Letters to the Editor

One-of-a-Kind Authority


About too few in this world can it be said that they were “one of a kind.” Yet one person emblematic of that accolade was Phil Schaap ’73, who sadly passed away in September after a lengthy illness. [Editor’s note: See “Obituaries.”]

For several generations, Phil was the jazz mainstay of WKCR. He was, among other exploits, a record producer, recording engineer, liner-note writer and even a nightclub impresario (read: The West End). But most of all, he was a great teacher, a great talker and, seemingly oxymoronically, a great listener.

His passion was teaching others about the wonders of jazz and its great musical contributors by explaining how to appreciate the music through listening. His knowledge was encyclopedic, and he could endlessly expound upon such details as Charlie “Bird” Parker’s brief comment on take five of Bird’s 1944 record date with Tiny Grimes — where Bird uttered the phrase “It’s a drag!” at the conclusion of “Romance Without Finance.”

It was Phil who described Bird and his compatriot and fellow genius John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie as “two halves of a heartbeat.” Phil often would cry out “Bird lives!” during his early morning broadcast, Bird Flight.

Phil mentored and inspired numerous WKCR jazz personalities, including Sid Gribetz ’77; Cliff Preiss ’85, TC’06; Sharif Abdus-Salaam ’74; Matthew “Fat Cat” Rivera ’18; and Charles Iselin SEAS’15, SEAS’20.

My son Ken, formerly general manager and program director of WHRB-FM (Harvard Radio) in Cambridge, Mass., himself a noted jazz authority, also cites Phil as an influence.

Yes, “Bird lives!” But also, “Phil Schaap lives!”

Andrew B. Schultz ’64
Franklin Square, N.Y.

Remembering a Great Educator and Friend

Yesterday, with deep sadness, I learned of Professor Deborah Martinsen’s passing. [Editor’s note: See “Around the Quads”/ In Memoriam.] She was, of course, a major contributor to Russian and comparative literature, but I am compelled to point out the vital role she played for alumni like me.

I graduated from the College too long ago to have been one of Professor Martinsen’s students. Instead, we met when I was an alumnus, more than 15 years ago, through the Mini-Core Courses she planned and implemented for alumni seeking ongoing learning.

It was the beginning of a wonderful relationship. Professor Martinsen’s enthusiasm for lifelong education was overflowing and infectious, and she breathed life into the College’s alumni education program. Before the Mini-Cores, I took courses and read on my own, but my connection to the fundamental texts of the Core Curriculum had become attenuated.

Professor Martinsen gave alumni like me a path to reconnect and reinforce our bond with the fundamental texts and ideas that, like the Core, helped shape us as undergraduates and continue to be so important in the pursuit of a good life.

Over many years, I got to know and chat with Professor Martinsen before and after classes — about the readings, the College, family, work and everything in between. Early on, I attended these courses with my father (a CC’54) and mother, and Professor Martinsen got to know them as well. When their age and illnesses forced them to stop attending, Professor Martinsen always reached out to inquire of them with genuine concern and empathy.

I am so deeply appreciative of the immense time, effort and passion that Professor Martinsen devoted to bringing alumni closer to alma mater and each other. She provided us with an invaluable and genuine lifelong learning opportunity. I hope that the Mini-Core program continues as a perpetual testament to a great educator and friend.

John V. Vincenti ’90
Glen Rock, N.J.

Cover Love

My compliments on the cover of the Fall 2021 issue. I find myself repeatedly looking at it and smiling. Congrats to the artist, Eleni Kalorkoti.

Joseph L. Romanelli ’62

Pride for Olympic Performances

I asked my rowing coach if she had any videos of elite rowing races. In the one that she gave me, I saw that she was in the Olympics. Upon returning the video, I said, “Barb, you didn’t tell me that you were in the Olympics!”

She replied, “I came in last.”

I said, “That means that you were sixth in the world!”

It warmed my heart to read “Congratulations, Olympic Lions!” (Fall 2021, “Roar, Lion, Roar”), a fusillade against the ramparts of first-place obsession.

Larry Shaper SEAS’65
Thetford Center, Vt.