Letters to the editor

Times change

I read in reverse order the In Memoriam section of the fall 2007 Cornell Report and was pleased to recognize that Cornell has contributed quietly and powerfully to positive changes in my lifetime. Professor Paul Christiansen advocated for prairie plants and ecology. Wallace Littell ’47 facilitated peaceful cultural contact with the Soviet Bloc. Leonard Wilson ’41 succeeded in business and then helped create bike paths throughout the U.S. Most heartening of all were the contributions of Francis Allen ’41, who brought legal representation for indigent defendants into the American legal system, and the decriminalization of gay sex between consenting adults to the legal code of Illinois—back in 1961.

The final vignette of the last article in the magazine, “Wonderful Cornell Parents,” reminds me that times change slowly. I was saddened to see a parent’s fear of her child’s sexual identity used as a punch line. I understand that unexpected responses from parents evoke humor. My parents encouraged me in an emotionally destructive straight relationship because they feared I might be gay. Happily, I sense that we are entering a time when parents respond to the partner choices of their children based on the love shown in the relationships.

When I was an undergraduate (not at Cornell), my parents kept me away from a liberal arts education for fear that I would become an artist, an activist, or gay. Now, as a parent myself, I fear that four years of high-quality liberal arts education might lead to the normalization of privilege and a self-serving elitist ethic.

Times change. I thank you for bringing news of the past and the present, with hope that the future will bring news of the continuing positive contributions of Cornell students, professors, and alumni.

Bruce Evan Hilbach-Barger
Cornell parent
Covelo, Calif.

Department has chemistry

I enjoyed the chemistry article in the last issue. I am also delighted to hear that Drs. Ault and Jordan are still teaching a block or two a year. I hope the current students appreciate these ageless giants who epitomize what small college education is all about. They, Dr. Deskin, and Dr. Watkins were the finest set of professors I have ever seen.

Dr. David Beck ’74
Mason City, Iowa

I enjoyed your feature on the chemistry department in the latest Cornell Report. I spent many blocks taking classes at West Science center with Drs. Tepper, Black, Lyon, and Cardon. The one professor who impacted my life most was Dr. Ault. Dr. Ault was my instructor for organic lab. After one particularly strenuous exam, he was handing the graded exams back during lab. He approached me during an experiment and asked me what I thought I got on my exam. I low-balled him, not certain how well I did, but after several guesses he informed me I received an A. At that moment he looked at me and told me, “Shayne, you can do anything you want to in this life!” I am not sure what motivated him to acknowledge my achievement that day (I wasn’t a chemistry major), but I want make sure he knows how much that moment meant to me.

Shayne Marker ’93
Waconia, Minn.

I would credit Drs. Deskin, Ault, and Jordan with both discovering my interests and abilities and building the foundation to my professional career. Thanks to their training I was awarded a National Institute of Health MD/PHD scholarship through the University of Iowa Medical School. I credit their excellence as educators and mentors and am forever grateful for their leadership and friendship during my Cornell years.

Dr. James Noesen ’78
Iowa City, Iowa

Human Jukebox

When I saw your article in the winter 2006 Cornell e-Report, I started searching for my picture of the Automatic Human Jukebox. I took this picture in August 1973, two months after I graduated from high school, one month before I started at Cornell College. Little did I know until last winter that this talented and creative man on the West Coast had a link to a small town in Iowa, much less that we would share the same college. Grimes Poznik made my family and me very happy that day. He was an extra-special delight among all the wonderful things in San Francisco in the ’70s. I’ve never forgotten his musical and whimsical talents, but until now I never knew his name.

Thanks for the article about him. I’m so glad I have a picture of his magical box to share with you, and now I also have a picture of him.

Rachel Noon ’77
Katy, Texas

Human Jukebox

Uncovering Cornell’s depths

The following is excerpted, with permission, from “Musings,” a column by Jake Krob, editor and publisher of The Sun.

“I wonder if people really know what they have here,” a friend remarked as he and I travelled past the Cornell campus on a recent afternoon.

On this editorial page of the newspaper you’ve read our position before— we often times underestimate the power of having a nationally recognized, small, liberal arts college in our midst. We’ve written about the economic impact. The employment effect. What it means for us culturally.

And now a recent publication from Cornell has this editor realizing we also have a gem in the college due to its rich history. The fall 2007 edition of the Cornell Report has a marvelous piece titled “Cornell Trivia.”

Cornell, as we know, recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. Two great books emerged to mark the milestone. Both are marvelous pieces of work. And so is the four-page “Cornell Trivial Pursuit” feature in the Cornell Report.

Hats off to Cornell Report editor Dee Ann Rexroat of Mount Vernon for this titillating piece. It makes this newspaper editor smile even more when passing by the Cornell campus.