Letters to the Editor

Letters: January/February 2022

We welcome readers’ letters, which should be emailed to yam@yale.edu or mailed to Letters Editor, PO Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905. Due to the volume of correspondence, we are unable to respond to or publish all mail received. Letters accepted for publication are subject to editing. Priority is given to letters of fewer than 300 words.

Memories of Toad's Place

Bravo to Brian Phelps and Randall Beach for “The Night the Stones Played Toad’s” and for the decision to make that the cover story in the November/December issue. I sheepishly but shamelessly admit that it was, by far, my fastest response time from receiving to reading an article in your or any other magazine. When I arrived on campus in 1993, one of my first orders of business was applying to serve as a cocktail waitress at Toad’s, despite having no previous experience in the role. I just had to work there, given that it truly is “where legends come to play.”

Fortunately, I got the gig, and despite putting up with a lot of lunkheads—er, customers—I was able to see a number of amazing performances, from David Byrne to Cracker to The Tragically Hip. The best though, which leads to my only beef with the article, was Iggy Pop—who, I’m proud to say, regally touched my nose as I gazed up at him from the front row. Mr. Pop should be on the curated list of performers who played Toad’s that accompanied your article. Otherwise, thanks for publishing the official tale. What an amazing night that must have been!
Colleen Coyle Mathis ’95MEM
Tucson, AZ

I was in New Haven on August 12, 1989. I was a graduate student in New York City, and we drove up that day to peruse biology journals in Kline Science Library that we did not have at Albert Einstein, have a look around the Yale campus, and, as always, drive past the windows of my old rooms in TD. We walked past Toad’s Place that afternoon and there was a lot of activity. I wondered what was going on but did not give it much more thought, only to read the next day that the Rolling Stones had played there that night!  

This year for my birthday, my daughters gifted me a subscription to Storyworth, where every week a new question is posed to me about my life. I answer, and then at the end of the year all my replies will be bound together. Last week the question was “What advice would you now give to your 20-year-old self?” I have no big desire to change my life, and who knows if a different path would have been more rewarding, but there are little things that I missed that I would like to have over.

So I would tell myself: If you ever happen to be in New Haven some time in the future and you walk by Toad’s and see a lot of commotion, stick around and go inside. You will not regret it.
Robert Kraft ’77
Tucson, AZ

Unfortunately for those of us who graduated in the mid-to-late Sixties, Toad’s hadn’t been conceived. In my junior year (’65–’66), when the major revolution in rock and roll was going on, there was just one local place that brought in what was happening, and that was the New Haven Arena. A hockey rink with a stage. 

Here’s where New Haven was part of history. In 1964 the Rolling Stones were scheduled to play there, but because they hadn’t made it big, the concert was canceled. By 1965 they were indeed happening and embarked on what was called the “Out of Our Heads Tour.” To a sold-out crowd, they came to the New Haven Arena on November 4, 1965. “Satisfaction,” among other great tunes, had made them the sensation they were.

Another historic event was Bob Dylan’s transition to electric. He’d played the Arena in March 1965 on a dual bill with Joan Baez—all acoustic. My friends and I didn’t see that one. But then “Subterranean Homesick Blues” came out and blew everybody away. So Dylan decided to do a world tour. He assembled a band that included everybody that would become The Band. They came to the Arena on February 18, 1966. He played an acoustic set, and then the band came on and once again blew everybody away. We all went to that one.

The other concert we went to was James Brown and the Famous Flames, with James doing his crazy cape removal act and sending the very mixed crowd wild.

They tore the Arena down around the time Toad’s arrived. But for some of us Yalies, that was the place in New Haven to ride the momentous upheaval in music and culture in the Sixties.
Joe Breck ’67
Tucson, AZ

As someone who used to live at the other end of York Street—down by the art museum—and whose husband Elliott Kone ’49 was a fellow of Branford College, and as the author of 50 novels writing as Blair Bancroft, I have to take a moment to say that the Toad’s article was one of the very best I’ve seen in your magazine. Thanks for sharing those special moments for those of us old enough to remember the Stones way back when.
Grace Kone
Longwood, FL

Your list of famous acts that played Toad’s has one glaring omission, arguably the greatest bar band of all time: NRBQ.
John P. Rogan ’82
Greenwich, CT

You missed a few big appearances, and I’ll name two. I saw Alice in Chains play, and they sold signed CDs off the stage for $10 (oops, didn’t buy one). The best part was they were the opening act for none other than Iggy Pop!
Rob Chapman
Omaha, NE

Great article. Thanks for publishing. I’ll surely buy the book. Three more acts to add to the list: Seal, Eddie Money, Counting Crows. I have the ticket stubs somewhere in my archive!
John Pakutka ’92MPPM
Branford, CT

Kudos for diversity

I just wanted to let you know that I think the November/December 2021 issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine is the best I’ve seen, in terms of diversity in its photos and graphics. Often the photos (whether in articles, ads, or of contributors) are heavily of white people, with little variety. Your latest issue included distinguished alumni of color, and even the graphic of a person by the COVID update was Black.
Keep up the good work!
Cindy Miller Lovell ’92MSN
Madison, WI

Learning from Kagan

Your article on Professor Don Kagan (“Remembering Donald Kagan,” November/December) brought back fond memories. He was simply the best teacher I ever had. I entered Yale in the fall of 1973 as a prospective math major, but quickly converted to a history major after taking Professor Kagan’s survey course on ancient Greek history.

I was one of the few lucky undergraduates to take his graduate seminar on the Peloponnesian War; I stood in awe of graduate students like Paul Rahe [’71, ’77PhD], who could actually speak and read Attic Greek. Professor Kagan graciously agreed to act as my adviser for my senior thesis on the expediency of repressing rebellion in the Athenian empire.

I caught up with Professor Kagan at a Hartford Yale Club event many years later and asked him to autograph my copy of his seminal masterpiece The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. I thought I would receive only an autograph, but he took time to write: “To Paul, in fond memory of the courses we had together and all that I learned from you and your colleagues. It is a joy to have seen you again.”
This epitomizes him: he was kind to think he learned from us, but of course, exactly the opposite was true.
Paul L. Bourdeau ’77
West Hartford, CT

I graduated two years before Professor Kagan came to Yale, so I never had a chance to take his survey course on ancient Greek history. But I’m having a ball taking it now, since I discovered that all the lectures are available for free from Open Yale Courses, both as videos on YouTube and as podcasts, which are downloadable for iPhone or Android. I listen to the podcasts on my morning walks and watch the videos on my cable system in my home at night. Right now I’m just starting on the Peloponnesian War. You’re right: he was brilliant, pugnacious and, above all, fun! And I’m so glad I still have the chance to enjoy and learn from him, even though he’s left us.
Martin Snapp ’67
Oakland, CA

Thank you for the wonderful remembrances of Professor Donald Kagan. He was such a superb teacher, brilliant scholar, and big-hearted person. I learned much from him, and I think of those lessons often.

These memories caused me to recall some of the great professors I had the good fortune to encounter as a Yale undergraduate: Donald Kagan, H. Bradford Westerfield, Wolfgang Leonhard, Abbas Amanat, John Merriman, Henry Turner, Elie Wiesel (visiting from BU), and many more. Several of these scholars and teachers have passed on, alas, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who counts himself lucky to have enjoyed the opportunity to hear and learn from them many years ago.
David Wecht ’84, ’87JD
Pittsburgh, PA

Thanks for the tribute to Donald Kagan. I still have fond memories of my classes with him. However, there was one minor error. The Al Bernstein that Cynthia Farrar refers to in her note had to be the late Dr. Alvin H. Bernstein, a graduate of Cornell (BA, PhD) and Oxford (BA, MA). While he was a brilliant man and wonderful teacher, he never received a degree from Yale or its law school, as you indicate. He did teach at Yale during the 1974–75 academic year, and he left his mark on many of us who were privileged to study Roman history with him.
Paul Weick ’76
Bay Village, OH

Mr. Weick is right; that’s the Al Bernstein to whom Professor Farrar was referring. The Yale degree indicators after his name were mistakenly added during the editing process, and were not Farrar’s mistake. We regret the error.—Eds.

Art by alumnae

I find it curious that in your article on the exhibit of art by women alumni at the Art Gallery (“Conversations Across Time,” November/December) there is no illustration of work by women who earned a graduate degree in the Art School before 1961. I understand that the article is a brief visual survey; however, women’s work from more than half of the 150 years is not represented in the selection. I have not yet seen the show or the catalog, but I hope there is critical analysis of specific works created by women prior to 1950, the arrival year of Josef Albers and the change in pedagogy.

That earlier work may or may not be praised, but it should not be effaced. I encourage you to run a selection of reproductions of that work; for example, life drawing, tempera painting, and composition studies by women studying at Yale. Readers would be interested and become better informed.
William Keller ’72
West Newbury, MA

The exhibition itself does indeed include a wider chronological range of work going back to the earliest days of the School of Art.—Eds.

I am a female graduate of Yale School of Art with a degree in painting. I was thrilled to see the article (and the show) on women artists who went to Yale. I write to you because I had a most curious career—possibly the only one to come out of the MFA program with this history.

After leaving Yale I lived and painted in New York City for approximately ten years and had numerous shows, including one-person shows—one, for example, at Aquavella Gallery in New York City. I couldn’t afford to just paint, so I took a job designing jewelry for Tiffany & Co. I was hired by John Loring [’60], the legendary design director and executive vice president, who also went to Yale. This job changed the course of my career: over the years, I worked for Tiffany three different times for three different executive vice presidents. I also designed many pieces for such renowned international jewelry companies as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpel, and Bulgari, and I was in Bergdorf Goodman with my own collection for ten years.

I have been published in various books and articles, and I am in museum collections such as the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. My designs run from $50 to $5 million.
Rachelle Epstein ’71MFA
New York, NY

Chip Benson's wisdom

I am a Yalie, Class of 1955, and a professor at Rhode Island School of Design since 1957 and still at it! Regarding your article about Richard Benson (“Creation by Camera,” November/December): the Benson studio carved the stones on the graves of my father and mother, and I knew Chip’s mother. RISD can lay claim on the Benson name with pride and shared sentiments.  

I simply loved his excellent counsel that you cited on the page of recognition of his contributions to “academia”: “When you tell people something, you keep them from ever knowing it” is a great line, shared by RISD and Eli Yale. And “The world is smarter than you are” is simply superb as a lesson in something like humility, or maybe “Americanism” at its best—democracy at its finest.

Anyway, as a voice from the final reunion of the Class of ’55, thanks for bringing my career and the Benson career into a poetic place together!
Michael Fink ’55
Providence, RI

For fossil fuel divestment

The university’s “For Humanity” capital campaign (“Looking Outward,” November/December) has raised campus concerns regarding overemphasis on the sciences and inadequate generosity toward the broader New Haven community. What most struck me, beyond the hubris, was the notion that funds raised and then invested by Yale in an ongoing way in the fossil fuel industry could be described as “for humanity.”

The fossil fuel industry is already causing immense damage to humanity in both senses of that word. For example, fossil fuel particulate matter causes 8.7 million premature deaths annually, and the overall impact of climate change on human life and well-being dwarfs this grim headcount. And our civilization, our humanity in the broader sense, is also in jeopardy, in the form of everything from xenophobic responses to climate displacement to the flooding of the Smithsonian.

It is past time for Yale to divest from fossil fuels. The university cannot stand for humanity while embedded in the business as usual that spells its destruction.
Miranda Massie ’92MA
Brooklyn, NY

Massie is the director of the Climate Museum and a public voices fellow with the Op Ed Project and Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Our panel on voting

At the end of the article “The Future of Voting” (September/October) was a box saying, “Weigh In! Tell us your thoughts about this article.” Well, here I am!
First of all, let me thank you and Mr. Branch for trying (albeit unsuccessfully) to nudge the conversation away from hyperpartisanship. Credit also goes to Professor Ellen Katz who, while she did not voice disagreement with anything said by the other two panelists, at least nodded to the fact that there are other points of view. Professor Katz ’91, ’94JD, also avoided the insulting and inflammatory rhetoric that characterized Professors Hacker ’00PhD and Blight.

That said, the article was a perfect illustration of the need for viewpoint diversity. There was no one—no one—to point out that there are actually serious arguments against some of the positions that Professors Hacker and Blight took. As a result, the monochromatic perspective of the presentation presumably would come across as either boring or “Right on!” to those who agree, on one hand, or either boring or infuriating to those who do not.

There was also a complete lack of self-awareness. Professor Blight says, “We’ve just had an election where part of the side that lost did not accept it.” Has he no familiarity with Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump, and the public and persistent refusal to accept that outcome? Meanwhile, Professor Blight places himself in the class of “those of us who live in a world of reason and logic and research—universities, journalists, people who believe in the empirical bottom line.” Does he have the slightest idea how arrogant and elitist that comment sounds?

Professor Hacker, for his part, can’t resist smearing those who disagree as racists, citing “fear about white Americans losing power in a multiracial society.” Never mind arguments about government overreach, hot-button issues like abortion and the sexual revolution, the wisdom (or not) of shutting down the economy in response to contagious disease or climate change, and a host of other issues. For Professor Hacker, racial bias is “really at the heart of the conflict we face today.”

I could add comments about Professor Blight’s call for his team to “rebel” against part of the country and have “a true revolution” (his words!) against part of the Constitution, namely, the Electoral College, which he contemptuously dismisses as “the most ridiculous thing in the Constitution that has survived.” But the point is that this whole long exchange of statements consisted of, essentially, “We’re right and anyone who disagrees is not just wrong but stupid, lying, and racist.”
Walter Weber ’84JD
Alexandria, VA

Yale and its athletes

Jeffrey Manning’s [’81] feature (“Football and its Discontents,” September/October) offered a window into the cultural and social experience of Yale College football players in the classroom and campus life. I was both sorry to hear my classmates may have experienced unkindness and exclusion on that basis, and glad to better understand the community they found in one another and the contributions they make to Yale as a group.

However, Manning brought an otherwise thoughtful piece to a sour close, sneering in his conclusion at Yale’s investment in a strategy to increase the diversity and inclusiveness of its faculty (much more comprehensive than the response to Halloween costumes he made it out to be), and implying it was excessive relative to the “paltry million or two” he’d settle for seeing committed to civility toward athletes.

Access to empathy and inclusiveness is not itself a competitive sport; no one is served by pretending that investments to address the profound underrepresentation of minorities among Yale’s faculty and leadership come at the cost of investment in a culture of true collegiality among students. Indeed, positioning these goals in opposition to one another misses a valuable opportunity: Manning might instead consider how the slights he experienced as a football player are an echo (setting aside any debate over how distant or faint, which he might also consider) of the experiences of many of his classmates and teammates of color, in the LGBTQ+ community, or who came from low-income and other underrepresented and culturally excluded backgrounds, and how joining in the common cause of advocating for the equity and inclusion of those groups might be a faster, more meaningful, and more lasting path to his personal goals for athletes’ treatment.
Liz Woods Stiverson ’09
Tiburon, CA

Jeff Manning aptly describes his positive experience in Yale football as an undergraduate and as an alumnus—a sense of belonging, achievement, discipline, respect for others, and shared friendships for life. These sharply contrast with his amusing memory of an adolescent’s attempt at put-down, probably stemming from his own sense of insecurity.

However, his experience was a harbinger of things to come. There has been a baffling and unfortunate deterioration in civility as well as respectful discussion in Yale’s campus forums, reported by local and national media as rude, disrespectful, vituperative, hostile exchanges, full of invective detached from any factual bases and usually suspected to have ulterior political motives if not sponsorship. Yale itself identified what we can now see as the beginnings of this threat to academic discourse and intellectual rigor as early as 1975 in the Woodward “Report on Freedom of Expression at Yale,” reissued in hard copy in 2016.

Our athletic brethren, especially the football players and those who persevered to become varsity, are irreplaceable in contributing to easy identification with the broader Yale community. My 1952 classmates on the football team captained by Bob Spears are recalled by this non-player with fondness, admiration, respect, and gratitude for their efforts as well as the memorable weekend experiences surrounding the games. They did not have an easy time and less than optimal coaching, but to this day are inextricably linked to the bright college years of the Class of 1952.

What the football team gains, and what it gives to its players and the Yale community, is first and foremost recognizable identity, continuity, and a sense of unifying affiliation, difficult to quantify but providing continuing sustainable value to us all. For them it is an investment of personal resources for the community’s as well as their individual good and gain. Enshrining differences in the resin of diversity seems motivated by indulgent political correctness. As currently practiced, it may threaten to prolong—not ameliorate—divisiveness, disrespect, and acrimony, and shortchange the undergraduate, graduate, and wider Yale community by unintentionally subverting Yale’s standards of academic excellence and espoused social missions.
David Weild III ’52, ’59LLB
Pelham, NY

Tribute to a friend

A cherished and loyal friend of Yale passed in January of this year: Andrew Dowe ’08, ’20PhD (“Loss,” May/June). Soon after his passing, many Yale students, current and past, contributed to a foundation in his memory, organized on Facebook by Kirk Warner. This is to recognize all of us, current, past, and future, who paid farewell. To Andrew:
You said you knew it, said as much.
Didn’t stand for nothing,
Withstood much of what
You knew would make you
What you became—
A star.
Kirk Warner ’17PhD
Raleigh, NC

Ousted from L&B

Reading about the planned renovation of the Linonia and Brothers Reading Room reminds me of the time in freshman year when I was very politely but very firmly ejected from that “quintessential library space.” One day the instructor of my heavy-duty German class mentioned Mark Twain’s “The Awful German Language” from A Tramp Abroad. I went to Sterling and settled down for a pleasant read in the gentlemen’s-club atmosphere of the L&B. As I read, I ran the gamut of hilarity. I chuckled. I snickered. I guffawed. I chortled. Finally, I exploded in a full-throated roar of laughter. It was then that I was asked to leave the premises. That was a long time ago. Now I wonder: has the passage of seven decades erased my peccadillo? Will I ever be admitted again?
Michael L. Lazare ’53
Hollis, NH

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