Pomona College Magazine
Volume 41. No. 2.
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Letter from the Editor
Of Problems and Mysteries

Linguist Noam Chomsky once suggested that human ignorance should be divided into two categories—problems and mysteries. Faced with a problem, a knowledgeable person has at least an inkling of where to begin the search for answers. Faced with a mystery, all anyone can do is wonder.

Given that distinction, a vast number of questions involving the mind have, in recent years, graduated from mysteries to problems. How do we remember? Why do we forget? What makes us who we are? How are the mind and brain interrelated? How did the mind evolve? How do culture and other outside influences affect the mind? Is there a “language” of thought? How is the mind like a computer? How do brain injuries translate into mental deficits?

Not only are scholars now unafraid to tackle such questions—they’re making amazing progress in testing and refining possible answers. And as they do, the circle of understanding widens, and more mysteries become problems.

At the same time, curiosity about these subjects has reached an all-time high. Books about the mind are frequently found on The New York Times bestseller lists (currently weighing in at number seven is Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, about the backstage mental process known as “intuition”), and whole new magazines have been successfully launched devoted exclusively to the topic of the mind.

In recent years, Pomona’s response to that sea-change in the science of thinking about thought has been to create new majors in neuroscience and—in a combination that may be unique among liberal arts colleges—linguistics and cognitive science. These fields represent new webs of knowledge that intertwine the more established disciplines of psychology, biology, chemistry, philosophy, linguistics and computer science. This summer, Pomona broke ground for two new buildings—to be known as the Lincoln and Edmunds Buildings—which will provide a new home for these two fields, as well as psychology and a range of other fields, most of them interdisciplinary. Together, these two interconnected facilities will constitute the largest academic building on the campus.

As majors, these two new fields are already quite popular on campus—there are currently 20 majors in linguistics and cognitive science and 52 in neuroscience—and the College expects them to continue to grow in the future. As fields of study, they have brought together scholars who are doing remarkable work, some of which we examine in the loosely interrelated articles of this issue of PCM.

Of course, the mind still has its mysteries. Some say the holy grail of cognitive science—the subjective nature of consciousness itself—will remain forever outside our grasp. Others refuse to concede even that. Whoever’s right, however, the spectator sport of cognitive science will continue to be a fascinating one, and I, for one, will always be willing to pay the price of admission.
—Mark Wood

Letters to the Editor

Home in Holmes
The Spring 2005 PCM transported me to the venerable Holmes Hall classrooms of the English Department, and to the creaky, antiquated theatre they surrounded. As Bob Potter ’56 reminds us in his letter, it was in this home, nurtured by the larger supportive environment of the College, that so many of us were challenged to discover our individual creative voices.

Some of us, like Bob Towne ’56, moved in the best of both Holmes Hall worlds; we were majors in creative writing with minors in theatre. (Some may not be aware that PC was the first liberal arts college to offer a major in creative writing.) I’m sure that Bob will not forget his summer aboard a commercial tuna boat, a grueling job he took so that he would “have something to write about.” His first piece in the fall for Edward Weismiller’s Narrative and descriptive Writing was drawn from that experience, and a tough, stunning piece it was. It could be found in the archives of our Pomona literary magazine.

Bob will not forget his roles in Holmes Hall mainstage productions either: The Little Foxes; The Winslow Boy. Dick Chamberlain ’56 will remember his first role on that stage, as dancer and speaker in a poetically beautiful thesis production of Tagore’s Chitra directed by Anne Eldridge ’56. We will all remember him as “the chocolate soldier” in Arms and the Man.

Most important, we will recall with deep fondness and appreciation one person whose name was not mentioned in PCM: Virginia Princehouse Allen ’26, whose real name was “Teacher” for us all. She was the Theatre Department, beloved, inspirational, always demanding, always encouraging the individual gift and the group teamwork of which theatre is made.

Here in one issue of PCM, there is honor to Weismiller, whose poems were set to music and sung by one of his former students; in Bookmarks, I find new publications by Paul Fussell ’45, Ved Mehta ’56 and Bob Potter ’56; in Potter’s letter, Ray Frazer ’47 and Weismiller are thanked, as they should be, with warmth and affection. Let me add “Teacher” to these names, and to thank Pomona for the home of Holmes Hall, where gifted teachers, warm and responsive human beings all, offered to us the discovery of our own selves.
—Alan Greiner ’55
Bern, Switzerland

Hollywood Royalty
The article on Pomona’s relationship with Hollywood (Spring 2005 PCM) didn’t mention George Golitzin ’38. George was known to us as “Jorge.” He was a descendant of the Golitzin royal family that escaped overland to Harbin, China, as the Russian revolution ended the Romanoff Reign. The family settled in Hollywood and became central figures in the large Russian Hollywood colony.

Jorge was an outstanding intellect and finally graduated from Pomona years after the Class of 1938. He went to Hollywood where he produced pictures for Disney and Universal Studios including The Parent Trap. He was a royal prince but you would never know it in the kitchen at Harwood scrubbing pots and pans or in stage productions for Virginia Princehouse Allen ’26 in Holmes Hall. Jorge’s career was cut short when he contracted cancer when under contract at Universal.
—Walter C. deRenne ’38
Solana Beach, CA

A Born Star
It was with great interest I read the (Spring 2005) issue of “our” magazine. The article on “Hollywood Tales” particularly intrigued me. However, I searched in vain for two movies made during my college days. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the names of either one, but I’m sure your records would have them.

The first was filmed during “Prof” (Ralph) Lyman’s sabbatical in 1937–38 when Robert Shaw ’38 was directing the Men’s Glee Club. Fred Waring was so impressed with Bob’s ability that he hired him on the spot to rehearse his Pennsylvanians. It was here that Bob’s illustrious career in music was launched. He was to form his own famous Robert Shaw Chorale, which toured the country for years. Then later he became the conductor of the Atlanta Symphony. I have a tape of the night he was honored at the Kennedy Center for his outstanding career. The Atlanta Symphony and Chorus gave a surprise performance for him that was very moving.

The second movie was filmed while I was taking my finals, probably June 1939 or 1940. It starred Freddie Bartholomew, the perfect little gentleman, and Jackie Cooper, who had a reputation on the set of being a spoiled brat. It may have been a military academy.

The second was not so important but I think the first was quite significant.
—Betty St. Clair Russell ’42
Davis, CA

Editor’s Note: Varsity Show released in 1937 was filmed at the College, starring Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians. Freddie Bartholomew and Jackie Cooper starred in the 1939 release of The Spirit of Culver.


Missing Special Effects
I enjoyed the Hollywood-themed issue of PCM, but unless I overlooked it, you did not mention at least one illustrious Sagehen in Hollywood—Bill Taylor ’66. Bill is a major figure in the film effects industry, and with his partner, Sid Dutton, operates Illusion Arts, whose credit has appeared in a great many major movies over the years. (PCM mentioned Star Trek connections ... Illusion Arts did the sensational continuous opening shot of the movie Star Trek: First Contact, which began with a close-up of Patrick Stewart’s eye in a Borg constraint, pulling continuously back, eventually showing the entire Borg cube in the distance.)

Bill also has credits in the music industry, having produced a hit record—Soul Twist by King Curtis—while still in high school. He also is a world-class magician and was doing magic shows at Disneyland while still a Pomona student. His first major film effects credit was of the amateur S-F spoof, today a cult movie, Dark Star—which he was hired to blur all close-ups of pin-ups in the dorm area of the rogue spaceship in order to get the movie a “G” rating, as well as do any other necessary special effects work to make the movie salable to movie theaters. He also composed the theme song of the movie, Benson, Arizona.

I doubt if any Pomona grad ever had a bigger impact on film effects than Bill.
—Eric Norberg ’64
Portland, OR

Hippy Actors
I thoroughly enjoyed your issue on Hollywood and Pomona. However, in your timeline there were a couple of omissions that should be noted: In 1981, the exceptional film Cutter’s Way, starring Jeff Bridges, was released. The screenplay for this fine film was written by Jeffrey Fiskin ’66.

More important, though, was the 1970 release Angel Unchained, also written by Fiskin (his first film). Angel Unchained stands tall in the history of “Le Cinema Obscure des Motocycliste Proscrit,” as the only biker film made which contains a lengthy scene discussing the philosophy of the I Ching. It also was the film-acting debut for both Fiskin and myself. We played “hippies”.

I thought you’d want to correct this gross oversight.
—Walker T Ryan (the artist formerly known as Tim) ’68
Eugene, OR

Realistic Image
I read “Shattered Image” (Spring 2005 PCM) by Rachel Johnson ’96 and wondered how she had counted herself “odd” among Pomona grads. Johnson describes the delight she has taken in spending time with her young children and mentions that she’s also done some freelance writing (including this piece) and taught a college course here and there. I would be interested in knowing what percentage of Sagehen women and men have worked part-time while their children have been young. I’m guessing that many of us have been privileged enough to enjoy simultaneous pleasures of work and parenting in an unimaginably creative set of permutations. In fact, it would not surprise me if this were the norm for Sagehens today, who may be trading off part-time work and home duties with a partner, or who may be supported by a steady wage-earner who keeps the wolf from the door—not to mention generations of Sagehen women who raised children and then went on to pursue fascinating work in any number of arenas.

Gazing at a photograph of a bathing-suit clad Johnson holding her two children, one of whom sports a cap with Barbados written on it, I suspect the category of “class” has as much to do with Johnson’s choices as does “gender.” I don’t believe, as the article’s small-font headline reads, that Johnson has chosen “full-time motherhood over a career.” She’s chosen, as do many of us, to use her financial and academic capital to buy herself some time, that most precious of all commodities. What she will choose to do as her children grow older, no one—including Johnson—can know. That a Pomona education has helped Johnson give herself a choice, it seems to me, is the real issue.
—Catherine A. Corman ’84
Brookline, MA

Educated Mothers
I would like to applaud you for including the article on full-time mothering by Rachel Johnson ’96 in Alumni Voices (Spring 2005 PCM). I often peruse my Pomona College Magazine with a faint voice of disappointment in my head over the state of my career. I marvel at the amazing accomplishment of my Pomona peers and predecessors and the voices grow louder, chastising me for squandering my family’s hard-earned money on a wasted education. You could have been somebody, it says—you could have been one of these people! Not only that, but I continue to whittle away my bank account on a graduate degree that is taking me six years to complete. All this for a 4-year-old daughter who is currently lizard-hunting out our back window. An astounding child who is happy, safe, nurtured, secure in herself and her solid, stable world, and who knows no other life than having me at the center of it. Like Rachel, all of the clichés come rushing to mind, and like Rachel, they are all true. But it’s refreshing to hear another Sagehen express it—someone who comes from the same place as I and someone who is not afraid to put it all on hold while we pursue the most important life path I can ever imagine—motherhood.

Thank you for giving us and our children a voice.
—Jillian D. Cosgrove
(formerly Davis-Leavens) ’97
Powder Springs, GA

Political Leanings
I am compelled to comment on my 1954 classmate Dick Strong’s concerns about the political leanings of Pomona and its seemingly permissive attitudes toward student self-responsibility. I do not mean this as a rebuttal, but merely as my perceptions developed in academia over the past 50 years, including teaching at Pomona during the 1960s, then at UC Irvine until retirement, followed most recently by reliving undergraduate experiences through our son, Ian ’05, who has just graduated from Pomona.

At my class’ 50th graduation reunion in 2004, my wife and I were amazed/ bemused at the consternation of many classmates over the current campus attitudes dealing with coed dorms, drinking, etc., in which students are expected to act as adults, and in an atmosphere in which our son has thrived. In my day, we were treated as adolescent children, with males in north campus dorms and females on south campus, in a dry campus and town. While admitting to nothing, I was aware as a student of numerous instances of regulation abuse in an atmosphere of crypticity and “system-beating.” What has changed is that now students operate in an atmosphere of trust and respect.

With regard to political attitudes, I agree that Pomona likely is in line with many of the most respected academic institutions in the U.S., as would be hoped for as we enter an extremely competitive age of globalization. I do not believe that this is by design, but rather is a function of continuous intellectual growth and creativity. Having come from a rather conservative family background, and surviving an era of Asian wars, assassinations of our own leaders, the onset of terrorism, WMDs and the Patriot Act, and through it all interacting in academic atmospheres that fostered, and indeed required, continual intellectual creativity and growth, I found that my outlook was/is progressive.

At UC Irvine, I was asked to help expand a small department twofold into a major teaching/research unit. We had the resources to attract and hire the very best young minds available and were extremely successful. Our criteria were based exclusively on proven and potential intellectual creativity. While there was absolutely no attempt to assess the political leanings of the 11 new faculty we hired, I can retrospectively affirm that the vast majority were very progressive in all of their attitudes. Thus I can only conclude that there is a high correlation between intellectual creativity and progressive political attitudes.

Since my student days Pomona has continued to progress to the present state of an elite liberal arts college, and it deserves only the most creative faculty and students; I have no reason to doubt that its hiring and admissions criteria place intellectual attainment and creativity first. If progressive political attitudes accompany these qualities, so be it. I see no reason to dilute our standards.
—Dick MacMillen ’54
Talent, OR

47 Sighting
I just opened a diet Snapple Iced Tea with lemon and read the “Real Fact” under the cap (#129). It says, “Mosquitoes have 47 teeth.”
—Brian M. Stecher ’68
Santa Monica, CA

We welcome letters from alumni and friends. Letters may be edited for length, style and clarity. More about editorial guidelines.
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