Letters to the Editor

A photo of mixed actinobacteria taken through a microscope.

Photo by Scott Chimileski

The Wellesley Fam

Regarding the spring ’19 issue: 

Thanks @Wellesleymag for reminding me just how incredible it is to be part of the @Wellesley family. Currently reading the issue cover to cover!

@ConnConnection, (Kathy Flaherty ’88, via Twitter, Newington, Conn.)

Interact With Civility

I read the spring ’19 issue of the Wellesley magazine with great interest and some dismay. Two articles in particular reminded me of the great benefits of a Wellesley education: “The Art (and Life) of Diplomacy,” which featured my dorm mate in Stone-Davis, Michele Sison ’81, and “Thinking about Difference Differently.”

From the first article, I quote Sison, who has learned through her years as a diplomat that “It is crucial … to foster ‘a constructive and inclusive national dialogue.’” In the latter article, I read a quote from an associate dean of students, which said in part “… by the time they [students] leave the institution [Wellesley College] … they have the skills, the knowledge, and hopefully the attitudes, to work … with people who are different than themselves.”

The dismay came from a letter to the editor which “found it disturbing” that a Wellesley publication would mention the Republican Party at all, or in any positive way. The letter’s rhetoric was inflammatory, the language unabashedly biased. I am both a Wellesley woman and a Republican. I suggest it would be more helpful to our national dialogue to try to understand those we disagree with, rather than to ignore or demonize them. I hope Wellesley taught us to speak and interact with civility, especially when we disagree.

Barbara Davies ’79, Hamilton, N.J.

More on the Republican Party

At a time of deep political division in America, Wellesley alumnae who vote Republican often find it more “expedient” to remain mum. But the outrageously vitriolic rant against all Republicans by Maggie O’Grady ’04 (“The Republican Party,” letters to the editor, spring ’19) cries out for refutation.

The writer opines that to consider Republicans as being “simply a political affiliation” is “dangerous.” What is really dangerous, however, is her prejudicial insistence that to allow the expression of views contrary to her own is an act of “willful ignorance.” (Does she even know any Republicans?)

When I attended Wellesley in the 1950s, diversity of opinion was a given, and freedom of speech was recognized as a crucial tenet of democracy. If our professors—even those who taught poli sci or journalism—had their own political preferences, they did not foist them on us. Nor did they seek to disparage—much less expunge—viewpoints contrary to their own. O’Grady has a right to her opinion that Republicans are “anything other than intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt”—but that doesn’t make it true.

A week from the time I write this, I will undertake an arduous trip back to Wellesley for my 65th reunion. In an advance copy of our 1954 Roll Call, a classmate wrote, “WORST of all was the election of 2016. How could we have let that happen?” This may be the prevailing opinion among Wellesleyites, but it is far from universal. And, frankly, it smacks of a clueless and insensitive smugness.

I am looking forward to what may be my last reunion on campus. Now I wonder if I ought to pack a muzzle along with my age-old purple beanie!

Doris Schaffer O’Brien ’54, Las Vegas

Not Everyone Is on the Left

Regarding the letter of Maggie O’Grady ’04 in the spring ’19 issue:

I am a proud “deplorable” and spent many years working as a full-time volunteer for my Republican congressman in Connecticut. The young person who wrote that unfortunate letter expresses sentiments which I find totally inappropriate, but I will defend her right to say them. I guess she would not defend my right to state my sentiments.

I have found in the past years an ever-growing tone in the magazine that assumes that all Wellesley women are on the left politically. Perhaps a required course in the rise of fascism in Europe (and other places) would be in order. All we can do is try to educate and persuade someone else to at least think of alternative views. If they come for me today, they will come for you tomorrow is an old saying, but …

Thank you for reading the complaints. I hope that the magazine will try to be a bit more even-handed.

Janet Garcia Schmitz ’54, New Canaan, Conn.

Conservatives Out There

I was pleasantly surprised to read “Wellesley Runs,” winter ’19 and disheartened to read the letter to the editor from Maggie O’Grady about it in spring ’19.

To say that Wellesley was condoning the Republican Party any more than the Democratic Party is part of the “safe space” problem on college campuses. The writer makes many inflammatory generalizations and clearly is unwilling to consider any opinions but her side’s. There are more conservatives out there than you think; we just are not as convinced that everyone else holds the same views we do.

Janice Crawford Hanson ’74, Englewood, Colo.

The U.S. Foreign Service

What a joy to see your spring ’19 description of the careers of two Wellesley diplomats (“The Art (and Life) of Diplomacy”)! As a retired Foreign Service officer myself, I felt we had—as Colin Powell used to say—“the most interesting work in the world.”

My 30-year career comprised assignments in Bucharest, Belgrade, Jakarta, London, and several tours in Washington, and was capped with service as U.S. Ambassador to Moldova, 2001–2003. (Please add me to your list!) Later, I also led inspections of U.S. embassies in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, Israel, Austria, Uruguay, and Barbados, and our mission (not embassy, then) in Cuba. I met my U.S. diplomat husband in Bucharest, my first post, and we raised our children all over the world. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything.

Pamela Hyde Smith ’67, Washington, D.C.

Editor’s Note: Our apologies to Ambassador Smith and any others we inadvertently left off the list. We cast a wide net to collect names, but unfortunately missed a few. If alumnae know of other ambassadors, please email us the names at magazine@wellesley.edu, and we will add them to our list online. Read on:

Goodwill Maritime Ambassador

Whenever one chances a listing of anything, there is always the risk of an omission (“The Art (and Life) of Diplomacy,” spring ’19). In referencing your listing of Wellesley ambassadors, I’m afraid you overlooked the International Maritime Organization (the UN agency responsible for maritime regulations and affairs) and its Goodwill Maritime Ambassador program, of which I am one.

It is easy to understand why you aren’t laser focused on shipping; most of the general public is not. Yet, the maritime industry safely transports more than 90 percent of the world’s goods and energy in the most environmentally benign mode of transport. It is a male-dominated industry but is truly the engine of global trade.

I have been passionate about the maritime industry since I was a child growing up on an island in Michigan. It was fueled at Wellesley when my various studies (double major in political science and history with a minor in economics) enabled me to see how shipping affected geopolitics, and geopolitics affected shipping. I entered the field using my marketing and communications skills, and started my company 20 years ago to provide those resources to an industry I loved. Along the way, I founded the North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA), Consortium for International Maritime Heritage, and last year became the owner and chief evolution officer of SHIPPINGInsight, the fleet optimization and innovation platform.

This week I was in Jamaica launching CARIBMEPA (Caribbean Marine Environment Protection Association), and leave tomorrow for Athens, where I have partnered with a Greek organization to produce the Hellenic American Maritime Forum. I go on from there to Oslo to present at a global event called NorShipping.

I regret Wellesley doesn’t recognize the world’s second oldest business and first global industry. The United States Coast Guard nominated me to be an IMO Goodwill Maritime Ambassador, and I am proud to carry the flag for an industry I love!

Amb. Carleen Lyden Walker ’77, Weston, Conn.

Talented Women

I have just finished reading the spring ’19 issue, and once again had the pleasure of being reminded what committed, talented women constitute the Wellesley community. I am especially enjoying seeing the attention that Nergis Mavalvala ’90 has received (“A Cosmic Breakthrough,” winter ’19), as my husband was a founder of the LIGO experiment, so we have followed Nergis’ extraordinary career for decades.

Sarah Fusfeld Saulson ’76, Syracuse, N.Y.

Waldorf Schools

Jane Poindexter Ried ’74 wrote a gushing letter to the editor about the benefits of Waldorf education (“Education in the ‘Screen Age,’in letters to the editor, spring ’19). Sure, there’s breadth and depth in topics covered, but I feel I’ve succeeded in spite of going to a Waldorf school from fourth to eighth grades. I arrived at high school not knowing how to take notes in class, navigate dances, or what was going on in biology class. One girl graduated from eighth grade in our class barely able to read, due to the lack of support for learning disabilities. The teacher I had for all five years refused to deal with bullying or other hateful behavior between children, or directed by her at students. Most of the parents at the school couldn’t provide a coherent description of what Rudolf Steiner’s educational philosophy was. The vitriol pointed toward any form of technology or science from the last century was dangerous: Waldorf schools in the Bay Area have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the region. As someone with an autoimmune disease, the prospect of a measles outbreak centered at a Waldorf school harming not only kids at the school but their siblings too young to get vaccinated, elderly relatives with weakened immune systems, or anyone unable to get vaccines due to illness, terrifies and disappoints me. Indeed, Steiner believed communicable diseases provided some sort of benefit to the child, when they do anything but. I find parents love the concept of Waldorf schools, but perhaps the lifelong effects on Waldorf graduates may merit some consideration.

Alessondra Springmann ’07, Tuscon, Ariz.

Love That Cover!

I don’t know when I’ve so enjoyed the cover of a Wellesley magazine! The winter ’19 issue’s cover really is a delight! Not surprisingly, it set me to wanting to look inside, but there have been many times, too, when I’ve simply glanced at the magazine lying on a table and I smiled. Good therapy! I admire, too, the non-glossy surface. Nicely done!

Beth Havens Choi ’58, Richmond Heights, Ohio

The Affordable Care Act

I was very interested in the article about Wellesley alumnae running for political office (“Wellesley Runs,” winter ’19) but was surprised and disappointed at the description and ideas of the young woman running in Los Alamos, N.M. If she is, as described, an optometrist, she is not a medical doctor, and I fail to see where the Affordable Care Act would have any effect on her patients/clients, as the coverage under most medical plans does not cover eyeglasses or eye exams except for some Medicare, which is not the ACA.

What the ACA has done is make it possible for my daughter with multiple sclerosis to have affordable coverage for her care, which has allowed her to continue working and functioning into her middle 50s, 30 years after her diagnosis. Without the ACA, she not only would not have the care she has but would be denied all coverage due to her “pre-existing condition.” As to jobs at Los Alamos, Trump’s government is tending to cut funding for scientific research, so not sure why she would promote, defend, and want to serve under him.

Susan Hazelton Niemi Hilpert ’61, Concord, N.H.

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