Solving Problems Creatively

I read with great interest Professor Tiku Majumder’s essay, “Solving Problems Creatively,” about creativity and science (part of “Moving Forward, Together,” fall 2017). He mentions the role that Williams is playing as an undergraduate college that “blends the best of both worlds”—research and teaching. Being at Vanderbilt, an R-1 university, I certainly can concur with his view of R-1 universities. Over my 50 years at Vanderbilt I have witnessed the incredible de-emphasis on undergraduate teaching along with the increased emphasis on graduate research. In fact, this blending of teaching and research is nothing new at Williams. I was a chemistry honors major, having done my honors thesis research under J. Hodge Markgraf ’52. Under his tutelage, I was well prepared for my graduate research at Yale University as a synthetic organic chemist. I was able to compete with my fellow graduate students from schools such as Cal Tech, Berkeley, Yale and MIT, being the first to complete the Ph.D. in my class. The first of my 200 publications was based on my honors thesis work with Professor Markgraf. I also note that three classmates of mine, who majored in chemistry at Williams, also went on to become professors at R-1 universities: Buckley Crist ’62 at Northwestern University, Scott Mohr ’62 at Boston University and Jack Sabin ’62 at the University of Florida.
—B. Andes Hess Jr. ’62, Nashville, Tenn., and Toru?, Poland

Pink Art?

I enjoyed the article about the Williams College Museum of Art exhibition “Pink Art” (“Data Collection,” fall 2017), but I was dismayed to see various shades of pink described as “hues ranging from magenta to flesh tones.” This reference to “flesh” in an article about pink art seems to imply a default flesh tone of pink (Caucasian). But even Crayola renamed its “flesh” crayon “peach” back in 1962. I wish the editors had worded this more accurately.
—Holly Stephens ’96, Silver Spring, Md.

Fall Issue Kudos

OMG! An expression that belies my age… The fall 2017 issue should be the college’s best recruiting tool. I read it cover to cover, starting on the last page with Wendy Young’s ’83 essay about Kids in Need of Defense (“Embracing ‘We the People’”). When I dried my eyes, I went on, still, from back to front because my arthritic hands turn pages more easily that way. What a smorgasbord of topics: art and technology, language and culture, creative problem solving, the environment, and the testimony to the Renaissance qualities of Adam Falk (“Moving Forward, Together”). If it isn’t already happening, I’d love to see the art people and the language people and the science people look at how art embodies grammar and grammar affects culture, and how our science is dependent on and altered by both. All three are expressions of the human existence and models of creative problem solving. Without any one of those elements, meaningful communication in any discipline for any purpose doesn’t happen. Stuff that in a 144-character Tweet—or whatever the new limit is! I wouldn’t know.
—Carmany Thorp ’76, Mullett Lake, Mich.

The Value of Waste

It really hurt to read “The Value of Waste” (fall 2017), which completely ignored the tremendous growth in the waste management industry, the great growth in the use and discarding of plastic containers, and the horrendous unsolved waste-management problems in developing countries. My view was supported only by the brief note in “In the News,” on p. 6, which pointed out that the 2011 Japan tsunami gave rise to “the largest and longest marine migration ever documented.” The migration rafted all the way across the Pacific Ocean to North America on plastic debris! Maybe a follow-up article on the economics of waste management might
be helpful.
—Robert Raynsford ’57, Washington, D.C.