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Columbia College Today September 2004
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Between the Covers

Commencement 2004

As Columbia College parents, we really enjoyed your July issue of Columbia College Today. The new graphical layout of the cover gives the magazine a nice contemporary lift but more importantly, what is “between the covers” continues to impress us. Just three years ago, we watched the mailbox daily hoping for a thick package from Admissions — now we find we can start to see the top of the hill as our son enters his senior year. Through this period, CCT has been a great link to the College, as it is difficult for us West Coast types to attend the various parent events.

This issue’s “Flouting Convention, Parts I and II” were of particular interest to us, as we begin to wonder what career path our future CC grad will pursue. At first, my wife and I pondered the concept of a career in the handicapping or poker industries, but it struck us that you had profiled two extraordinary individuals who had once again demonstrated that perseverance, hard work and talent can result in remarkable achievement, regardless of what field one chases. The importance of passion as a catalyst was nicely identified in these pieces.

Tony Kushner [’78]’s Class Day address also was a kick to read and another testament to the wonderful alumni the College produces. So, congrats on a beautiful new format, and we look forward to each issue to help us stay connected to CC during the coming year.

Robert and Midori Stanton P’05
Palo Alto, Calif.


Thank you for printing the full text of Tony Kushner ’78’s Class Day address to the “redeemers and rescuers” of the Class of 2004. As an openly gay alumnus, I was thrilled to have this extremely talented and hard-working openly gay playwright be chosen as this year’s speaker, and extra pleased that CCT saw fit to print the entire stirring text. Not only did Tony call on our youthful fellow Columbians to “change the world,” but he was such a mensch about it, showing appreciation and respect for the parents, praising the campus so poetically as “this most beautiful brick and stony womb,” describing a Columbia education as “superlative” and suggesting that even Republicans in the crowd have a role in weeding out the “boodle-minded misadventurers.”

Allen Young ’62, ’64J
Orange, Mass.

Another View

I read with dismay the infantile ramblings of Tony Kushner ’78 that passed for a Class Day address. If the powers that be wanted a left-wing political diatribe, why not pick someone with better credentials, as for example, Nancy Pelosi?

But more discouraging, as no one should care what Kushner’s political views are, was his tired call to man the picket lines and “Save the World.” How much more significant it would have been (you need to live in the real world to grasp this) to exhort the new graduates to be entrepreneurs, start new businesses, hire and train new workers, especially the disadvantaged, and in general, promote the virtues of capitalism throughout the world.

Edward C. Broge ’43
Glen Mills, Pa.

I read with distress Tony Kushner ’78’s Class Day speech. Mr. Kushner shows writing ability of a sort, as he mentions numerous times that he is allotted only eight minutes for his talk and yet still manages to deliver a speech that seems eternal. Doubtless, 1960s liberalism is still in fashion at Columbia, but must that fashion be so garish and sloppy? Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Louis Henkin or Joseph Stiglitz could have delivered an address that was liberal and thoughtful, admittedly a difficult feat, but one within the realm of possibility.

Compare Mr. Kushner’s remarks to the commencement speech at Hillsdale College, delivered by Edwin Feulner of the Heritage Foundation. Dr. Feulner’s speech (, which concerned the current intolerance of conservatives and liberals, was nuanced, thoughtful and even self-critical (there’s an unexplored literary avenue for you, Tony!). That Dr. Feulner’s speech was given at little Hillsdale College and Kushner’s at Columbia is depressing. However, don’t worry, Mr. Kushner; don’t worry, President Bollinger. The comparison is only depressing if you stop and think about it.

William M. Carey ’81
St. Louis

Pursuing Wealth

Is the accumulation of wealth the sole criterion for a useful, productive life? My grandfather, also a Columbia graduate, and I never felt that way. In articles that should have been in a Las Vegas tabloid rather than Columbia College Today (“Flouting Convention, Parts I and II,” July), two professional gamblers are glorified. Remember, Jimmy the Greek’s broadcast career came to an ignominious end. Perhaps a third article about Jack Molinas [’53] should have been included, or Chet Forte [’57].

Richard R. Feder ’69 M.D.
Wheeling, W.Va.

Playwright Tony Kushner [’78]’s charge to the Class of 2004 that “you will rescue us from these dreadful, dreadful people ... ” (page 7, July) is tragically undone on pages 20–23 of the same issue of Columbia College Today. The frantic, unmitigated greed for money that permeates the words on these pages and seems to drive the lives of Wayne Root ’83 and Annie Duke ’87, with no redeeming social value unless you count “and as soon as I have enough money I will run for the U.S. Senate” (page 21) or “she’ll definitely be able to achieve her goals of ‘earning a living, putting my kids through college and owning a nice home’” (page 23) is sickening, or did I miss something here?

We are so obsessed with pointing fingers at our current administration that it seems we are profoundly failing to see from whence they come. Like Michael Moore, I say, “Shame on you, Columbia. Shame on you.”

Carol Coffin P’98
Glenside, Pa.

Reading List

Leafing through the May 2004 issue of CCT, my eye was caught by a full-page photo of Irwin Edman ’17, from whom I took an upper-division course in philosophy of art. I was surprised to read that he had been one of the founders of the Humanities course that I took in 1937–38, my freshman year. A few pages further, the reading list for that course was given, and I detected three errors: We started with Homer’s Odyssey, not Iliad, and Greek historians Herodotus and Thucydides were missing from the list. Not trusting my faltering memory I contacted Bob Wallerstein ’41, our class valedictorian, and he confirmed my observations.

Leon Henkin ’41
Berkeley, Calif.


Not that anyone at Michigan (and now at Columbia) will listen, but the appointment of a special diversity individual for anything is a mistake. As there is no generic anything, be it black, white, woman and so forth, diversity training usually is meaningless.

True diversity is simple: Treat everyone as an individual, with dignity and respect. If you approach individuals with an open mind and treat them with respect, they will end up teaching you about their culture, and you are unlikely to offend them. If you treat them as a generic anything, you are bound to offend.

R. Alexander Blackwood ’76 M.D.
Saline, Mich.

A Teacher Remembered

I was saddened to read the obituary of Paul Schweitzer ’29, an educator (July). He was my English teacher at the Bronx H.S. of Science, and I can remember his keen wit a half-century later.

In January 1954, when Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio, Schweitzer announced to our class, with feigned optimism, “This is a marriage certain to last many, many months.” They were divorced in October.

Gerald W. Grumet ’59 M.D.
Rochester, N.Y.


Let’s hope the use of “student-athletes” [in May] is Columbia College Today’s last. The term was devised years ago by a football factory trying to persuade the public that its Hessians were bone fide students. Its use became widespread when others engaged in prostituting college athletics quickly and enthusiastically adopted it. It has no place, however, in a Columbia publication. Columbia’s athletes, like all other students engaged in extra-curricular activities, have met its admission requirements and are taking full courses. Columbia only demeans itself (and its athletes) when it uses the term.

John McCormack ’39

[Editor’s note: Former Director of Athletics John Reeves replies, “Student-athlete is the universally accepted term. ‘Columbia athlete’ would be demeaning, leading one to believe that his/her purpose at Columbia is to participate in athletics.” Dean of Student Affairs Chris Colombo concurred, saying, “Student-athlete is the accepted term in today’s world.”]


A solution to the need to reconfigure the Columbia campus is to move Grant’s Tomb to General Grant’s birthplace, Point Pleasant, Ohio, or to where he lived in his final days and passed on at Mount McGregor, N.Y., or to West Point. Columbia and New York City can then trade this property and adjacent property on Riverside Drive for the athletic facilities at the tip of Manhattan Island. This integration of the Columbia campus would be a boon to the students, who could then walk only a few blocks to athletic facilities for training and competitions. It also would benefit the city, giving it the opportunity to provide facilities for institutions local to northern Manhattan and the Bronx.

Arthur L. Thomas ’50
Greenwich, Conn.

I share the excitement that the University, the city and the neighborhood feel about the development of the [Manhattanville] area. While certainly the enhancement and integration of our academic campus and residential facilities, with the attendant economic benefit for the neighborhood, appropriately occupy the position as the top planning priorities, I believe that the University should consider using some of the new area for other important purposes. For example, I have not read or heard of plans to include a “green space” by the Hudson River, west of 12th Avenue, as a recreational field that can serve as an intramural sports recreational facility for College undergraduates and as a varsity football practice field.

I was heartened by President Lee C. Bollinger’s expression, soon after he assumed the presidency and in light of his Michigan experience, that the performance of Columbia’s intercollegiate teams, and especially the football and men’s basketball teams, should be improved to reflect the level of excellence for research and scholarship that the University has earned and now enjoys in worldwide academic circles.

The football coaching staff’s opportunities to compete with other Ivy League football programs for outstanding student-athletes would be improved immeasurably by creating the University’s practice facilities in closer proximity to the College dormitory complex. Potential football recruits (and their parents) have found the task of charter bus travel from the College dormitories to Baker Field for their afternoon practices to be a necessary inconvenience that operates, in my judgment, as a recruiting impediment because it adds travel time to their tight academic and practice schedules.

If the University is to help the football coaching staff to raise the level of performance of the varsity to the same level as the University’s reputation for excellence, the removal of the football practice travel time obstacle, by the allocation of some of the Manhattanville project to a practice field (with some scheduled community use, perhaps) would go a long way to round out the project’s student faculty objectives.

Stephen E. Ronai ’57
New Haven, Conn.



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 the editor.”

Editor, Columbia College Today
475 Riverside Dr., Ste 917
New York, NY 10115-0998
Telephone: (212) 870-2752
Fax: (212) 870-2747



CCT thanks alert readers Amiel Z. Rudavsky ’54 and Don Gertler ’79 for bringing to our attention an error in the July issue’s cryptogram (inside back cover). The code in No. 13 should have corresponded to the Graduate (not Craduate) School of Journalism.

Also in July, in "Alumni Reconnect at Reunion 2004," the link on page 14 referring readers to a website about Columbia’s underground tunnels should have read page2.html.





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