Letters to the editor: Web extra

Author: Readers

Harsh statement
Surviving in Manhattan makes some people overly defensive and brash, as Christina Conklin describes in her fine article, “Would it kill you to be nice?” If only that struggle were unique to New York. A letter to the editor in the winter issue complains about how “evil” a Notre Dame professor is and that he “should burn in hell for eternity.” I would appreciate never reading such a letter again in this magazine. Even our hardened Manhattan alumni know we are leaven in the modern world, not judges of damnation in the next!

Keith Picher ’84
River Forest, Illinois

The winter issue included eight letters. One groused about some bagatelle of football ticket policy. Of the other seven, two voiced barely comprehensible attacks on affirmative action [or apparently anything remotely similar]. And while two were critical of the Bush administration’s policy of preemptive attacks, the remaining three proclaim our nation’s right to do as it pleases internationally apparently because it finds it pleasing to do so. One even ends with the exhortation that Professor Schmuhl “burn in hell for eternity.”

If this is representative of the thought of Notre dame alumni, then I’m afraid that Mrs. Kroc’s $50 million for peace studies [page 4] may be much too little, much too late.

Jack Mahon ’69
Elmer New Jersey

A Classic
Somewhere at Notre Dame (1943-48)—probably in an O’Malley class—I picked up a definition of poetry (or “poesy”) by Jacques Maritain as “the divination of the spiritual in things of sense, expressed in terms of things of sense.” Peggy Vincent’s short piece “A Gathering of Angels” seems to me to fit that definition perfectly. It’s a classic. Thanks for disseminating it.

And thanks for the luminous piece about Don Begley ’49 and to Tom Giordani ’50 by Tara Begley Wegener. Great choice.

Bob Walsh ’48
Huntington, New York

Business Statistics
As a recent Notre Dame graduate, I appreciate reading Notre Dame Magazine as each new issue arrives in my mailbox. It makes me feel more connected to Notre Dame after graduating.

The articles in your magazine are excellent. I must call attention to the article in the Winter 2003-2004 edition on page 11 titled “Too many business majors?” According to the article, Notre Dame is upset about the increasing percentage of students opting to major in business. The percentage is increasing because Notre Dame is being recognized by employers as having one of the best undergraduate business programs. As a result, the business majors are getting good jobs. In addition, the article says that the average percentage of business majors at the top 20 national universities is 7 percent. Notre Dame, in comparison, is approximately 33 percent.

On the surface, this says that too many Notre Dame students major in business. In reality, this comparison is meaningless. Many of the top 20 national universities lack an undergraduate business program, making their percentage of business majors zero percent. A much better comparison would be to compare Notre Dame only to the other schools with undergraduate business programs from the top 20 national universities.

I hope the Mendoza College of Business considers this new statistical approach before deciding whether or not to “cap” the number of business majors. Without adequate statistical comparisons, Notre Dame could result in improperly revamping its business program.

Matthew B. Roberts ’03
Lubbock, Texas

Hail to Mom
One of the unexpected benefits of sending my son to Notre Dame is receiving the Notre Dame Magazine. After reading the “Mom Never Said It Would Be Like This” series, I just had to tell you how much I appreciated the thoughtful sequencing of the stories, as I felt my mood shifting from anxious recognition, through nostalgia, then ending, uplifted, with laugh induced tears.

Glenn Abrams


The group of articles “Mom Never Said It Would be Like This” was one of my favorites of all time. It was so true! You truly put together a wonderful magazine.

Michael Fisk


I just read Tim Rogers’ contribution to the “Mom Never Said It Would Be Like This” cover package. I have known Tim for more than 15 years, and had the distinct pleasure of living with him our senior year.

I think anyone who has spent any amount of time with Tim would agree that there are few people in this world more deserving of a haymaker square in the crotch.

John O’Brien ’92
Chicago, Ill.


Poor Christina Conklin ("Mom Never Said It Would Be Like This")! A wholesome Minnesotan, who moves to big, bad New York City, is overwhelmed by the "impatience, self-absorption, aggression and search for a better deal" endemic to New York and quickly becomes someone who yells at her tailor, embarrasses her mother by brushing off tourists, and vengefully purses her co-conspirator in an illegal apartment sublet scheme in Small Clams Court.

As a lifelong New Yorker—30 plus years in what Ms. Conklin disparagingly refers to as one of the outer boroughs, The Bronx, and 20 years as a suburban commuter—I would like to dispel the notion that distrust, impatience, aggression and litigation are "neceesary tools for survival" in New York. Are there aggressive, distrustful, litigious people in New York? Sure. In greater numbers than elsewhere? Perhaps. But I have witnessed far too many individual acts of kindness by New Yorkers to complete strangers to make the sweeping condemnation that Ms. Conklin does. In fact, in recent surveys on the politeness of city residents, New York ranked seventh—seventh!—out of all cities surveyed. Many people survive, and thrive, in New York without giving in to the baser elements of the human personality.

James P. Finnegan ’72
Chappaqua, New York


About that ‘Great’ list

Just read your excellent compilation of what makes ND great, and it evoked some pleasant memories, like snowflakes at night in January, that I hadn’t thought of in years. Here are a couple additions:

The Blizzard of ’78
Mud volleyball
The steam tunnels

Tim Coonan ‘81
BiologistNational Park Service
Channel Islands National Park office
Ventura, California

“What’s So Great About Notre Dame?" in the Winter 2003-04 issue of Notre Dame Magazine is very special. Thank you.

Russ Stone ’72

In the most winter 2003-04 issue of Notre Dame Magazine Tom Dooley was eighth on the list of Good Things about Notre Dame. In addition, it is obvious that his statue in the Grotto holds a position of honor, being the only “human” presence, after Our Mother. Yet because of his revered status the University denies outright any evidence that Dr. Dooley was indeed gay, in particular a book sold in their own bookstore. Of course, the University must back up their position in denying campus access to the Gay and Lesbian group.

As always the University maintains their ironic inconsistencies in order to benefit themselves. Having lived in the area, and seeing the 800 pound gorilla throw its weight around, the sheen on the Dome is much dimmer.

Mauro Agnelneri ‘72
Granger, Indiana

I am writing this letter after reading (several times) the article "What’s So Great About Notre Dame" Winter 2003-04. I was a student at Notre Dame 1952-1959; and have not returned for a visit since 1965. Nevertheless, I was surprised by how many of your items I could actually remember and with which I could personally relate.

My own first choice for the article would have been: the way we changed residence halls each year. I have always felt that this type of bonding greatly increased our sense of identity and overall bonding with respect to the University itself. I was always proud of the fact that if a top student wanted to room with or next to others, your order of choice was by the lowest average not the highest! (No, I was usually the highest!)

I realize that some type of more permanent residence was a necessary consequence of coeducation; and that old way of doing things might have been too difficult to identify in this type of single phrase list (“change-hall” vs. “stay-hall”).

But, there is one aspect of this old system that, I think, should have been mentioned. It was called something like "the Blue Circle. Rather than achieve bonding by freshmen hazing, as was done at many other Institutions, at Notre Dame our first weeks were spent with the help and guidance of a special association of upper classmen! Perhaps the system of discipline and high demands placed on freshmen by the Holy Cross Fathers made any additional form of hazing-type-bonding unnecessary!? And consequently led to a system of helping and guiding as Notre Dame’s initiation to group bonding. (Yeah “lights-out” and “candles-from-the-Grotto”!!)

I had one additional comment; but it has now been many years since I was at Notre Dame, and I was there for some seven years, and I am not always certain that the memories I put together were actually in that order and juxtaposition. With respect to page 41 and this article, are you sure that the “milk riots” were in 1951? My freshman year at Notre Dame was 1952-1953; and I still remember crawling on the floor under a chaos of flying everything after the cafeteria had reduced the size of the milk glasses! Subsequently, I can remember an emergency outdoor meeting called by Father Hesburgh (it was his freshman year also—as president)! This meeting, I think it was in the space outside Washington Hall and the Huddle, concerned not only the 1952 milk riot but also the shortage of toilet paper in the residence halls—caused by an excessive use of “Irish Confetti” at home football games!?

Dennis Gibson ‘58, ’61M.A.
Quebec, Canada

Omitted from "What’s So Great About Notre Dame…" was:

Notre Dame 7—Oklahoma- 0—in the 1958 football game when the longest major college football winning streak came to an abrupt end in Norman, Oklahoma (of all places!). All of us who saw what Oklahoma did under Bud Wilkinson in South Bend the year before knew that Notre Dame was going to win that game even if they lost all the others. In 1957, Bud Wilkinson’s team entered Notre Dame stadium for pre-game warm-ups and formed concentric circles encompassing one-half of the field sideline to sideline from the midfield to the goal line. This is in contrast to what was customary in that each team would split the field in a longitudinal fashion from goal line to goal line. The Oklahoma football players started their calisthenics encompassing Notre Dame players who, after pushing themselves through the jumping Oklahoma players, finished their warm ups in abbreviated fashion at the far end of the field. Terry Brennan, coach of Notre Dame, was so angry that he lost composure to the team in the locker room pounding his fists yelling “get ’em, get ’em!!” many times. Of course, Notre Dame lost 40 to 0—but there was no way Terry Brennan was going to lose in Norman, Oklahoma, the following year. My college roommate, Robert Porst, and I, must have been the only Notre Dame students who saw what was going on, otherwise the students would have been quite raucous in their hooting. (Actually, a good friend of mine who was an Oklahoma student was with us—we had smuggled him in, and he was just chuckling about it all, not thinking about what would happen a year later).

How that game could be forgotten is unbelievable. It was one of the greatest games of all times—when the longest major college football winning streak came to an abrupt, premature end because of unwise, disrespectful pre-game antics the year before.

Samuel A. Nigro ‘58
Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Coach suggestion
I just finished reading Mike Towle’s article on Charlie Weis ‘78 and I have to wonder why this ND grad was not even considered for the head coaching job two years ago. We all witnessed the George O’Leary hiring debacle and now we have a football coach who over the past two years has compiled a very average record, who struggles to beat teams like Navy and who is embarrassed by a mediocre Syracuse team.

Of course you can go back to the Bob Davie era and wonder how this can happen when we have either the most or the second most, according to your magazine (Page 13 ), players on NFL rosters and have held this position for the past nine years. Has Charlie Weis been ignored by our athletic director because he is not Irish, not black or didn’t play competitive collegiate football? Certainly these issues did not bother Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick but then these two gentlemen do not have a Ph.D. like Dr. Kevin White so we must conclude that they are not as smart as Dr. White. The jury is still out on our present head football coach but I think that Dr. White should put Tyrone Willingham on a short leash next year and use the NBC home game money to buy out the remainder of Mr. Willingham’s contract should ND repeat the 2003 performance. If Dr. White fails to act he should also be relegated to the classroom where he can use his doctorate.

I think that if Charlie Weis would have been given the head coaching job two years ago ND would have only lost the Michigan, Southern Cal and Florida State games in 2003. The more I see of Dr. White’s curious moves the more I realize that a Ph.D. is totally irrelevant to performance as an athletic director as Edward “Moose” Krause, who was not a doctor but just a “Moose” proved.

Art Armento ’ 61

Dillon Hall
As the Poet Laureate of the “real” Rat Pack, I want to relate a little bit of serendipity that you missed in your “Hall Portrait: Dillon.” It happened in 1960 and for those involved it was a defining moment in our lives.
I roomed in one of the big triples at one end of the building. It was often the gathering place for a group of friends that the rector had to keep his eye on, because we were the cause of many of the poor man’’s problems. Unknown to us, the large triple in the opposite corner of the building was occupied by a similar group.

On fine day Father Bristol, “the Brush”, decided to put an end to his problems by switching the occupants of the two triples, thus breaking up the cliques. But, as luck would have it, each group had too much in common and quickly formed a super group. New and profound friendships were formed, boundless thought unleashed, and a critical mass was formed that has lasted a lifetime.

We have our share of doctors, lawyers, CEOs, a bank president, a judge, and just plain Joes. Every third fall we come from all over the country to Chicago for an unofficial reunion and a long game weekend. We hire a bus to take our wives and us to the game, since we still retain some of the “Bad Boys of Dillon Hall” in us. The great wonder of the Dillon event is that no matter where we go or how bad things get, all of us carry in our hearts the comfort that there are thirty guys out there who love us unconditionally. What a glorious mistake Father Bristol made and we fully recognize that we must still strive to do great works for we have been truly blessed.

Thomas R. Freeman
[Herschel ’61 (almost)]
Columbia, South Carolina


The winter 2003-04 issue was one of the most interesting issues of recent time in my estimation. The stories the people told with reference to their mothers was different. However the thing I found most intriguing was the short story of Dillon Hall. It brought back some very pleasant memories.

In 1931, when I entered the freshman class and was assigned a single room in Dillon Hall, which was still under construction and hopefully would be available for occupancy last in October or early November. As a result, I along with other students so assigned were housed temporarily off campus, in homes picked especially for this short term housing. Since meals were part of the fee to enter school we were eligible for the dining hall (which later became known as the South Dining Hall). But because of our off campus living quarters and transportation problems, we were given passes to the cafeteria, with holding table assignments until we arrived safely in Dillon Hall. Luckily the house to which I was assigned was right on the corner with streetcar stop with a direct line to the university, with about a 15 to 20 minute commute.

Dillon Hall construction was finally completed toward the end of October 1931, and a somewhat slow transfer from off campus top room assignment, took place. I don’t really remember the method used but it appeared that only one segment of each of the three floors was admitted at a time. Each of us received a written notice of our transfer date and were advised to be ready for the baggage handlers at a specified date and time. We were assured that all of our baggage would be in front of our room when we arrived and it was.

After my check in, interview with Father Haggerty the Rector, and arriving at my assigned room 301, the baggage in front of the door labeled WILLIAM BERNARD was not mine. I discovered much my surprise, that three strangers from Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania were all names William Bernard, and we all lived in adjacent rooms. I could understand if there were multiple Jones, Smiths, Johnsons and perhaps even Andersons, but finding three William Bernard’s was very strange. I was registered as a pre-med student, the Ohio Bernard in engineering, and the Pennsylvania Bernard in the college of commerce.

At that time most of the rooms were designed for a single occupancy, with a sink hot and cold water, a desk and chair, a single naked light in the ceiling, a single bed complete with bedding, and seemingly as an afterthought, a divided locker with drawers and shelves on one side and a place for hanging garments installed. The installation was completed after the trim had been set, so that there was about an inch and a quarter space between the wall and the locker which about 6 feet tall, permitting shelf like space on top.

On registering with Father Haggerty, we were presented with a list of things to be aware of. The most important of which, the water in the room was drinkable, as was not chlorinated. Drinking water was available at the drinking fountains in the halls. By the way, this water was ice cold, and came with enough pressure to permit use of a container to be kept in your room. A small deposit was required for the room key, and we were advised to always lock the door when we were not present. Role would be taken at morning and evening prayer. Daily Mass would be at 0630, and while the attendance was not required most of the students attended daily. There was no scheduled Mass on Sundays and we were expected to attend Mass at the Sacred Heart Church. Remember at that time one of the requirements for receiving Communion was a fast from the previous midnight, so if you wished to be on time for breakfast, you attended the 0600 Mass.

Once we were settled, living in Dillon Hall was a happy time. Within a six weeks period we all knew each other, if not by name by sight. The walk to the dining room was short, and seating assignments were such, that we became friendly on a much more rapid pace. The dining room required a dress code of a coat and tie, and while most of the students wore suits, coats and pants of different colors were not unusual.

Winter with the heavy snows became a problem, because a good percentage of the walks were “board walks,” which became very slick and treacherous, and several students ended up with either upper or lower limb fractures from the fall and there were also some head injuries requiring extended hospital stays. Happily, for everyone, by the time we were seniors, they were replaced with either cinder pathways or cement walks.

William R. Bernard, M.D., ’35
Springfield, Illinois

Changes needed
For survival, the Catholic Church, like our country, has to change. The Church has to become more like a democracy and our government has to become more like a religion.

Gene Rossi ’49
Doylestown, Pennsylvania


The Elephant Tug
For three plus years, I have had a page from a previous issue where your column discussed attending the reunion (the year was 2000) and hearing stories and legends at one of the sessions. You made a comment about one guy talking about renting an elephant for the Tug-of-War for An Tostal.

I am that guy. It was the spring of 1972 (the last year Notre Dame was all men) and we paid $300 for the day, trainers, transportation, insurance, etc. The arrival at the gate and seeing the reaction of the security guard was worth the price of admission, alone, with Arthur Pears, then director of security, driving over to see the 48-foot truck before granting admission to the campus.

I have picture that show Little Babe, age 51, weighing 4,000 pounds, exiting the truck and then standing in the lot on the lake side of Lyons Hall. The other picture show her walking in front of the old bookstore as well as the Administration Building. The last picture is actually with Little Babe wearing the harness that they use to pull up the tent poles—the trainers tied the rope to the chains on the harness! Credit for the pictures goes to Dennis Gleason ’75, ’76M.S., who was the only one smart enough to have a camera along that day.

Michael Wolz’ 75
Chicago, Illinois