Comment

The Alumni Network

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The tradition of Ephs helping Ephs along the job path is an old one (“The Alumni Network,” summer 2014). My father, Frank Coan, Class of 1911, was helped into a government job by Williams President Phinney Baxter, Class of 1914 and a high official in the Office of Strategic Services. My first job was in the State Department, where my boss was Clinton Knox ’30, head of research for Europe and subsequently an ambassador. My first management job, starting a new marketing division, was for Bill Klopman ’43, president of Klopman Mills and later CEO of Burlington, the nation’s largest textile company. The key recommendation came from my classmate Jack Heineman ’45. Later, in my role as the first full-time fundraiser for the NAACP, I was helped by Robert Allen ’43, treasurer of Cincinnati Bell Telephone, who gathered the movers and shakers of the city to meet the new head of the association.

—Stuart Coan ’45, Greenwich, Conn.

A Spiritual Instrument

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The article on Cole Porter’s piano (“A Spiritual Instrument,” summer 2014) brought back memories of the late fall of 1964, when college librarian Wyllis Wright, Class of 1925, called to ask: “How would you like to go with me and see what Cole Porter has left us?” I joined him at the small house on West Main Street. In the bedroom, three walls were filled with shelves holding books of American and world literature, many of them signed by the authors with a greeting to Mr. Porter. The main room, where the piano was located, held more shelves filled with books about music and musical scores. The Bechstein piano, from before WWII, was not in great shape—the sounding board had some cracks in it, and the action and tone were uneven. We put it into the salon of what today is Weston Hall. It turned out that the parts to fix and bring the piano up to a fine standard would have to be handmade, a very pricey thing. Spare parts had been destroyed in the Berlin air raids, and there was no love of Bechstein; Frau Bechstein was one of the earliest and most generous of Hitler’s patrons. So now the instrument sits in the shape in which we inherited it, subject to the up and down humidity levels of big college buildings. Better for us were the musical scores that Mr. Porter left to us, which form an interesting and unusual part of our musical collection in the Sawyer Library.

—Kenneth Roberts, professor of music, emeritus, Bennington, Vt.

 

I very much enjoyed the article about Cole Porter’s Bechstein grand piano in Thompson Memorial Chapel. In my day, the piano was in the language lab next to Perry House, and William Finn ’74 played it—fortissimo—every night. And the result? Multiple Tony awards, Falsettos, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, etc. I have no doubt Cole Porter would be pleased.

—Grace Paine Terzian ’74, Oakton, Va.

Jews at Williams

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I read with much interest “Gentlemen Jews” (summer 2014), excerpted from the book by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft. It is a fascinating subject. I admit to having a particular interest, as I am the granddaughter of Edward S. Greenbaum, Class of 1910. The statement that “Greenbaum met with Williams President Harry A. Garfield, Class of 1885, and offered to screen Jewish applicants to ‘keep away the undesirable sort’” piqued my curiosity, as it seems very much out of character for my grandfather. Edward S. Greenbaum worked his entire law career to prevent such discriminatory practices. If this incident at Williams occurred as reported, it may show insight into his chosen career. Or is it possible that Lawrence Greenbaum, Class of 1909, is being referenced? Both are Williams graduates, each the son of a judge but somewhat different in worldview and personality.

—Susan D. Greenbaum, Lebanon, N.J.

Editor’s note: It’s not entirely clear whether Edward Greenbaum ’10 or Lawrence Greenbaum ’09 offered to review Jewish students’ applications for President Garfield. Benjamin Wurgaft surmises that the idea more likely originated with Edward, who was a senior when six Jewish students of Eastern European descent arrived as part of the Class of 1914, prompting some anti-Semitic sentiment that Garfield spoke out against. Wurgaft adds that screening applicants was common practice in higher education at the time and “might have been regarded (by its agents) as nothing more than the maintenance of social networks rather than a hostile effort to discriminate.”

Dropping the “F” Word

As an alumnus, former class treasurer and former class agent, I was tremendously disappointed to see that the summer 2014 Williams Magazine included at least three instances of the “F” word (“Higher Edukation”). What is wrong with you? Why has the college embraced the race to bottom? There is nothing artistic or redeeming in publishing profanity. Where is truth, beauty, or goodness exemplified in the use of such a crude term, and why should I continue to support an institution that displays such terrible judgment?

—Robert E. Riley Jr. ’92, Tulsa, Okla.

Summer Kudos

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I took a few minutes this morning to read Williams Magazine (summer 2014) and be amazed one more time at the depth and breadth of the college’s impact on so many lives that then drives their contributions to the world. It is difficult to imagine how three times per year the magazine staff is able to produce such a rich document of the lives of the college and seemingly do better each time. I am very appreciative of that reminder throughout the year.

—David A. McCarron ’67, Portland, Ore.

Great issue! Prior to reading President Adam Falk’s column (“A Powerful Network,” summer 2014), I had forgotten that Zephaniah Swift Moore founded Amherst College in 1821 after resigning from Williams’ presidency. This must just goad the Jeffs. I wonder if they ever considered calling their teams the “Zephs” to do battle against our Ephs!

—Cal Collins ’54, Salem, Ore.