REMEMBERING FRANKLIN REEVE
As an underclassman at Wesleyan, I experienced mostly terror. Every day, I was afraid I wouldn’t measure up—who really knows to what standard. Something fabricated in my head, something exotic and Eastern compared to my Midwestern roots. My answer to all that fear was to bluff my way through, loudly. My teachers tolerated me and sometimes seemed to be impressed with my “confidence.” If I could refute another student’s point, scathingly so, all the better.
Thank goodness someone saw through my desperate charade. That someone was Franklin Reeve. In the fall of my sophomore year, I found myself in an afternoon poetry workshop he was teaching. We were a small group, ringed inside one of the corner classrooms in Butterfield C, close to the College of Letters, and I knew I was lucky to be there. Sun poured in and I tried to memorize his opinions as we discussed published poems and those written by students in the class. When it was workshop time, I “showed off” by eviscerating my classmates.
One day after class, Frank quietly asked me to stay. I was even more nervous than usual, talking one-on-one to the father of Superman. He gently allowed as to how the things I was saying during workshop might sound mean to my classmates. He asked me to use a different tone when I discussed their work. Then he sent me on my way with a no-nonsense nod. “See you Thursday,” he said with that piercing glance and that stunning smile.
I was mortified. Everything I did was about impressing the teacher. How had I failed so egregiously? He had seen through me.
But when I got over the pique of it, I thought about what he had said, and I saw that he was right. In my fear and anxiety, I was being mean. Even if it worked for me in the short term and snowed a few adults, it wouldn’t work for me in the long term. For one thing, I would end up with no friends. Because of what Frank said, I really changed my approach (and calmed down as well).
I am so grateful—always have been—that he cared enough to tell me the truth that day in my sophomore fall. I’m sure he was also concerned about the dynamics of his workshop, but he was personally gentle and caring with me, according to his nature. Frank was an extraordinary person and the world, literary and otherwise, is diminished now that he is gone. Thank you, Frank, for your wise counsel. It meant so much.
Cameron Gearen ’91, Chicago, Ill.
TRUST AT WESLEYAN’S CORE
President Roth’s able advocacy for diversity within Wesleyan’s own history is cogent and appealing.
While heresy in some quarters, diversity is both doctrine and cliché, and many reject the presumptions of benefits, validity, and moral advantage. While diversity may have a kind of nested appeal in the American experience, in a global context it appears increasingly parochial as a narrative: diversity based upon the invidious distinction of race neither confers promise nor denotes merit.
In this light, I read President Roth’s comments as suggesting that diversity at Wesleyan should apply to liberal education in the context of a lifelong commitment to knowledge and learning for its own sake. Indeed, the basis of a truly great liberal arts education in the Internet age as being building blocks of big ideas—language, art, literature, tonality, the calculus, the physical universe great and small, the rule of law, supply and demand, the mind, feudalism/modernity, religion. Darwin, Testaments Old and New, etc.—and the list is a bit large for this epistle.
I would suggest that Wesleyan’s great innovation at the core of its tradition has been trust. We have a belief that the priority of learning at Wesleyan is best left to the autonomy of the student—and with an extraordinary student body this trust is dynamic and merited. Wesleyan’s trust is why it is a community of ideas and proudly does not have a motto or core curriculum, because to choose either is to risk betraying the daring nature of that trust.
If we assume there are “100 big ideas” (and that may be a minimum), then knowing how to marry them can provide thousands of sophisticated insights. Disciplined inquiry based on trust remains the backbone of the Wesleyan community and can’t be programmed. Diversity can complement learning because authentic narratives enhance Wesleyan as an educational community by inviting and strengthening innovation, testing conviction, and rewarding true achievement and merit. If we add diverse beliefs and perspectives to big ideas, then we have set the stage for a lifetime of learning and meaningful communication and leadership in communities beyond Wesleyan.
Perhaps in this way we can speak of diversity as contributing to Wesleyan’s progress as a community in this still new century.
Dan Orlow ’87, New York, N.Y.
In the previous issue, a picture of the women students at Wesleyan in the late 1890s (page 4) caught my interest immediately: I recognized my grandmother, Edith J. Andrus, who graduated from Wesleyan in 1897 and later married Frederick M. Davenport, my grandfather, who graduated in the Class of 1889. My sister confirms the identification: the young woman standing in the top row all the way on the left is our grandmother. When we read the article (page 18), which mentioned that women were called “quails,” this brought back memories of conversations we’d enjoyed with our grandparents about campus life in their era.
Edith Andrus was one of the first generation of John E. Andrus’ descendants to attend Wesleyan. He graduated in the Wesleyan Class of 1862, and he was a major contributor to the university over the years. As a member of the fifth generation of the family to attend Wesleyan, I was always proud to walk across Andrus Field and actually study (although not very often) in the John E. Andrus Public Affairs Center. I also remember when the Davenport Campus Center was named after Edith. A plaque still remains in the entranceway, although the building has been repurposed for classrooms.
I don’t know if anyone else recognized a family member in that group of women, but I am sure glad I saw this photo for the memories it stirred.
Wink Davenport ’64, Huntington Beach, Calif.
This is the first time I have ever written any kind of letter to an editor. I just wanted to express how inspired I was by your article on Maria Santana-Guadalupe ’98.
I’ve actually known Maria and her husband, Miguel ’98, for quite some time since our days back at Wesleyan and have followed her progress but have never had an opportunity to really dig deep in her blossoming career until now.
Both Miguel and Maria remain so humble about their accomplishments that you’d never hear a story like this about them from them. So thank you for helping tell it for them!
I hope that this article will not only inspire even more Latino and Latina students at Wes to pursue careers outside of the normal lines, but also that they (like Maria and Miguel) remember to help push their culture and community forward. Maria (and Miguel) have always made sure to keep the door that they’ve just busted through wide open for the next person to enter.
Kudos and Go Wes!
Jason Rosado ’96, Founder & CEO, Givkwik
UPBEAT GIG FOR SANTANA ’98?
I enjoyed Cynthia Rockwell’s article on Maria Santana ’98. My only observation is that CNN should assign Maria to an upbeat event—maybe the Olympics in Brazil in 2014. I would think that continually covering tragedies has to take its toll.
Steven Humphrey ’63, Bloomfield, Conn.
JACK HOY’S CONTRIBUTIONS
Jack Hoy ’55 was immensely important in my life and in the life of Wesleyan, as you and Steve Pfeiffer ’69 so aptly described (Wesleyan, 2013, issue 2, p.11). On the personal side, he gave me an hour of his time when I interviewed at Wes in the fall of 1957. That wide-ranging conversation convinced this 18-year-old that Wesleyan was the place for me. I was placed on the waiting list, which was certainly better than receiving the thin letter. As the summer passed, I called Jack and Bob Norwine every two weeks to get an update. Many folks told me to drop this insane hope. By late August I was beginning to believe the doubters when Jack called to see if I was still hanging by my thumbs. “Yes,” I said. He said: “Good, we want you to join our Class of 1962.” The rest is a long love affair with Wesleyan and undying gratitude to Jack for his persistence with the admissions committee.
The story did not end there. While teaching science at Salisbury School with my mentor, friend and Wesleyan grad Bob Gardner ’48, I received another life-changing call from Jack. He asked if I might be interested in applying for a new assistant dean of admission position at Wesleyan. I met with President Butterfield the next morning, who said at the end of the meeting, “I hope you will join us and if you do, good luck keeping up with Jack.”
In August 1964 I returned to my alma mater to work with the most dynamic, innovative, forward-thinking men I could ever hope for. Jack had already planted the seeds of pursuing an almost unthinkable effort to attain maximum diversity in the next class and each successive class. Vic and the Board of Trustees had given the green light and we totally revamped the admission process from top to bottom. It became what we now call a paradigm shift. Jack’s comments in his May 1965 Alumnus article drove the controversial concept home. We recruited in big city schools that had large numbers of poor students of color who had never considered applying to an expensive high-quality Northeastern college.
We met with alumni in each city to encourage their participation in our drive to increase the complexion of the campus. Jack’s vision became ours. The small staff that included Fred Nelson, Bird Norton ’65, Dick Showers, and Don Knepper became a happy band of social engineers. Not everyone on campus or off agreed with this groundbreaking approach at the time. History has proven that it was the precursor of things to come. Many others in higher education quickly adopted similar progressive models. Jack was also a strong proponent of quickly bringing women on campus. He left the university in 1969 before we admitted our first freshmen women, but his voice affirming the move continued to ring in our hearts as the decision to admit women received Board approval. Robert Kirkpatrick ’60 had joined the staff in 1965 and had become dean of admission upon Jack’s departure.
I believe that the recruitment and admission of students of color and women were the major watermark for the university in the 20th century. Immense credit to Jack Hoy, at first the spark and soon thereafter the oxygen that made Wesleyan the outstanding, dynamic, diverse institution it is today. Thank you, Jack. You have a permanent place in my heart.
Phil Calhoun ’62, Lancaster, Pa.