The Colgate Scene
November 2007


The Scene welcomes letters. We reserve the right to decide whether a letter is acceptable for publication and to edit for accuracy, clarity, and length. Letters deemed potentially libelous or that malign a person or group will not be published.

Letters should not exceed 250 words. You can reach us by mail, or e-mail Please include your full name, class year if applicable, address, phone number, and/or e-mail address.

. . . After reading Lee Woodruff's beautiful article in the July Scene I thought about how cohesive and "normal" her class must have been. I couldn't help but compare mine ('47) with hers. My "class" list has more names of people I never met or knew than of people I knew or could even place a face to. My Scene class editor colleague George Greene '48 has long collated news from our V-12 days, and has done a fine job of keeping the Marines in touch with each other regardless of their official class designation. George's first love is the Navy, but he fills a void for all the WWII veterans.

I feel like a fish out of water: trying to represent a class of Colgate students who started in the early summer of 1943 as an amalgam of kids right out of high school, who joined civilian students already at Colgate, and transferees chosen by the Navy Department to go to Colgate rather than to other V-12 schools. Even in the classrooms, we were segregated by our clothing: sailor suits, civvies, or khakis or greens.

Our barracks were, initially, located on fraternity row. My first semester was spent in the ATO house, where the first floor had row on row of double-decker bunks. The sleeping rooms upstairs were study rooms. In addition to professors like Reading, Wilson, Storing, Estabrook, Downing, and Lawson, we were trained by Captain Foley, USMC, Sgts. Pringle and Berlin, and Corporal Murphy. Commander Omar Held was the "Base" CO, and Ensigns Pirro and Crozier were the Navy officers. Ensign Crozier was a WAVE Officer in charge of Naval and Marine Corps supplies (she was pretty, too, and naturally stood out on campus in 1943).

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that there is no such thing as the Class of '47. My guess is that only a handful of students went straight through from being freshmen to graduation. Liberal arts were kept alive by the Marine Corps: we were to be troop leaders, so Shakespeare had a place in our curriculum. When the war ended, most of us came back to Colgate, joined by veterans from other schools who took advantage of the GI Bill, and by Navy and Marine V-12ers who had come since we had moved on. Many of us were married, some with families. Our campus circle was smaller: extracurricular activities, service experience, family commitments, classes, and work were determinants. We were all in a hurry to return to normalcy.

Outside of that small circle was the college, which to us was a great, understanding faculty more than anything else. They were teachers! So when we got the requisite credits, we graduated — by accident, I guess — in June of 1947.

In my short stint as class editor, I've learned that we were a great class. But we had a lot on our minds. Apparently we still do.

. . . I read with great interest the message from President Chopp on the benefits of a Colgate education when it comes time for all of us to say something in a conversation (Sept. '07). Wow, she put her finger on the value of those four years on the Hill 50 years ago. Jobs come and often go, kids leave the nest, but a good conversation is a popular part of all of our days.

I remember trying out for the debate team in the fall of 1954 and being stopped cold by a classmate when we came to the rebuttal part. Talk about getting an instant education!

Many years and jobs later, a colleague in the NYC investment business introduced me to the Roughriders, which was a bunch of folks who had lunch together in a great wood-paneled

room and proceeded to grade each other on three-minute speeches or off-the-cuff verbal responses to statements such as "When I ride the NY subway I think of . . ." I loved meeting these 20 to 30 people that composed a Toastmaster group. The members worked for the New York Times or whomever — a fellow got up one noon and said, "I'm the New York banker who loaned Steinbrenner the money to buy the Yankees."

Yes, you can talk about football on Mondays at work, but there are a lot of other great chances for conversations out there, and your skills do not drop off as badly as your golf handicap does as your hair turns grey or vanishes.

. . . I wanted to commend James Leach for "Heroes on call" (Sept. '07), and to voice my respect for and admiration of John Basher, who has retired.

I am a proud member of the Class of 1998, but a prouder past member of the Hamilton Fire Department. I served during all four of my perfect years in Hamilton. I met John (we called him JB) the first day I walked into the firehouse.

I was a wide-eyed kid from Chicago who didn't know that volunteer firefighting even existed, and he was the grizzled veteran who showed us rookies how to do the job the right way. He quickly became not only my mentor, but also my friend. The best part of being on the HFD was getting to know JB and the other great guys who lived in the community.

JB once joked that being on the department was like going to "HFD College" — and that it didn't even cost $40,000 a year. Truer words are hard to find. I met a lot of amazing people on the Hill, but JB was the one person I will always remember and admire most. So much so, in fact, that he is a big reason why I chose to become a professional firefighter.

Every day I wake up knowing I am lucky to have such an amazing job, and I credit that to the best teacher I had in college — John Basher. I wish him all the happiness in his retirement.

. . . I would like to weigh in on complaints about Colgate's policies that inspired several letters in the Sept. Scene.

As someone who took part in fraternity activities as both a student and an alumnus, I was disturbed by the administration's heavy-handed tactics toward the row; however, in trying to link the takeover of the Greek system to supposed deficiencies in the educational program, critics are conflating two distinct issues.

I find it hard to believe that the faculty would engage in a systematic effort to instill political orthodoxy and purge dissent. I attended Colgate during contentious times, but the only political statements from faculty that I can recall were Doc Reading's well-deserved rants against Nixon. It seems to me that it would be quite difficult to impose a political slant on many academic fields. There is neither a Republican nor a Democratic approach to the study of mathematics, or music, or molecular biology.

I can't help but suspect that what conservatives call "liberal bias" in education is in fact a failure to display overt conservative bias. Moreover, given the rampant anti-intellectualism displayed by conservatives in recent years (think of their views on evolution and global warming as examples), I expect that many are simply incapable of holding their own in a serious discussion, leaving them frustrated and prone to blame others for their own failures.

I do not doubt that the majority of Colgate administrators and professors are committed to the pursuit of intellectual rigor and the desire to turn out informed, responsible citizens. Imposing right-wing biases on the community is no substitute for instilling the practice of careful analysis and critical thinking.

. . . I read with great sadness of the passing of Marjorie Loop (Deaths, Sept. 2007). I got to know her quite well when I was a residential adviser, and there are two things I remember her fondly for. The first was her tireless good humor. When things seemed overwhelming, she would give a gentle smile and a word of encouragement, making you realize that whatever the problem was, there was a solution. The second is that if you wanted something done, you talked to Marge Loop. Her can-do attitude, good humor, and enormous patience made her a favorite among RAs.

Her passing leaves us all a bit poorer.

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