From Our Readers


The Week That Lasts a Lifetime

Alternative Spring Break was an incredibly meaningful experience for me as a student. Now that I am a professor [of informatics at the University of California, Irvine], I love watching our students get the same experience, and I am so glad ASB has spread beyond Vanderbilt to hosts of other institutions. Thank you for writing this article [Spring 2011, “The Week That Lasts a Lifetime”]. It has really brightened my morning.

Gillian Hayes, BS’99
Irvine, Calif.

The ASB Vanderbilt connections continue around the world! I served as an ASB site leader while in grad school at the University of Virginia and carried the service-learning philosophy with me into teaching gigs in Alaska, Arizona, California, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Most recently, we’ve created a service-learning course at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, to connect students’ service with earthquake relief efforts.

Many thanks to Professor [Susan Ford] Wiltshire and Chancellor [Joe B.] Wyatt for planting this seed—it makes me very proud to be a Commodore.

Billy Osteen, BA’89
Christchurch, New Zealand

As a participant in the very first Alternative Spring Break at Vanderbilt, I was thrilled to read how the program has thrived over the years. I remember very fondly our trek across the country to Dupree, S.D., in a large van (and how I marveled when it was my turn to drive that everyone could sleep so soundly with me behind the wheel). My kids will tell you that I have, on more than one occasion, sung to them a song from our first night there, sleeping on the floor of an unheated church: “We all live in a very cold church” (sung to the tune of The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”). Spending time on a reservation showed me firsthand that others still live without things we all take for granted: good, fresh food (as opposed to government-issued canned goods), heat, and constant running hot water.

The fact that I can still remember such small details about the trip 25 years later points to how much the program meant to me. My Alternative Spring Break during my second year of law school was the most worthwhile spring break I ever had.

Patricia Daniel Friedman, BA’85, JD’88
Decatur, Ga.

Thank you for your cover story about Alternative Spring Break’s 25th anniversary. Very recently I read my journals from my two trips with the ASB program, which reminded me about the profound and lasting impact of those experiences. I served as a team leader my second year of the program (1990) in an extremely rural and poor area of Mississippi. I learned so much about the lives, the culture, the hardships and the strengths of the amazing people we worked alongside. Service learning was a fairly new concept at the time—and one I am thrilled to see continues to thrive within the Vanderbilt community.

Along with my work with the Vanderbilt Prison Project, I believe ASB was a big influence in my decision to become a social worker and serve my community by working with the poor and disenfranchised. I now work as a private-practice therapist after 20 years in the social services, and I am very proud to have been part of ASB as it was just getting started.

Amanda Lucas, BA’91

I enjoyed your article about Alternative Spring Break, but I think you need to do a little more investigation. You attribute the beginning of ASB to Professor Susan Ford Wiltshire’s efforts to engage ODK in beginning the project. You also refer to Professor Marshall Eakin’s history of ASB as confirming this event.

You may be correct that the current ASB owes its origins to Professor Wiltshire and the ODK group in 1986. I urge you, however, to consider the work that Dr. Bill Dow, BA’67, MD’71, did originally in the late 1960s to encourage an alternative spring break for Vanderbilt students in Appalachia. Bill and a group of college and medical school students became very involved in bringing better medical care to some of the hollows of Appalachia. I believe Bill worked with a Roman Catholic nun named Marie Cirillo, who was dedicated to easing the economic and medical plight of Appalachian residents. For many years Bill and other Vanderbilt students spent their spring and summer breaks assisting in this work.

I am pretty sure that Bill will confirm this. Perhaps the efforts of Vanderbilt students in Appalachia eventually ceased, but for several years Vanderbilt was at the vanguard of offering its students this very charitable option. Just as ASB is currently run solely by students, so too was the effort to assist in Appalachia. I remember spending a week or so traveling there with Bill, and I encourage you to contact him to get an interesting insight into the idealism of some Vanderbilt students in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Kevin Grady, BA’69

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The Student Community Health Coalition, created in 1968, is still providing much-needed community health support. Learn more about this grass-roots group, its history and current efforts at Nowadays old friends can find Dr. Bill Dow on Friendly Pooch Lane outside Pittsboro, N.C., where he started the state’s first certified organic farm, Ayrshire Farm, now more than 25 years old.]



The C-Room and the March of Time

I particularly enjoyed the “History Test: Where Is This?” photo [Spring 2011, Alumni Association News]. Having hung out in the C-Room constantly from 1968 through 1971, I thought it hadn’t changed much since 1953. I would suggest you make that a regular feature in the magazine. That would be fun, particularly for those of us from Vandy’s “old days.”

As the years pass, I can’t help noticing how much closer to the beginning my class appears in the class notes section. My goodness, we’re on the very first page now. Once upon a time, we were pages into that section. Time sure flies. Thanks for always producing such a good magazine.

Susan Cox Watson, BA’71
Knoxville, Tenn.

Thanks for the picture of the old Commodore Room. The furniture shown in the picture was sold about 1969 or 70. The chairs cost $5 each, and the round tables sold for $10. As a struggling graduate student, I bought four chairs and a round table. We still have one of the chairs and the table, although the gold on the shield in the center of the table has turned to silver. I’d love to have a copy of the picture.

Curtis Porter, BA’63, PhD’73
Troy, Ala.


Travel Is in Their Genes

The article by Sloane Speakman about her harrowing experience in Egypt immediately reminded me of her grandfather, Ken Speakman. For many years Ken was head of the international division of The Gideons International and has traveled to more than 80 countries. Obviously, Ken’s love of travel and helping the less fortunate have been passed on to Sloane. I have been with Ken on a few trips, both before and after revolutions, but never in the middle of one! It seems that Sloane’s spiritual background and Vanderbilt training held her in good stead.

The entire spring issue was great, from Kate Daniels’ poem to the story about the development of Rand. Some of the older grads will remember the cafeteria being in the basement of Kissam. In the fall of 1953, I worked in the cafeteria during the transition to the new Rand.

I also agree with your comments in “From the Editor” about the penmanship of the older generation. During 50-plus years of practicing law, I’ve heard older folks apologize for their handwriting, when in fact it is much better than practically all of the younger generation’s.

G. Barry Bertram, BA’57, JD’59
Campbellsville, Ky.


Gender Theory

I found very amusing your observation that most letters to the editor are from men [Spring 2011, From the Editor]. Of course, they are from men. Two sayings I have known for years are now proven: “Man’s work is from sun to sun; woman’s work is never done” and—courtesy of my sister, Florence Ridley, MA’51—“Everybody needs a wife.” When the “sun to sun” work is gone, then what are the men going to do?

Love the magazine.

Susan B. Ridley, BA’50
Murfreesboro, Tenn.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Reader Ridley’s assertions notwithstanding, more women than men found the time to send letters for this issue.]

Explore Story Topics