Letters to the editor

Author: Notre Dame Magazine

Editor’s note: The letters that appeared in the winter 2008-09 print issue are marked with double pound sign (##). The original, longer versions of some of these letters also are included here, although a shorter version may have been used in the print issue.

Long live the king
##As a Walsh Hall resident in 1972, I can attest that Kristen Dold ’09 caught the spirit of “King” Robert Kersten really well, and that’s not easy because Kersten was a real mercurial character. And what he pulled off is remarkable in that it is so un-Notre Dame-like. A king with an oligarchy? Not in that staid political atmosphere.

We thought it was a pretty entertaining gag when he rolled out that campaign in the fourth-floor bathroom. We had been “summoned” by the obnoxious door knock of his minions and ordered to report forthwith blah-blah-blah to that location for something important. Only 10 or 15 of the most bored (or sick of studying) showed. We were given T-shirts with “Oligarchy” splashed across the front. Dressed in his king outfit, Kersten read a speech that set the tone for his candidacy — way out there, including an admonition that we better wear those free T-shirts everywhere, everyday. It became one of those things that mushrooms exponentially.
Rudy and Knute Rockne: All American are considered the archetypical Notre Dame flicks. But I always thought Kersten’s story infinitely more interesting and would make a much better movie. Anybody knows that the misfits are the most interesting.
Pat Shea
Green Bay, Wisconsin

##Kristen Dold’s stroll down memory lane about our unorthodox student body president brought me back 37 years in a dozen-paragraph article. From his Burger King crown to his VP feline, Bob Kersten taught us all not to take ourselves seriously and to live life as if each day was our last. He knew when to make fun of a situation but also realized when certain subjects needed serious attention. In 1972 I was a naïve, impressionable freshman ready to latch on to anything to make me forget how homesick I was — as well as my premed courses. I didn’t know Bob personally but I quickly grasped what he stood for.
Rick “Duck” Santry ’76
Allendale, New Jersey

I thoroughly enjoyed this article. Having graduated a few year before the “King” I had never heard the story before, but reading Kristen’s article made me fell like I had experienced it first-hand. The imagery of the “Campus King” on the ledge of Walsh Hall was very real. Those days were not simpler times — Vietnam was more complex and more 10 times more deadly then Iraq and campus protests and even shootings at Kent State a few years earlier made this time in many respects a dark era, yet Kristen’s article about “King” Kersten taking a lighthearted look at the self-importance of campus politics enabled us to enjoy the story as if we had been there. Well done.
Jim Hutchinson ’68

Returning home
##Rev. James King, CSC, (“The ground view of burgeoning adulthood”) disparages the “directionless souls who return to the rent-free folks home” after commencement. I am one of those individuals and would like to share the treasures of such a path (which for me was not rent-free). I enjoyed a rewarding career and was able to work long hours and travel and spend time with friends and colleagues during this phase of my life. I volunteered in various charitable and community activities and had many opportunities to discover my inner self. My husband and I met and courted, and he developed a solid relationship with his future in-laws during this period. In retrospect, I believe it was my destiny to live at home until the day I married, as my mother died suddenly in 1995 and my father passed away in 2002. The memories of those few short years we spent together after commencement are irreplaceable and will always be deeply cherished.
Anne Tuerk Klinepeter ’83
Jacksonville, Florida

##In reply to a couple of articles in the Winter 2008-2009 issue … “Awkward is the Operative Word”

I am happy there are still parietals at ND, and that men and women students still feel the awkwardness. Heck, men and women my age still feel the awkwardness. I graduated in 1980, and enjoyed many a party … (puked all night after freshman orientation “Wapatula Party”). I have been known to have violated parietals once in awhile while at ND, and freshman year several times had to find different lodgings while my roommate “entertained.” I gradually came to appreciate the single sex dorms. I had a daughter there from 2002-07, and REALLY appreciated the parietals and the regulations.

I was one of those seniors that got engaged and wed senior year to another ND grad, and things turned out fairly well. We have three great, beautiful daughters together, we are both working professionals, and are now both in different successful relationships.

Yes, ND has it’s awkward moments. But the world is full of awkward moments. Drinking may take the edge off of some of these moments (“Everybody has a reason to drink”) but in the end, life is awkward in every aspect. We all have to learn to deal with what life has in store for us, and learn to overcome the awkwardness.

I have been to other state colleges where there are no parietals, where there are co-ed dorms, where many live in off-campus housing. I have other children that attend these colleges, and although I enjoy being with my daughters and a good drink, I am appalled at some of the students disregard for their own self-esteem, the environment, and many times what seems like the mentality “if everyone else does it, it must be OK.”

Post-graduates also feel the need to once-in-a-while break free and “get drunk and go crazy.” But we know there are consequences . . . and college students must learn these same consequences. Neighbors of “crazed” students should perhaps be tolerant, but should not have to put up with destruction of property or invasiveness of others’ property and/or rights. Students must learn the consequences of doing things “just for the hell of it.”

Everyone needs to learn responsibility, and having a general set of rules while learning is not a hindrance but a guide. I truly appreciate the ethics and rules that ND instills and enforces, and hope they stay around for a long time.
Elizabeth (Weber) Wladecki ND 1980
Fort Wayne, Indiana

##I am not sure how to reply to the article “Everybody Has a Reason to Drink,” without sounding judgmental. It is not my intent to pass judgment, but to reach out to those students who may not want to drink but feel pressured to. Perhaps because I was underage till the spring semester of my senior year, or because I simply could not afford to drink like the “typical” ND student, I chose to not drink till I turned 21. My freshman year roomie and her friends would stumble in at 3 a.m. talking about how they’d had to use the sidewalks as a bathroom. I knew I did not want to be in their shoes.

Later on I formed friendships with another group of young women. Almost all of them drank, sometimes heavily. But they never made fun of me for my choice to not drink and they never pressured me to drink. So what did I do for fun? I played pool in my dorm’s basement, rollerbladed around campus, strolled along the lakes, went to the movies, played miniature golf, attended campus lectures and performances, and became involved in various campus organizations. After I turned 21, I regularly joined my friends for drinks at Senior Bar or in their rooms. But to this day, I am proud to say I’ve never been drunk.

Those 3½ years of not drinking while everyone else seemed to be taught me some lessons: drinking can be fun, but I know that I am capable of being social and having fun without resorting to alcohol; true friends don’t pressure you into doing things you don’t want to; and there are so many things to do in this life besides drinking.

One final thought — because it portrays heavy drinking not just as a “typical” component of the ND experience, but as a necessary and positive one. This was written by a young man, and it ignores the reality that for women, being around those situations can be dangerous. Statistics say that by the time they are 25, 1 out of 4 women will be sexually assaulted (this includes “date rapes” and 80 percent of those attacks involve alcohol. It would be naive to think that ND students would be exempt from that.
Salvadora Keith ’01.
Houghton, Michigan

Re: ˜Everybody has a reason to drink. Well done.
Mary Wolf

Loved it/hated it
We are the parents of a sophomore at Notre Dame and just wanted to say ‘Well Done’ on the latest issue. From the amazing cover photo to the captivating content, the winter 2008-2009 issue was a winner.
Mary & Rick Hurd
Wagner, South Dakota

I usually look forward to receiving the ND Magazine, but . . .

The front cover on the winter 2008-2009 magazine stinks. Am I supposed to show it to my grandchildren, who aspire to become ND students? Should those pigs get front-page attention in your magazine?

I also glanced at some of the write-ups of students and alumni. I was not impressed. I expect such banal reporting in low grade popular magazines, not in the ND Magazine.

Do I want my grandchildren to be part of that? I am not sure.

Finally, you must be saving a lot on ink. The printing is so light that it is very hard to read for us older grandfathers.
Pete Raimondi ’52

We would like to let you know that your magazine is amazing. We wait for it in the mail and read it cover to cover. It is a permanent fixture on our family room coffee table. Our son is a 2006 graduate, Brian Gelpi, and is currently in medical school in NY. We always save his copy for him and when he comes home he enjoys it as well. It is a great service you provide. Thank you wholeheartedly!
Al and Nicole Gelpi

This is the best you can come up with to inspire readers???? Retarded!
George Meyer
Concordia, Kansas

My compliments to the editor(s) and writers — never forget the writers! — for the perceptive and entertaining student body profile you delivered in the Winter 2008-09 issue. My Notre Dame was not the Notre Dame you have chronicled over the past 30 years, so I appreciate the insight of the contributors to this issue.

The format, using multiple short vignettes to paint the portrait, was particularly effective.

My Notre Dame (1946-50) was still all-male. At least 50 percent of the students were discharged World War II veterans returning to civilian life from outposts literally scattered around the world, not fuzzy-cheeked high school graduates experiencing their first adventure away from home and parental control. The campus wardrobe was a garish combination of military colors and garments.

I was a 22-year-old freshman whose last Army posting was MacArthur’s GHQ in Manila; my first ND roommate was a 21-year-old senior from Texas. Talk about culture clash! Even the current opposition to administrative controls had its echoes then — Mass checks, bar cards, bed checks, Midnights, weekend passes. What’s a parietal?

We had some of the same faculty icons: Frank O’Malley, Jim Withey, Tom Stritch, Paul Fenlon, Richard Sullivan, John Fredericks, John Nims, Ernest Sandeen, Waldemar Gurian—except they were younger! Father Hesburgh was about to emerge from his Vetville assignment.

It’s boorish, I know, to mention that the Notre Dame football team was undefeated in this four-year period. Notre Dame won the national championship in 1946, 1947 and 1949; it was second in 1948.

I did have a chance to see the culture pendulum start to swing back as I spent three years on the sports staff of the South Bend Tribune before returning to California. The “Milk Wars” in the Notre Dame Dining Hall were a sure sign that everything was returning to pre-WWII normalcy.

Thanks for the update.
Harry Monaghan ’50
San Juan Capistrano, California

I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for the terrific magazine that is delivered to my home each quarter. The older I get, the more I treasure photos and articles that trigger terrific memories of my four years on campus.

The winter issue arrived at my home this week. The pictures on pages 28, 32, 38 and 46 are eerily very similar to the series of photos on pages 168 thru 175 of the 1971 Dome yearbook. The 1971 Dome was the first yearbook I received as a freshman at Notre Dame. That summer I treasured every page as I looked thru the annual review of my first year on campus. I laughed as I read “The Degeneration of a Freshman . . . into a college student”. However, my father did not share my view. The four pictures in that yearbook first show a young man, obviously more in line with the “Careerist” photo of the young lady found on page 28 of the Winter issue. The yearbook photos then move to three more stages of the freshman transition thru “jock” (page 46 of the magazine), “social activist” (page 38 of the magazine) to “free soul” on campus.

The magazine photos even match the yearbook pictures, detailing short bio’s of the student. I don’t know if it was planned or not, but it showed a great comparison that even after 35 years, students haven’t changed that much on campus.
Bill Voller ’74

I have seniority over a mere ’74 editor (’61B.A., ’63M.A., ’71Ph.D.) and am a Triple Domer in the bargain. Allow me to observe that you put out a good alumni magazine. By a set of curious circumstances, my daughter Alice Hoette has worked for the Public Affairs Department. at Washington University these seven years, thus entering “your” business. Who would have thought? I mention this coincidence because I worked as a lowest of low-level minion in the Public Info office in my undergraduate days, as a photo lab assistant to Bruce Harlan, whose boss was Jim Murphy and so goes the tangled thread. It gets even worse, but you have to pay to get more out of me.

I take pen in hand (well, mouse) just to say I like your work. The institution you describe in such detail is, of course, utterly foreign and unintelligible to me, and I have not the slightest interest in “re” visiting a place I would not recognize. After all, everyone who ever taught me is either long retired, and most are, I am sure, long gone. The mere presence of women, much less a majority, would be too much. Of course I do not object — our own enrollment is also now slightly a female majority, but we were co-ed long, long before living memory and so had a head start. It’s just that there is no “there” there. Goodness — I even recall that Sacred Heart Church was just that, before being upgraded to a Basilica without adding so much as a brick. My, how we do put on airs!

Nothing left there for me but my mind. I do not like beer; I never watched a full game of anything; and now do not know the name of your coach. I have been in the academic racket at this place so long that I am viewed as a legend in my own mind, but you and I know where that mind was stored with what was necessary for life. That, nothing takes away, unless it is Dr. Alzheimer.

But, whether I care no longer about your employer or not, you do publish a very, very good example of your genre. Long may you wave.
Louis A. Marre etc etc etc

Re: A new generation of Domers. You should have titled this “A new generation of Dummies.” It is every generation’s conceit that they and only they are the heralds of some radically new esthetic in human history. How can a bunch of spoiled preppies “succeed spectacularly and fail miserably” at the mere age of 18? Gimme a break.

Re; A very student issue. The only things “impressive and stunning” about this new crop of brats are their parents’ pedigrees. When your rich mommy and daddy hand you everything, it’s perfectly natural to start envisioning yourself in saintly terms. Maybe you can write your next article on which of these special little preppies will hatch the next investment scam or government-spending boondoggle once they assume their preselected careers.
Tony Alfidi ’95

I am writing as the parent of a recently admitted Notre Dame scholar who will potentially be attending the university in the fall. As such we have been receiving many materials, including the winter edition of Notre Dame Magazine. Realizing that this particular issue was intentionally geared toward providing a more unvarnished student view of life at Notre Dame, I was still a bit surprised to see articles discussing the social elitism of Notre Dame and its anti-tolerance toward those who do not appear to belong. I am referring specifically to the Ugg boots and white, affluent letters that appeared on the same page. My son, who is also considering U of I, said the magazine seemed to be encouraging some types not to go to the school. As it has always been his personality to embrace people of all lifestyles, cultures and social status, he is now concerned that Notre Dame may not share his views. It is giving him pause regarding attending the school in the fall.

As a communications professional, I understand the desire to present all views. Perhaps if they would have been presented in a different way, (i.e. point/counterpoint format) it would have been more balanced. With Notre Dame’s outstanding international reputation, I have to believe that the picture painted by some of the magazine content does not accurately depict life at Notre Dame.

Clearly, the magazine is an outstanding publication but I just wanted to share my thoughts on this one in case anyone there was wondering what the reaction was. Congratulations on your magazine and best of luck in 2009 and beyond.
Ray Wisbrock
Principal Consultant, Wisbrock Communications

New generation

Re: “Electronics as an extension of our physical selves” by Lourdes Long. Why burden us with two pages of insanity, for example,. “I like think I’m a more effective student and leader because I can respond to emails in record time.” Sorry to say but this person is sick and hopefully does not represent the “new generation of Notre Dame students.”
Richard Colasurd ’50

Spiritual treasure
Re: ˜We find ourselves connected to all humankind.” Inspiring! Living out what we learn and building relationships remind us of the spiritual treasure we have received and are responsible to share. We can quickly forget as we write checks to contribute to various causes that living the beatitudes is what our faith is most about.
Dan Smith

Great teacher
Re: “I love working with students today.” Kerry Meyers is one of the best freshman year professors at Notre Dame. She really takes to time to get to know students, even when she is tasked with teaching several hundred students in the engineering intro course. If higher education could have more teachers like Kerry, who really care about their job and make the extra effort for the welfare of their students, it would be a better world.
Mark Easley CPEG ’12

Notre Dame values
Re: Letter from campus: Some constants amid the change. I stare at the portrait of this theology teacher, Lawrence S. Cunningham, my age probably, my above-the-belt fat. Staring directly in crossed arms, an open pocket showing the pants’ lining and a true blackboard behind.

He writes about “some constants amid the changes.” I find myself happy in this recovery of one’s own capacity for reflection. The building for silence, and these fingers that crawl through the keyboard playing the notes that barely spin inside my soul. Not my brain, not my spirit, not my animus, my self, my soul. These are the Notre Dame values. I would love to write back to the editors of the magazine and tell them how they keep the flame alive, or how the flickering torch is forced bright thanks to the lives of the persevering the suffering and also the young.
Nico Lucor

Guantanamo protest
Re: Seen and heard: So! Some of the most highly credentialed ND students in the University’s history, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the brave men and women who fought the fascism of Axis powers in the 1940s, are sympathizing with our Islamo-fascist enemies who are detained at Guantanamo Bay. It is sad when young people have to learn everything the hard way.
Elizabeth Balmert ’82

‘Creation science’?
##What criteria are used to choose which alumni are included in the “Domers in the News” column? With mention of Ben Scripture ’98Ph.D. and his service as a defense witness at a mock trial on “creation science” (perhaps the mother of all oxymorons) at Northern Kentucky University, obviously you have set the bar at its lowest possible level. Scripture is an anti-evolutionist who uses his fundamentalist radio program to argue that dinosaurs co-existed with humans and actually joined Noah on the Ark, among his other strictly literal interpretations of the Bible. The harm this brings to the intellects of young people aspiring to be scientists cannot be calculated. And the embarrassment to the editors of Notre Dame Magazine and to the faculty of Notre Dame’s biochemistry department over the publicity given to him should be enormous.
Lee J. Suttner ’61
Professor emeritus
Indiana University, Bloomington

The beauty of moments
##I loved this piece (Sam Hazo’s “The real beauty of moments”). Its prose is so rich, and its ideas so intriguing. It also contains a clear challenge to the Notre Dame community: Have we crossed the line into “sacrosanct devotion to sports” because we can no longer find inspiration in other realms like religion, education or family? What does our obsession with football say about us?
T.J. Conley ’83
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Lives without end
As a member of the University’s Class of January 1951, I’ve been exposed to many Notre Dame publications. Never in Notre Dame Magazine have I read a piece as splendid as Kerry Temple’s “Lives Without End.” It may be that only folk as old as Kerry (who, as a ’74 graduate, I regard as a youngster) can appreciate the reflections to which we are now privy.

If Kerry can be tempted to offer another piece or three, please hasten to accept and publish.
John A. Maher ’51
Carlisle, Pennsylvania

My mother, Carolyn Jones, is a survivor of the New London explosion, and my life has been infused with this tragedy since I was very young. She lost a sister and an uncle and these abrupt and final transformations in her young life and the telling of the story have whispered my whole life that I must live well. Your story “Lives without end” is BEAUTIFULLY written. Thank you.
Ellen McKenzie

Your article on the last page, “Lives without end,” really struck a tender chord in my heart! You expressed the generational ties in such a poignant way causing me to pause & think about my own sweet dad, (Erwin J. LeBlanc,1926). He passed on a love and loyalty to God, family and Notre Dame that was so strong, it’s difficult to put it into words. Suffice it to say, I, my brother and sister are now carrying it in our hearts.

Dad told us Knute Rockne stories all of our lives and how he loved attending those Rockne games from 1922-26. The odd thing about this story is that he never returned to campus after graduating, except in his mind and heart. When we as adults started offering to take him, he had already entered his golden years and preferred the comfort of his easy chair and TV — he never missed a game on TV in his 102 years of life.

He talked of the bitter cold and how it prevented a Southern boy from trying out for the baseball team — even a Dallas Academy star player such as he. He and other Southern boys watched (from their dorm windows) the Northern boys skate and play games on the frozen ponds. Matt Storin’s article, “A winter’s tale in shades of gray,” helped me to understand how the extreme cold affected his years at ND.

Next Nov.7th, we are finally taking that trip back home to ND in memory of our dad. It will be our first visit. We will sit in the stadium at the Navy game and cheer the Fighting Irish on to victory and tour the campus — yes we will do it all in the bitter cold — and somehow I don’t think we will mind it one bit, for it will just be another piece of the tapestry that was woven into his life at ND.
Becky LeBlanc Simmons

The ND family
Re: Making the dream come true. Thank you for this well written piece by Mr. Saracino. Within this brief article, he has managed to convey the accelerated growth and progression of the Notre Dame education of today. Along with the comparable stats that he sited, one could not help but feel, the underlying heartfelt pride he has as a member of the Notre Dame family. This wonderful feeling, radiates from all of us, who have had the honor and the blessing of becoming a member of the Notre Dame Family, either as a student, or as a parent of a student.
Cindy Vollmer
(mother of Derek Vollmer, class of 2002)

Happy New Year
Starting 2009 at “home”: My wife and I returned to South Bend after dropping her mother off about 90 minutes away in Indiana on New Year’s eve. After a quiet evening, we went to the Basilica for a celebration of the Solemnity of Mary liturgy on January 1. It was a wonderful way to begin the New Year. As a leader of my firm which is beset by some very serious external threats, I prayed for our future and that of my fellow employees. I was reminded of how Our Lady must have faced a very uncertain future with St. Joseph, as she gave birth far from their home. Later they fled for their lives given the threat from Herod.

As many in my immediate family, and our extended Notre Dame family are burdened with worries over lack of employment, or less than adequate employment, and a very uncertain future in 2009, I reflected on how much our families have in common with the Holy Family as they faced the stress of their situation. I just hope we can have the courage that they had. I am also reminded that we, as leaders in our homes, firms, and country, need to continue to do the right thing, the right way, as we confront the uncertain future in 2009 and beyond. Being at our second home on campus helped reinforce the hope for help from Our Lady’s intercession. After Mass, we walked to the creche in the Lady Chapel, and a young family was serenaded by a nun singing “Silent Night.” Let’s hope that the peace that is expressed in that simple song is echoed throughout the new year on campus, and beyond.
Happy New Year, Notre Dame!
Bill Jensen ’75, ’77, and ’08

Catholic president
John F. Kennedy had a mind that could recognize church-state distinctions and understand pluralism and I admired Commonweal editor John Cogley who advised him regarding his address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association. But Kennedy’s politic assurance that day was so simplistic as to appear to reject the responsibility Thomas More accepted, even to give great scandal.

Terence Byrne’s observation in his letter to the editor in the winter 2008-09 issue that Kennedy did not prove “that a president can be a Catholic,” is equally simplistic. A reading of Jim Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable reveals a Kennedy whose recognition of the inhumanity and horror of war determined him to end the Cold War, get rid of nuclear weapons, reach an accommodation with Cuba, and withdraw from Vietnam—when the nationalist military were urging first strike nuclear attacks that would have cost well over 100 million lives. His friend, John XXIII, surely approved this moral sophistication. That is Catholic enough for me.
William H. Slavick, ’49, ’51, ’71
Portland, Maine

Global warming response
I would like to take respectful issue with two claims made in Dennis Lopez’s letter in the winter 2008-09 issue of Notre Dame Magazine. Firstly, James Hansen is not “NASA’s premier scientist,” although he may well be its premier self-promoter. Secondly, “the truth on global warming,” i.e., the claim that it is almost solely due to man-made causes, should not be arrived at by popular vote, as my beloved ND philosophy of science professor taught me by his masterful exposition of Galileo’s persecution for espousing the theory of a heliocentric solar system. Popular opinion at the time favored a geocentric one. Guess which theory turned out to be true. Sometimes rushing to a conclusion can cause more trouble due to precipitate actions than letting things work themselves out at a more natural pace.
Thomas Margrave

Spiritual matters
Re: Our Time on the Great Road, spring 2008 issue: Thank you for your inward look. Your Jeremiah passage really struck strong and true heart chords. May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless you indeed.
Regards in His Name.
Tom Geib

RE: “Letting go of God,” summer 2006 issue. You have spoken as if you had insight into my own soul and coming to understand.
Angie Van De Merwe

Re: If I Were a Christian, winter 2005-06 issue. I found the article extremely interesting and even timely in terms of the on-going debate/discussion on faith vs./and science. For the non-physicist, like myself, the article was mystifying as much as Catholicism, which I happily live and believe, is mystical.
Robert J. Sarno