Letters & Comments

Readers on the Fall 2017 issue
February 7, 2018

Epworth as antidote

I lived in Epworth my last two years at Duke [“There’s no place like Epworth”], which were, I suppose, the heyday of the SHARE years. I wasn’t (to my knowledge) a part of SHARE, but I was a part of Epworth.

What I remember is a large family of engineers, actors, designers, dancers, computer programmers, and more than a few A.B. Duke Scholars and artists. My Kappa sisters were secretly (or not so secretly) horrified that I lived there, but it was the only place on the Duke campus (other than the theaters) that felt welcoming or sane. I found it to be an antidote to the relentlessly selfish, money-oriented, succeed-or-die frat culture that seemed to dominate Duke in the 1980s. (Not that all, or even most of the school was like that, but it was the loudest trope.)

Also, where else could I have a 200-square-foot single with twelve-foot ceilings? Or a 400-square-foot double with private bathroom? The view out my window was of huge trees and lawns, no buildings, and no cars. Just a gazebo in the distance.

Emilie Talbot Brooks ’86

Burlingame, California

And a great view, too

I loved Epworth in the mid-’70s; I had a big corner room that looked out on graceful trees, with gorgeous light that streamed through the windows. Even though we were on the second floor, it was easy to take our dorm dog, Pooch, down the back stairs and in and out the door. So many colorful characters in Epworth, a celebration of creativity and individuality.

Lisa Krieger ’77

Palo Alto, California

Lint was a choice

Thanks so much for this vivid story of a place I love so dearly. One minor correction: I may have misspoken in our interview, but I don’t believe the administration ever put pressure on us to adopt a theme. Lint was just our way of making fun of what we found an artificial practice of theme dorms that seemed to be coming from the top down. The sort of thing that Epworthians never liked and tended to mock.

Steve Newman ’92

Philadelphia

Not a generic place

As a J-frosh in Epworth in January 1981, my preppie roommate from Maryland barely tolerated the colorful, Ocean Pacific, Hawaiian-flowered Floridian (me) who was forced upon her as her roommate. Rather than let me hang with her friends, I had to make new ones and ended up meeting my roommate for the next two years. The rambling old structure made my parents think, as they dropped me off with a bag of mini-Snickers bars to stave off my homesickness, “So, THIS is Duke? This is what we’re paying umpteen dollars for?!”

Jill Zima Borski ’84

Tavernier, Florida

Forever friends

I have to say that I think Epworth saved us all. It was a home to come back to and nourished friendships that have now lasted more than thirty years and many states of residency. It was worth the challenge of having a corner room with a drain pipe that was a “hole” to the Frisbee golf course. Nothing like the thud of the Frisbee to rouse from an afternoon nap. Who’d believe I’d still be most thankful for the college education due to the friends I made?

Suzanne Johnson ’84

Brunswick, Maine

Where we all got along

I moved to Epworth the second half of freshman year, 1984-85, and I think I had to agree to subscribe to the SHARE philosophy (whatever that was), but honestly, it was as diverse as Duke itself, with art and business majors, Republicans and Democrats and socialists, Christians and Jews, sorority sisters and noncomformists, etc. But there was something about that old building that made us a family. And not a dysfunctional family. One other memory I have is the crowd that watched General Hospital in the Purple Parlor every afternoon. I know everyone else on campus thought Epworthians were weird, but, honestly, I think we were the most normal dorm.

Eleanor Ivey Campbell ’88

Asheville, North Carolina

Free to be, you and me

Epworth/SHARE (fall 1989-spring ’91, and then unofficially and somewhat regularly as a fixture on the Crossroads sofa for another year) was the first and only place at Duke where I felt I could breathe and feel accepted and could live the true college experience of all-night conversations, absurdly creative parties, spontaneous performances, and experimentation. It was, I believe, the only on-campus residence at the time where we all knew one another and could leave our doors unlocked without apprehension. We often debated what SHARE really stood for. The best answer I heard, from Rob Clough ’98, was that if you want to be here, then we want to have you. Acceptance. We may have practiced it imperfectly, but we saved one another and freed ourselves to be ourselves. And I believe that so many of us who lived there continue to practice radical acceptance in our own ways and share.

Christopher Pelham ’91

New York

Always home

Thanks for the history. I lived in Epworth as a freshman, 2003-04—this was when Epworth was just another freshman dorm, not a shared interest group. However, as anybody who has lived in Epworth knows, it’s never been “just another dorm.” While we may have been randomly assigned, we’re nothing less than family now—some more literally than others: We’ve had two marriages of Epworth couples. It will always be our home—we even returned to have wine and cheese on the bench at our tenth reunion last spring.

Brittany Greenfield ’07

Boston

Anybody have that cookbook?

I lived in Epworth during the arts-dorm days (1972-75) and reveled in the diversity among us. I don’t think I would have survived Duke at any other dorm. I was the very lucky resident (lottery) of the big room with the bay window my senior year, which I shared with my roommate Elaine and my illegal kitty cat, Cordelia. Epworthians felt we were labelled by others as odd misfits and lesbians, both of which described some of us more than others.

In 1973, we put together a cookbook (Epworth on the cover). Many of us had a limited meal plan, so we could cook for ourselves on the weekends. I still have my Japanese bowl that I used for my lentils and rice every Sunday night. I’d love a copy of that book for Kitty Ward’s Indian curry recipe and Debbie Smith’s caramel recipe. The dining hall even used our recipes a time or two. Alas, my copy disappeared.

Sara Power ’75

Philomath, Oregon

Making a difference

Dr. Bedlack [“Dr. Feelgood”] is a transformative, compassionate physician- leader who is clearly making a difference for his patients. I also imagine he is an inspiration to the medical students and residents at Duke. Measuring a physician’s value must move beyond simple RVU’s, but I have a feeling Duke knows that already.

Dr. Bedlack has thrived in his career in this world-class hospital, and I hope he keeps going strong for many years to come.

Scott Rodgers ’88

Jackson, Mississippi

Kudos

Post-academic precarity [“To the tenure track…and beyond”]. A great piece!

Anne Allison

Professor of cultural anthropology

An approach with benefits

I read with interest Lucas Hubbard’s article and have noted similarities with advanced training in other areas. Many piano majors dream of a career as a concert pianist. After twenty or more years of practicing and competing, few have their dream become a reality.

During years of attending a yearly neuroscience conference, I have observed the hallway conversations change from excitement about starting “my own lab” to complaints about being in a second or third postdoc program without a prospect of an academic position. Even some tenured faculty members express concerns about the ability of bright young researchers to find faculty positions.

From the article, I assume Hubbard does not favor a solution reminiscent of the pyramidal system of training once used to train surgeons. Initially, my reaction to the Versatile Humanists’ approach was negative, because I disagreed that society, in general, needs citizens with Ph.D. skills; a good high-school education equips us to be good citizens. After thinking about the issue, I changed my opinion of the “versatile” approach. De-emphasizing the goal, in all graduate studies, of a tenure-track academic position can make graduate school more enjoyable and, eventually, be more beneficial to society.

James S. Dorsey ’70, M.D. ’74

Berwyn Heights, Maryland

Government work

I read with interest your article regarding employment challenges faced by Ph.D. graduates in the humanities and social sciences. I experienced similar challenges after completing my doctorate in political science in 1980. Over time, however, it became clear to me that federal government agencies valued the leadership, communication, analytical, and foreign language competencies that Ph.D.s typically possess. This understanding led to a fulfilling, thirty-twoyear career at the Library of Congress, the last ten years of which were as the Library’s director for human resources before retiring in July 2015. Although budgetary pressures have reduced federal employment, opportunities still remain. I encourage Ph.D.s to pursue federal internships wherever possible, thereby establishing connections with potential hiring officials. I congratulate Duke for its Versatile Humanists program and wish it much success.

Dennis Hanratty Ph.D. ’80

Ellicott City, Maryland