Pomona College Magazine
Volume 45, No. 2
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Saints, Sinners and Cynicism
It’s an impressive photograph: tousle-haired Professor Wolf attired in sweat shirt casual, against the backdrop of Francis reputedly attired in hair shirt and cassock. Theatre! Professor Wolf’s notion of the “Theatre of Sanctity” (Fall 2008) is interesting, but the “central mission” of Christianity is not “social justice.” That is the distorted reading of liberation theology and that of a few other Johnny-come-latelies.

For 2,000-plus years the “central mission” of Christianity is to “preach the Gospel with its invitation to repentance and conversion in Christ.” Francis is reported to have said, “Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.” For Francis, Elizabeth and the others mentioned, “social justice, sanctity and deliberate poverty” were merely byproducts of the radical exchange in their conversion to Christ.

There’s adequate skepticism and cynicism in the piece to pass muster with the contemporary culture of academe. However, Francis, Elizabeth and the others mentioned would not have seen themselves as saints, but sinners with enough humility to seek the confessional when “dark birds” flew about.
—Dorothy Towne (parent ’74)
Colorado Springs, Colo.

With all due respect, I believe it is absurd to call the lives of the saints, a “theatre of sanctity.” Either Professor Wolf doesn’t get it, or I’m missing his point.

In any case, the saints did not live lives for their self-promotion, but, rather, for “the Greater Glory of God.”

As a Roman Catholic, I pray that one day, he will find a saint whose humility and sincerity will so impact him that he will realize that maybe he is the one who has been putting on a show, in a quest for public adulation.
—Beatriz Martínez Remark ’77

Housing Correction of Another Kind
I was amazed to have first read Gary Smith’s article regarding real estate in the New York Times business section (prior to the fall Pomona College Magazine). Having taken numerous classes taught by Professor Smith I hold his views in very high regard. However, I feel he made a valid point in a rather obtuse way at a really poor time.

I agree with every book written stating that timing any market is virtually impossible and has its pitfalls. However, it is also important to recognize that markets often become so skewed that the risk vs. reward becomes far too much to overlook. I would argue that the swings in real estate throughout history have been far greater than they have been in the financial markets.

Much like shorting a high tech stock with a P/E ratio of 1,000, selling a home at a value of 300 percent more than it was worth four years ago and renting an exact replica across the street for one quarter of what the mortgage of the home you just sold would be, can be incredibly logical. In other words, although Gary’s “home dividend” concept is valid there is another side to his argument. Leaving out what median home prices have done over the last 10 years vs. median wages is in my opinion downright deceptive.

Gary’s argument that all real estate is local and that much of “middle America’s” home values have not spiked in value is also valid. Again, a very important point that seems to be missing from his work is how absurdly overvalued both coasts’ real estate values were when his article came out. If his argument is still that home values in Los Angeles were selling at reasonable rates I will take the other side of that argument.

In essence Gary appeared to me (and perhaps many others?) to be making a pitch for homeownership at the absolute peak of the market. Meanwhile, I was selling my clients (some of whom were Pomona graduates) out of their homes and real estate investments at incredible profits at the exact same time. I completely understand his argument and agree with him “in theory” but there is a very dramatic difference between “economic theory” and “real life.”
—Robert Valandra ’89
Los Angeles, Calif.

Poetry, History and Henry Lee
I was interested to read online the Pomona College Magazine story (“Nothing But Praise,” Fall 2006), a couple years old now if not more, about the poet Henry Lee ’37. I grew up in the same house in South Pasadena on Milan Ave. In fact I had Henry’s old bedroom. While I was a teenager the house was used to film a TV series called Family

One day Henry’s sister, very elderly at that time (or so it seemed to me as a girl), rang the front doorbell, having seen the house on television and deciding she wanted to see it again in person after many years.

It was a very hard time in my family’s life but my mother invited her in and encouraged her to stay. Her name was Frances. She talked about Henry, dead so many years. We went out back to what was once a stable, where my father had his pool table. She pointed to woodworking projects of his, still standing.

She went upstairs and looked at my bedroom. Stood there in the doorway. It was carpeted by then and had flowered wallpaper, but she had photos of Henry in it, and it had wood plank floors and bookcases and, if I remember correctly, a mounted animal head, or at least decor that suggested such, and she stood there crying.

She gave us a picture of Henry in his military dress taken outside the dining room windows before he deployed. She gave us first editions of Nothing But Praise>, and I’ve had mine all these years. She told us how the original poems had been dug up after he was dead. She needed to talk about it, to tell the story in depth, and returned to see us several times. I’m just grateful my mother, at one of the lowest points in her own life, managed to open her door and make tea for a wonderful lady who shared a wonderful story.

Cheers! And thanks for the story on Henry. He was my “ghost,” growing up, and I love him.
—Gretchen Jaeger
Sonoma, Calif.

P.S. I am not a Pomona alumna. I went to Scripps but transferred before graduating. My cousin graduated from Pomona.

Alumni and friends can send us your letters at the address at left or e-mail us at pcm@pomona.edu.Letters may be edited for length, style and clarity.

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