Your letters and comments to the Magazine

October 25, 2018

In praise of Mr. Wolfe

I enjoyed your Forum [Under the Gargoyles, Summer 2018] column on Tom Wolfe, my favorite author/journalist. I just wanted to point out that Mr. Wolfe began his forays to Duke some twenty-five years before the 1998 visit you mention. In 1973, he previewed the movie The Last American Hero based on an article of his, after which he gave a talk and held a Q&A. That visit was the start of my lifelong love affair with his writings.

Bill Overend ’74 Laguna Hills, California

Music to her ears

I read with great interest (and emotion) your article about Rodney Wynkoop [“His moment has come,” Summer 2018]. What a gift he has been to the arts at Duke and to so many whose lives he touched through his work with the choir and choral groups.

One of those people he deeply touched was my dad. Waldo Beach was a professor in the divinity school. He retired in 1986 after forty years of teaching. His time in the classroom was extremely rewarding to him, but it was his participation in the Choral Society of Durham and the music in the Duke Chapel that meant as much to him. He never missed a Wednesday-night rehearsal or the many, many concerts in Page Auditorium or in the chapel. He continued to sing with the Choral Society after his retirement, and the arrival of Rodney Wynkoop in 1989 added to his determination to keep doing what he loved.

My dad passed away in 2001. His memorial service in the chapel was appropriately on January 15, 2001, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We as a family knew there had to be a musical element to the service and asked Rodney if he would be kind enough to help. Rodney put out a call to the Choral Society and to the Duke Chapel Choir. The response was overwhelming. So many beautiful voices singing in that extraordinary setting where he had delivered so many meaningful sermons and had sung in so many concerts. They sang Brahms and Bach, and then Rodney conducted them in singing “A Cradle Song,” a carol written by my dad. I will never forget how moving and perfect it all was.

So, I add my thanks and “amen” to your article and wish Rodney all the best.

Margot Beach Sullivan ’70 Gladwyne, Pennsylvania

A past connection

It was with great interest that I read Dr. Price’s interview [“From the president: A campus view,” Summer 2018]. I was particularly interested that he named Samuel DuBois Cook as a figure out of Duke’s past with whom he would like to have a conversation. Dr. Cook was hired in 1966 as the first black professor since Reconstruction to hold a regular faculty position at a white Southern university.

I wish President Price had had such an opportunity, because Cook was an extraordinary individual who had the unique ability to fill a room with both intellectual challenge and great humor. He recounted several times that I was the first person from Duke he met after he had been hired. We had both stopped at the same gas station in Charlotte on the way to the fall semester in 1966. He noticed my Louisiana license plate and the Duke and Pi Kappa Alpha stickers on the rear window, and approached me and introduced himself. We quickly realized that I would be in his first class. We hit it off from the first conversation.

I often wondered whether he wondered how my state plates and fraternity stickers would predict the greeting, but he always said that his first meeting with a Duke student was a warm welcome. I count myself lucky to have been one of Cook’s students.

Michael S. Tudor ’67 Alexandria, Louisiana

Short, not sweet

President Price’s decision to remove the Lee statue from the chapel was a gutless, knee-jerk reaction to a deliberate and illegal act of vandalism [“Not cast in stone,” Summer 2018]. Price caved right in. End of story.

Mary Martin Davis Bowen A.M. ’59 Decatur, Georgia

Do your research

A brief comment is needed for Miscellany [DR/TL*, Summer 2018]. Duke climate scientist Drew Shindell selected necessarily short passages from a leaked U.N. report that he was part of preparing. An important part he omitted (didn’t read/ too long?) were some of those passages that warned and explained that humans cannot control the Earth’s climate by lowering emissions to zero and adjusting the level of atmospheric CO2.

Another report, the Climate Science Special Report 2017, also addressed the better-than-even chance of stopping global warming. Those researchers concluded that it is not enough to halt the growth of annual carbon emissions to eventually reach zero. Negative emissions (geological CO2 burial) will be necessary. These combined tasks are much too large and would take hundreds of years, and the costs would be astronomical. Just 1 part-per-million of CO2 is more than 2 billion tons, and 50 is 100 billion tons.

The world can never achieve the plan of returning the Earth to 350 ppm, the stated goal, with so much oxidized carbon to deal with.

Ken Towe ’56 Eatonton, Georgia

Drew Shindell responds:

Human influence is now so large that we do in fact control the Earth’s climate. The science is clear that bringing emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases to zero, while keeping emissions of shorter- lived compounds constant, will stabilize the planet’s temperature. The story in the magazine was correct in saying that to have a good chance of meeting internationally agreed targets of limiting warming to levels of 1.5C to 2C, we have only a decade or two to reach zero emissions. Lower targets, such as 0.75C or 350 ppm CO2, have already been passed and so would require negative emissions (which are expensive and do not exist at scale) to be widely deployed in order to return to those levels. Though it is in principle possible to reduce emissions to zero within two decades, it would require challenging and unprecedented rates of change in our energy, transportation, industry, and agricultural systems. Although humanity controls where our climate will eventually stabilize, our current trajectory is inconsistent with this challenge and is sadly toward levels far exceeding those that every government in the world, save ours, agrees would be dangerous to our well-being.

It’s a miracle

Thanks to Professor David Morgan, chair of religious studies, for citing examples of statues of the Blessed Virgin Mother Mary crying real tears [Q&A, Summer 2018]. One such miracle is taking place right now on the other side of our new home state in Hobbs, New Mexico (under investigation, it appears to be tears of blood).

Hobbs is close to the border, riddled with crime, and very poor, i.e., the kind of humble place she chooses to authentically manifest herself most often. One hopes this is a strong Marian message for those toying with Ouija boards, an evil pathway to the occult like no other. Our world is hurting for the singular truth of her son’s redemption, yet mired in the relativist thought prevalent in all Western societies.

Ave Maria.

Don Meccia M.B.A. ’89 Santa Fe, New Mexico

Give us the full story

I enjoyed reading about the history of Duke’s freshman living arrangements [Retro, “A place to lay their heads,” Summer 2018], especially in light of the recent decision to end preselection of roommates for the incoming class. I applaud Duke for making a change that will encourage a more expansive freshman experience.

However, the article, while providing a rich summation of history leading to changes in freshman living arrangements in the 1930s through the 1990s, fell short on communicating the controversial background and history of events that led to this current change. The article read as if it was skirting the subject and left me feeling as if it was decided that Duke alumni don’t deserve the full story.

Susan Haynes Little D.N.P. ’17 Wendell, North Carolina

There are lies and there are lies

I see two letters suggesting that the focus on Trump [“The facts just keep on coming,” Spring 2018] was biased and should have been balanced with tests for Democrats. Please. Do these folks not recognize that the lying is qualitatively different? All politicians dissemble, but Trump lies on matters large and small, verifiable and bizarre, every day of his life. It’s a false comparison to say Pelosi or Sanders does the same.

Charlie Appler ’69 Dallas

About that bracket…

Kudos to the Duke alums who challenged our students’ bracket decisions during March’s Spring Breakthrough class: “Presidential March Madness” [Under the gargoyles, Spring 2018]. We were as surprised as they were about Jimmy Carter’s shocking second-round upset over Thomas Jefferson!

To their credit, though, the students thought hard about what makes a president “great.” Morality—based on present-day interpretations of morality— became one of several key traits by which to judge our nation’s chief executives. Slave owners lost points. In their evaluation, Jefferson’s otherwise great strengths were superseded by his treatment of enslaved Americans. (Washington, also a slave owner, was evaluated less harshly, in large part because he freed his slaves in his will.)

Ranking presidents is not an objective science.

Who can forget the first Schlesinger Poll of Presidential Greatness in 1948, when fifty-five experts ranked Andrew Jackson among the six greatest presidents, while Andrew Johnson and Herbert Hoover joined the likes of James Monroe and James Madison as “average” presidents? Or the 1962 Schlesinger poll of seventy-five experts that ranked Dwight Eisenhower below Martin Van Buren, Benjamin Harrison, and yes, the very same Herbert Hoover?

Years from now, we may look back on today’s rankings with wonder and ask, “Why did experts ever think so-and-so was worthy of a high ranking?”

Of course, our class is not really about getting the answer “right.” It aims, rather, to inspire students to think about the country they want to live in and the kind of president they want to lead it. Stay tuned to hear how this year’s class tackles these timely questions.

Fritz Mayer, director, and B.J. Rudell, associate director of POLIS (The Center for Political Leadership, Innovations, and Service) Durham

She likes us

I often skim through this magazine but must admit but I don’t tend to give it a thorough read. The Summer 2018 issue is really outstanding. The mixture of short and long articles, the writing, the graphics: All of it is really very good. I enjoyed the articles on Rodney Wynkoop and the Honor Council. I like the short Q&A with the new president. My husband is really looking forward to the article on immunotherapy; I’m not even finished reading it myself.

Thank you for a really good issue. Well done.

Sara Elizabeth Jones Hyre ’89 Seattle

So does he

Your magazine covers are consistently very good. The new issue’s cover is very sharp—excellent. Cool and savvy design.

George Rothman ’67 Bethesda, Maryland

A time for ethics

It was very discouraging to read that Duke is not only not a leader in university ethics, but that the next president of the Honor Council chose Duke because it is a “project” in that regard [“A matter of integrity,” Summer 2018]. Character degradation is a slippery slope. Ever- coarser profanity, sex scenes, and graphic violence in movies, TV, and video games flaunt our traditional values and tear at our cultural and moral fabric. Too many people worship badly behaving celebrities, ridicule “Boy Scout”  behavior, and deem sex with an intern in the Oval Office as “no big deal” or even admirable. Society’s examples and the words and actions of our political leaders, including our current president, do little to restrain an impressionable student from trying to get away with what he or she can to gain an academic advantage over his or her peers.

Moreover, as a self-absorbed student sees journalistic integrity replaced by fake news, he or she can readily succumb to the temptations of résumé enhancement and “unpermitted collaboration.”

Whether Robin Hood is right or wrong to redistribute wealth is easy to decide when people assume that those wealthier than they are are mostly greedy, while they, their like-thinking friends, and poorer citizens are mostly good and therefore deserving. Oh, and by the way, only the deserving should determine who is allowed to speak on campus.

I hope that an effective Honor Council at a university with such a strong Methodist affiliation—and especially with its dominating chapel—will become a source of pride to its students, faculty, and alumni. That said, I don’t think it’s necessary to require students to “act if the Standard is compromised.” Leave that to the sanctimonious, and let each student focus on his or her own ethical behavior.

Charles Philip Clutts ’61 Harrisburg, North Carolina

Tell on yourself

I’m delighted Duke has an honor code. My husband, Rob, graduated from Haverford College, which has had a self-regulated honor code since 1897 that is taken very seriously.

During his freshman year, one of his friends was spotted cheating. Rob said he and five friends got together to discuss how to handle this. They knew the guy would be expelled, which would seriously hurt him, but they believed in the honor code and decided to ask him to turn himself in, which he did. He left the college that day. He promptly enlisted in the Navy, later getting a degree from a state college, and remained in contact with Rob and the other five, but did decline to attend class reunions.

For a cheater to turn in himself or herself helps to remove some of the sting from the deed and relieves the witnesses from being tattletales.

Audrey Earle Nevitt ’56 Washington, D.C.

Some of us followed a code

In reading your Summer issue regarding the honor code, I noted an omission. I was a member of the School of Nursing Class of 1968. Definitely, during the four years that I was a Duke student, nursing school students were subject to a strict honor code, something I believe was important given our chosen profession. Our exams were never proctored, and we signed the code numerous times.

Some professors from elsewhere in the university (Dr. Klopfer comes to mind) respected our honor code. They separated the nursing students from the rest of the class, and we continued to take our exams without proctors. It made for a less-tense testing situation. I think this unique and likely long-standing honor code should have been mentioned in your article.

Patricia Kohms Ketcham B.S.N. ’68 Conroe, Texas

Honor brigade

I read your Summer 2018 cover story with great interest, having been part of the history of honor and integrity at Duke. In 1982-83, I participated on a committee formed from representatives of the student government at the request of university President Terry Sanford. At the end of the school year, Sanford invited all those on the committee to a celebratory lunch. He took a personal interest in this project to create an honor pledge for students.

Melanie Blandon ’83 Denver

A matter of principle

Spell checkers used to be human.

In 1950, Dr. Bevington taught the principal difference between “principal” and “principle.” He would have written [“A matter of integrity, Summer 2018], “The Duke community standard has three principles.”

Perry M. Stewart ’54 Yellow Springs, Ohio

Only the strong survive

It has been my experience that when a human mob exists, there is no support for the weak [“Kindness for weakness,” Spring 2018]. In fact, the opposite occurs. Violence is rampant and out of control. This terror occurs even when the mob’s athletic team wins!

I experienced a terrifying invasion of my classroom at UNC after Kent State. Had it not been for the veterans in my class, I would have been attacked for merely holding class for those who chose to attend. I will never forget the shock and fear I experienced.

Pamela Gill ’67 Charlotte

That issue was special

I was so moved by all the contributions to this issue [Special Issue 2018]. I read it cover to cover and will hang on to it for a while and share it with others not so fortunate as to have read it. Thank you.

Maria Sorolis ’81 Louisville, Kentucky

In agreement

I greatly enjoyed reading the “Fear” Special Issue [2018]. The “Speak Up” essay by Rusty Wright ’71 was excellent in pointing out the traumatic yet rewarding effort of taking a stance on a controversial issue in a classroom context, particularly with the professor having a contrary view on the point.

Also, I agree with Wright’s position that the problem with racism is not Christians generically, but with those who fail to follow the example of Jesus as the founder of Christianity.

Thomas F. Harkins Jr. J.D. ’81 Fort Worth, Texas

Let’s take it slow

My time at Duke and my time afterward with my classmates have been nothing short of incredible. Probably the most positive experience of my life.

So, when I get my Duke Magazine, why would the second sentence be “fear of immigrants?” I understand it’s the fear issue, so positivity is not the goal, but why do we have to go there right from the beginning? Let me enjoy the magazine at least a little before you remind me everyone is a racist, the world will be over by 2020, etc. No matter which side of the argument you’re on, it’s not going to put your mind in a good spot for reading, reflection, and learning.

Dan Porcaro M.B.A.’15 Richmond, Virginia

Let’s go into the light

I am writing to share my disappointment with your creative and editorial choices in the summer Special Issue [2018] regarding “Fear.”

First and foremost, I find the choice of cover art—a vicious ghoul—repulsive and not suitable for gracing the cover of Duke Magazine. Surely a better image, perhaps a real live person/alumnus—a fear overcomer—could have been selected to grace the cover.

A number of essays in the work are inspiring, but several others contain curious content, including imagery that suggests what I would call “darkness.” The overall tone of the publication is “dark.” I did not find it particularly inspiring.

Given all the “light” and accomplishment that resides on campus, within the alumni community, and within the larger Duke family, I am amazed at the decision to focus an entire issue on “fear”—almost in celebratory form. Why? In my view, this issue is an editorial and artistic failure.

I will look forward to reading future stories about Duke champions, overcomers, achievers, change agents and the like. I hope those stories will be framed in an aura of positivity, uplifting imagery, and victory—not darkness, deadness, and ghoulishness.

You can do better. Please do.

Wes King M.P.P. ’96, M.B.A. ’97 Long Beach, California

An act of bravery

Thank you for sharing your fears in this public space [“I Can’t Just Stand By” by Leah Abrams, Special Issue 2018]. I admire your courage to advocate for justice and to push others not to be complicit in the continuation of social inequalities. Change can be slow, and sometimes people need to help it move along faster!

Grace Chen ’98 San Carlos, California

What a nice surprise

The Special Issue [2018] of Duke Magazine was stunning. My first reaction was to check to see whether there was a new editor. I was happy to learn that there was no change in that position.

While quickly flipping through the pages expecting to find nothing of interest, two lines caught my attention: “I borrowed…under my raincoat.” “What is this?” I whispered. I read the article. Not only was I intrigued by the experiences of the writer, but I was also happy that the journalist had the curiosity to ask important questions and the courage to search for the answers. Only after I had read the essay did I look for the author’s name. Mark Pinsky ’70 and I were undergraduate classmates. I have wonderful memories of his contributions to The Chronicle.

Thanks for the special issue. Complacence is an impediment to progress.

James S. Dorsey ’70, M.D. ’74 Berwyn Heights, Maryland

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