The letters we publish here are edited for space and are representative of those we receive. We print only those letters referring to an article in the most recent edition of the magazine, not those responding to letters or commenting on issues not addressed in the recent edition.
The two articles that reflect the personal stories of growing old and death (“Fare Thee Well” and “Death in front”) provided much to reflect on for me personally. Having lost my mother, Jean Wood, to Alzheimer’s and my father, Ernest Wood ’59, to COVID-19 during the past year, these essays helped me reflect on how vulnerable our elderly are, and how important it is to face the end of life with dignity and grace. The struggles of those dealing with dementia and other illnesses of old age are real, and financial burdens aside the emotional and mental challenges of caregiving are immense. Most of us don’t think too much about death and dying until we have to. When we are faced with the end of our own or a loved one’s life, we quickly realize how important our family and friends are in providing comfort and compassion to the passing soul.
Dave Wood ’85
“A thousand bucks a month into a retirement fund . . . by age 65 [will become] $7.4 million,” Professor Carl Ackermann instructs his students in what shows to be a fun and instructive classroom (“More than a Class Act”). He omits, however, that without their contribution, the market will lose its liquidity. The financial system is not an unmoved mover. It is highly participant-dependent; as in the proverbial plumbing pipe drained of water, both viscosity and velocity will slow to a crawl.
Ackermann might also point out that the students in his classroom will enter a system where only 1 percent of investors will control 80 percent of the wealth of markets. The other 99 percent will struggle at times to afford their monthly expenses, which might require that $1,000. I suggest the good professor instead release our youth from this matrix and set them free to expend and invest in the things that bring them joy and remain under their control.
Gus G. Widmayer ’80
Remembering George Craig
I read with interest the story (“His Passion Was Contagious”) about my entomology professor Dr. George Craig, who required us to collect and curate an insect collection to submit at the end of the course. I remember going into the Biology Building to pick up a butterfly net so I could work on my collection. While my premed classmates were dissecting cats in a dark formaldehyde-smelling lab, I was romping joyfully in the woods, fields and creeks surrounding campus with my butterfly net and collection jars. Thanks to Dr. Craig, I still love insects for being what they are: not just pests or disease vectors but fellow travelers with us on a biological planet.
David L. Coulter ’69
The story about George Craig brought back many memories of my time at UNDERC. His passion and joy for the course on aquatic entomology was infectious. Every day we would all go out to some nearby stream to sample aquatic insects. He would drive his own car and, when we arrived at the site, would pull out his collapsible stool and sit by the side of the stream as we collected our samples. We would each fill our sample jars and then bring them up to show Dr. Craig what we had found. I will never forget his excitement. Despite the fact that he must have seen thousands of stoneflies or caddis flies in his life, each new one was special, a priceless find.
Although I started out that summer as premed, I got hooked on aquatic biology. Now 33 years later, I am the director of the University of California’s biological field station in the Sierra Nevada. I think of Dr. Craig often as I watch students out in the streams with their dip nets, discovering the magnificent diversity of life below the rocks.
Carol Blanchette ’88
Mammoth Lakes, California
The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett
I just read “The Education of Amy Coney Barrett” and was struck that the author pointed out that Justice Barrett ’97J.D. was “the first justice approved without a single vote from the Senate minority,” but then failed to mention the likely cause of the “chilly circumstances” of her confirmation. Her appointment was the second one notoriously stolen by the then-Senate majority from a president of the opposing party.
Robert G. Harrison ’70
Durham, North Carolina
John Nagy ’00M.A. presents an interesting introduction to Justice Barrett, and I appreciated the insights of former colleagues and students. The article glossed over, however, many of the key pushbacks to her nomination, as it was much more than just the timing of her nomination coming so close the death of Justice Ginsburg. How about mentioning: (1) the Republican Senate majority leader’s refusal to recognize President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland months (as opposed to days) before the 2016 election; (2) the attempt to select someone for purely political gain, who would help garner additional votes from the “religious right”; (3) the potential quid pro quo of appointing a justice who would help the president win a legal challenge to the election; and (4) the fact that she was nominated by someone whose words, actions and spirit are entirely antithetical to the values of the University.
She could have been (and may turn out to be) the most qualified Supreme Court justice in history, but the circumstances of her nomination were appalling to me and many Americans.
David Robinson ’85
Our civil discourse has devolved into division based on brand rather than tone, advertising loyalties replacing the pursuit of what may be reckoned as truth or at least truthful. Amy Coney Barrett brought much of this strife into focus with her nomination as Supreme Court justice, and displayed beyond partisanship the dignity of a person centered in her faith, her family and her devotion to law. I listened to both “sides” praising or railing at her nomination among my elder ND classmates and witnessed too often the chasm of belief rather than the bridge of reason and decency. Your article was excellent in portrayal, an invitation to witness a talented woman outstanding in her profession, yet vulnerable and real as a person. May we support her in what will surely be a most demanding position of public service and learn from her example.
Don Hynes ’69
Kindly stop sending me Notre Dame Magazine. I am a Double Domer, and Notre Dame remains dear to my heart. However, I was dismayed at the manner in which our government rushed Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court appointment and by seeing Father Jenkins and Judge Barrett at the White House without wearing masks. By Jenkins’ attending the ceremony, he was mixing religion with politics and sending an unwritten message of support for Donald Trump, whose actions throughout his presidency have been reprehensible and fly in the face of so many things that Notre Dame and Father Jenkins preach. And now to receive your magazine this quarter and see that you have chosen to feature Amy Coney Barrett and celebrate her as a heroic Notre Dame graduate is, in my opinion, unacceptable.
Kerry Meyer Trucco ’88, ’89MBA
Traverse City, Michigan
I was curious to see how you would address the challenges in discussing how Justice Barrett was appointed, the timing of that appointment and by whom she was appointed. In the nearly 4,500 words of your article, however, you found a way to simply avoid all of these critical issues.
My love of this country’s political institutions began as a government major in South Bend. I would eventually work in the federal government (proudly as a civil servant in the Executive Office of the President, serving a president for whom I did not vote), complete graduate study and teach American government for nearly two decades at a Jesuit university. As has been made abundantly clear over the last weeks, President Trump’s legacy will be a stain on those institutions. Unfortunately, Judge Barrett’s elevation to the court is part of that legacy.
I entirely understand that you were aiming to present Judge Barrett to the Notre Dame audience as a jurist and human being. That is admirable. But to pretend that her nomination and confirmation can be lumped into that of the 113 judges who preceded her to the nation’s highest court — some sort of “standard operating procedure” — is a gross mischaracterization. Context matters. And in the case of Judge Barrett, that context was very unique and important — much too important to be ignored.
The year 2020 was such a shameful one for Notre Dame — from our University president’s becoming a prop in a political photo opportunity to the athletic department’s relentless pursuit of football in the midst of a devastating global pandemic. I had hoped to put it behind me. This article brought all that jingoism back. Please stop sending me the magazine. It does more to disappoint me than to celebrate the University.
Patrick Murphy ’84
I do not wish to receive Notre Dame Magazine anymore, even if it’s free. The last issue, with Justice Barrett on the rear fold, went straight into the recycling bin. I respect the editor’s opinion to honor this person, though it is my opinion that her appointment is the product of the worst tendencies of politicians who every day become more inclined to stand for things Notre Dame does not. I do not believe this is a proud moment for Notre Dame.
Colin M. McClelland ’11M.S., ’13Ph.D.
Whoever edits Notre Dame Magazine or is responsible for its content should be fired. This is the first issue of the magazine since our beloved school had the tremendous honor of an alumna being named to the Supreme Court of the United States, and she’s not on the cover? Seriously?
Notre Dame has never before been represented in the nation’s highest court. This is a huge news story for the Notre Dame community. Instead of being relegated to a five-page story on page 46, Justice Barrett should have been treated to the front page. I don’t care what your politics are, or how you feel about the man who selected her. The process was legitimate, within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution, and Notre Dame now has its first Supreme Court justice. This ought to be a point of great pride for our University.
Tom Flynn ’19J.D.
South Bend, Indiana
I wanted to thank you for your thoughtful article on Justice Barrett. I think it was very appropriate that I read it the day after the inauguration of President Biden — a day in which my hope in our country was renewed — but also a day in which I was still filled with lingering anger while pronounced strains remain in our country (as well as among my own friends and family). I try my best to have an open mind, but I am guilty of following the sound bites and the political rancor. And I’ll be honest, I did not give the nomination of Justice Barret the open mind it deserved — to understand her qualifications and record holistically. I am not proud of that and found the article helped provide that holistic perspective that I had not previously sought. As was nicely pointed out by one of her colleagues — we don’t always have to share the same opinion: “I’m confident that Barrett is going to be a good justice . . . even if I disagree with her.”
Rachel Finke Chambers ’92
“Domers in the News” paints proud portraits of three alumni — Sean Conley ’02, Donald McGahn ’91 and Amy Coney Barrett ’97J.D. — who are described as playing “prominent role[s] . . . on the American political landscape.” A more balanced depiction would include less savory aspects of their entanglements with the Trump administration. Let’s not pretend our alumni are exempt from the ethical stain that comes with aiding and abetting an amoral man.
Mark Sloan ’75
Santa Rosa, California
Notre Dame graduates who participated in the Trump administration and served as Trump enablers should be strongly chastised, not acknowledged in some neutral fashion. Likewise for all the Notre Dame graduates who, as present or former elected officials, are ardent Trump enablers. The Notre Dame administration and Notre Dame Magazine rarely demonstrate the moral backbone it requires to rise to the occasion and strongly denounce inappropriate and/or ethically questionable behavior.
Bill Joyce ’75
And a final farewell
Mel Livatino (“Fare Thee Well”) has done it again, dived into the human spirit with background songs of hope and love, and with memories. The chords struck by his writing resonate with so many of us who have far fewer days ahead of us than behind us, and, while knowing life’s challenging realities, cherish the manifold beauties that bloom in memories of events, persons, feelings and convictions.
Paul J. Zalesky ’68
East Greenwich, Rhode Island