Editor’s note: All the letters here appeared in the winter 2016-17 print issue.
Remembering Jack Simmerling
I want to thank John Nagy for his outstanding article, “The Last Victorian,” about Jack Simmerling ’57. Jack and I were classmates and the first students in O’Shaughnessy Hall in fall 1953. The writer captured the special heart and soul that Jack possessed. Especially memorable were visits to Chicago to follow wrecking crews making way for the interstate system. A trip to Chicago was never complete without going to the Heritage Gallery for a visit with Jack and his family. His house was once a stop on the Underground Railroad. Thanks for the fond memories and a reminder of just how special Jack was.
Robert LaCasse ’57
Pinehurst, North Carolina
Notre Dame students under pressure
Thank you for the article, “What’s Best for Them.” As wonderful as the Notre Dame experience has been and is, there are serious challenges, among them stress and anxiety. I’m grateful that the University provides counseling and yet, as anxiety levels rise throughout the country and across all age groups, I hope more people will examine how the Standard American Diet is contributing to the rising anxiety levels.
We can wait decades for the scientific community to prove how all the high levels of sugars and petrochemical inputs (such as food colorings, flavorings and preservatives) and increasing pesticide and fertilizer usage are impacting our mental health, or we can individually shift to cleaner, organic foods. It’s been about seven years that our family seriously threw out the sugar and chemicals and, yes, anxiety levels have dropped significantly.
Debby Reelitz ’92
North Granby, Connecticut
“What’s Best for Them” hits the nail on the head in describing the crazy, competitive, stress-filled world in which our children — especially those driving to get into elite colleges like Notre Dame — are growing up. When my older daughter (now a college junior but not at Notre Dame) was a high school sophomore who dreamed of going to Notre Dame, she was struggling to maintain Bs in AP classes while juggling the many extracurricular activities that consume the time of high-achieving students. I called Notre Dame’s admissions office and asked if it would be better to drop the AP classes and get all As or get Bs in the AP classes. The answer: “Can’t she get the Bs up to As? Because the kids who go here take all the hard classes and get all As.”
The problems this article points out are clear to every parent. Yes, we know our kids are stressed. But we also know that if they don’t achieve excellence in academics and extracurriculars and community service, they won’t get into a place like Notre Dame. Schools say they look at the whole student. What they really mean is they look at the whole student after they’ve cleared incredibly high academic and extracurricular standards. It doesn’t surprise me so many students are anxious, stressed and depressed these days.
Carol Enright ’88
The fall issue has about seven pages devoted to Notre Dame students experiencing mental problems with the fact that they are no longer No. 1. As a result, they ask Notre Dame for help. This is a worthwhile expense, but is caused by the school’s effort to concentrate admittance on a superior grade level. Would it not be more practical to admit individuals lacking the current academics but provide them with tutors or whatever else would be helpful? This would cut down on the mental health expense.
Charles Duryea ’55
Red Hook, New York
“What’s Best for Them” has a governing theme: the obsessive busyness of today’s America and its portentous effect upon the psyche of young people struggling to measure up. I will quote several sentences to catch its salient quality as they describe the distraction of Notre Dame students: “When they exit class, they talk on their phones, thumb-tap text, look to see what they’ve missed in the time they’ve been away. They feel lost if not connected, umbilically, to the latest digital watering holes. It is relentless, addictive, brain-swiveling.” These sentences condense powers of observation, analysis, expression and criticism, and they graphically put before us a whole new phenomenon of disconnection that prides itself on community and communication.
Joseph Ryan ’59
South Bend, Indiana
TMH and LBJ
I found it ironic, and more than a bit disheartening, to read of the Notre Dame College Republicans’ support of Donald Trump in the same issue in which Robert Schmuhl detailed Father Hesburgh’s recollections of President Johnson reaching across the aisle to achieve civil rights reform in the 1960s. Throughout this scorched-earth campaign, President-elect Donald Trump did nothing to indicate his administration would offer anything in the form of meaningful compromise. While that might be an effective means to accomplish goals in these polarized times, it offers no encouragement to the marginalized and downtrodden in our society. The Book of Luke recounts the story of the Samaritan offering aid and comfort to a half-dead man beaten by robbers. This is a story worth remembering when hearing messages of hate, distrust and exclusion. I have no problem with the Notre Dame College Republicans endorsing a candidate its members believe best represents their belief system and values, but I must doubt if they gave sufficient thought to the effect their choice will have on the faceless, less fortunate among us.
Michael C. Henry ’79
Saint Petersburg, Florida
Robert Schmuhl is factually correct and not biased in his account on how LBJ succeeded in getting Congress to sign off on the Civil Rights Act. Most TV “talking heads” believe the Democrats did it all. The Mayflower Hotel had many RM 346s.
Victor Tallarida ’52
San Diego, California
Victims of crimes
Jessica Ringsred’s account (“The silence rape imposes”) is unquestionably an evocative one, and I agree rape is a serious crime that calls for investigation and prosecution. In our society there are shootings and stabbings every day; some are fatal, some cause permanent disability
You may be sure that I, a victim of a violent crime that I will never forget, have been left with a feeling of vulnerability and humiliation that doesn’t heal quickly. It has made me less trusting and more suspicious and definitely more cautious about unsavory characters I may encounter.
We often hear about the callous reception a rape victim receives when the crime is reported, and I have heard first-hand of women being scolded for their provocative dress or demeanor as the cause of their victimization. In a similar fashion, law enforcement’s first question to the victim of violent assault is often an inquiry into what the argument was about, as if it were the victim’s fault. Beyond that comes an irritated response to the victim’s bothering the officers when the victim is not dead or maimed.
Edward Ryan ’66
El Segundo, California
I enjoyed “Unexpected Beauty” by Michael Berberich, in which he mentions that “as far as I know there are no songs about Turlock, Chowchilla or Needles.” But the Hoyt Axton song, “Never been to Spain,” made famous with its 1971 release by Three Dog Night, contains the lyrics, “Well, I headed out for Vegas/Only made it out to Needles.” Of course you may ask, “What does it matter? What does it matter?”
Tom Walsh ’83