The Colgate Scene
November 2003

The Colgate Scene welcomes letters from readers. We reserve the right to edit letters for brevity and clarity.
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[Photo John D. Hubbard]
Remembering Hans Guenther '42

. . . Hans Guenther (d. June 20, 2003) was imposing.

We worked together for Colgate, and though he had 30 years on me it hardly mattered. Hans was 60 when I met him, but only his thick, wiry white hair gave him away. Otherwise, he was ageless, an astonishing physical specimen with a gravel voice, a hawkish nose that had taken its share of abuse, and a twinkle in his eye.

Hans was the captain of the 1941 football team at Colgate and went on to serve in the South Pacific with the Marines during World War II. He once showed me a picture of himself leading his men through a jungle pass, and I would hound him to dip into his trove of stories for a tale about legendary coach Andy Kerr, running back Indian Bill Geyer '42, and fellow lineman Andy Rooney '42.

Despite all the physical tools to intimidate (which he maintained well into his 70s, by the way), Hans was too much a people person to be scary. After a successful career in insurance, Hans joined the development staff at his alma mater. He ran the university's New York City office and courted major prospects. When we would get together for monthly meetings and year-end retreats, Hans could be counted on to stand only so much strategic planning or the roll-out of action steps before interrupting to lecture us a bit on the essence of sales.

"Relationships," he would growl. "People give to people," Hans would say, and he could trace the most significant gifts to small acts of courtesy or attention, the kind of interpersonal warmth that is difficult to plot and impossible to fake.

Hans, of course, was the real thing. His German father spoke labored English and when he dropped off his boy at Colgate it was into a world neither of them had ever imagined existed.

The football field was a perfect entrée, though, and Hans had the muscle and determination to take advantage of the opportunity. He made a name for himself, continued the great success he had had with Geyer in high school, leading him through the line countless times. Years later they could revert instantly to happy teammates when asked about days when games mattered most.

The world darkened quickly, though, and Hans, never one to shirk his duty, stepped forward. I understand the Marine Hymn was played at his memorial service, and that is fitting because he was as devoted to the Corps as he was to Colgate.

Home from the war, he began to enjoy the way of life he had been willing to die to preserve. He married Nancy, his beloved Skipper, who always remembered the thank-you notes and niceties he might forget as he concentrated on closing the deal. They raised a family and Hans set about building relationships.

It was such an honor to work with him. He cared about others, loved to throw parties where everyone dressed up in goofy costumes, and played the role of elder statesman without pandering. Hans was an inspiration, really, a leader of men in both good and grim times who didn't stand apart. He was always in our midst, one of us; incredibly powerful but just as warm and happy, too. While he might have been exasperated by our methods, he backed our determination and loyalty. He made us feel we were capable and worthy teammates. He made us feel good.

We loved you, Hans.

Opposing views on affirmative action

. . . Responding to Harry F. Lee's (Class of 1957) comments on affirmative action in the September Scene (Letters), it was refreshing to read an opposing position to the "selective institution's" approach on minority problems in education. Often, any negativism to the Politically Correct's warm and fuzzy activities is painted with the racist label while the core problem flounders on into the future.

I strongly believe that affirmative action programs at the University of Michigan and, of course, Colgate, are misguided despite the United States Supreme Court's supportive ruling. Most people recognize there is a need to level the playing field (not moving the goal posts) in higher education to bring minorities to a deserved parity.

Identifying a problem is easy, but finding a workable solution to the problem is a challenge that must be addressed by Colgate. Leadership is always tougher than being a follower.

I would suggest exploring the potential of establishing a prep school for minority students, the curriculum designed to bring each individual up to or near the credentials of the Class of 2007.

Another suggestion: set up a formal undergraduate program where students would earn credits while tutoring and/or mentoring minority high school students. In fact, the faculty might be interested in volunteering in such an effort. The point I'm trying to make is that we know there is a problem, and discovering a successful solution would be a proud accomplishment for all of Colgate.

. . . This is a response to Harry F. Lee's criticism of affirmative action. I was somewhat taken aback when Mr. Lee referred to affirmative action as an "archaic concept." You may agree or disagree with affirmative action, but it is not archaic. See Sandra Day O'Connor's decision in the University of Michigan case. She is a frequent swing vote on the court and also a Stanford Law School alumna. She looks forward to the day when affirmative action is unnecessary as we all do. Colgate chose to file amicus curie briefs along with many individuals and institutions, liberal and conservative, selective and not so selective.

When I applied to Colgate in 1946, minority applicants were small in number, and therefore I submit, had no influence on my application and none on Mr. Lee's in 1953.

I salute Mr. Lee for his gifts to Colgate. Should I have withheld "tens of thousands of dollars" given to Colgate since 1950 because I was denied admission to the University of Michigan's law school? A bit of a stretch, Mr. Lee.

I have given considerable dollars over the years to institutions despite policy differences. One can always earmark contributions, and I recommend that approach to Mr. Lee.

I didn't agree with all aspects of the University of Michigan decisions, but it could have been worse, especially from a conservative court. Lighten up, Mr. Lee, and remain a generous contributor to Colgate.

What liberal bias?

. . . I read with interest the letter in the September Scene from J. Kevin Murphy '47, in which he decries what he describes as a liberal bias among college faculties, and exhorts Colgate to seek political "diversity" in its faculty hiring practices. It raised a number of issues.

First, claims of bias in the 80-percent range are largely specious. Though Mr. Murphy claims "numerous polls" as his statistical basis, most claims of an 80-plus percent faculty "bias" stem from a single survey done on behalf of the conservative American Enterprise magazine. This survey has generally been regarded as flawed. For example, in several of the institutions surveyed, a high percentage of respondents came from the women's studies department, and none from engineering. Independents were discounted and not reflected at all in the survey results. No efforts were made to my knowledge to establish an inappropriate bias in the actual teaching.

Mr. Murphy's suggestions are nevertheless chilling to a graduate of the [1970s]. We can recall from that time the concerted effort by conservatives against what they described as the "Liberal Media," an effort that has largely been successful. Anyone who doubts this only has to look at the treatment of Al Gore in the last presidential contest. The conservative media picked up whole the right-wing claims of an "honesty problem" on Mr. Gore's part, and even parroted the ridiculous (and false) claim that Gore had declared himself to have "invented the Internet."

Are we now seeing a similar effort to remake academia in the conservative image? It would seem that we are. In addition to the American Enterprise Institute, other conservative organizations have jumped on the bandwagon. I remember an article [written] by Katherine Kersten, a fellow at the Center of the American Experiment, a conservative group. It was titled "What Your Professors Won't Tell You: Why Diversity Stops at the Classroom Door," and it struck much the same tone as Mr. Murphy's letter. [Kersten] advocated litmus tests in faculty hiring, to be policed by government in its grants processes, and backed up by alumni with their contributions.

We should all be sobered by this, because it can be done. University hiring can easily be hobbled by right-wing political correctness if financial survival is at stake. It worked with the news media, and it will work here.

When I was at Colgate, we had many fine professors who were conservative. However, even the more progressive professors, who did seem to be in the majority (though by nothing like 80 percent), brought diversity into their teachings. I recall, for example, that the very first guest lecturer my first year was Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society. He was politely, if not warmly, received by faculty and students alike, and he was followed by speakers from across the political spectrum.

I just don't see a problem here. Has anyone stopped to ask why liberal teaching is considered to be such poison? If it is so, why do so many Colgate graduates turn out to be conservatives anyway? The notion that Colgate did not provide me with a "fair and balanced quality education" I utterly reject.

I would urge Colgate to stand firm in its liberal (small "l") traditions, and resist attempts to force conservative litmus tests and quotas into its faculty hiring process, as it would liberal tests and quotas. I would urge all alumni to support this. Colgate should continue to hire the best minds and instructors, regardless of their political leanings.

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