Letters to the Editor

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A 'Rare Oddity' Responds

In the article entitled "Beware of Geeks Bearing Formulas," (Winter 2009) professor of philosophy Val Dusek states that economists today are "primarily people who majored in math or engineering, and lack knowledge of history and society." Dusek contrasts this to morally centered philosophers and economists of yesteryear, such as Karl Marx.

As an engineer and a student of history, apparently a rare oddity in Dusek's world, let me remind those too constrained by stereotypes that if Ayn Rand's "selfish" philosophy is to blame for the "fatal" collapse of the U.S. economy, then the "ethical" philosophy of Karl Marx led directly to the death of 10 to 20 million people during Stalin's implementation of Communism. I guess the drop in my 401(k) isn't so bad, relatively speaking.

Finally, to all those who think economists...were totally blindsided by the financial crisis, I simply point to Alan Greenspan's testimony before Congress in which he observed that GSEs (government-sponsored enterprises, such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae) were expanding "at a pace beyond that consistent with systematic safety." That's Fedspeak for "Crash ahead." The date of that premonition? February 2004. Judging by the price of gold, he wasn't the only economist who knew.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

In the Winter 2009 issue, Anne Downey '95G reviewed Dana Jennings' latest book, Sing Me Back Home. The article sent me back in time to one of Dana's earlier writings. In 1978, I was a junior Spanish major and creative writing minor in Charlie Simic's poetry workshop. Four of my poems were published in the Fall 1978 issue of Aegis, the campus literary magazine. As a reporter for the campus newspaper, Dana reviewed the magazine in the Dec. 15, 1978, issue of The New Hampshire and in particular my poems. I know the exact date because I have a yellowed copy of the article! I was out of my skin with excitement when I saw the review. I remember running out to scoop up a bunch of copies from the steps of Hamilton Smith. I think Dana and I had a class together and I hope I thanked him then for the wonderful rush and my 15 minutes of fame, but if not, I'd like to thank him now.

I have another iconic memory of my UNH experience--Charlie Simic. I took his poetry workshops all four years of college. The workshops, six to eight students, met in the tiniest of conference rooms. Back in those days, you could smoke in class and Charlie smoked these distinctive, very slender brown cigarettes, which he would ceremonially light throughout class. One by one, we would read our poems and await our critique to filter through the white haze. The critique we most aspired to was simply two words: "It works." Thank you, Dana, Charlie and UNH for nurturing my creativity all these years. It works!

Debating Daggett Continues

Who knew my quirky anecdote about Gwynne Harris Daggett for the Winter 2008 issue would stir up such controversy and heated arguments about the professor's merits as a teacher and political maverick.

It's not easy to recall with clarity every aspect of a college course or the discussions between students and teacher from a reach of 50 years. What does seem to be clear is that folks see what they want to see and come to conclusions based on their own life experiences.

Certainly, compared to a hardened World War II veteran, I would have looked at Professor Daggett differently--I was 20 and had been brought up in a suburb of Boston by Republican, Episcopalian parents who sent me to an all-girls private school. However, I don't think I was naive about the academic world at UNH or the greater secular environment outside Durham. One advantage of being a literature major with a minor in history is to see the past and appreciate what we can learn from it.

Professor Daggett, whether communist, socialist or merely a left-leaning liberal, prepared me for the world I was to enter after graduation. He remains a paradox, either an excellent teacher or just an average one, as some letter writers have suggested. Nevertheless his impact on my life and career helped me deal with contradictions, as well.

During the turbulent '60s, at the height of the Vietnam war, I worked for a company that made missile defense systems, part of the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned Americans against. Yet, in the evenings, walking from my apartment on Beacon Hill, I gathered with other war protestors on the Boston Common. It was a conflicted existence, but one from which I learned the pros and cons of both sides. I often thought of Professor Daggett then, as now. I believe I have become a much more rational, liberal, thinking person and feel I am a better citizen, than if I had held to a rigid ideology. He helped me see both sides of an issue and pursue the one I chose with a clear conscience.

After reading the letters about the late Professor Daggett, and especially the one from Gerald P. Lunderville '63, I decided to write. I never took a class with Professor Daggett, but I knew who he was, a sort of familiar figure often holding a pipe and/or cycling on his bike about campus. I did attend what could be termed "a fireside chat," one of those occasions when faculty invited students to their residences for discussions and the like.

Two things stand out in my memory of that encounter with Professor Daggett: one, a graduate student who seemed intent on citing the German philosopher Heidegger as frequently as possible, which Professor Daggett seemed to good-naturedly tolerate. The other: Professor Daggett claimed that he was a "dialectical materialist," which roughly means that all things, all existence, even energy, are material or matter. This position can be seen as a grand Hegelian scheme, a version of Marxism, and certainly a "reductionist" theory, whereby humans are but units of material, and no pun intended, do not matter in the grand scheme of things, which is, in certain circles, merely a matter of history.

As Stalin is reputed to have said, "The death of a single person is a tragedy, but the death of millions is a statistic." Mass graves around the world can certainly attest to this outcome of holding this particular and peculiar philosophy of dialectical materialism.

Your laudatory article about Professor Daggett recalled the political atmosphere of the '50s. My, how things have changed. Now you need courage to express conservative views on many (if not most) college campuses. Tales abound about the theft and destruction of conservative student newspapers, and rude interruptions of, and sometimes physical threats to, conservative speakers invited to campus, forcing an end to the meeting while the campus stands idly by. Christian groups are hounded to elect homosexuals to their club's roster of officers. Professors require students' assignments to reflect and espouse a liberal point of view in order to pass the course. Speech codes are established so that one political group is not offended in the least, while at the same time, allowing almost any kind of ad hominem attack on the other side. Liberals, who rule most college campuses, seem quite content to let these outrages flourish, and are not at all troubled by the irony of shutting off free speech while complaining bitterly how iconoclasts with unpopular views were treated 60 years ago.

The many letters in this magazine about Professor G. Harris Daggett, who taught at UNH from 1941 to 1969, were first inspired by the article "Courage Under Fire" by Kimberly Slover in the Fall 2001 issue. These letters have ranged in tone and content from high praise, to condescending tolerance, to excoriation. Professor Daggett, who was my father, has been called inspiring, unpatriotic, a force for enlightenment and a troublemaker. Most of the letters have been heartwarming and wonderful for me to read. This letter, especially from someone as biased as I, may be superfluous and anticlimactic, and I almost didn't write it. But a couple of statements of Wallace Goddard '48 (Fall 2008) need to be corrected.

Goddard implied that Daggett had not been in the military during the war, when actually he was in the Coast Guard and then the Navy. He had to leave the service when he developed a serious illness that required surgery. Another implication by Goddard was that Daggett was a Communist; actually he was an officer in the Progressive Party of New Hampshire.

My father was a Renaissance man. His interests ranged far beyond his academic specialties: literature, arts and the history of ideas. He aspired for a while to be a concert pianist, but realized early on that he would never be good enough to make that his career. His love of music was lifelong. He worked at hard manual labor during the summers, to supplement his income and keep in shape. He was a steadfast, patient and loving family man. He was fascinated by geography, cosmology and environmental studies (an inchoate discipline in those days), and he planned to manage a tree farm on his property in Nottingham after his retirement. He died three years before that dream could be realized.

My father's career consisted of the study and sharing of ideas. Ideas, as he proved in his life, are not separate from life. His knowledge and his beliefs drove his political activities, the chief goals of which were world peace and intellectual freedom. He dedicated himself to these ideals with passion, and his style was always imbued with grace, humility, self-deprecation, off-beat humor and verbal brilliance. But as Paul Verrette '52 wrote (Winter 2009), my father would resist his "beatification," and would indeed be both embarrassed and amused by the use of that word in connection with himself.

Does Archery Golf Live?

Thanks for your story about "arrow golf" in the winter issue. One of the boys who Professor O'Kane led around the course was his son, Richard O'Kane, who became a great submariner and won the Medal of Honor for his exploits as the skipper of "Tang" during World War II. Another was Dick's boyhood friend and collaborator in mischief, Philbrook Paine '35, who introduced me to the game after I married his daughter. And almost certainly it was on Phil's hayfield on Durham Point Road that Ev Browne learned the game in the 1960s, and passed it on to her students. I like to think that somewhere in the world today, one of those girls is introducing "archery golf" (as we called it) to another generation of players.

Never the Twain Shall Meet

Re the quote in the Winter 2009 story on football, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog," Archie Griffen? Yes, a lot of people who don't read very much do think so. Personally I am sticking with the original author, some guy named Mark Twain.

Editor's note: We asked Brigitte Bailey, a Twain scholar and associate professor of English, who says, "It does indeed sound like Twain, but I haven't been able to find it." Archivist Mylinda Woodward '97 says the quote is variously attributed to Mark Twain, Archie Griffen, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bear Bryant, Barry McGuigan and "Anonymous."

Slugger and Sluggee Clarified

In the article, "Beware the Underdog," I'm not sure Win MacDonald '42 was slugged by Walt Dropo. Since I was the right tackle, I played approximately 50 minutes of that game lined up against Walt Dropo, and I do not recall anyone other than myself being slugged by him.

Editor's note: Archivist Mylinda Woodward '97 reports, "In the manager's game report for the Nov. 16, 1940, game against UConn, it notes, 'Winslow MacDonald received a severe blow on the nose causing his withdrawal from the game in the second quarter.' Walt Dropo, however, was not on the UConn roster for that year, although he did play in other years. In that game on Nov. 16, the left tackle for UConn was Walter Androsko, who was 6 feet and 195 lbs. He could be our man!"

Football, photo courtesy of University Archives Football, photo courtesy of University Archives
NAMED: T.J. Pecorak '49, holding the Brice-Cowell musket, far right, has identified the players in the photo, above left, that accompanied the storey on UN football in the Winter '09 issue. From left are Woody Noel '49 (#22), Leo Merkwan '50 (#36) and T.J. himself (#75), who added that "Number 81 in the Connecticute white jersey is the notorious Walt Dropo."

Don't Forget Curtis

I enjoyed the article on UNH football, but you missed Scott Curtis '87, a middle linebacker who played for the Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos in a three-year, injury-shortened career. I believe he may be the only Wildcat to play in a Super Bowl. He played the second half (replacing Karl Mecklenburg) in the 1989 Super Bowl for Denver against San Francisco.

Torch Bearers, photo courtesy of University Archives
TORCH BEARERS: Readers identified the students above as Carol Worden '63, left, Jed Williamson '61,'69G and Doug MacGregor '62.

Torch Bearers

The 1961 Winter Carnival Queen and the two runners in the Winter 2009 edition are Carol Worden '63, Jed Williamson '61, center, and Doug MacGregor '62. The theme of the carnival was "Olympics UNH." It was an Olympic year, with the games being held in Squaw Valley, Calif. We built a huge Olympic torch sculpture in front of Thompson Hall.

I was chair of the carnival and president of the Outing Club. Doug was a cross-country teammate. (Doug was one of the top runners in New England, continuing to compete until a couple of years ago.) There were many who participated. Barry "Bear" Bryant, A. Paul Douglas, Chuck Kate and I lit the torch on top of the Old Man, then skied it to the bottom and began the run.

A Limited View of Love

How disappointing that the piece titled "Love Stories: Chance meetings that changed lives" in the Winter 2009 UNH Magazine did not contain a single anecdote about a gay or lesbian couple. Nor did it document any lifelong friendships or colleague-ships, which can be love stories of a sort. A very limited view of love!

Editor's note: It was not for lack of trying that the article did not include stories from gay or lesbian couples; the editor regrets their absence as well. Additional stories and photos for the online article are welcome; e-mail alumni.editor@unh.edu.

One More Pre-Orientation Option

The Winter 2009 issue reports on several pre-orientation programs for freshmen. I'd like to bring to your readers' attention another option for incoming students interested in marine biology: Marine Immersion, a one-week summer session course that I teach at the Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island. Anyone interested can check out the web site: http://marine.unh.edu/sml/marineimmersion.html or contact me at jbolker@cisunix.unh.edu.

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