Columbia Connections
Max on Boxing
Reunion 2002





CPU’s Origins

It was good to read about the re-emergence of the CPU in your May 2002 issue. The group was first organized in 1952–53. I was privileged to be the founder and first president. In those years, it was called the Columbia Political Assembly. I remember visiting Yale, and, with my colleagues, modeling the organization after the Yale political union. I wish the reborn organization well.

Nicholas Wolfson ’53

Not a Bad Job

I enjoyed reading your July 2002 article about Ben Stein ’66. Your description of his career certainly demonstrates that he is, indeed, “Not Your Average Game Show Host.” Fortunately, his experience working as a staff lawyer at the Federal Trade Commission (“the worst job I ever had”) is also atypical. Most of the commission staff love working to protect American consumers from harm stemming from violations of antitrust or consumer protection laws. At the same time, the FTC has a remarkable group of alumni who remember with great fondness their work at the commission. Perhaps Mr. Stein could visit us the next time he is in Washington. I would be happy to show him how much fun we’re having!

Mozelle W. Thompson ’76

[Editor’s note: The writer is a commissioner of the United States Federal Trade Commission.]

Changing Careers

I enjoyed reading the articles on career change in the July 2002 issue. Many of us have indeed found that at different stages of our lives we are moved to explore different kinds of work. We choose a new path that will be more meaningful, more personally fulfilling, or just more fun. These new pursuits call on different strengths than did our former jobs, and develop different parts of our character. It can be quite an adventure!

I’m curious how many other alumni have made a similar career shift to mine. Four years ago, I left a 14-year career as an actuary to be a full-time at-home mother. I gave up money for time, status for fulfillment, office politics for personal growth, and regular adult conversation for deeper friendships. All in all, it has been a delightful and most worthwhile exchange.

Anyone who has made a similar transition is invited to write to me at

Ilana Sobel ‘89


Those who read coverage of the Philolexian Society’s 200th anniversary celebration (July 2002) might have blinked twice at my remarks about the diversity of Philo’s membership. “No other campus group,” I was quoted as saying, “so readily accommodates more libertines, reactionaries and radicals, feminists and misanthropes, aesthetes and bohemians, the doctrinaire and the unorthodox.”

Given the distinguished roster of Philo alumni such as Secretary of State Hamilton Fish (1827), U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Blatchford (1837), New York City mayors Abram S. Hewitt (1842) and John Purroy Mitchel (1899), poets Joyce Kilmer ’08 and John Berryman ’36, Oscar-winning screenwriters Sidney Buchman ’23, William Ludwig ’32 and I.A.L. Diamond ’41, publishers Alfred Harcourt ’04 and Robert Giroux ’36, and humanist Trappist monk Thomas Merton ’38, it must have seemed odd that I would give top billing to our more debauched joiners. And indeed I didn’t. What I actually said was that “No other campus group so readily accommodates monarchists and anarchists, libertarians and libertines” ... and so on.

You wrote, too, of the greetings sent by Philo graduates Ben Stein ’66 and Theodore Hoffman ’44. It might be noted that at our dinner, we also conveyed a charming letter from our past president, Jacques Barzun ’27. Alluding to our periodic moments of decrepitude, Jacques suggested that even “when Philolexian is not active and visible, it is still alive like the Holy Roman Emperor Barbarossa under his mountain, ready to reawaken and emerge in an instant.” He was quite right, and in this we remain true to our enduring motto, “Surgam” — “I shall rise.”

Thomas Vinciguerra '85

[Editor’s note: The writer is Avatar of the Philolexian Society.]

Columbia Athletics

I read with great interest the various letters to the editor on Columbia athletics. Those who have submitted letters thus far should be commended because they bring important points to the fore. Let me raise two more:

First, the College and the University excel in everything they do except athletics, especially the “major” sports. To have such a continuing public display of failure to succeed in this very public area is an embarrassment, and, I think, probably hurts our reputation and recruitment.

Second, while it is true that the University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Emory and NYU (to name a few) are other research universities that do not do any better than Columbia in athletics, they have not made the public commitment to excel (or to at least be competitive in the Ivy League) that we have made on numerous occasions. Therefore, failure in the face of a repeatedly reasserted commitment only draws more attention to our poor athletic record.

If there is something inherently problematic about Columbia that makes it impossible for us to recruit the same quality of coaches and/or athletes as the other Ivy League colleges do, then we need to identify the problem and address it. Otherwise, if there is no such impediment, we simply need to get about the job of improving our program. Through the work of the last two athletic administrations, we now have excellent facilities in which to compete. It’s now time to recruit the coaches and athletes with whom to compete with the other Ivy League colleges.

Lee J. Dunn Jr. ’66

I was impressed by the restrained, logical yet passionate tone of recent letters concerning Columbia athletics. I believe, however, there is one important aspect of the problem that cannot be emphasized enough: the impact of this mediocrity on the University, its friends and supporters, faculty and administrators, trustees, but most important of all, our students. What kind of message are we giving them? Throughout my career, I have been ever thankful for the opportunity given me to attend Columbia University. My many fond memories include the presence, on campus, of a great athlete, acknowledged by his peers to be one of the best ever — Sid Luckman ’39. Roar, Lions, Roar!

C.E. “Tuba Charley” Newlon ’41

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