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Fall 2002
Volume 39, No. 1
Issue Home

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PCMOnline Editor: Sarah Dolinar


Click here for Letters to the Editor.

Letter from the Editor

The Right Revolution

When computing and rocketry were in their infancy, science fiction writers collectively imagined a future of routine travel between planets—in ships navigated by pilots with slide rules. They simply imagined the wrong revolution.

In those days, who would have imagined that smaller and better would become an intuitive connection? And who would have believed that the most profound change computers would bring to our lives would be in the area of written communication—the ease of setting down, illustrating and disseminating the written word?

No one doubts we’re in the midst of a revolution. The Internet is changing many aspects of our lives. But which ones? And to what degree? Again we’re in danger of imagining the wrong future. Revolutions, after all, are bumpy rides. Once, people who bet on their outcome risked their heads. Today they just risk their shirts.

As always, the attention-grabbers are the most vivid prospects—a whole new Web-based economy, the demise of paper, cyberclasses taught by super-heavyweight cyberprofessors—but I can’t help suspecting that this is again a kind of sleight of hand. While we’re gazing up at all these predicted marvels, the real revolution will take place quietly beneath our noses, finding its way in that familiar zigzagging course between the new and the proven.

Meanwhile, like every other college and university, Pomona has been dragged into high-tech investment like a white-knuckle flier into a space shuttle. Obvious benefits, combined with a fear of falling behind the curve, have started a technology race. But which technologies are worth it? What will be obsolete within a year? What will be the wave of the future? What will offer a return on investment? What will be bad money after good? It’s a set of questions to make any financial manager sweat bullets. An institution can’t afford to guess wrong, but it also can’t afford to be left in the dust.

And yet, for a college like Pomona, there’s more at stake here than mere money. At the risk of sounding like an admissions brochure, the things Pomona stands for—close student-faculty interaction, a diverse and stimulating learning environment, peers who add intellectual spice to life—have mostly to do with relationships and conversations between people. These are delicate matters of trust and attention. In some cases, technology can help, but in others, it can actually seem as much a threat as an opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Luddite. Computers transformed my job as editor and designer long ago. I’m typing these words on a laptop, and I’ll e-mail them to my office for placement in a pagination program for eventual transfer via imagesetter directly to pressplate. It’s a streamlined process that makes life easier. I’m a believer in the power of technology to transform the way we do things.

But sometimes, it seems, we need to be reminded that the outcome of revolutions is not written in the stars. New technologies do change our lives, but hardly ever in the ways we expect. Maybe teaching will be transformed—maybe it won’t. Today’s students, after all, are children of the revolution. It is they, not the rest of us, who will determine, in the end, whether teaching becomes a high-tech enterprise or remains a student and a professor sitting together on a log—or, as I suspect, some combination of the two.

—Mark Wood

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Pomona’s Greatest Hits

Thank you for the Pomona Music Sampler. It is a wonderful gift and evocative of a few of the best years of my life. You didn’t include the Raging Sagehen song which was written for Pomona by Fred Waring. We sang it in 1942. It went (I think):

He’s a rough little tough little son of a chick
A phantom bantam bird.
He’ll feather his nest with a tiger’s crest
And tie a knot in his tail.
Oh you’d better bolt the bleachers down
Before they’re blown away.
When the raging Sagehen comes to town
There’s hell to pay.

There are probably more words, but in the days when freshmen were more docile, I remember learning this much anyway.

—Marilynn McCollum Brown ’46
Santa Cruz, CA

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I love the content of PCM, but am angered by its apparent desire to be pretty for pretty’s sake as opposed to existing to serve the reader. Why else would so much text be so darned difficult to read? Specifically I refer to the Winter 2002 issue, pages 21 and 25 (white on black), pages 23, 24 and 27 with the ridiculous wallpaper. More white on black following. On to black on brown, some even dark brown on pages 32–33. The blue on 37–38 isn’t all that bad, but serves no constructive purpose.

OK—I’ve bitched about the difficulty reading the text, but have I mentioned the ridiculous format? If you want to keep it, it fits nowhere.

If you want to read it in a book stand, it’s too wide. Does this format have any redeeming virtues? Or is it just trying to be pretty for pretty’s sake?

All in all, a lot too much academia and much too little real life.

—Patricia R. Schilling ’66
Las Vegas, NV

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In your winter edition I was pleased to see that “Little Bridges” is receiving a new Fisk organ. That news connects a favorite place and a favorite person from my early life: Charles Brenton Fisk, the company founder, was my first cousin. We were both named after his father.

Charlie grew up in Massachusetts and I in Colorado, so as youngsters we met infrequently. In 1935, our first contact at a family reunion in Iowa was by way of a very rotten apple, heaved accurately to discourage me from following Chas and the older boys. We did manage a common experience there when we saw and heard an old reed pump organ located in a farm washhouse. The following year our family drove to Rockport, Massachusetts. A matter for conversation when the families met was an old pump organ Charlie had just bought and was learning to play, and to repair. He was 12 years old.
WWII brought us together in Chicago in 1942. My father was personnel director for the Metallurgical Laboratory in what became the Manhattan Project, and he arranged for Charlie to serve as a technician using the electronics he had learned. Charlie slept on a day bed in the living room of the flat we had rented, so we couldn’t help but become close; I was 14 and felt I had acquired a brother. Much of what I absorbed from Charlie was about music. He played the trumpet, he sang, and he could work out harmonies and transitions on the piano. He also broadened my listening tastes by bringing in records ranging from Duke Ellington to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. And, we talked about girls.

Somehow his deferment papers went astray, and Charlie was drafted. He ended up as a technician in the Air Corps at Chanute Field in Illinois, working on Link trainers; he managed to see us on several weekends. Then I lost track of him until late summer of 1945, when he showed up with other friends to see us in Colorado; he had been transferred to Los Alamos, doing much of what he had done in Chicago.

In 1953 our paths crossed again in Denver at a reunion with his parents; we drove back to St. Louis, and he went on to Cleveland to interview with the innovative organ builder Walter Holtcamp Sr. The interview was a success, and afterward, I had interesting discussions with him on the physics and music of the organ. He connected the two disciplines seamlessly and with deep insight. He realized that an important characteristic of organ sound was how a pipe started speaking—he used the word “chiff” to describe the initial sound—and that the performer has no control of this with electrically operated pipe valves.

In 1957 my wife and I moved to the Boston area, as had Charlie, and we saw him and his family with some frequency. We could also see his work and how it grew; I managed to catch him fine-tuning the great organ in the Memorial Church at Harvard. Charlie was sensitive to the interaction of the organ and its space. He also chose materials with extreme care.

At about the time of the founding of C.B. Fisk Inc., Charlie suffered the first attack of a rare liver disorder. In 1984 the disease won. His memorial service was at Harvard’s Memorial Church, in front of the organ, fitting as his memorial.

Pomona’s Bridges Hall of Music will be a fitting place for the work he started.

—Brenton Fisk Stearns ’49
Geneva, NY

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I believe that all history is embellished by the point of view of the author. To illustrate this point, this letter is written as a true story about reflections inspired by the Winter 2001 and spring 2002 issues of PCM.

My story begins with the current issue of PCM and President Stanley’s statement that Pomona has always been “need-blind” in its admission policies, with one out of every five students being the first in the family to attend college. I question how the latter statistic could ever be verified and wonder if the statement would be more accurate and true if it stated that “one out of every five Pomona graduates are the first in their family to graduate from college.”

I can admit to no small sense of pride in my own graduation, particularly since my father and mother wanted it so much more than I did. In fact, it wasn’t until years later that I began to embellish my résumés by noting that I attended Pomona on a full, academic scholarship as a California State Scholar from 1960 to 1964. Although my scholarship was a “full ride,” the actual financial stipend was “need-based” and determined by a formula that took into account my parents’ combined household income.

My mother, Barbara Ruth, (now 80) grew up in a generation that still believed that a woman’s place was in the home. Though she never wanted to work, she joined the labor force in order to help finance my brother’s education at Occidental College, my education at Pomona and eventually my younger sister’s at UCLA. Now, more than 30 years after my graduation, there is significant irony in President Stanley’s statements about “need-blind” admissions policies. Should I mention to my 80-year-old mother that she didn’t have to work at all, and the family would have been better off with father’s income alone calculated into the financial stipend?

I think not.

My mother treasures my education at Pomona even more than I do. Several years ago, I began the practice of loaning her my current PCM, which she enjoys reading. That’s why I became very excited about the outstanding, previous PCM issue with its focus on music, CD included. You see, for years I have treasured the image of my mother performing on piano as a child soloist with the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra. Last October, we met for lunch, and I remembered to bring the “Music” issue of PCM along with the accompanying CD. I told her, “I have a special present for you today. I’ve often wondered about how far you would have gone with your music career if you hadn’t dropped out of college to marry Dad. Do you remember performing with the Kansas City Symphony?”
My mother, who is still as sharp as a tack, looked at me quizzically and said, “Pat, whatever gave you that idea? I never performed with the symphony.” She went on to explain that when she was about 9 or 10 years old, she traveled with her piano teacher to St. Louis where she played piano in a three-day competition. I can still hear her proudly exclaiming, “My only claim to musical fame is that I won the statewide competition for my age group.” Neither one of us will ever know how I was prompted to embellish in my own mind that little piece of musical history, but I know that in my heart she will always be my favorite “concert pianist.”

—Patrick A. Edwards ’64
San Diego, CA

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Editor’s Note: Normally, PCM does not publish anonymous letters to the editor, but we’ve made an exception for the missive at left, which arrived with a San Francisco postmark and no other identification. We assume it is a reply to the article in the Spring 2002 PCM about Mufti. As to what it means, your interpretation is as good as ours. —MW

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Pomona’s 47

I am writing to report another incident of the omnipresence of Pomona’s number 47.
On December 27, 2001 at 6 p.m. EST, Fox channel broadcast an episode of The Simpsons titled “Grandparents Day.” The purpose of the Grandparents Day is to give every grandparent in Springfield an opportunity to tell his or his life story to the students of Springfield Elementary School. One grandparent, a sitting judge in Springfield, told students in class, “I just sentenced the 46th person to death. No, 47!”

Everyone in America knows that no one can escape tax and death, but the episode of The Simpsons further demonstrates that even death cannot escape 47. Therefore, by deduction, no one can escape tax and 47, i.e., tax and Pomona.

—James Zhang ’95
Rockville, MD

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From Ground Zero

I would like to thank my old friend and classmate, Alan Sokolow ’72, for his “Report from Ground Zero” in the Winter 2001 Pomona College Magazine. The account was intimate and honest, yet unimpassioned. It was perhaps the most informative and moving account of that awful event that I have heard.

Thank you, Alan.

—Steve Hammond ’72
Everett, WA

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Judges and Friends

I’m spending this Memorial Day afternoon reading one article after the other in the Spring edition of PCM. We’ve been back a couple of weeks from a wonderful 40th class reunion at the College, where we met lots of classmates who are lawyers and judges. So, as I read, I think of them. Excellent articles once again.

At the reunion, we talked a lot about our favorite professors. To read that there is a monthly meeting of the “friends of Learnihan” will interest my classmates. The unforgettable Mr. Learnihan was a favorite of many. We also talked a bit about “The Connection” which is widespread, and I was interested to see Mr. Sontag’s name mentioned in the article on the all-student Judiciary Council.

Ted Piatt was a senior when we were freshmen, and we knew his wife, Lynn Simms Piatt ’60. By now I’m sure I’m not the first to challenge the caption to the photo of Ted and Jim. Ted is indeed the brother on the left, but he is Class of 1959. Jim is Class of 1955. (The years are switched.)

Every issue of the magazine is a jewel. I enjoy each and every one.

—Bonnie Home ’62,
San Jose, CA

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Protest Response

I recently saw an article from the Claremont Courier describing a protest students held early in the morning at the home of the Claremont University Consortium’s CEO. As the parent of a Pomona student, I was profoundly disturbed by Ms. Brenda Barham Hill’s response to the protest.

One of the jobs of young adults seems to be to challenge the society in which they were raised, suggesting new values and behaviors. We see evidence of this in events both condemned (high rates of crime committed by 18–25 year olds) and, eventually, accepted and valued (jazz, opposition to the war in Vietnam and the women’s movement). Although older adults rarely seem to appreciate the changes suggested or tactics used to introduce new ways of thinking and doing things, as a society, we clearly value outspokenness, so much so that it is a guaranteed freedom in our Constitution. Thus, it seems to me that anyone who chooses to work with or around young adults needs to have a real appreciation for this type of activity.

Ms. Barham Hill showed no awareness or understanding of the strong moral values the students were trying to get CUC to incorporate into future uses of the Bernard Field Station. The article indicated that the students had been trying to be heard through more conventional means without any indication of success, yet Ms. Barham Hill said that she was surprised and outraged that the students engaged in protest to get her attention. “I am absolutely livid...” “How dare they?” It seems to me that Ms. Barham Hill should not have been surprised, and that she should have had the self-control to hold her tongue before the press, if she was so surprised and outraged. She gives the impression that the students did something criminal rather than hold a peaceful, if noisy, protest and that she has no idea how to interact with and collaborate with students. If the latter is true, she should not be working with young adults and certainly should not be representing them to the Claremont community.

I would argue that we owe young adults a great deal of appreciation for their willingness to be loud, noisy, different and a challenge to our usual way of doing things. They should not be condemned or ignored because they upset us. We all benefit from the new ideas and ways of doing things they come up with and try out, even if we don’t like it.

—Kathryn Mason
Philadelphia, PA

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Tribute to a Prankster

The article on pranks in the Spring 2002 PCM got us thinking about the late Professor R. Nelson Smith ’38. This letter is in tribute to him.

Preparing to return to Pomona to celebrate the class of 1982’s 20-year reunion, we take a moment to reflect on the passage of two decades and the lessons learned as undergraduates at Pomona.

In many ways, Professor Smith was the embodiment of the values learned by many of us at Pomona. Chemistry 1, while intellectually rigorous and challenging and perceived by many as a litmus test for those aspiring to pre-med, was never dull or pretentious. His sense of humor not only provided welcome comic relief in the midst of struggles with hexagonal closest packing or other critical concepts, it provided us with the sense of balance and humanity necessary to avoid the pitfall of taking oneself too seriously.

As freshmen in his class, we heard of grand tales of past pranks conceived of and executed by upperclassmen in honor of and in fun of Smith. One story had students moving his VW Bug into the foyer of Seaver North Auditorium as he lectured. We have never heard the story of how he got it out again and would welcome any information anyone can offer.

Not being gifted in either a physical or engineering sense, we sought to emulate those visionary pranksters in other ways. One morning, prior to Professor Hansch’s 8 a.m. organic chemistry lecture, we set up a ping pong net in the middle of the long black counter in the front of Seaver North. As Professor Smith was later to recount the story, when he came in for his lecture he asked Professor Hansch what the net was about, with Hansch replying that he had no idea.

As students were approaching Seaver North for the 9 a.m. chemistry lecture we were out front busily handing out plastic golf balls to any who would take them. The only instruction we gave was that they would know what to do when the time came. We passed out 144 of the balls.

At 10 minutes past nine we entered the auditorium in three-piece suits, one on each set of steps. We descended the steps in an ominous manner and approached each end of the counter. As Smith, implacable as ever, continued his lecture, we reached into our suits for our paddles and commenced a game of ping pong. Always the good sport, he proceeded to play with us, grabbing the ball in the middle, then sending it back to us. After a couple of points the ball landed on the floor and I stepped on it, crushing it. Professor Smith was clearly heartbroken and could barely contain his glee. We stared at the ball, looked at each other, then toward the class and asked, “Does anyone have a ping pong ball?”

The resulting shower of plastic balls was truly awesome. There was a loud whooshing sound as balls flew through the air, directed mostly at Smith though we were not spared. Student after student launched their projectiles towards the front of the auditorium, and when Smith turned his back to the deluge some particularly devious students aimed at the blackboard to ricochet the balls at him.

When all was done the only sounds were those of laughter. The class and the perpetrators had clearly enjoyed the spectacle, but sharing in the laughter, with just as much good will, was R. Nelson Smith.

What we learned from R. Nelson, and what we will teach our children, is that the pursuit of knowledge and excellence need not, indeed must not, be burdened with pretense and self importance. Instead, achievement is best attained with a spirit of humor, humility and humanity.

God bless you, Professor Smith.

Eugene Sun ’82, Seattle, WA
and Emil Kakkis ’82, Long Beach, CA

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Student Justice

The article on student justice in the Spring 2002 edition made 21st-century Pomona sound like a 19th-century English boarding school. As a non-conforming undergraduate in the 1960s, I was infinitely more likely to be up before a ‘j-board’ than sitting on it. So from this side of the dock, m’lud, I would much prefer to receive a short sharp one from the likes of Shelton Beatty or Stan Hales than to be fatally patronized by a bunch of Pomona College tree-huggers.

—Rev. Dr. John U. Cameron ’64
Broughty Ferry, Dundee, Scotland

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Anyone who reads Pomona’s magazine today knows how it has improved in quality under Mark Wood’s editorship. The Spring ’02 issue article on “J” is for Justice” is an excellent example. It is reflective (perhaps even philosophical!) and raises many issues without taking sides.

I happen to have served as adviser to two students in a recent “celebrated” case and have had numerous other experiences with our judicial system (although never as defendant!). It does function well and is carefully administered by the faculty, deans and students who serve.

However, this case was extraordinary and, I firmly believe, raised some points which need our community’s attention. Since any system is capable of errors, if these indicate the need for revision, we should consider them.

1. One very simple matter is never to allow anyone to come to trial without an adviser. The College may need to work on setting up such a system, since we are in an era in which many faculty do not want such involvement.

2. I have always worried about the fact that advisers cannot address the council directly, whereas others, with plenty of positions to advocate, can say all they wish to. I often speak privately to students on trial and suggest things they might say, but most do not have enough experience to know how to speak to the technical issues.

3. The atmosphere on campus in the recent situation became enflamed. This is the negative side of Pomona’s famous virtue: we are a close community and support each other as a family. This is fine, unless the closeness creates a situation in which fairness is threatened due to public statements spread around the campus.

4. Most important, we need an established review system. The president has this authority and President Peter Stanley did agree to hear an appeal (only the second in his tenure) but said that he did not know enough about the situation to alter a judgment. In the same spring issue of PCM is a story about two well-known Pomona grads who have spent a lifetime on the judicial bench. We have many such experts and could easily, I believe, establish a panel of outside experts to review difficult cases.

5. I believe penalties are sometimes far more extreme than most judicial system decisions in similar cases.

6. At the very least, let’s have some outside experts (like the Judges Piatt) come in and review our system and tell us whether they would recommend any changes to insure impartial justice in each case, particularly potentially explosive situations in need of some emotional distance.

Pomona College’s reputation is what it is nationally because we have been innovative in our education program and in the handling of our community problems. I think the time has come to show we can deal with major judicial system difficulties, and not simply by claiming “we are always right” and so should never be subject to outside professional review.

Frederick Sontag
Professor of Philsosophy

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Pomona Veterans

During this past year, as we have lived through the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the loss of the airliner in Pennsylvania, some of us have paused to reflect on what it must have been like to hear that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. We have reflected on the courage and sacrifices of those before us, who placed themselves in harm’s way so that later generations could grow up in freedom. Although I did not attend Pomona, I am writing to you about five former students. All Pomona alumni, and not just members of their class, might be interested in hearing about them.

Dolph Hill ’43, Scott Young ’43, Johnny Metcalfe ’43, H.R. Shawhan ’43 and Al Whittle ’43 knew each other at Pomona. A couple of them were on the track team. Some were involved in music groups. When they graduated, all five went into the U.S. Navy’s reserve officer training program and were sent to Chicago for 90 days of training before going into combat. Dolph Hill, a track star at Pomona, was assigned to the USS Guam, a cruiser. He survived the war, but died a couple of years ago.

Scott Young became the skipper of a PT boat and saw combat in the Pacific. One of the other PT skippers he met out there went into politics after the war. When last heard from, Scott Young was living in Connecticut.

Johnny Metcalfe became the skipper of a Landing Craft Tank, an LCT. On June 6, 1944, D-Day, he landed on one of the beaches in Normandy. A decade later, in 1954, he covered the French loss at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam as a news reporter. He died in October 2001.
H.R. Shawhan, a musician and runner at Pomona, became the gunnery officer of a Landing Ship Tank, the LST 280. During the winter of 1943–44, he served on convoys in the Atlantic. On June 6, 1944, D-Day, he landed British troops on Gold Beach. Soon after, on June 15, 1944, the LST 280 was torpedoed in the English Channel, limping back to port with dead and wounded before settling on the bottom, a total loss. Later, he was assigned to a new ship, the LST 1041, served in the Pacific and was preparing for the invasion of Japan when the war ended. He now lives north of New York City.

Al Whittle trained to command an LCVP, a Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel. Navy crews called it a “Higgins boat.” On June 6, 1944, he was assigned to land infantry on a stretch of beach identified by the code name Omaha. His LCVP was hit and sank, but he reached the beach alive and took shelter with some soldiers behind a sea wall. They found a machine gun whose crew had been killed, asked him if he knew how to operate it and told him to give them covering fire while they stormed positions farther up the beach. He kept going all day until relieved. He was later awarded the Silver Star. After the war, he went into the insurance business. Dealing with risk, it seems, was something he knew about.

Today, as I write, is June 6, the 58th anniversary of D-Day. As I always do on this date, I telephoned my father, H.R. Shawhan. We spoke about his college friends and how the world had treated them after graduation. We also discussed how events are shaping the lives of a new generation of students such as my older son, who was attending a college in New York City this past September 11. When I picked my son up from school last month, we drove past the Trade Center site on the way home. Where buildings used to reach a quarter of a mile into the sky, now there is just a hole four city blocks long, three city blocks wide and seven stories deep.

No matter what our backgrounds or viewpoints may be, we all believe in freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, our common heritage as Americans. Over the past year, we have come to have a greater appreciation for how valuable these things are. I do not know whether this message will reach the families of Dolph Hill, Scott Young, Johnny Metcalfe or Al Whittle.

I would like people to know, however, that I am grateful to them and to others of their classmates who risked their lives in the defense of freedom. All Pomona alumni should be proud of them.

Peter Shawhan
Delmar, NY

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List of Greats

Each day, as I confront the beady eyes of a class of hostile students, I draw inspiration from the memory of a great Pomona professor of history, Herb Smith. Your Spring 2002 issue celebrated (and mourned) three brilliant professors of history that influenced so many of us for so many years. Please add the name of Herb Smith to the list of those greats. We do not have to wait for him to become history to honor him. He was breathtaking as a lecturer, compassionate as a human, and he had a helluva sense of humor, too.

Tom Markus ’56
Salt Lake City, UT

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Beatty Misspelling

I couldn’t help but notice that there were two different spellings given for Dean Beatty’s name in the Spring 2002 edition of the magazine; “Sheldon” in Antoinette Morales’ “Mufti Quest” and “Shelton” in Sarah Dolinar’s “The Prankster’s Rules.” This would be quite irrelevant to me if it weren’t for the fact that a) I work as an editorial assistant at a small Las Vegas-based publishing house and am therefore paid to catch these sorts of things, and b) Dean Beatty was my maternal grandfather. The correct spelling is Shelton. I apologize for the obvious pettiness of this correspondence, but I figure that everyone is obligated to write at least one of these types of letters in their lives.

—Doug Meyer ’01
Las Vegas, NV

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We welcome letters about the College or magazine. Letters may be edited for length, style and clarity. When a letter raises significant questions, an appropriate respondent may be invited to reply. The editor reserves the right to cut off debate on an issue after a reasonable period of time.