The Colgate Scene
January 1999
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Doc Reading remembered
. . . The news of Doc Reading's death brought back a number of memories, some of which are probably not repeatable in these P.C. days. One which I can repeat concerns History 102 and Artur Gorgey, the young Hungarian officer who helped lead the unsuccessful uprising against the Hapsburgs in 1848.

     Gorgey was saved from execution at the behest of the Czar and allowed to live out his life. During World War I, according to Doc, the German field marshal August von Mackensen stopped off in Budapest long enough to shake hands with Gorgey, who was then close to 100, on his way to stomping the tar out of Romania.

     As the end of World War II Doc, who was stationed in Germany, called upon Mackensen, then himself well past 90. "You shook hands with Gorgey; will you shake hands with me?," and so Doc shook a hand that shook a hand with one of the leaders of the Revolution of '48.

     Doc of course told this story much more colorfully than I can, and by the end his eyes were misty. "You think this is just history?" he growled, and dashed out of the classroom.

     I was a bit disappointed years later when I found out that Gorgey actually died three months before Romania declared war. However, Mackensen was active on the Eastern front throughout the war, and he might well have met Gorgey on an earlier occasion.

     I like to believe that the handshake I received from Doc Reading can be traced back in history 150 years, and probably more. Someday I hope I can pass it along to somebody who appreciates it.

Oneida, NY

Reading redux
. . . This morning's Syracuse paper carries a small obituary noting the death of Douglas K. Reading. Doc is gone.

     How that man made history come alive for Colgate students fortunate enough to hear him lecture! A pencil clenched between his teeth, he became a bomb-throwing Russian revolutionary; akin to Trotsky, that "four-star SOB and the greatest Jew since Jesus Christ.

     "Who took Christianity into the western world? Who, Gordy? Who? Who?"

     When my father died suddenly just before my last-semester senior finals, I went to Doc to arrange for a postponed exam in medieval history. "What next, Gordy? The sky going to fall on you? I'm sorry, but you'll get what you get." It turned out to be an A.

     "Yes, I remember my students

     . . . the As and Bs and Fs."

     My last, long conversation with Doc took place during the turbulent late '60s. It ranged from his utter disdain for colleagues who taught their classes dressed in bib-overalls, to an excoriation of the administration for trying to steal some of his lecture time, to a new source he had discovered concerning uncertainties within the mind of Martin Luther.

     Doc must have been a trial for college bureaucrats. He was a joy to his students: a man immersed in knowledge of the subjects which he taught with clarity, vitality and a bit of profanity.

     Doc Reading was the finest lecturer in history I have been privileged to hear. He made a difference in my life.


A first reunion
. . . I attended my-first ever Colgate Reunion this summer (15th, Class of 1983) and wanted to express to the university community what a great time I had.

     This was my first long visit in more than a decade and it reminded me why I like Colgate so much. The great reunion college program gave me a chance to sit and listen to lectures by professors Busch and Terrell and, aside from being very interesting, I was overwhelmed to see their joy in knowing and teaching what they know. It made me long for more of that kind of intellectual atmosphere in my day-to-day life.

     Of course, school was never just about learning; the class party on Whitnall field every night, visiting my old fraternity (DKE), seeing old friends and even meeting new ones, hiking in the hills behind the dorms and driving around Hamilton all brought back to me what a great place Colgate was, and is.

     Although I was a bit disconcerted by the women students who referred to me as sir, I plan to make future reunions a regular stop as I continue on through life.


Reactions from '35
. . . Very interesting and revealing article on computing in the classroom (November Scene). Potential donors to class coffers should read it through and see what this area of the Colgate experience offers.

     If possible, publish my e-mail address. I would like to see how other '35ers reacted.


Missing names
. . . Once again I received the Annual Report. I glanced through it, scanning the names in my class, looking at those other classes a few years before and after mine. I do it every year, and every year I say to myself, "Why isn't xx's name here? Why didn't he make a pledge?"

     How can it be that so many Colgate graduates contribute nothing -- nothing -- to the Annual Fund? Not $100 or $50, not $25 -- nothing.

     I don't know each person's financial situation. On occasion I have discovered that a friend is suffering financial hardships even though he seemed to have no such worries. In such an instance, even $25 would be more than could be spared. This situation is probably true for some of my classmates and other alumni, but, I warrant, not for many.

     Was their Colgate experience so painful, so unhappy in those difficult years of young adulthood, the scars so long lasting that they will never heal, the ill will so strong that giving anything to Colgate would be a mockery of one's long-held resentment? Perhaps this is true for some.

     Or is it that Colgate was not and is not all that it could be: the fraternity system with its silly arcane practices; non-fraternity members, feeling bitterly excluded from the campus social life; the incompetent professors here and there giving the easy "Gentleman's C"; the emphasis of sports and the athletic over the recognition of quality professors and the academic? Do we see these imperfections of Colgate, and therefore give nothing? Perhaps.

     I also wonder how many of us would have attained what we have without our Colgate experience, as well as the power of adding, Colgate, Class of xx, after our names and on our resumes.

Woodland Hills, CA

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