John Jay Dinner 2002
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Columbia College Fund
  Turns 50


Roar Lion Roar



Back in Class

Hilary Ballon’s article on “The Architecture of Columbia” was great — I felt as if I was back in my Art Humanities class.

The McKim, Mead & White 1915 plan reprinted on page 19 of CCT shows a symmetrical campus. Some buildings were never constructed, but there is a building on the campus not shown on the plan. I refer to the old red brick building (now known as Buell Hall) up on the level of the Kent Hall entrance; it predates the 1915 plan and is inconsistent with the symmetry and architecture of the campus.

My understanding is that it was one of the buildings of the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum when the Asylum sold its property to Columbia. According to the sale transaction, Columbia agreed never to destroy that building. Indeed, at one time, it was located down at the 116th Street level (now College Walk) and it was moved up to its present level later.

Based on the 1915 plan, it appears that it was intended that the old building would not remain on the campus. Is it true that it is still there because of some condition of the original purchase?
By the way, in my office we displayed a large 1881 map of New York on which the site of the current Columbia campus is marked by a green rectangle on which the words “Lunatic Asylum” appear. I never miss an opportunity to point that out to Columbia graduates.

Paul R. Herman ’58, ’61L

[Editor’s note: According to Professor Ballon, Mr. Herman is correct. A stipulation of the purchase of the campus site was that the former Bloomingdale Asylum would not be destroyed.]

A brief correction to Hilary Ballon’s interesting piece on the Columbia campus in your January issue, in which she states that Butler Library “was not named after President Butler until 1949, a year after his retirement.” Such a date would, I am afraid, have required a posthumous resignation, something even he would have been incapable of. Butler retired in 1945, the library was named after him in 1946, and he died in 1947.

Michael Rosenthal
Roberta and William Campbell
Professor in the Humanities

Professor Wallace Gray

I was saddened to read in the March issue of CCT of the death of Wallace Gray.

I noted in your tribute to Professor Gray the omission of his course in public speaking, which predated his full professorship and popular course on Eliot, Joyce and Pound. Those of us who were fortunate enough to attend his course in those days were transformed into adept public speakers through his inspired teaching and personal attention to each student in the class.

To this day, when I receive a compliment on a speech I have given, I always tell the person: “Thanks, but I really owe it all to a college professor of mine named Wallace Gray.”

John C. Dibble ’68

Columbia Basketball

When Armond Hill was hired as basketball coach, it seemed like a good idea. His credentials were superior: former NBA player, assistant coach in Princeton’s excellent program, commanding presence, polish, black American capable of attracting minority athletes … what more could one expect? However, the results have been most disappointing. He has not been a successful coach.

The past several years of mediocre performance might have been excused by lack of talent and key injuries. This year was to be the true test, because he had excellent talent at his disposal. Not only was Craig Austin ’02 one of the Ivy League’s top players, but he was supported by other excellent shooters in Joe Case ’02 and Treg Duerksen ’02, and enough height for the team to hold its own under the boards, a rarity for the Lions. With an 11–17 record overall and a 4–10 Ivy League record, the team clearly underperformed with this material.

A fundamental problem is that Coach Hill has never been able to develop an effective offense. When Columbia reaches the offensive half of the court, the ball moves without purpose around the fringe, with no employment of basic picks or other standard devices that would create open jump shots. Plays should have been run so that Austin got at least 15 open touches a game, or if he were doubled to prevent this, Case or Duerksen would have been free. And then there is the question of reaching the offensive end. The Princeton game on February 1 was the most dramatic of several examples of a fundamental inability to cope with the press.

Other examples of bad coaching could be offered, such as allowing an open three-point shot with a two-point lead and seconds remaining (the last Princeton game). However, one of the most disturbing problems is Hill’s referee baiting. Not only does this result in technical fouls that can lose a game, but it distracts from concentration on how to correct problems as they are occurring and is a deplorable example of bad sportsmanship.

One hopes that the Athletics Department is not in denial about this coaching situation. If Columbia has not succeeded with this group, there is little hope that Coach Hill can produce a successful program in the future. As hard as it would be to start over with a new coach, sometimes this is the step that must be taken.

Richard D. Kuhn ’55

[Editor’s note: Director of Athletics John A. Reeves responds:]
Mr. Kuhn and I agree that when Armond Hill was hired in 1995, it “seemed like a good idea.” Mr. Kuhn points out that coach Hill and his staff recruited well. The players mentioned, Craig Austin, Joe Case and Treg Duerksen, are exceptional, as are other young men on the team.

Since the appointment of Armond Hill, Columbia basketball has improved significantly. The overall record during his seven years as head coach is 70–116, in contrast to 56–126 during the seven-year period before he was named head coach.

A more objective measure of program improvement is the Ratings Percentage Index. The RPI is a nationally recognized standard that takes into consideration won-loss records and strength of schedules. When Armond Hill assumed the leadership of our basketball program in 1995, our RPI was 298; today it is 214. This means that the Columbia basketball program has passed, and is better than, 84 more Division I teams compared to what it was before Armond’s arrival.
The Columbia basketball program appears to be going in the right direction and I plan to continue to provide Armond Hill, his staff and players with full support.

John A. Reeves

P.S.: Mr. Kuhn, Armond Hill asked me to extend an offer to you to meet with him and personally discuss your concerns.

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