Your Turn

Readers write, react, and respond. (May/June 2020)

Snowpocalypse
I enjoyed reading the article by Jim Collins ’84 about the Winter Carnival snow sculpture [“End of an Era?,” March/April]. I was a four-year veteran of center-of-the-Green snow sculpting (1980-83). One year was particularly noteworthy. In 1980 there was no snow, so a bunch of us on the Carnival Council managed to have snow blown on to the Green. As memory serves, the key hurdles were getting the town of Hanover to donate a few million gallons of water and getting Killington to loan us three snowblowers and an operator. The Hanover Inn gave the operator a place to stay, and a fire truck with a pump large enough to blow snow was driven up from New Orleans. Yes, my grades suffered from spending so much time building snow sculptures. On the other hand, I fondly remember my fellow Carnival Council friends and cherish those memories. They are an amazing group of people, and I consider myself lucky to have been a part of that. I’d do it all over again. 

Neil Donnenfeld ’83
Warner, New Hampshire 

 

In 1962 the Winter Carnival Council selected Igluk (our newly created god of fun) as its center-of-campus statue design. I was the council member tasked with getting it built, but really a number of us were responsible. The job taught me a lot about responsibilities. We did not have a lot of snow in the winter of 1962, so it was trucked in from the Skiway. Students were hard to corral for construction duty. Fraternities and dormitories were solicited and assigned nights. Some came up with volunteers, while others did not. Packing slush onto an ever-growing mound is not fun at night in the cold. 

With time, I came to respect one Winter Carnival member, Bruce Nickerson ’64, a reliable, enthusiastic leader who could be counted on to recruit and guide student workers. Night after night I could rely on his help, smile, and hard work. We got our god built in time, and our student lives carried on. 

I graduated and spent a fifth year on campus finishing my engineering degree. Bruce graduated and entered the Navy, ultimately becoming a navigator on a jet. His plane was shot down coming back from a mission over Hanoi. I do not believe it has ever been found. Of all the friends and acquaintances I knew who were killed during the Vietnam War, he was the one whose name I sought out at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Seeing his name carved into the monument choked me up. I realized I had never told him how much his help and friendship meant to me. I wish I had.

Steve Brenner ’63, Th’64
Portland, Oregon

 

I wish to add one more Carnival tradition that has disappeared. My father, Emil Rueb, owner of the former Camera Shop of Hanover, used to photograph all the snow statues. He then printed postcards to sell in the store. The Camera Shop was open on Sundays, unusual in those days, so that people could buy postcards of the statues. As a Hanover “townie” growing up in the 1950s, I recall those days fondly. The statues, especially the ones on the Green, were amazing. I admired the crown for the Carnival queen, displayed in the window of Ward Amidon’s, the jewelry store down the street from the Camera Shop, and once, as a young skater, I participated in the outdoor evening held on the golf course. Perhaps some of my father’s postcards still exist in the memorabilia of alumni.

Dena Rueb Romero
Hanover

 

Polarized
After reading your story on Lis Smith ’05 [“Trailblazer,” January/February], am I supposed to be impressed? Her profanity and her choice of relationship partners remind me of another political figure, Donald J. Trump.

Nicholas Hunt ’75
Atlantic, Iowa

 

Your cover and article should lay to rest any remaining doubt that admitting women was the best decision the College has made since admitting me. Nicely done. DAM has truly become a great magazine.

Art Lafrance ’60
Green Valley, Arizona

 

Please spare us the stilettos—this kind of cover has little use on an alumni magazine. 

Rodger Ewy ’53
Boulder, Colorado

 

Whoever made the decision to pose Lis Smith on the cover of DAM should be looking for new employment as soon as possible. I like Mayor Pete and his stand on the issues. He seems honest and forthright, two traits not shared by the article. How possibly could DAM promote her as a role model? This appears to be either a serious error in judgment, a deliberate fraud, or part of a political agenda with the result being the same: You (DAM) are not to be taken seriously. You have demeaned not only yourselves but also the College and all the alumnae and alumni who love her. Your actions are disgraceful.

Ralph Woodman ’69
Rye, New York

 

The Bare Truth
Kudos to Sharon Lee Cowan ’78 for her thoughtful piece [“Full Disclosure,” March/April] on her decision to pose for Playboy. I would suggest she stay with her original thinking and avoid falling into the objectification trap, from which there is no logical exit. We (all of us) objectify things throughout our lives as a cognitive means of dealing with a chaotic world. This includes food, movies, classes, books, cars, and, most emphatically, members of our preferred sex. Other things are not us, and every choice we make is based on some form of objectification. A beautiful sunset and babbling brook, snowy woods on a quiet evening—objects, objects, objects. Beauty and youth help make the world go ’round. Being confident enough to share yours with the world is something to celebrate, not denigrate. Sharon’s mom (like most moms) was right.

David McKinlay Jones ’78
Tucson, Arizona 

 

Oh Brother
I enjoyed seeing all of the sibling faces and reading the article, “Sibling Revelry” [March/April]. Attending Dartmouth with my brothers certainly enhanced my college experience. Decades later, we can share our common memories and remind one another why we all bleed green. My siblings: David Frem ’92 and Daniel Frem ’96, Th’97, Th’98.

Laura Frem ’94
Northborough, Massachusetts

 

Fandom
The entertaining and moving “A Fan’s Notes” [March/April] by Robert Sullivan ’75 brought back memories of my father, Jack Little ’40. He followed Dartmouth football with fervor. Dad was a wordsmith and a gardener. At one point he created a hybrid vegetable to convey his desire to defeat the Crimson: “lettuce beet Harvard.”

Carl Little ’76
Mount Desert, Maine

 

Terrific article. I felt like I was reliving every moment described. I was one of the few diehards at the Brown game last fall. I went solo (my regular companion, Stu Cable ’75, was out of town). I was looking for familiar faces but didn’t see any. I guess I was looking for faces as I remember them from years ago. Brown’s quarterback scared me to death. It wasn’t until the sack by Niko Lalos ’20 at the very end that I relaxed a bit—I knew we had them. Then, when Isiah Swann ’20 intercepted the last pass—I sort of expected it—I let out a sigh of relief.

I was also at the Harvard game (with Cable) to the very end—what a thriller. I was texting all my Midwest buddies that it was better than a Ted Perry ’74 field goal.

Al Austin ’75
Hingham, Massachusetts

 

I enjoyed Robert Sullivan’s impassioned article on the famed Dartmouth-Harvard football rivalry. Like the author, my loyalties through the years have been occasionally challenged—I have degrees from both institutions, although I remain steadfastly in the Big Green camp. While the 2019 version of Dartmouth football is to be lauded, I can’t help but think that Bob Blackman’s undefeated 1965 squad deserves top honors. That fabled team was awarded the coveted Lambert Trophy, emblematic of the East’s best football team, boasting a 14-0 shutout of Harvard, seven All-Ivy First Team selections, and ranking higher nationally than traditional gridiron powers Penn State, Syracuse, Army, and Boston College!

Philip K. Curtis ’67
Atlanta

 

The Bear Truth
The story by Put Blodgett ’53 about going hunting as a Dartmouth student and propping up a dead bear in a Topliff bathroom was great [“Continuing Ed,” January/February]. Please publish more stories about hunting and game processing and fewer stories (none would be fine) about progressive politics and climate religion.

William Robbins ’83
Los Angeles

 

Good Energy
In reading “Fuel for Thought” [“Campus,” January/February], about how College officials are rethinking plans for the biomass plant, I am heartened to hear the College listens to the experts, as President Hanlon suggests students do [“Nothing But the Truth,” November/December 2019]. Beyond doing what is right, whether scientifically, socially, or ethically, it is the ability to stop, think, listen to others, and re-evaluate that is most impressive and important for ensuring the best possible future for the College. Glad to hear Dartmouth is practicing what it preaches and leading by example.

Scott Lacy ’13
Aspen, Colorado

 

More Concerns
Daniel Benjamin’s contention [“A World of Trouble,” March/April] that our primary task with China is “engagement with China’s President and General Secretary Xi and his lieutenants” is astonishing. Our primary task is to engage China in an unending series of covert and information operations to bypass its great information firewall, a censorship system second only to North Korea’s, to break the hegemony of the Communist Party. To talk about China without mentioning the more than 1 million Chinese Muslims now in slave labor camps is inexcusable. 

Peter Humphrey ’76
Rockville, Maryland

 

Lost and Found
I read your review of What Remains by Sarah E. Wagner ’94 [“The Forensics of War,” March/April] and have bought the book. I am giving it to my neighbor friend, Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, whose father was one of those missing and whose remains were found almost 35 years later. The following is what he wrote to me.

“Lt. Col. Norman Dale Eaton and Maj. Paul Everett Getchell went missing January 13, 1969, over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos at night while providing air support for U.S. Special Forces, after having dropped their ordinance on targets on the North Vietnamese resupply artery. I was notified mid-July 2003 that possible remains were recovered, along with my father’s dog tag. Remains identified by mitochondrial DNA were matched in December 2006, and were followed by a burial at Arlington National Cemetery in April 2007 with full military honors. When you go missing, you are promoted with your peers, so my dad was buried as a colonel and his co-pilot as a lieutenant colonel. Since a body to bury—bone fragment in my dad’s case—is the first DNA success, a second common grave is established for all unclaimed artifacts and all possible remains. That is why you see common graves at Arlington, sometimes with a dozen or more, if an aircraft such as a C130 gunship goes in. I could not be more proud of our Air Force for how well they took care of my mother.”

He told me that his dad’s remains were identified shortly before his mother passed away. After 35 years of waiting and wondering, she could then rest in peace. That’s why the continued search for MIA remains is incredibly important. 

Bill Spencer ’63
Fox Island, Washington

 

The Dark Side
I was astounded by the paragraph “Sad Situation” [“Campus,” March/April] stating that the faculty and alumni of the Dartmouth Community against Gender Harassment & Sexual Violence (DCGHSV) criticized The New York Times story on the suicide death of former psychological and brain sciences chair David Bucci. They said the story blamed the plaintiffs in the 2018, $70-million class action sexual assault lawsuit against the College for Bucci taking his own life. That response shows an astonishing lack of understanding of clinical depression. That’s what killed Bucci.

Unless you have endured a seemingly endless stream of mornings in which you dread getting out of bed, knowing that nothing that day will give you a scintilla of pleasure or relieve you of the constant pain, you can’t truly understand what clinical depression does to a person. I know. I plunged into hell on earth three times from 1983 to 1994. Someone once said that a clinically depressed person can win the lottery one day, lose a bunch of money the next, and respond the same way. That’s why, when faculty dean Elizabeth Smith showed support for Bucci by extending his chairmanship a year despite his condemnation in the court of public opinion, it provided only temporary relief.

I wonder how the DCGHSV felt about the January 8 comment from Dartmouth’s associate vice president for communications: “He had Dartmouth’s unqualified support for the principled and sensitive way he responded to graduate students who sought him out to report concerns about the behavior of three faculty members. The entire Dartmouth community mourns the tragic loss of a remarkable colleague, scholar, teacher, and mentor.” It’s impossible to say if it would have made any difference had this been stated during the announcement of the settlement.

Ed Wisneski ’72
Prescott, Arizona

 

Dare to Know
“Dartmouth is creating—in our graduates—an army of experts and independent thinkers,” wrote President Hanlon in “Nothing But the Truth” [November/December 2019]. He declared, “We must not relent in our commitment to elevating the values that characterized the Age of Enlightenment and are, today, at the core of a Dartmouth education: respect for open-minded inquiry, evidence, logic, and reason.”

The authority on the Age of Enlightenment’s ideals, Immanuel Kant, defined the age as “man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere aude! (Dare to know!)” That is the motto of enlightenment.”

That is Enlightenment’s truth and Dartmouth’s core value, its tool for creating an army of independent experts—an army of ones—in which everyone uses his or her own understanding to advance society expertly. Still, those who understand humans to be rational as well as religious and political animals may wonder about the fullness of Enlightenment’s truth and the virtue of Dartmouth’s army.

Bruce Sanborn ’74
Mahtomedi, Minnesota

 

Come to Jesus
“Family Tree” [“Campus,” November/December 2019] reports on the Netflix docudrama, The Family, and English professor Jeff Sharlet, who served as a producer: “The five-part series exposes a mysterious group known as The Fellowship, a quasi-secret Christian fundamentalist organization of politicians who mix religion with politics and wield influence on the U.S. government.” Wow, scary, like one of those conspiracy theories!

I’ve known folks in “The Family” for more than 40 years and they have had a simple mission: to introduce people to Jesus regardless of religious, ethnic, geopolitical, or socioeconomic disparities. By any religious or secular historical account, Jesus neither sought nor got any worldly power or wealth in his relatively short life. As a follower of Jesus, this is what you, too, sign up for. Rather counter-cultural, wouldn’t you say?

But I do give Sharlet and Netflix credit. As H.L. Mencken said, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” And aren’t sensationalized conspiracy theories working well in these times of fake news? If Sharlet’s exposé of The Family conjures up fear, perhaps he should check out those quasi-secret and mysterious groups right there on campus: Sphinx, Dragon, and Casque & Gauntlet. Then DAM could publish it under its “Give a Rouse” section!

John Russell ’68
Kamuela, Hawaii

 

Faster Food
The article about McDonald’s marketing officer Morgan Flatley ’96 [“Burger Queen,” November/December 2019] reminded me of an assignment in southern California when I was involved in financial and computer consulting in the late 1960s. I found a startup in Irvine, California, that had a contract with McDonald’s to automate its counter transactions. This company had developed a system that accepted penciled menu selections on a paper form the cashier fed into a computer to direct the cooks to make the burgers and fries. It simultaneously printed a receipt for the customer to pay at the counter.

The surprising thing is that the startup would take its best prospects to lunch at McDonald’s and show them the operation behind the counter. The prospective clients and the company’s salesmen were all dressed in jackets and ties to join casually dressed customers in the fast-food restaurant. We’ve come a long way!

Jerry Greenfield ’61
Richland, Washington

 

Dad Thad
Announcement of the death of Thad Seymour this past autumn triggered graphic memories of what he did beginning in January 1961. After returning from winter break, members of Beta Theta Pi learned that a black pledge at the Williams College chapter had been denied membership through an obscure clause in the organization’s national bylaws. We were soon to discover, buried within Beta’s bylaws, an invitation for current or former members to sidetrack—anonymously—the qualifications of any chapter’s pledges on any campus.

The matter of exclusionary clauses in the governing documents of national fraternities was a topic very much on the minds of fraternity officers on campus in the late fifties and early sixties, as the board of trustees had recently required houses with such clauses to withdraw from their national affiliations and “go local.” We Betas found no obvious references to exclusion, so we were quite shocked about the action to scuttle the pledge at Williams.

We called a meeting to consider how to proceed. Should we await the College’s inevitable action to bar us from national affiliation or should we be more proactive? Passionate discussion resulted in a decision to withdraw in protest—and to do so while seeking support from other chapters to amend the bylaws of the national fraternity. Most important, we committed to seek the advice of Dean Thad Seymour.

Thad’s wisdom, resolve, and guidance led us to discover next steps. He suggested we immediately inform all Beta chapters of the action we planned to take and why we were doing so and ask them to urge the national to change its bylaws. Knowing we could not mount a mail and telephone campaign on our own, he offered his office telephones, clerical staff to prepare follow-up letters, and the College’s financial support. He secured the assistance of the communications office to inform selected media outlets of our initiative. Further, he warned us that we could face significant blowback from powerful interests within the fraternal organization who would perceive our actions as radical, taken without sufficient consultation, and reflecting an idealism extending too far.

We soon experienced the force of that blowback. While support from other chapters was heartening—several threatening to withdraw their national affiliations unless change was made—we did not fully anticipate the responses from adult leaders within the national fraternity. These included influencing Time magazine to bury a story about our decision; two visits to Hanover by Beta’s general secretary (a Dartmouth alum) to urge us to revoke our decision to withdraw and, eventually, to announce a lawsuit to repossess the chapter house if didn’t; and letters to members describing high social costs for departing from Beta’s national fellowship.

Throughout the subsequent year, as these challenges surfaced, Thad Seymour was an invaluable mentor-protector. His response to the threatened lawsuit—“Gentlemen, when you sue Dartmouth Betas you will sue Dartmouth College”—lives in our memories as an example of his special brand of leadership.

The offending exclusionary clause was removed from the governing documents for Beta Theta Pi at its next convention assembly. We remain proud of the decisions by Dartmouth Beta to confront perceived injustice in 1961—and we’re grateful for the nurturing support of Thad Seymour. Thad treated us as men while leaders in our national fraternity perceived as boys.

Oak Winters ’61
Purcellville, Virginia

Tom Grey ’62
Spokane, Washington

 

Dean Thad confirmed the following story, which I shared with classmates at our 50 reunion, where he was the guest of honor. Dave Bustard ’69 visited the campus offices of a conservative newspaper and was greeted by an undergraduate who introduced himself as Thaddeus. Bustard asked him where his name came from. Thad explained that when his father was an undergraduate at Dartmouth, he did something so bad that he knew he would be expelled. His father reported to Dean Thad to plead his case, a variation of the type of story the dean had heard so much he almost fell asleep. Then his father said the critical thing: “If you give me just one more chance, I will name my firstborn child after you!”

This woke Dean Thad, as he had never heard that one before. Dean Thad relented and gave the student one more chance, warning that if he so much as burped, he was gone forever. Young Thad’s dad straightened out and graduated with his class. And young Thad now has a famous name!

Bill Wellstead ’63
Osprey, Florida

Portfolio

Alumni Books
New titles from Dartmouth writers (July/August 2020)
Sanctuary
Eden Abram ’94 advocates for animals.
The Italicized Life of Frank B. Wilderson III ’78

The author, filmmaker, professor (and former stockbroker, elected official and urban guerrilla) abides by his publisher’s credo: Read. Write. Revolt.

John J. Donahoe ’82
The CEO of Nike on just doing it

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