Letters to the Editor

Columbia University

Courtesy Columbia University Archives

Sources of Insight

Thanks so much for the Core Curriculum origin story (Winter 2019–20, “First Class”). Fifty years have passed since I took CC, Literature Humanities and Art Humanities. These three courses were among the most valuable experiences of my intellectual development in college. The other was organic chemistry, a foundation of my education and work as a physician. All four have remained at the core of my intellect throughout my adult life.

I have thought back to CC, Literature Humanities and Art Humanities thousands of times. They ground me. They are a source of reflection and insight. Especially now, they help put the political circumstances of our nation in perspective.

No work of literature has meant more to me than Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave. The story is so simple that at the time I wondered what the fuss was about. Yet many events and relationships of my life have recalled this allegory of the difference between appearance and reality, and the awakening of understanding.

Something else: In the years since, I have learned that I am slightly dyslexic. I suspect that in the early 1960s, when I took CC and Humanities, few people knew about dyslexia, much less understood what it is. Though mine is mild, it still dramatically reduces my reading speed. You can guess how this affected my participation in CC and Humanities.

After college, I continued to read portions of the assigned works. Yet even though I have read in full almost none of them, I think I understand today much of what the works are about, and I continue to refer to them, often opening the volumes I bought back then.

Only Art Humanities was unaffected by my dyslexia, and to this day I love art, attend lectures on artists and paintings, and go to art museums frequently.

Richard Kapit ’67
Rockville, Md.

Delightful Discovery

Upon receiving the Winter 2019–20 issue, I immediately turned to the article on the origins of Contemporary Civilization (“First Class”) where, to my delight, on page 23, I found a photograph taken by my father, Bernard Sunshine ’46, of sailors ascending the steps to Hamilton Hall.

My father, now 92 and going strong, got a kick out of seeing it, too. The picture was taken during WWII, though, not WWI, as the caption suggests.

Andrew Sunshine ’79
New York City

[Editor’s note: CCT is also delighted to learn who the photographer was — one of our former class correspondents, in fact! Thank you for the ID, and we apologize for the caption error.]

Lifelong Learning

I write in response to Dean James J. Valentini’s invitation in the Winter 2019–20 issue’s “Message from the Dean,” “We want to hear how the Core has informed, guided and enlightened your life journey.”

I entered Columbia College with the Class of 1958, but after one year left to spend four years rising to the rank of sergeant in the Marine Corps. I was readmitted, as a member of the Class of 1962, but actually graduated in September 1961 after completing a three-credit summer class while working full-time for the New York Daily News.

My fragmented attendance record left me without the supportive network of longtime classmates that many graduates enjoy. But I carried away something even more valuable.

When I returned to the College after leaving the Marine Corps, my roommate and I were both taking Contemporary Civilization, but with different instructors. We would discuss the readings and arrive at a point saying, “I get the basic idea here, but what about this?” We’d go to class the next day and ask, “What about this?” That issue would be addressed in the next reading. Uncanny, no? Of course not — CC was designed to lead you from one idea to another.

I reluctantly signed up for Music Humanities, which turned out to be taught by an associate conductor of the New York Philharmonic. He would fill the blackboard with scales and notes, play a bit of Beethoven, then jab at the blackboard with a long pointer so could we see the notes that were thundering through the room. I now have nearly 200 operas on CD.

Through the years, I have slowly reread all of the classics I raced through to meet Literature Humanities deadlines, and they have enriched my life.

Most of all, I remember my writing teacher, George Knobbe. Midway through the year, he broke his leg. Instead of turning the class over to a substitute, he had us meet in his Morningside Heights apartment. We would sit on the carpeted floor of his small living room and learn how to put our thoughts into our own words.

The valuable jewel that I carried away from Columbia, and the truth that Columbia taught me, is that learning is fun. I’ve been a student ever since.

Donald C. Dilworth ’61
Silver Spring, Md.

Taste Test

Pizzeria Lola

Pizzeria Lola

How superb that chef Ann Kim ’95 (Winter 2019–20, “Fire Power”) is spicing up Midwestern cuisine. Within minutes of finishing the article, we turned off the stove and raced to Pizzeria Lola. We can report the pizzas are as fine as any we’ve tasted in New York, New Haven and even Naples. Brava!

Dr. Norbert Hirschhorn ’58, PS’62

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