Letters To The Editor


More on Moore

I'd like to add a personal note to the material on Douglas Moore in "After More Than 50 Years, Music Hum Remains A Vital Part of the Core" (Fall, 1998). 

In addition to his virtuosity as a teacher, as mentioned, he seemed to us freshmen and sophomores, in his section of Music Hum, to be a fine human being, as well. I was in the course shortly after he'd won a Pulitzer Prize for his wonderful opera, The Ballad of Baby Doe, and just about the time it was being cast for its New York City premiere. He was never too busy, self-important or pre-occupied to miss projecting a beatific smile along with a "good morning" or "hello" if he passed you in the corridor or happened to ride down in the elevator with you. No condenscension, no superiority; one man to another.

In her autobiography Bubbles, Bevery Sills tells of auditioning, in Moore's presence, for the title role in the New York City Opera production of The Ballad of Baby Doe. She'd been told too many times that she was simply too tall for the role and was most self-conscious in that respect. She said, "Mr. Moore, this is how tall I am before I begin to sing for you and I'm going to be just as tall when I'm finished." As Sills writes: "Douglas was such a dear sweet man, such a perfect gentleman....He walked down the aisle to the stage and...said: ÎWhy Miss Sills, you look just perfect to me.'" She sang the beautiful aria, The Willow Song, from the opera. Moore walked down to the stage again, and said: "Miss Sills, you are Baby Doe."

It is the experience and memory of such teachers that result in so many cherishing a Columbia College education forever. It must have surely been someone just like Douglas Moore who motivated Henry Adams to observe: "A teacher affects eternity; his influence never stops."

Elliott M. Abramson '60
Coral Gables, Fla.

Kind Words

Congratulations on the Fall issue of Columbia College Today. The issue is first rate in every way and the color pictures make a great difference.

Congratulations to you, Tim, Donna, Shira, Dani, Jean-Claude and all the photographers for all your good work. And congratulations to you especially, Alex, for all that you have done in such a short period of time.

All best wishes.

Charles J. O'Byrne, S.J. '81
New York City

(Note: The writer is Vice President, Public Affairs for the Columbia College Alumni Association.)

On the Columbia Family

Wasn't it Confucius who said, ÎHow fortunate I am. Whenever I make a mistake, someone is bound to notice it?' I'm referring to the error in William B. Sanford's obituary and the error in Shirley Yoon's obituary in the Fall '98 issue. 

However, other thoughts come to mind when we see their names almost on the same page in the magazine. Their deaths, Mr. Sanford '30 after a long and successful life, and Miss Yoon '99, before she had even reached the goal of graduation, reminds us of the extent of our Columbia family.

With many others, I attended the memorial servies for Mr. Sanford in St. Paul's Chapel on July 22. I would now like to extend my condolences to Miss Yoon's family. I'm sure all of us in our Columbia family will join me in that.
Desmond J. Nunan, Sr. '50
Ocean City, N.J.

(Note: Sanford's name was misspelled in one reference while the year of Yoon's death was incorrect. She died on September 23, 1998. CCT regrets the errors.)

A plea against compromise

I enjoyed the Spring 1998 issue of CCT, but I need some help. On page 6 the College announced the very good news that applications topped 12,000 for '02, and moved ahead of Yale. Bravo.

Then pages 9-10 told me that Prof. James Mirollo, who chaired Lit Hum from 1985-93, had determined experientially that College freshmen cannot (or will not), on the balance, read a book a week, and thus should be discouraged from enrolling in CC and Humanities in the same year.

In the fall of my freshman year (1963) at Columbia I took CC, Humanities, French, Physics, and English Composition (13 weeks on Paradise Lost). I played soccer, and worked in the library. I was not an exceptional student by the standards of my class, and not much of an athlete, but my load was normal. I didn't finish a lot of books, but I found the joint content of CC and Humanities a life-altering experience, offering an inspiring vision, however hazy, of the continuity of civilization and the unity of knowledge, a vision that I have never relinquished.

My question is this: by what measure is the College moving onward and upward if, in 12,000 applicants, the College cannot turn up 955 who can read a book a week without flinching? Might not a modest inquiry into the reading histories and capacities of applicants provide the College with information that could produce an entering class capable, whatever their mean SAT, of a book a week in Lit Hum and a simultaneous encounter in CC with some of the more significant philosophical and political ideas of the last three millennia? It seems a better idea than abandoning the fundamental curricular strategy and commitment that has always distinguished Columbia from all the rest. If we have such a rich applicant pool, why should we compromise the brilliant introductory promise of the Columbia freshman year?
Mott T. Greene '67
Tacoma, Wash.