Simply the Best
A Shining Light on   Broadway



Ric Burns '78
Ronald Mason Jr. '74
Victor Wouk '39


Broadened Horizons

Dani 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.

Dani's 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 Columbia.

Thank you Dani and CCT for broadening my horizons.

Sasha Thomas-Nuruddin '93

Core Supporter

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 program.

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.

Carl Woodring

You're Welcome

Belated 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 Lerner Hall

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

Spec's 100 Greatest

Thanks for 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

Editor's 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."

I was 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 years.

Alfred P. Rubin '52

What were 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.

The February 2000 issue of Columbia College Today is another fine one. Congratulations.

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.

Ben Johnson '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

Editor's 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.

Gehrig is 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.

Gehrig was 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, " I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth," has been called by many baseball's Gettysburg Address.

Columbia can 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

More on Professor Steeves

I was 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 visit.

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 me!

Mark Patkowski '74

A Missed Calling?

James P. Shenton '49

Professor 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 unfolding.

As he did then, Professor Shenton girds my study of history. Regretfully, I've never thanked him-I do so now.

Roar on, Lions.

Scott Smith '86

The Oxford Oath

In the 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 anti-war gospel."

Various books 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, '83GSAS

Yes, I 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 importance."

Nothing that has happened since that time has made me change my mind about the evils of warfare.


Chuck Durand '36

Regarding the 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

To answer 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.

Incidentally, 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 II.

Bill Kraft '36

In response 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.

By 1938, 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.

"Of course," 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

Editor's note: These responses would indicate there were several rallies involving the Oxford Oath during this period.

Gnawing Matters

Entering the 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 said.

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.

I truly believe that Columbia, and many of the schools in the private sector and some real good public schools, are what make this country great.

Theodore C. Martin '60

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