission in your next publication.
G. Mark Cramolini ’74
Knoxville, TN

Many more alumni were appointed to positions in the administration than those we could include in the “Biden’s Bulldogs” item. We should also note that after we went to press, Neera Tanden ’96JD withdrew her nomination to be director of the Office of Management and Budget.—Eds.

The trustee election

Xiaoyan Huang takes issue with my ad for my candidacy for Yale Corporation describing the official Yale Alumni Association candidate or candidates as “mystery candidates” (Letters, March/April). In fact, they are a mystery for the two months between the time YAA chooses them and when their name is disclosed as the ballots go out the week of April 12.

Why are the names withheld while my name as a petition candidate has been known since early October? It is bizarre that Yale, which encourages robust free speech and debate, withholds the names for over two months. For what purpose? Also, why does the YAA not tell us their rationale for only choosing one candidate or two candidates when up to three candidates are allowed? Again, total silence.
If elected, I will be an advocate for reform to a fair process where all alumni are treated equally. Huang chairs this committee and must feel compelled to defend the indefensible. My election will be a statement for alumni desire for change, and I trust Huang and others will honor the alumni/ae desire. My views can be found at www.asheforyale.com.
Victor Ashe ’67
Knoxville, TN

I’m surprised by the letter from Xiaoyan Huang in the March/April issue. I do not know Victor Ashe and have no opinion on his candidacy, but with all due respect to Ms. Huang and the Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee, I find the views on candidates for Alumni Fellow unsettling. My response is the following: 1) The behavior of candidates who follow “longstanding tradition” to not speak publicly on issues of importance to Yale is action not necessarily prescribed by tradition, but action directed by self-censorship. 2) Contrary to Ms. Huang’s assertion, a candidate is a “mystery candidate” if their identity is only known to the body which has selected the candidate, and only revealed to the electorate at the moment of election. To say that candidate identity should remain hidden until the ballot and “the information is actionable” is bureaucratic doublespeak, at the least. 3) When information on a candidate’s views is made available at the ballot, “great care is taken to communicate that it is equitable and an accurate representation.” This internal review and screening of candidate information is presumably exercised by the Nominating Committee, which can represent the candidate’s views as they choose. Why not allow candidates to express their positions openly and transparently, in the same manner as voter information is currently provided by many organizations and states?

Ms. Huang’s language—either directly or inferred—to characterize the position and actions of the Nominating Committee speaks about control: candidate self-censorship, hiding identity of “mystery” candidates, and controlling the candidate message. This is somewhat scary: control by authoritarian regimes and institutions, east and west, comes to mind.
Philip Allen ’61
Portland, OR

How hefty?

I’m writing to question that item on the “hefty” door to the Ground Café (Last Look, March/April). The article says the door weighs 9,500 pounds, the weight of two full-size cars. That seemed more than a bit out of bounds, so I figured a bit of engineering math might be in order.

Plugging in the given height of 11 feet, guessing 1 meter wide and 3 centimeters thick, and noting the 30 circular holes that look approximately 10 centimeters, with an 8,000 kg/cubic meter density of strong stainless steel, one might expect the door to weigh 1,646 pounds, almost 4 tons lighter than what is stated. Any engineers want to review this?
Michael Reel ’06MD
Madison, CT

We checked back with architect Peter Bentel, who told us this: “The weight of the door was reported to me by the fabricator. During the fabrication process, he told me (‘complained’ might be a better word) that he had to use his 15,000-pound [capacity] forklift to move the door around his shop; his 8,000-pound forklift tipped and lurched when trying to lift the door. I can report that the door is much thicker than the 3 centimeters the reader suggested. The body of the door surrounding the portholes is almost entirely steel (plates, bars, and tubes). The stainless-steel skin on all sides is about 1/4” thick in order to guarantee flatness of the material. Working out the structure around the portholes caused the engineer at the fabricator’s shop to lose sleep, so he packed it with steel and stainless steel.
“As he said, paraphrasing Pascal, if he had had more time, the door would have been lighter. Or, perhaps, if he had had a degree in engineering from Yale.”—Eds.

Advertising code?

In an advertisement in the March/April issue, real estate agent Kenny Raupple invites people who are tired of “wet winters, COVID lockdowns, and civil unrest” to move to sunny Dallas, where a “super business-friendly atmosphere and conservative folks” are ready to welcome them with “Southern hospitality.” I am impressed by the number of coded messages contained in this ad, by which Mr. Raupple makes it clear that his invitation is aimed at affluent white Republicans. It does not require much reading between the lines to see who he is not inviting: liberals, non-conservatives, non-business-oriented people, and particularly non-whites, towards whom “Southern hospitality” has seldom been extended in the past. I doubt whether this sort of coded messaging would be tolerated in any article the Yale Alumni Magazine chose to print. Why should it be tolerated in the classified section?

We are living in a time when some “folks” feel increasingly empowered to express racism. That sense of empowerment ought to be slapped down hard wherever it shows itself, including the classified ads in the Yale Alumni Magazine.
Michael Sand ’71MusM
Eugene, OR

Leading the way

Thank you for the moving column about Deborah Rhode, a pioneer in so many ways and someone who more than fulfilled Yale’s promise to train leaders to serve the world (“A Steely, Quiet Strength,” March/April). I knew Deborah from leadership education circles. In the legal education world, Deborah didn’t only start to teach the subject a few years ago; she launched a crusade to make leadership a focused, priority topic for new lawyers in the same way that she had previously launched a crusade around legal ethics for new lawyers. Leadership education was a marriage of Deborah’s work on legal ethics and her work on women in the professions, and in that way it was continuous with her long-standing efforts to secure justice through law.

Deborah was supposed to be the keynote speaker at a leadership education conference in February at Santa Clara University, but instead the event opened with a memorable tribute to her and her career. Several of the speakers are Yale alumni—and key players in the leadership-in-law-and-society movement that she helped to found: for example, William Treanor ’79, ’85JD, dean of Georgetown Law; and Susan Sturm ’79JD of Columbia Law School.
Michael Madison ’83
Pittsburgh, PA

A artist's journey

Thanks to Jenny Hansell ’86 for her courageous essay (“Perspective,” January/February). I appreciated how Hansell’s story both reminds educators like myself of the enormous influence we can have on young people starting out in the world and subtly cautions us to wield that power carefully. Thanks also to the magazine for printing several of Hansell’s very human and moving paintings along with the essay. I feel lucky to have been able to see them.
Nancy Ehrenreich ’74
Boulder, CO

Thank you for the Jenny Hansell piece on a humiliating Yale art class and her graceful response. While she gently elicits my humiliations in other settings, I had a different experience in a studio class. After retiring from two varsity sports, I began drawing with William Bailey afternoons my senior year. Now, 50 years later, he’s the Yale instructor I remember as most formative, in part because he seldom stood in front and he spoke sparingly. He was behind, looking with me, helping me move from seeing, to apprehension, to shared expression.

His presence behind me has entered my head and heart. In a book prepared with his paintings, he said, “When I start a painting, I pack for a long trip with many stops along the way and no clear destination in mind. For me, painting demands complete immersion in a process which carries me into another world.” Amen.
Dan Warren ’70
Brunswick, ME

A woman of note

Apropos your feature “Extraordinary: 150 Years of Yale Women” (November/December) and as a commentary on how limited were the opportunities for women faculty members at Yale back in the day, I cite the case of my early 1960s graduate-school instructor in classical archaeology and art, Dr. Ann Perkins, who clearly deserves a feature in your publication.

Ann Perkins earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Chicago in 1935 and went on to earn her PhD in Middle Eastern archaeology there at the Oriental Institute, under the direction of Egyptologist Henri Frankfort. From 1942 until 1949, Dr. Perkins was a research assistant at the Oriental Institute. During this time, she published The Comparative Archaeology of Early Mesopotamia, which became a standard work in the field.

In 1949, in her mid-thirties, Dr. Perkins joined the all-male Yale classics department as a lecturer and research associate. By 1960 she had become a much-published authority on Middle Eastern archaeology and the art history of Greece and Rome and had served as a visiting professor at Columbia and Harvard.
Yet, after more than a decade at Yale, she was not permitted to instruct undergraduates and was untenured. She left Yale in 1965, accepting a tenured position at the University of Illinois, where she remained as a beloved teacher and distinguished scholar until her retirement in 1978. She died in 2006 at the age of 91.
W. Royal Stokes ’65PhD
Elkins, WV


Due to an editing error, we identified former School of Nursing lecturer Shannon Pranger as “Sharon Pranger” in our article about a disaster simulation at the school (“Scenes from a Fake Emergency,” March/April). We apologize for the error.

The comment period has expired.