Letters to the Editor

Letters: March/April 2023

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 Minerva

As an architecture student, I spent a few years in the shadow of the statue of Minerva, and I have many fond memories of working in the space she occupied (“Greek Drama,” January/February). Criticizing the building was in vogue then, but I always found the spaces to be inspiring.

In 1969, I was working for Charlie Moore, whose office was above the bike shop on Chapel Street, across from the A&A building. My desk was by the second-floor window, facing the building. When I arrived at work, I looked up and saw the broken windows and blackened concrete that was the aftermath of the fire.

I was very pleased when the building was renovated to its original configurations in 2008. My class had its 50th reunion in 2019, and I was able to see the restored spaces. I live in Denver, and the descendants of the Kountze family who gave Yale the statue are family friends. I have shared this article with them.
David Decker ’69MArch
Denver, CO

Student mental health

As an alumnus, I consider Yale’s handling of mental health issues—if a November 11 Washington Post article is accurate—appalling and inexcusable. As someone who has wrestled with depression throughout my life, I still graduated from Yale cum laude with distinction in English. What is most despicable is that the article details that even if you want mental health assistance from the university, it is extremely difficult to get, let alone receive help with preventing suicides. Lives hang in the balance, and if Yale represents the “best and the brightest,” it should use some of its billions in endowment money to care for its students with mental health issues in need and not worry more about its “brand.”
Mark Karlin ’73
Evanston, IL

In a November 16 letter to alumni, President Peter Salovey ’86PhD responded to the Post article, outlining changes the university has made recently to improve access to mental health care. You can read it here. More recently, Yale College announced changes to its medical leave policies, which were the focus of the Post article.—Eds.

Musical musing

I found Matthew Guerrieri’s article about Richard Stoltzman (“An Everyday, Practical Magic,” January/February) informative and enlightening. Richard and I were members of the Yale Band on its first European tour in 1963. I didn’t know him at the time; I had left Yale, but Keith Wilson asked me to go along and play saxophone. It was a pleasure to read of Richard’s success.

This article brought back memories of my Yale days. I knew Willie Ruff, Mel Powell, and Yehudi Wyner, and I had a class with Paul Hindemith. I studied under Richard Donovan and Quincy Porter.

At a music school dance, I noticed that Powell was chatting with Nick England and ignoring his wife, so I asked him if I could ask her to dance. He said, “Go ahead,” so I did, and we did. If I had known his wife was Martha Scott, the actress, I would never have dared ask.
Raymond Vun Kannon ’53, ’55MusM
Cordova, TN

Grateful to Berny Lytton

I was very sad to read in the magazine of the passing of Berny Lytton (“A Doctor in the College,” January/February). He was a mentor of so many, but also a great support for Carter Wiseman and me when we were working together at the alumni magazine. He helped keep the magazine editorially independent, a legacy that I’m sure the staff today works every day to uphold. He was sensitive, gracious, erudite, empathetic, and with a lovely (occasionally a little off-color) sense of humor. I will always remember his smile, idealism, and leadership.
Steven Weisman ’68
Bethesda, MD

Steven Weisman was a member of the magazine’s board of directors from 1993 to 2003 and chair from 1999 to 2002. During that time, Carter Wiseman was editor and Lytton served on the board as a faculty member.—Eds.

Organ donor ads, continued

I read the letter to the editor, “Advertising for a Donor,” in the January/February 2023 issue regarding the writer’s disappointment over an ad seeking a kidney donor. As the late, great Yogi Berra would have noted: “It’s déjà vu all over again.” There was a similar letter to the editor in the January/February 2016 issue, though not in as thoughtful or respectful a tone as this recent letter, about a similar ad that had appeared in the fall of 2015 from a Yale alum with kidney failure searching for a donor.

I replied to the person who placed that 2015 ad, and seven years ago this February, he received one of my kidneys. (As it turned out, we share the same residential college, blood type, and dozens of mutual Yale friends. Now we share kidneys.)

Unlike the prior letter writer, the more recent one had a career as a kidney transplant surgeon, and thus first-hand experience assisting patients getting much-needed kidney transplants, as well as the frustrations of those patients unable to find a donated kidney. As he may have missed my response to the first letter, which appeared in a subsequent issue, let me paraphrase the relevant points in it:
• Had I not seen the ad, I would likely never have considered the possibility of donating a kidney.  Instead, there is now one less person on the waiting list for kidneys, allowing potential recipients to move up in the queue.

• Ads like these highlight the need for kidneys among potential donors. The greater the awareness, the greater the likelihood that more donors may step forward in the future.

• The eloquent “From the Editor” article that appeared in the May/June 2016 issue chronicled the success of our operation, providing evidence of the safety and benefits of the procedure.

• I now have a new friend for life, along with his family and friends.
To this day, both my kidney recipient and I test each year as “a healthy adult male with two kidneys,” evidence of both the success and safety of the procedure.  I support the letter writer’s recommendation that the magazine consider an article discussing organ transplantation and shortages, as the issue needs greater awareness. As a result of the ad and the subsequent surgery, I have become an advocate of kidney donation and even testified before the Health and Human Services Committee of the Maine State Legislature, co-run by one of my Yale classmates, regarding pending legislation related to this issue. Whenever I learn of someone looking for a donated kidney, I contact them and offer myself as a reference for the safety of the donation procedure.  Had I never seen the ad, none of this would have happened.

Yes, the ads were “selective solicitation” to the Yale community, but my experience with those needing a kidney is that they reach out to every group with which they are affiliated for potential donors. While I don’t expect to see a section of the Yale Alumni Magazine classifieds titled “Needing an Organ” in subsequent issues, I have no issue with the two ads that were placed in the magazine, as there were significant benefits resulting from the first ad, and I hope that the subject of this more recent ad is equally fortunate.
George Gagliardi ’79
Lexington, MA

His credentials as a transplant surgeon notwithstanding, I don’t understand Dr. John Ricotta’s objection to the full-page ad soliciting for an organ donor, and perhaps by extension my two-line classified for the same purpose, that appeared in a previous edition of your magazine. The intent of both efforts was not to jump the queue but to create a queue. In the current state of organ donor shortage, it is the one thing the potential recipient can do to improve their chance of finding a donor.

I concur with Dr. Ricotta’s recommendation that the Yale community could do more to raise awareness around the benefits of organ donation for not just the recipient but for the donor as well. It is after all the quintessential opportunity of a lifetime to give to a family member, friend, or total stranger a gift whose value is beyond measure.

As a postscript, I did not qualify as a donor for my roommate, but he did find a compatible donor, has had his transplant, and both he and the donor are doing well.
Geoffrey Berg ’70
Warren, RI

Salovey and free speech

I’m sure many like myself were both heartened and discouraged reading President Salovey’s College Opening Assembly address (November/December). Heartened because identifying free speech as a core academic value is extremely important at all times, but is especially so at Yale today in light of the embarrassing actions of the cancel culture on campus, including the ironic attempt to shout down a Law School forum on free speech. Yale definitely needs some robust steps to counteract the significant damage to its reputation as a citadel devoted to veritas.

 Yet I was discouraged that President Salovey made frequent positive references to so many of the excuses that the modern cancel culture is using to censor free speech. If history teaches us anything, it is that the search for truth is hindered rather than helped by stifling dissent. It is not helpful to condemn in ominous broad swipes challenges to so-called “experts” and “consensus,” nor to attack “deniers,” “conspiracy theorists,” and purveyors of “misinformation.” I trust no Yale graduate needs to be reminded of the numerous brave persons who dared to speak truth to power in their day, but were condemned using exactly the same excuses.

As Yale tries to steer the university toward truth, the most important metric of success will be the percentage of Yale students and faculty who feel they can freely express their views. Surveys show that number is far too low at present, which means that the search for truth is being more stifled than supported. All well-intentioned members of the Yale community can only wish the university good fortune in improving that vital metric. Careful consideration must be given to how that will be accomplished or the poor choice of means will devour the worthy end.
George W. Shuster ’67, ’73JD
Harmony, RI

I enjoyed reading President Salovey’s address to incoming Yale College students. Since he began it by quoting from Yale’s motto in Hebrew, I will offer a bit of Hebrew in return, a saying from the Sages of Rabbinic Judaism in the second century: “Na’eh doreish, na’eh m’kayaim.” Translated, it means, “To preach is good. To practice what you preach is even better.”
David Hoffman ’80
Alon Shvut, Israel

Move the lipstick

I agree with the conclusion of Stuart Wrede’s proposal that Oldenburg’s Lipstick be moved back to Beinecke-Hewitt Plaza (Letters, January/February) and would add that the placement on campus of several important works of modern sculpture be reconsidered. Lipstick merits wider consideration, and I have included it in my forthcoming global history of art.

However, it is misleading to associate Oldenburg’s work with appropriation by hippies or counterculture protest. As photos are easily visible online (and memory recalls), some of my subsequently well-known classmates used it to protest the Vietnam war, one of Oldenburg’s intentions.
Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann ’70, ’70MA
Princeton, NJ

Kaufmann is the Frederick Marquand Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton.—Eds.

Blue shield

Was the old Yale SOM shield (School Notes, November/December) an error or a throwback to 2008, when I was a fresh MBA, straight out of college? Or has SOM decided to go back to its roots?
Ivan Dremov ’07, ’11MBA
Spokane, WA

The School of Management introduced a blue variant of its shield (below) in the school’s logo in 2008. The image we use in School Notes, with its green background (above), remains its official shield.—Eds.

SOBs are older

I am not surprised to learn that Yale’s a cappella singing groups have tossed out gender in favor of vocal range as part of their audition processes (“A Range of Options,” January/February).  I’m sure their performances will be much improved.
I was quite surprised, however, to read in the accompanying graphic that the Society of Orpheus and Bacchus was founded in 1977, as I well remember attending SOB performances during my undergraduate years in the early 1970s. In fact, a check of the SOB website and other sources reveals that the group has been performing since its founding in 1938.
David L. Applegate ’75
Huntley, IL

Mr. Applegate is correct; the group was founded in 1938, not 1977. We got a well-
deserved drubbing from several SOBs for our error.—Eds.

Betts and the bar

An error mars the otherwise inspiring article about poet and lawyer Dwayne Betts ’16JD (“The Years That We’ve Lost,” November/December). In describing the letters of support sent by Mr. Betts’s colleagues in connection with his application for a Connecticut law license, the author states that “the Connecticut Bar denied him admittance.” Not so. As described in the article itself, “Betts was ultimately sworn into the Connecticut Bar.”

It is true that prior to recommending his admission to the Bar, the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee conducted an investigation into Mr. Betts’s “character and fitness.” This was unsurprising. Under the Committee’s long-established procedures—which are similar to those in nearly all other states—an applicant’s felony conviction is one of several circumstances that will inevitably trigger a supplemental character and fitness review, a process that often includes a full evidentiary hearing.

Notwithstanding Mr. Betts’s past felony conviction, the Bar Examining Committee not only voted to approve his admission to the Connecticut Bar, it did so without subjecting him to a formal hearing.
David P. Atkins ’81JD
Stamford, CT

In our list of Yale alumni in Congress and governorships (“Elected Elis,” January/February), we left out two newly elected members of the US House of Representatives: Dan Goldman ’98 (D–NY) and Kevin Kiley ’12JD (R-CA).
In our article on the Yale Athena (“Greek Drama,” January/February), we misidentified the New Jersey town where the statue had once stood on a private estate. It is Morristown, not Morrisville.

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