McClain's exquisite description of a young African-American woman's
sojourn in Ghana and the aftermath of re-entry to New York/U.S.
rhythms (CCT, February '00) took my breath away and brought
tears to my eyes (literally).
I am an
African-American CC alumna ('93) who lived and worked (along with
my husband, Mansur Nuruddin '93) in Accra, Ghana for 312 months
during the summer after my first year of law school at New York
University. I have generally looked back at my four years at
Columbia with unresolved bittersweet memories: a deep disdain for
the European-centric/"Western" hegemony of the Core Curriculum and
various intra-campus political struggles mixed with a great respect
for the breadth of opportunities, depth of knowledge and incredible
colleagues that I gained by attending Columbia.
article touched me deeply for two reasons. First, her masterful
writing put into words many feelings I have about my own Ghana and
Columbia experiences that I hitherto would have been unable to
communicate. Second, knowing that Dani has walked down College
Walk, discussed Mill and Adam Smith at 9:00 a.m. in Hamilton Hall,
smelled the mingling of raw meat, carved wood, mud, incense and
salt water in Kotoraba market, and watched the waves barrel against
the slave dungeons at Cape Coast while coming to similar
conclusions and struggling with similar dilemmas has helped me to
heal and rethink the possibilities of my relationship with
Dani and CCT for broadening my horizons.
Sasha Thomas-Nuruddin '93
The copy of
Columbia College Today was received with thanks. I hope you
are as satisfied by calling attention to the book as I am pleased
by opportunities to describe and defend the Core
Congratulations on the content and
admirable make-up of the magazine. The use of the cover of my
"Embattled" book is but one example of superior planning throughout
the November number.
congratulations on the November '99 CCT issue! It's just
great and truly memorable. It's beautifully written and includes a
wide range of interesting subjects, including a little arcane
history. Definitely a "keeper" for the home library.
Joseph L. Kelly '43
No Fan of
Since it is
too late to prevent that blot on the landscape, that punishment
block of a maximum security penal institution, the abominable
excrescence in the face of Morningside, I earnestly recommend its
encapsulation with six inches of concrete. On second thought, make
that a foot of concrete instead.
Stephanos C. Tavuchis '49
your neat piece on Spectator's poll selecting Columbia's greatest
athletes of the past century in the most recent CCT. Being your
contemporary, I especially enjoyed your personal observations about
Jim McMillian. He was a real gentleman to play ball with. Actually,
he was a real gentleman, period! My memories are a mixture of awe
(on my part) and humility (on Jim's)-he always made those of us
with more average talent feel comfortable and "equal" as
contributors to our teams' successes, even though the rest of us
all knew he was truly something special.
Larry Borger '68
Note: Larry Borger was captain of Columbia's basketball team in
1968, McMillian's sophomore season, when the Lions went 23-5 and
won the Ivy League title. Borger received the Walter H. Bernson
Memorial Award as the player, in the estimation of his teammates
and coach, who "best exemplifies the qualities of team spirit,
hustle and determination."
surprised and disappointed that my roommate in 1950-51, George Shaw
'53, two-time Olympian (Helsinki and Melbourne), was not included
in the "Columbia's Greatest Athletes" article.
George T. Fadok '54
It was not
surprising that a 17-member panel of alumni, journalists, athletic
directors, historians and trustees selected only one fencing
person, Bruce Soriano '72, in its list of top 21. Fencing is not a
widely reported sport and I have no doubt that Mr. Soriano deserved
his honor. I was happy that my own team captain, Bob Nielsen '51
(misspelled Nielson), also got votes. I don't know if anybody else
achieved his record of winning the NCAAs twice as well as the
Easterns. Nor do I know the sort of things on the minds of the
panel that dropped Jose Velarde, fencing coach 1949-52, from the
list of honored coaches. Joe took over a team that had been in the
doldrums and created champions of them. Blessed with Bob Nielsen as
an inherited star, Joe deserves the credit for the championship
team of 1951 on which Bob won at foil, Dan Chafetz '52 won the epee
title and John Krajcir '52 took second in sabre at the NCAAs (and
was teased for not winning the gold). In my own year (1952) we did
almost as well, and it was Joe's recruiting that resulted in the
outstanding teams of 1954 and the immediately following
Alfred P. Rubin '52
those who selected Columbia's five greatest coaches thinking of
(with?) when they overlooked the coach for whom Columbia named an
athletic facility, one who coached Columbia's greatest athlete and
one who served Columbia well and honorably-long-time basketball
coach Andy Coakley? Sic transit gloria.
2000 issue of Columbia College Today is another fine one.
John McCormack '39
Spectator's listing omitted
mention of two great Columbia track stars. Just after the turn of
the last century (not the millennial one), Abel Kiviat (year of
graduation unknown) was a silver medal winner in the 1,500 meters
at the Olympic Games. He was nosed out at the finish line for the
gold. Another Columbia great was George Shaw '53, who was a member
of the U.S. team that competed in Melbourne, Australia in the 1952
Olympics in the hop, step and jump. Besides their Olympic fame,
both had great success while competing for Columbia.
'38 ran the fastest 60-yard dash in the '30s. According to the late
Carl Merner, Columbia's track coach at the time (he retired in the
early '50s), Johnson was timed at 5.9 seconds, a world record. It
was officially recorded at 6.0 seconds as the timer said no one
could run that fast.
Laurance E. Balfus '55
Note: Abel Kiviat, who won nine national indoor and outdoor titles
and was the world record holder in the 1,500 meters, was a silver
medalist in the 1912 Olympics. His roommate on the boat trip to the
Games, which were held in Stockholm, Sweden, was Jim Thorpe. He was
inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1985
and died six years later.
It was only
fitting that Lou Gehrig '25, nicknamed "Columbia Lou" and "The Iron
Horse," should be selected as Columbia's greatest athlete. However,
since most people do not realize how great Gehrig was, the poll was
closer than it should have been.
best known for his consecutive games played streak broken by Cal
Ripken, his record 23 career Grand Slams, his .340 lifetime batting
average, and his American League season record of 184 RBIs. Less
well known is that he was arguably baseball's greatest run
producer, having for the twentieth century both the highest career
average for RBIs per game (.92) and for runs scored per game (.87).
He also had a record seven seasons of over 150 RBIs. In 1934 he won
baseball's Triple Crown and in 1928 he set the World Series
slugging record of 1.7 (meaning he averaged almost a double for
every time at bat). Even in his last full season of 1938, when
unknowingly ALS was beginning to weaken his body, he had 114 RBIs,
seventh in the league.
always known for the highest character on and off the field. His
farewell speech at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, during which he
stated, "...today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of
the earth," has been called by many baseball's Gettysburg
indeed be very proud to call Lou Gehrig '25 one of its own;
hopefully one day soon there will be a cure for the disease that
took his life and bears his name.
Elkan Katz P'03
delighted to read John Steeves's letter about his uncle and
favorite Columbia professor, Harrison Ross Steeves (February,
2000). Professor Steeves's initials, HRS, still adorn the old brass
door knock on my house in Cornish, N.H. (not Windsor, Vt., the
house's old postal address). My father bought this house and its 27
acres from the Steeves in 1968. They were clearly attached to it,
as every few years in the summer, a car would draw up on the dirt
road in front of the house and the Steeves would come out for a
look. The last time this occurred was perhaps some six or so years
ago; this time, the car's only passenger was Mrs. Edna Leake
Steeves, and she declined my invitation to come out and
By the way,
having wound up as a college professor myself (at Brooklyn
College), and one who teaches freshman composition at that, I can
only hope that some of Professor Steeves's spirit has rubbed off on
Mark Patkowski '74
James P. Shenton
PHOTO: ARNOLD BROWNE '78
James Shenton '49 has, thankfully, received many accolades over the
years, but I believe he is owed so much more. So I add here a
memory of someone who has added scholarly enthusiasm to generations
of Columbia grads.
I'm sure most
everyone can look back over their school years and immediately
recall an individual who affected their academic career. For me,
that person who had had a forever-effect is James Shenton.
Originally I'd planned on studying English, but my freshman year
exposure to Professor Shenton's American history classes changed
that idea dramatically.
I titled this
note "a missed calling" for I truly believe Professor Shenton would
have made an outstanding stage actor. His classroom presence was
grandiose. I found myself spellbound in his classes as he related
history with energy, intensity and remarkable flair. I recall one
class, in particular, when Professor Shenton lectured on President
Taylor. Professor Shenton performed a simulation of Taylor's
cabinet meeting (on a divisive issue) and-for a moment-I was not on
campus but launched into a theater on Broadway where I enjoyed a
performance that would put even Brian Dennehy '60 to shame. It was
truly amazing. I remember looking around the classroom and viewing
a collective sea of equally entranced students. No one was taking
notes-just watching. When class was over, I must have heard dozens
of classmates simply utter, "Wow, that was incredible!"
I managed to
take almost every class Professor Shenton offered in my Columbia
years, and to each one he truly dedicated himself. The man loves
history and it radiates in every class. I have since accumulated
three master's degrees, yet never have I been so bowled over by an
instructor. It may be cliché, but he made school wonderfully
enjoyable. Never again did I look at/read history as merely dates
and events. From that first Shenton class, I began comprehending
the underlying drama that is so often missed in historical tales.
Studying the Cuban missile crisis recently, I found myself
relishing in the play of characters-their probable voice
inflections, mannerisms and human reactions to events
As he did
then, Professor Shenton girds my study of history. Regretfully,
I've never thanked him-I do so now.
Scott Smith '86
November '99 issue of CCT, Saul Ricklin '39 asked if anyone
remembered a rally at Columbia in the fall of 1935 at which the
Oxford Oath was taken. While I don't remember the rally personally,
I can assure Mr. Ricklin that the rally indeed took place. I wrote
both my senior thesis at Barnard and my master's thesis at GSAS on
the student pacifist movement of the 1930s and 1940s. My research
indicated that 2,000 students at Columbia attended a peace rally in
November 1935, at which Harry Carman urged the "spreading of the
contain information on the pacifist movement at Columbia, most
notably Revolt on the Campus (1935) and The Age of
Suspicion (1963) by James A. Wechsler '35 and Rebels Against
War (1969) by Lawrence S. Wittner '62.
Jacqueline Laks Gorman '77B,
attended Columbia in the middle '30s. And yes, I took the Oxford
Pledge (more than once). In the dorms, a group of friends had many
"bull sessions" on the war and peace issues. When the war did come
a few years later, all of the group of talkers chose to abandon the
pledge-except me. I stuck to it and was granted by Selective
Service a 4E status, and was required to spend close to four years
as a conscientious objector doing "work of material
has happened since that time has made me change my mind about the
evils of warfare.
Chuck Durand '36
Oxford Oath, you can tell Mr. Ricklin that I remember taking the
oath in the company of 3,000 other students, but that I have no
record of the year. My recollection was that it was taken at an
indoor gathering, either in the McMillan Theater or the gymnasium.
Also, I feel certain that it was not in 1936 but prior to that
time. I think that I would have lost some of my pacific leanings
after Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 (I remember that in
September 1935, while on a train going from Trieste to Paris, we
spread out on the wooden benches to discourage any of the draftees
who were boarding the train while we were in Italy from entering
the compartment) and certainly after France's rebellion against the
Spanish Republican government in 1936.
Asher J. Margolis '35 '37E
Saul Ricklin '39, whose question appeared in the November 1999
issue of CCT, the response is "No." You are not the only one
who remembers the Oxford Oath taken by many Columbia students back
in the '30s. However, Saul is slightly off on the date of this as I
have in my scrapbook the first page of the rotogravure section of
The New York Times which depicts the event when
approximately 2,500 students took the oath on South Field. The date
on the page is April 26, 1936, which means that the actual event
was a few days prior.
If my memory
is correct, the Oxford movement started in Oxford, England, and
gradually spread worldwide at the time.
the writer, as well as several of my Phi Gamma Delta brothers, are
in the photo. But, as anyone might guess, all renounced the pledge
later and proudly served in various services during World War
Bill Kraft '36
to Saul Ricklin's letter in the November 1999 issue of Columbia
College Today, let me say that I remember taking the Oxford
Oath (or Pledge) administered by the Rev. Allan Knight Chalmers,
minister of the Broadway Tabernacle, at the end of the annual
"Peace Strike" in 1937. The rally took place in the old gym;
hundreds of students from all parts of the University were present;
and most of us took the pledge.
It was called
the "Oxford Oath" because it originated at Oxford University in
England and was originally worded to pledge students "not to fight
for King or Country." That wording was adapted here to pledge us to
refuse to participate "in any war the United States might conduct."
While it seemed to the uninitiated to mean "refusal to go to war
under any circumstances," it was taken not only by absolute
pacifists but also by radicals who would not fight for the U.S. but
felt free theoretically to join the proletariat in a class war, or
actually in the case of the Communists, to support any war endorsed
by the Soviet Union.
campus Communists and their fellow travelers on campus were
trumpeting support for the "loyalists" in the Spanish Civil War and
for the "Popular Front" in western Europe. No longer for the Oxford
Oath, they took over the Peace Council at Columbia (and nationally,
the American Student Union). Socialists, pacifists and those who
agreed with us walked out and conducted our own peace demonstration
in McMillin Theatre. Norman Thomas was the lead speaker.
as Saul Ricklin writes, "almost all renounced the pledge as soon as
World War II began." But a few of us never renounced, and still
support, the oath we had taken. We refused to kill "for democracy"
abroad and pushed instead for full equality for black citizens
right here in the U.S. For George Houser, then a divinity student
at Union, and for me, this position led us to be among the founders
of the nonviolent Congress of Racial Equality in Chicago in 1942.
Others from Columbia College, including Albon Man '40, refused
military service and served time in federal prison.
James R. Robinson '39
NEW YORK CITY
note: These responses would indicate there were several rallies
involving the Oxford Oath during this period.
new "millennium" and the 40th year celebration of my graduation
from the College, issues and plain old simple things continue to
gnaw and bother me. Burr still kills Hamilton, Yale goes 1-9 to 9-1
in two years with a coach hired from Amherst, where by the way
Henry Steele Commager went after reaching Columbia's retirement
age. I have remained financially poor-middle class, where some of
my classmates are millionaires or even billionaires-that is a good
thing, though. My remaining poor, as my old great Humanities
professor Charles Van Doren would say, was pure tragedy-Greek
tragedy. He remains a great teacher to me. In fact, the Shentons,
Caseys, Graffs, Beesons, Van Dorens, Mills, Rabis and oh so many
more made my Columbia College experience mind-boggling. Half the
time I couldn't understand what they were saying or what they
meant, but after growing somewhat, I can now contemplate what was
To shorten my
letter, the last baffling thing to me is why does CC and CU remain
at about 30 percent participation in giving. Large amounts of
money, of course, have always been given by the few, but what about
the rest of my classmates from all classes? Let's stop being last
or near last. Let's give the bucks.
believe that Columbia, and many of the schools in the private
sector and some real good public schools, are what make this
Theodore C. Martin '60
NEW CITY, N.Y.