Letters to the Editor

Holocaust Story

Echoes from the Holocaust

I especially appreciated “In the Face of Destruction” by Lisa Robbins [Spring 2008 issue]. Harry Kahn, his wife Hannah Westfield, Erich Westfield, Ernest Freudenthal and others were classmates and friends of mine. Through them I learned about a world far beyond my small town–and I’ve been trying to learn more ever since. Knowing them changed my life. I am grateful to Vanderbilt administrators, who knew how to take good advantage of great human resources made unexpectedly available to them.

Betty Goldiamond, BA’44

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Thank you for your wonderful article, “In the Face of Destruction.” The stories of those who survived the Holocaust and ultimately thrived never cease to be an incredibly compelling tribute to the human spirit’s triumph against all odds.

One of the individuals you featured was Inge Smith. Battle Ground Academy did a profile about Inge in the Spring 2007 issue of BGA Today. As you noted in your article, she was the founding head of Harpeth Academy, which is today BGA’s Lower School. The new lower school has been named for Inge.

Thank you for the commendable work you do to ensure the quality of Vanderbilt Magazine.

William R. Mott, MLS’78, PhD’80
Franklin, Tenn.

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I particularly enjoyed the last issue regarding the Holocaust and World War II. I was in the European Theater and served in three campaigns as a paratrooper. What an experience that was!

Dr. Jack E. Keefe III, BA’39, MD’43
Pawleys Island, S.C.

Age of Consent

The Zibarts Remembered

I am just short of tears as I have read and re-read and even marked up your editor’s column [Spring 2008 issue, “Age of Consent“]. Grace Zibart touched me and changed my life.
When I was a law and divinity student at Vanderbilt in about 1978, somehow I wound up catching a ride with Grace from the airport to the Vanderbilt area. I don’t recall how we wound up with her kindly letting me hitchhike into town. But in some grace-filled (and Grace-filled) way, we came together. As we rode we talked about what I’d been doing. If I recall correctly, I was returning from a summer of doing ministry in the Hell’s Kitchen (now gentrified and called “Clinton,” but not after the president) neighborhood of New York City. It had been an extraordinary experience for a youngster from a rural West Tennessee town whose population did not reach 2,500. I’d gone there to work with brothers from a French religious community called Taizé and lived in a Catholic church and then a Presbyterian church. I’d worked with street people and children, and I doubt I accomplished much in terms of helping others, but those people sure blessed me. And it was clear to me even then that the experience had changed my life–though I did not yet know how or how much.

Grace told me I ought to write about the experience for your magazine’s predecessor, The Vanderbilt Alumnus. And with her help and editing, I did. (Actually, it wound up being an article not only about that summer, but also the one before when I’d been a law clerk on a case trying to keep five innocent African American teenagers from being executed.)
That article was the first time I’d ever published anything outside of my native Weakley County. And it led directly to me wanting to do a Divinity School field placement on writing. That led to an unpublished book, and eventually the path twisted and turned until three other book manuscripts were published.

All because of Grace Zibart. I truly doubt that any of those books would have been written, and I know for a fact that the article would not have been written, if not for Grace. So when you wrote about Grace and Carl, you touched me. And I thank you.

Sen. Roy B. Herron, MDiv’80, JD’80
Dresden, Tenn.

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I was interested in reading, in your piece about when to give up on [reading] a book, that you also were obliged to set aside Edith Grossman’s translation of Don Quixote. This makes me feel better somehow. I also remember fondly the Zibarts. I did not know them intimately but thought they were wonderful.

Dr. Bill Doak, ’53

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A belated note (I am nearly as behind on magazines as books) to say what a chuckle I got from the Carl Zibart anecdote. Daddy [Carl’s brother, Alan], unfortunately, was either more dogged or had a higher guilt level–he nearly always finished [reading] everything. But I too am beginning to think along the Sherlock Holmes lines: My brain has only so much space, and whatever in the attic doesn’t need to be there is going out.

Eve Zibart, ’74
Washington Grove, Md.

LEvel the Playing Field

Before Inclusion Was Cool

Your S.P.O.V. article “Leveling the Playing Field” by Kelly Finan, Class of 2009 [Spring 2008 issue], is of great interest to me. I was fortunate to work my way through George Peabody College during the World War II years, and had a fellowship in the Peabody Demonstration School Preschool under the direction of Irma Finker. I received this position through Dr. Maycie Southall, who was my major professor. Peabody was years ahead of the times in work being done in its nursery school and in the Early Childhood Department. I took several courses from Dr. Leavell, who was beginning to work with students with special needs.

I’m now an 84-year-old retired educator who has taught hundreds of children and countless teachers and teenage counselors that working with special children is equally rewarding and pleasing as working with any child. The parents and children never forget the opportunity they had because the teacher and school cared enough to make a difference. I have had special children in preschool classrooms for many years, and now I see these young adults working in society, able to live good lives through a local independent-living program. The last 35 years of my teaching career were with the Atlanta Jewish Community Center where I was a teacher, camp director, and director of early childhood services. My interest in working with the developmentally disabled students is still a major part of my volunteer life.

When I entered college in 1941, only three schools in the United States offered a degree in preschool education, including Peabody. The other two were Bank Street in New York and the University of California. We helped by beginning a beautiful thing.

Sylvia Glustrom Schwartz, BS’45

“Best Laid Plans” Not Best-Liked Article

I always anticipate and enjoy every issue, but just finished Spring 2008 disappointed and embarrassed. [In the Southern Journal piece titled “Best Laid Plans“], based not on research but his own musings while driving by on Harding Road, Richard Blackett characterizes Montgomery Bell Academy as “Bell’s plan gone awry” and as inaccessible to “poor indigent lads.” That portrayal is completely unfounded and unfair to MBA.

As a graduate and loyal supporter of both MBA and Vanderbilt, I found that article to be unfair to the former and unworthy of the latter. Frankly, I feel certain that Bell would find that today’s MBA is truer to his vision than the Commodore and the Bishop would find that Vanderbilt is to theirs.

The Rev. M. Dean Anderson, BA’81
Trenton, Ky.

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It was with a degree of disappointment that I completed reading your otherwise interesting article on Montgomery Bell. You contend that “something went awry” with his plan to fund what became Montgomery Bell Academy, my other alma mater. Given the number of civic, business, academic, medical, military, legal, philanthropic, etc., leaders from all sorts of economic backgrounds that MBA has produced, my guess is that the Pennsylvania Yankee Bell would be proud.

My family experienced financial difficulties in the 1980s and sacrificed significantly to send me to MBA and Vanderbilt. Grants, need- and academic-based scholarships, and student loans paid for much of my college tab. I generated further cash flow by working jobs during the school year and during summer, spring and Christmas vacations. Citing Professor Blackett’s area of historical expertise, I hope you recognize the fallacy of stereotypes, at least as they apply to me in this instance.

It puzzles me that an otherwise fine publication would openly insult a sizeable loyal constituency of the university. I hope it isn’t a not-so-subtle hint that Vanderbilt has limited or no desire to continue a long and mutually beneficial relationship with a fine preparatory school and citizens of its host city.

Jim Gardner, BA’90

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I am a 1976 graduate of Montgomery Bell Academy. Professor Blackett’s thoughtful historical piece about the life of Montgomery Bell got my attention when it went beyond academic research and writing and expressed an unfounded opinion about my alma mater that portrayed MBA as a school with “iron gates and manicured lawns” inaccessible to the indigent.

In truth, more than 20 percent of the boys attending MBA receive financial aid, and the school’s financial aid budget is significant and growing because of generous gifts. Like Vanderbilt, MBA must rely on donations to increase the availability of financial aid because tuition only covers a portion of the cost of educating a boy.

There is much more to Montgomery Bell Academy than iron gates and manicured lawns. The values I learned there have been the guiding principles of my life. Those values include compassion for the indigent, which I learned through MBA’s commitment to community service.

Please know that I love Vanderbilt. It has become one of this nation’s finest universities, and there is much to admire about the school, including its remarkable history department.
In the end, I guess I found it ironic that the Andrew Jackson Professor of History would indict MBA from his office behind the iron gates and manicured lawns of the Vanderbilt campus. Perhaps, like Vanderbilt, it would be a mistake to judge a school based on its landscaping or the biography of its founder.

Steven M. Zager, BA’79, JD’83

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The Spring 2008 issue carries comments that require a response from someone who knows a great deal more about Montgomery Bell Academy than does Professor Blackett.
In 1912 my father, truly a “poor indigent lad” from Cheatham County, actually did cross Harding Road and enroll in Montgomery Bell Academy on a financial aid scholarship. After graduating at the top of his class, he began a very successful banking career here in Nashville.

Professor Blackett should also be aware that financial aid has continued to play a major role for the student body at Montgomery Bell Academy without regard to race, religion or ethnicity. Further, many grateful alumni have made sure that nothing “went awry with Montgomery Bell’s plan” to aid “indigent boys” by funding financial aid scholarships well into the future.

Professor Blackett’s research about Montgomery Bell, the individual, may be accurate, but his comments about Montgomery Bell Academy are far off the mark.

James R. Kellam III, BA’60, Montgomery Bell Academy Class of 1956

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MBA and Vanderbilt University have enjoyed a long and great relationship. I hope that bond grows stronger over time, and I also hope that both Vanderbilt Magazine and Dr. Blackett will work harder to understand MBA’s commitment to Nashville students and the larger community. We value our associations with people from many different backgrounds in Nashville, and our school celebrates these connections–as does Vanderbilt–with the larger worlds beyond our “hill” at 4001 Harding Road. We were proud to be mentioned in your magazine, but were disappointed that our school was not portrayed accurately.

Bradford Gioia, Headmaster, Montgomery Bell Academy

Lost in America

New Directions in Education

I’ve been so impressed with recent editions. The writing has always been top-notch, but what has inspired me is the depth and breadth of content. I particularly enjoyed the focus on nonprofits/social initiatives with respect to education [Spring 2008 issue, “Lost in America“], including new models for urban schools and the Posse Foundation. I kept the edition to refer back to because I’m considering a career change after 17 years in affordable housing. Thank you, and keep it up!

Katherine Vanderpool, Provost, BA’87
Wayland, Mass.

Rockefellers at Vanderbilt

Your “Collective Memory” article “Silent Partner” [Spring 2008 issue], about the Rockefeller family’s contributions to Vanderbilt, reminded me of other Rockefeller contributions.
In the early 1960s, John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV, now a U.S. senator from West Virginia, spoke to my American Foreign Policy class at Vanderbilt about the newly formed Peace Corps. He was on a recruiting mission.

On another occasion I hosted his uncle, Winthrop Rockefeller, who gave a political science lecture on state and local government. He had been governor of Arkansas. And in 1964-65 I was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation grant enabling a research year in London.

Harry Howe Ransom, BA’43, Professor of political science, emeritus

American Rustic

The Magazine Goes to Class

I really dig the magazine and thank you for making such a great effort. Logan Ward’s article [Fall 2007 issue, “American Rustic“] was especially funny; I read it to my students, and they erupted in laughter at the scene of Logan’s beheading of the hapless chickens. I also enjoyed seeing the photo of professors Sherburne and Lachs [Spring 2008 issue, “Long Day’s Journey into Night”].

George Lawton Bevington, BA’90

Where Are the Vanderbilt Artists?

I remember when I first saw Vanderbilt Magazine–it was one step up from being a mimeographed “zine.” It has been great to watch the design and content get better and better each year. Now it is actually fun to read. I would think Vanderbilt artists should be the ones to illustrate the magazine instead of unknown commercial artists.

Donald H. Evans, Professor of art and art history, emeritus
Joelton, Tenn.

More Sports, Please

Your Spring 2008 issue was like–wow! Great job! I’m hoping for more of these kinds of fascinating articles. Please do an article in each issue regarding a former student-athlete and the impact Vanderbilt had on them. We lifelong Vandy fans eat those up.

Sheila M. Watts, BA’74
Greenbrier, Tenn.

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