We begin with a tip and a paean, both from John Knapp. The tip is timely, a way to keep in touch with one another. “While we were at Wesleyan,” John writes, “Dale Walker, Bill Baetz and I were the best of friends, but time and tide took us apart. I live in Chicago, Dale in Albany, and Bill in Roanoke, Va. Recently, we tried getting together and were successful, but it was cumbersome, schedules were difficult to coordinate, etc. However, Dale, through his mission work in Albany, knew of the website uberconference.com, a service that puts up to ten participants together for free (at least no one has charged any of us money).”
As for he paean, it is John’s beautifully written 1,107-word account of “What Went Right” in our Wesleyan education during those magical years 1962 to 1966, the heart of that education, John rightly points out, being interactions with the faculty. John quotes Spike D’Artheny ’64 writing “to the Argus on the occasion of a campus-wide debate about whether or not George Lincoln Rockwell, an American Nazi, should be invited to speak on campus: ‘The aim of education is to endanger one’s soul in an atmosphere of enlightened discourse.’ That’s what Wesleyan did for me, it endangered my soul, not only in an atmosphere of enlightened discourse but also one of support that gave me the self-confidence to meet a rapidly changing world with confidence in my ability to handle its challenges. I was so fortunate to have that experience. Unless my experience was completely at odds with those of other classmates, I suspect that this is a widely shared perception.”
With the privilege of such an education comes, John writes, the obligations “to acknowledge the extraordinarily privileged place and time in which we found ourselves. We do this by more of us telling more stories about interactions with faculty from which broader themes of what excellence in education was might emerge. Second, we should reflect on and analyze those themes with an eye to recommending how they translate into promoting as valuable experience to our grandchildren.” Please read John’s entire paean online.
Essel Bailey is doing us proud once again, being selected to serve on the Wesleyan Board of Trustees. In commiserating with me about the forest fires in Colorado, Essel tells me, which I had not known, that last summer the “Tubbs Road fire in Calistoga, Calif. . . started just 1.5 miles from our house and eventually burned up to the edge of our vineyards but fortunately, vineyards are fire breaks, and except for the loss of grapes to the smoke overhanging Knights Valley, we were fine.” With that good news comes more, Essel writing that “both Robert Parker and the Wine Spectatorhave discovered Knights Bridge Winery and recently rated our 2015 and 2016 Chardonnays at 95 points!”
Congratulations as well to Rick Crootof, his daughter’s wedding having taken place on September 21 “at the Battery in NYC . . . She and Jason will move to their brand new home in the Raleigh area, providing us another way station on our annual migration to Sarasota.” After the wedding the peripatetic Dr. Crootof and his wife, Linda, will spend 5 days in Boulder and Estes Park with Norwich friends whose son’s wedding we missed last year when my pacemaker got recalled. Down to FL the end of October or early November (in time to vote!), followed by a month cruise on the east coast of Australia, from Tasmania up to Papua New Guinea joining two sets of friends we met on two previous cruises in the last 5 years.” Life is good!
Barry Thomas writes that he “Enjoyed [my] commentsabout 17th century English poetry. These days I am finding great pleasure digging deeper into the American economic history I studied oh so many years ago with Professor Lebergott.” I wonder how many of us continue to explore topics sparked by Wesleyan faculty. Barry along with classmates Frank Bell, Arthur Clark, Frederick Hausman, John Lapp, andJohn Neff live in North Carolina. We wish them well in this trying time.
A fitting closing in an all too short note from Donald Craven: “All the best to you and all of our classmates. I have great memories!”
LARRY CARVER email@example.com
P.O. Box 103, Rico, Colorado, 81332 512/478-8968
P.S. Here John Knapp’s paean to our Wesleyan education.
I wanted to get back to you, reacting to your comments about cherishing the various faculty members who reached out to you while you were at Wesleyan. To both of us, and so many others, the faculty embodies such an important part of our “Wesleyan experience.” Most of us have our own personal Nathanael Greenes to thank for equipping us to cope with the complexities of the world in which we have lived.
At our fiftieth reunion, I attended a discussion about “Wesleyan: What went wrong.” It was a rather doleful, if accurate, presentation about financial missteps that frittered away significant financial resources. My reaction, then and now, would be to talk about “Wesleyan: What went right.”
My wife and I often reflect on the idea that, at least from the point of view of creature comforts, we have lived a life of unparalleled privilege in the history of the world. If you were to choose a time, place, and racial profile into which you would want to be born, it might be to be white, middle or upper middle class, and American in the post-World War II era. It seems to me that the same applies to education: if you were to choose a time and place to attend college, it might well have been Wesleyan University from 1962 to 1966.
It was a relatively simple world in September, 1962, wasn’t it? Three hundred classmates (all but three of whom, I think, were white), mixers with Smith and Mount Holyoke, fraternities to organize social lives, Saturday afternoons derisively cheering “Hey, diddle, diddle, Dooley up the middle.” But also a curriculum with innovations such as the integrated program, the colleges, and the well-beloved “Science for the Humanist.” I went to many of those classes and learned from Joe Webb Peoples how to read layers of earth. It was my only real experience with science.
By June 1966, the world had changed: the Cuban missile crisis, the Kennedy assassination, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, the beginnings of the sexual revolution, drugs, and other challenges to the complacent assumptions of 1962. As a matter of fact, I have often speculated on the value of a carefully drawn up sociological/psychological survey of the Wesleyan classes of 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, and 1968. The resultant book would make fascinating reading.
What is remarkable to me is not that we were sheltered from the world turning upside down, but that we were accepted so often as coequals by an exceptionally talented faculty that took the time to meet us where we were developmentally and enter into conversations that have equipped us to deal with change, whatever the topic. It wasn’t just high-profile events such as Martin Luther King’s well-publicized visit, as compelling as that was. It was hours over coffee in Downey House wondering with a professor about what T.S. Eliot actually was saying about Profrock, smoking cigars in Willard Wallace’s office as we sliced and diced what the “fog of war really meant, a seminar that Norm Miler, Joe Smith and I proposed to Edward T. Gargan that he supervised for a semester out of the goodness of his heart, dinners in faculty homes, and excursions to Honors College to sit and talk with the famous. Anne Freemantle once offered me a job in Ulan Bator on one occasion, and she was serious. On another, I spent a Thanksgiving with Jim Lusardi and his wife singing at their piano. I sat on a couch between R.R. Palmer and Hannah Arendt at Gargan’s home as they debated the meaning of the French Revolution. Nathanael Greene and his wife gave Al Burman and myself a dinner I will never forget after we shared the Dutcher prize in history. The list is endless. Spike D’Artheny said it well when he wrote to the Argus on the occasion of a campus-wide debate about whether or not George Lincoln Rockwell, an American Nazi, should be invited to speak on campus: “The aim of education is to endanger one’s soul in an atmosphere of enlightened discourse.” That’s what Wesleyan did for me, it endangered my soul, not only in an atmosphere of enlightened discourse but also one of support that gave me the self-confidence to meet a rapidly changing world with confidence in my ability to handle its challenges. I was so fortunate to have that experience. Unless my experience was completely at odds with those of other classmates, I suspect that this is a widely shared perception.
It doesn’t seem to be just happenstance that so many members of the Class of 1966 have repaid this faculty investment in us with lives dedicated to the service of others. When so many give of themselves to you, you, in turn, give back to others. It’s a generational hand-me-down.
As we get near the end, I think we have two responsibilities. First, to acknowledge the extraordinarily privileged place and time in which we found ourselves. We do this by more of us telling more stories about interactions with faculty from which broader themes of what excellence in education was might emerge. Second, we should reflect on and analyze those themes with an eye to recommending how they translate into promoting as valuable experience to our grandchildren. Where, for example, should resources go. It wasn’t fancy dormitories, seventeen different food choices at every meal, or state of the art athletic facilities that I remember about Wesleyan. It was Nat Greene leaning into the podium as you waited, pencil poised, for the dreaded “I would argue” to issue forth, knowing full well that the next question would be “what do you think?” It was Ed Gargan puffing on his pipe with his feet up in his office, starring off into space and saying “You know, Jack, you might be right about that, but you might also be wrong. Tell me more about what you’re thinking.” “Think well,” he used to say, “always think well.” That was Wesleyan for me.
All the best,