LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Seeing the Light
Professor Wm. Theodore de Bary ’41’s superb article
regarding the history and evolution of Asian Humanities [January
2004] struck a responsive chord.
De Bary’s prescient and intuitive intellect gave this pre-med
alum the superb opportunity to participate in a two-year major,
known in the early and mid-’60s as Oriental Civilization.
As a pre-med, my first two years were fully occupied with the usual
deadly science requirements, as well as with the Core Curriculum.
I realized then that I would never have the option to be exposed
to this great culture that flourished well before Western civilization.
It seemed to me that when we were muddling about in the Dark Ages,
the Orient had the cognitive ability to see the light.
I thank de Bary and his colleagues for that educational enlightenment.
Laurance J. Guido ’65, ’69 P&S
New York City
Citing the information offered by Leo Wong ’68 [March
2004] questioning Clement C. Moore’s authorship of “A
Visit From St. Nicholas,” “good scholars and readers
of up-to-date reference works” may not agree with Mr. Wong’s
reliance on the research of Professor Don Foster of Vassar, who
attributes the poem to Henry Livingston.
The reliability of Professor Foster’s conclusions are open
to serious questions (www.americagallery.com/controversy.shtml
Although Henry Livingston penned a number of lighthearted poems,
there is no direct evidence that “A Visit From St. Nicholas”
was one of them. Until additional evidence is forthcoming, the authorship
of Clement C. Moore would appear to remain intact.
Seymour M. Gluck ’47
On November 6, 1948, I rowed in the Columbia lightweight varsity
shell against the Dartmouth heavyweight crew on the Connecticut
River at Hanover, N.H. On November 8, the student newspaper, The
Dartmouth, related that the Dartmouth crew won by somewhat over
a length and gave the boating of the Dartmouth crew but not of the
Columbia crew. I have asked the Columbia Athletics Department, but
apparently there is no record of the boating. If there are any other
survivors of the “mystery crew,” will you please let
me know? You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arthur L. Thomas ’50
Praise for St. Paul’s
On January 14, I attended a program of music at Columbia by Nicholas
Gombert (1495–1560) and Thomas Crecquillon (1505–1557),
performed by the Vox Vocal Ensemble, directed by Peter Phillips.
The program was superb; the singing and conduction extraordinary.
But just as important, if not more so, was where the works were
performed: St. Paul’s Chapel, which is for me the most beautiful
and architecturally significant building on campus. It was among
the first buildings in New York to be landmarked by the New York
City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Some of the circumstances relating to its construction bear telling.
In 1903, Olivia Egleston Phelps Stokes and her sister, Caroline,
offered Columbia the then-considerable sum of $200,000 for the construction
of the new chapel — with the proviso that their nephew, I.N.
Phelps Stokes, a graduate of the Columbia School of Architecture
and the Beaux Arts in Paris, design the building.
The trustees and President Nicholas Murray Butler were in a quandary.
The prospect of a chapel with the concomitant money to pay for its
construction was welcome news indeed. But this would be the young
architect’s first important commission — and his design
would be measured against the work of Charles Follen McKim, dean
of American architects, designer of the grand plan for the University
and its official architect.
In the brilliance of his diplomacy in dealing with McKim, the trustees
and the imperious Butler but more importantly in his design for
the chapel, the young Phelps Stokes showed himself to be worthy
of Isaac Newton, his illustrious namesake. He even managed to secure
more money from his aunts so that his building would be of quality
Listing the architectural details of the chapel is not the purpose
of this letter, only details relating to what I could observe tightly
wedged as I was between my warmly clad neighbors. The cruciform
design of the chapel, the interlocking domes, the elaborate design
of the harmoniously colored brickwork — all resulted in not
only outstanding design but also in probably the best acoustics
in New York City.
The performance took place on what may have been the coldest night
of the year. Despite the weather, the chapel was packed, a tribute
not only to the quality of the performance but to the stamina of
members of the Columbia community and to their awareness and appreciation
of the University’s cultural offerings.
Nis Petersen ’51
New York City
John Jay Awards
I notice a conspicuous absence of artists and writers among the
recipients of the John Jay Awards. As a poet, I resent your narrow
definition of “distinguished professional achievement,”
which (except in the case of Stephanie Falcone Bernik ’89)
seems to have more to do with financial success than anything else.
This narrow definition seems to contradict the values we were taught
in such mind-expanding courses as Literature Humanities and Contemporary
Jeffrey Harrison ’80
Recipients of the John Jay Award have included composer John
Corigliano ’59, pianist Emanuel Ax ’70, artist
Jack Stuppin ’55, playwrights Tony Kushner ’78
and Terrence McNally ’60, filmmakers Brian DePalma ’62
and Ric Burns ’78, actors George Segal ’55 and
Brian Dennehy ’60, editor Jason Epstein ’49, writers
Allen Ginsberg ’48 and Gerald Green ’42 and singer
Art Garfunkel ’65, as well as journalists, including
Roone Arledge ’52, Max Frankel ’52, Lee Guittar
’53, Lawrence Grossman ’52, Leonard Koppett ’44,
Claire Shipman ’86, George Stephanopoulos ’82
and Richard Wald ’52.
CCT welcomes letters from readers about articles
in the magazine, but cannot print or personally respond to
all letters received. All letters are subject to editing for
space and clarity. Please direct letters for publication “to
Editor, Columbia College Today
475 Riverside Dr., Ste 917
New York, NY 10115-0998
Telephone: (212) 870-2752
Fax: (212) 870-2747