Monumental Achievement

31.EttlingerFordhighres-[17]-XReading “A Monumental Achievement” (fall 2013), my heart pumped out emotions: pride in the longstanding tradition of excellence and reach of Williams art faculty and gratitude that in 1957 I experienced Whitney Stoddard ’35, one of the art department’s “Holy Trinity.” My longing for a story of aesthetic intellectuals making major contributions in the messy “real world” was fulfilled deliciously. Yet a nagging, old question resurfaced: Why didn’t our country safeguard ancient art treasures of the Arab world in Iraq? Then a new one arose: What is happening now to art treasures in Afghanistan?
Paul Frost ’59, Bass Harbor, Maine

Congratulations to Denise DiFulco for the article about the role played by Parkhurst and Faison in recovering the art treasures that were plundered by the Nazis. “A Monumental Achievement” was brilliant and riveting. The article made me want to enroll in a course that combined the disciplines of history, political science and art history. The Wiesbaden Manifesto struck me as an extremely brave stance in the midst of the Cold War hysteria.
—William Beres ’82, Westport, Conn.

I enjoyed learning more about Williams’ Monuments Men. The biography of Charles Parkhurst ’35, however, is missing an important chapter. He was chief curator and assistant director of the National Gallery from 1971 to 1983. Also missing is the influence that these men had on students in the Williams College Graduate Program in the HIstory of Art. Lane Faison ’29 taught for it in the 1970s and served as director after Frank Robinson. Likewise, when Parkhurst returned to Williams in 1983, he taught in the MA program, directing it for a year in the mid-1980s. I was fortunate to work with and under both Parkhurst and Faison. The way I approach  my work is deeply indebted to these two. They were serious about encouraging women—not just to work in museums but also to become leaders. I hope the future articles can include names—not just of men, but also the outstanding Williams women in museums—for whom these two men were important mentors.
—Gwendolyn Owens ’79, Montreal, Canada

The fall magazine was superb from cover to cover. My late husband, Howard R. Simpson ’50, credited S. Lane Faison Jr. ’29 with opening his mind to art in his art history class. It was a course recommend to him by a classmate who assured Howard he would never regret it. Howard and I were fortunate enough to have an hour or so with Professor Faison in his home shortly before he moved to the Williamstown assisted living facility. I have never forgotten that wonderful face, which shone with such enthusiasm and cheer!
—Kitty Simpson, Baltimore, Md. 

My father, Emerson H. Swift, Class of 1912, had Karl Weston as his professor and inspiration senior year. As a result my father went on to earn an MFA and PhD. from Princeton University in art history and archeology. He then enjoyed a very distinguished 35-year teaching career at Columbia University while writing six books on various aspects of art history. He was a close friend and association colleague of Lane Faison’s ’29, but the greatest disappointment of his life was that he was turned down from becoming a Monuments Man because of his age, although he was just in his late 50s! I, his only son, unfortunately turned off by academia and didn’t follow in those revered footsteps (although I worked for Williams for seven years as director of planned giving and became good friends with Carol and Charlie Parkhurst ’35 during that time).
—E. Howland Swift ’52, Barton, Vt. 

Fire and Light

Enlightenment_[12]The excerpt from the new book by James MacGregor Burns ’39 in the fall 2013 magazine was instructive (“Fire and Light“). Burns tells us the Enlightenment rejected the old philosophy “furnished top to bottom by God,” replacing it with the “new unflinching standards of empiricism.” But rudderless empiricism also has its problems. Despite its achievements, the Enlightenment has left a gaping moral and spiritual hole in Western civilization, witnessed by Europe’s centuries of destructive wars lived out among the most enlightened societies on earth. Unfortunately, scientism, the belief that science is the only kind of knowledge, has left the West—in the words of P.T. Forsyth, a “cut flower civilization”—beautiful, but cut off from its life force. The truth is that Judeo-Christian influence, despite its historic problems with religious freedom and scientific inquiry, firs sparked scientific engagement and provided the necessary moral compass. Free from clericalism and institutional control, it is also the likeliest place for the West’s rebirth to being.

—Jay Haug ’73, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Credit Where Credit’s Due

v5 wckh entry viewFINAL_[13]In your most recent edition you include a proud hymn to sustainable building (“Living Laboratory,” fall 2013) in the form of an article and video, but neither ever once mentions the architect or architects involved in the project. How can that be? Do the designers of a supposedly pathbreaking, environmentally sensitive building not merit any credit?

—Jan Otakar Fischer ’85, Berlin, Germany

Editor’s note: The college is proud to be working with the Montpelier, Vt.-based Black River Design, which counts among its partners John Rahill ’68. 

Reclaiming Williams

Fall13_cover_[24.5]In addition to the attractive new graphic layout, I’ve been delighted to encounter some edgier articles in Williams Magazine of late. Chief among these was Robert J. Seidman’s ’63 “Band of Brothers” (spring 2013), which recounts the student-led rebellion against fraternity control of the campus in the early 1960s (of which I’d heard only vaguely whitewashed accounts before). Painful as these events can sometimes seem in retrospect, recovering these lost bits of institutional lore remains a crucial part of the contemporary project of reclaiming Williams.

Scott Lankford ’80, San Francisco, Calif.