Letters to the editor


Author: Readers

Another Bill Toohey story

** As a graduate student, I was a member of a group called the Gay Students of Notre Dame/Saint Mary’s. We were not a recognized student group and needed a place to meet. As head of Campus Ministry, Father Bill Toohey, CSC, graciously offered us use of the Bulla Shed, the small meeting house on the edge of campus. Each week one of us would go to the Campus Ministry office in the library and pick up the key. Once when I did this Father Toohey was manning the front desk. He must have sensed I was nervous. With a warm smile he gave me the key, then shook my hand and said he hoped we would have a good meeting. For many of us those meetings were the best part of our experience at Notre Dame, and we were always grateful to Father Toohey for his quiet courage in helping us.

Daniel A. Burr ’73M.A., ’77Ph.D.

How nice to see a picture of Father Bill Toohey in your remembrance of him in ND magazine. Yes he was good looking (movie star quality), but to go along with that he had charisma. When he flashed his handsome smile , he became a magnet to all around him and his eyes seemed to penetrate to the very soul of anyone within range. I remember him greeting people before Mass- he would walk the aisles prior to putting on his vestment , and make everyone ( including a nervous new student and her mom) feel so welcome and so at home.
Mary Thomson ’76
Nashville, Tennessee

Aggravating appearance

** The appearance of actor Jim Caviezel, an ersatz Jesus branded with a yellow shamrock, at the grotto, an ersatz outpost of 19th-century French devotionalism, sponsored by groups such as the Right to Life Club, Children of Mary and Knights of the Immaculata—all this gives new depth of meaning to the idea of “grotesque.” When it comes to organizing an extra-liturgical pep rally such as this, have Notre Dame students and administrators no shame?

John H. Zaugg ’61
San Francisco

Personally insulted

** I take the remarks of Mark Roche, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, in “Major Congestion” as a personal insult, and also an insult to the thousands of Catholic and immigrant parents who sent their children to Notre Dame for professional training to get a job after graduation. Roche seems to forget that these professionally trained graduates made major contributions to the technology that helped shape the future of this country. Instead of trying to transform the College of Arts and Letters into a haven for the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” type of student, he should focus on improving the liberal arts education of an already great University.

John A. Weglinski ’60
Boyne City, Michigan

Education trends

I read with great interest the recent Notre Dame Magazine article entitled “Enrollment Trends.”

Prior to retiring from the Navy in January 2005, I was assigned to the Naval ROTC Unit at the University of Notre Dame. During that time I conducted some off-line discussions with key Administrators in the Colleges of Arts and Letters, Business, and Engineering after doing some back of the envelope statistical research. My research showed a telling statistic—a statistically significant number of Notre Dame Alumni currently occupy positions of significant responsibility in fortune 100/500 companies (i.e. CEO, COO, CFO, etc.). When I further broke down my research by college the statistics were similar. Fortunately, statistics do not lie! Based on my research, it would stand to reason that any College Dean would be interested in giving their students a leg up in the business world by providing some business content in their curriculum.

Around that same time, the College of Arts and Letters in concert with the College of Business were busy exploring an initiative called the Business Processes Program (BPP). This initiative would allow students in the College of Arts and Letters to obtain a BPP certificate by taking six additional (repeat additional) courses in the College of Business. This concept would effectively provide them with the knowledge necessary to apply their Arts and Letters Degree in the business world. This concept is not new . . . it’’s similar in nature to the Computer Applications Program (CAPP) my wife completed more than 20 years ago while an undergraduate in the College of Arts and Letters at Notre Dame.

This initiative was intended to enhance the economic utility of a College of Arts and Letters degree, making it more attractive to students, parents and employers, alike. However, much to the chagrin of administrators in the College of Arts and Letters, this initiative was surprisingly vetoed. The primary reason that was given; it would dilute the College of Arts and Letters curriculum. How could this possibly be true, if BPP courses were directed additional requirements and not substitutes for other courses?

In my humble opinion, the University of Notre Dame missed an outstanding opportunity to keep pace with current trends of education by; thereby making a College of Arts and Letters degree that much more attractive while at the same time providing an attractive alternative to student migration toward a business degree.

Dan Walsh, LCDR, USN (Retired) ’84
(After retiring from the Navy LCDR Walsh was the assistant director of the Center for Continuing Education at the University of Notre Dame. He is currently the Director of a Navy Junior ROTC Unit in Chicago Heights, Illinois.)

My hometown

** Thank you for the articles on hometowns. My return to my hometown was nostalgic, heart-rending and disappointing. The people were all gone, but the places still brought back very real memories. I now realize those memories are not there but have always been with me and do shape how I feel about things. Up until now I have thought that the great unanswered question that all people have is, “What is life all about?” I now realize that the question is, “Who am I?” Visiting your roots may be painful, but it can start you on the road to answering that question.

Fred Lupone
Newport, Rhode Island

** Michelle Krupa’s essay on hurricane-ravaged New Orleans (“What Happened Here”) was beautifully written and deeply moving. Those of us who grew up in New Orleans—and whose lives have also been affected, in many cases by sheltering relatives and loved ones—had to be touched by the post-Katrina images and reflections. Thank you for her essay.

Gil LeBreton
via email

** Calling Cleveland my home for 24 years after graduation, I enjoyed Ed Cohen’s hometown article on the city. In the early 1950s my father-in-law Dennis J. O’Neill ’26 coined the line “Best location in the nation” to entice business to the Cleveland area in ads that ran in national magazines. At that time two-thirds of the U.S. population was within 500 miles of Cleveland, making overnight shipping by truck a reality. These ads ran in the early ’50s; too bad Ed missed them.

Bob Wallace ’51
Tega Cay, South Carolina

** Being an emigrant from Cleveland, I found some of Ed Cohen’s remarks dead on. But other impressions were clearly subjective reactions to place. I would disagree with his remark that “the typical Clevelander” would trade the city’s rich cultural icons for “a major sports championship.” While I attended John Carroll University, I lived near University Circle, the cultural heart of the city, in walking distance of the museum and two blocks from Severance Hall, home of the world-famous Cleveland Orchestra. Both places were always packed. The nearby Cleveland Institute of Art drew students and faculty from all over the nation, and the Hessler Street Art Fair, in its third decade, attests to the city’s contemporary cultural interest. Like Ed, I hale from the east side of Cleveland, and I am an inveterate Indians’ fan, but, unlike Ed, I always considered Dennis Kucinich, a west-sider, a “man of the people,” and would have voted for him had I lived in the city proper.

I also might add another dubious distinction to the city’s palmares: because of its position on Lake Erie, Cleveland ranks second in the nation as the cloudiest (i.e., gloomiest) place in the United States.

Jean Anne Yackshaw ’92Ph.D.
South Bend, Indiana

Darwin, God and Intelligent Design

** I found John Monczunski’s article on Darwin and Intelligent Design (“Questions That Won’t Go Away”) very helpful by giving a clear overview on this issue. It is important to understand that those who support the evolution case are divided into those who affirm or deny the existence of a divine creator. I note from Genesis and the New Testament that God made a very incomplete world and that this very incompleteness is precisely what fuels evolution. I think we should all enjoy being part of completing God’s work.

Keep up the good work, especially with the controversial moral/religious issues. We graduates depend on you to keep us current with the analysis that you guys are so good at.

Joe Bellon ’52
Port Washington, New York

Study abroad opportunties

I found your article on your new offering of Quechua very interesting. Certainly, it is a wonderful way to expose your students to other cultures. However, as a parent of a senior, I am sorry you do not extend the opportunity to study abroad to more of your students. Programs with 20 to 30 applicants where only one will be selected seem far too limiting to your undergraduate population. A commitment to more opportunities for study abroad should lead the list of ways to round out an otherwise excellent South Bend education.

Marianne Von Feldt
via email

Fisher Hall

Your winter article on Fisher Hall omitted two very famous Irish celebs: John Fannon, captain of the basketball team in ‘55-’56 and Don Schaefer, fullback for Terry Brennan’s first three teams. Good article, many memories.

D.J. Davin ’56
Sahuarita, Arizona

A salute to the troops

I would like to say “thank you” for supporting the troops in the ND magazine (Notre Dame Alumni Association page, inside back cover). I’m glad to see there are some at Notre Dame who look past the politics and support those who keep us safe.

Rob Letherman ’93
Elkhart, Indiana

Art and memories

I am not sure you are aware that the photos on the front cover and on page 19 of the Winter 2005-06 edition are of the corner of Scott and Napier streets, across from Saint Hedwig Church. The cover painting is looking west, with the church in the far left corner. The page 19 painting shows the old Saint Hedwig Educational Outreach Center House, which was on the corner of Scott and Napier, but was torn down several years ago.

It was a most pleasant surprise.

Rev. Leonard F. Chrobot
Catholic Community of Saints Patrick and Hedwig
South Bend, Indiana

Confederacy of Forces

In reaction to Farrell O’Gorman’s Autumn 2005 piece “A Confederacy of Forces”. I noted with interest the tone of Mr. O’Gorman’s article as much as I noted the skill he employed in articulating his observations. The article is not uncommon in tone to many, particular to those who seem to be associated with a media, of a misplaced guilt in America’s “sin-ridden history.” The article masks itself as a pseudo-patriotic piece while underpinned with negative opinions stated as common fact. One of many examples is the reference to “C. Vann Woodward’s classic argument that the Southern experience of defeat, poverty and guilt provides a _valuable _counterpoint to the larger American myths of success, opulence and innocence” [italics mine]. Why is a “counterpoint” to the positive considered a positive in and of itself? Why is opulence coupled with success? Why is “defeat, poverty and guilt” showcased as experience while “success” and “innocence” are myths? Most Americans of all races and background experience great success (not opulence) in the ability to choose how they live and appreciate it.

Many Americans are not Pollyannas but still believe in American Exceptionalism and for the right reasons. We appreciate and acknowledge the mistakes, injustices and social extremes of the country (past and present). To restate them, even in exceptionally articulate way, is nothing more than noting the obvious and is by no means a revelation. But most Americans appropriately counterbalance this acknowledgement with the equally obvious realism that the popular intent and trendline of this country is toward human liberty. As a result, our country’s successes are indeed dramatic.

I don’t believe the Civil War was a punishment from a vengeful God, but rather it was the inevitability that a good and just people would right a wrong. We chose, as a people, to make right a long-standing practice which was a sad product of its time. We did so at a high cost and at the risk of total devastation to the country. We did so not because of slave revolt, or any foreign imposition—but because our natural intellect and sense of justice decided slavery was wrong and that no price was too high for our dignity and principles as a people. These principles were masterfully sown into our founding documents, that all men are created equal, at a time when the battle was worthy—but could not have been won.

The chapter of slavery in the American conscience is ultimately a triumph of righteous people who heard and agreed with the abolitionist reasoning over their own short term self interests of tranquility and comfort. Eventually, and for so many, it meant their lives. Boil it down, and it is man fighting for the rights of fellow man. As the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” states: As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free." That is American Exceptionalism—it is not dangerous and it is as much a core tenet of Catholicism as humility.

And the tradition lives on through the generations, each one making strides toward equal rights for all under the law. Surely not as fast as any would have liked, but the trend is strong, consistent and powerful. It is in this tradition, a glorious, invigorating, American tradition of self-improvement, that the backdrop of today’s race relations and civic pride should be cast. Unfortunately, it is too often cast on the backdrop of guilt of the way things were versus the pride of conquering what must have seemed like insurmountable struggles by previous generations for the good of all and purely of their own volition. Qualifying our love of the American ideal by providing disclaimers that “America’s values are not unique,” or by alluding to our “tainted legacy,” or for other “acts or failures to act that you’re not even aware of yet” simply conveys a lack of understanding of the bigger picture. And a negativism that, when masked as a patriotic article, is truly dangerous. Whereas many people would have us look to America’s past with a sense of the displaced shame of Mr. O’Gorman, we should look to those glorious Americans of past generations with a pride and understanding of their courage and sacrifice to continually change for the better.

Werner H. Graf ’86
Hopewell, New Jersey

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