Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Building Change

I was impressed with Tonja Adair’s career in architecture, which had its beginning when she majored in architecture at Wellesley (“Design with Community in Mind,” winter 2024). When I was a sophomore in high school, I wanted to be an architect. But my guidance counselor told me, “That’s no field for a woman,” so I gave up the idea and majored in chemistry at Wellesley. I was able to take architecture my senior year, but it wasn’t yet possible to major in architecture. I really enjoyed the course, which included constructing a model of the house one had designed. After a short career in chemistry and 20 years of being a stay-at-home mother, I finally realized my dream of designing and building my own home. It was extremely fulfilling to draw up the plans and see the house take shape. We really enjoyed living in it for 26 years, until my husband became ill. It’s wonderful that it is now possible for women to succeed in fields once dominated by men.

Mary Benedict Sauer ’58, Naples, Fla.

Economic Advantages

Jennifer Garrett’s article “How to Make an Economist” (fall 2023) triggered many memories of my years as an economics major at Wellesley—from day one. My ’69 yearbook reminded me of the many classmates who were econ majors. I unearthed my mimeographed copy of “An Economic Analysis of Wellesley College”—a 200-page document written by members of our senior honors seminar under the lead of Prof. Carolyn Shaw Bell. Many years after its publication in May 1969, Mrs. Bell apologized to us that she had not done enough to promote our insights to the College’s administration.

Current discussions of affirmative action overlook the push for opportunities for women in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Rumor had it that the Ford Foundation granted the Stanford University econ department money for graduate scholarships on the condition that they admit five women to the class entering in the fall of 1969. I was a fortunate beneficiary. I received an M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Stanford, fully funded. I think I’m the only member of my Wellesley class to earn a Ph.D. in economics. I had a wonderful career as an urban economist in the Federal Reserve System and as a public finance economist at the Congressional Research Service within the U.S. Library of Congress.

Wellesley’s econ department should do even more to let students know what a fascinating subject economics is. So many topics in the daily news yield to economic analysis. It’s a mindset, a particular way of looking at the world. An education in economics can also be financially rewarding in terms of salary and career, as well as personal finance and investing.

Nonna Noto ’69, Washington, D.C.

AI Issues

I’m a bit disappointed in “AI’s Unanswered Questions” (winter 2024). While the author acknowledges that “[a] tool like ChatGPT, Anderson explains, is trained on all the data available to it—pretty much anything on the internet,” it doesn’t engage with how problematic that is. Open AI tools have stolen the art and literature and journalism and ideas of real human beings, none of whom have been compensated or even given their permission. AI then spits out an answer without attribution or accountability. AI is a plagiarist. That means there is no way to use AI right now without also being a plagiarist. There is also a lot of evidence that companies are already trying to replace employees with AI (Sports Illustrated, game developers, IT services are already doing so).

Mary Valante ’90, Boone, N.C.

Remembering David Ferry

I was among the students in the fall of 1955 to have David Ferry as teacher of the required freshman English composition course. His classes were wonderful—awe-inspiring and humbling. I and others learned quickly that what we had thought we knew as high-school writers was not very good—well assembled, perhaps, but superficial and overconfident. Mr. Ferry was such a dazzling teacher that we didn’t mind his criticism of our weekly papers. His reading and analysis of a scene from King Lear was breathtaking and unforgettable. We learned a lot.

Doreen Crawford Dun ’59, East Boothbay, Maine

As a science major, my classes with David Ferry were a wonderful distraction and taught me to expand my thinking in a more creative way. I remember that he had a retinal detachment and still showed up to teach. As a retired ophthalmologist, I can now appreciate his dedication to teaching during his healing. Being a student of his was a true gift.

Beth Shapiro Bromberg ’81, Stamford, Conn.

Professor Ferry taught the first English course I took at Wellesley, and it was everything I could have wished and more. Truly magical. I still remember his reading aloud “They Flee from Me,” by Thomas Wyatt. The room was spellbound and utterly still when he finished. I wound up being a classical civ major and loving poetry forevermore. Many thanks to a true giant in his field, gentle and fierce.

Ellen Scordato ’84, New York City

My heart is broken. Mr. Ferry, as I always knew him, even though it was incorrect, even though he’d asked me to call him David, even though he signed my dog-eared copies of his books, “Da/vid” with the characteristic scansion, was Wellesley to me. His quiet grace and elegance, his humility, his subtle sense of humor, as well as his enormity in the classroom have always left me in awe. I remember him on graduation day, as we filed past the faculty in our plain black gowns, the way he looked, majestic, with so many colorful banners over his shoulders, and awards around his neck. It was as it should have been. I smiled shyly at him and he smiled back, just a twinkle of pride on his familiar, stately countenance. He was warm and approachable, always humble, occasionally self-effacing, referring to the National Book Award with which he was honored upon publication of his final work, Bewilderment. I sat in the plush new lecture hall in Pendleton West, on the stairs. I cried, your words are as resonant for me at 50 as they will continue to be. My apologies to Shelley and all poets who followed, but I believe your dead leaves have been well-scattered. To his son and daughter I wish my greatest sympathies. You were blessed to have such a fine man for a parent. To lose such a person is unimaginably bittersweet.

Betsy Abbott Kristl ’83, Acton, Mass.

I had Prof. Ferry for freshman English in 1961. I remember the class well. We wrote an essay, “The person I begin to be.” I was puzzled by that topic and wrote something superficial, but continued to think about it ever after. I also showed him my high school poems and received a very considerate reaction, that he couldn’t tell me what a person wants to hear when she shows him her poetry. I think my interactions with him were among the most meaningful and personal in my experiences with classes at Wellesley. I am glad to learn of his long and successful life.

Jane Howard ’65, Lunenburg, Mass.