Letters to the Editor

Cover of the winter 2018 issue of Wellesley magazine

An Accessible Magazine

I am thrilled to have Wellesley magazine accessible online. For years, I have had to have a volunteer read me my magazine. My friend Joan Strumph Gordon ’52 has done a superb job performing this service for me. She has been faithfully reading Wellesley onto a cassette recorder for me over these many years.

In April 1962, I had a flu-like illness of unknown origin—and two weeks later, on my 32nd birthday, I suddenly began to lose my perfect vision. I am now totally blind. I did not know until many years later that the cause of my sight loss was Lyme disease, which I have been battling ever since.

At last, I am able to access the magazine from cover to cover via my computer with speech output for the blind. Although I will miss Joan’s mellifluous reading voice, I am thrilled to be able to read Wellesley for myself.

Thanks so much for putting your great magazine into a format I can access.

Mimi Feldman Winer ’52, Wayland, Mass.

Adapting to a New Culture

Regarding “Immigrant Journeys” (winter ’18): These are excellent stories. As an American who grew up abroad in places like Libya, The Hague, London, Paris, and Norway, I can certainly appreciate how difficult it can sometimes be to find your own groove within a new culture. Even the U.S. seemed foreign to me in many ways. I left for Libya in late 1968 with my family. (My dad was then a young petroleum engineer in management for a joint-venture oil and gas company.) We were there when King Idris lost power to Qaddafi in September 1969. We left in 1972 and wound up in the Netherlands for two years. Then it was off to wonderful London, which felt more like home, for my high-school years. A long story short, I’ve been in Houston, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Houston and did another (brief) stint overseas during my own career, in 2004. Anyway, thank you for a fascinating read. And a toast to immigrants and workers here and abroad who learn how to adapt and embrace differences in our common humanity. People are people!

Stephanie Nelson ’82, Spring, Texas

Framing the Debate

I think it is disingenuous of Amita Parashar Kelly ’06 to frame the two “narratives” of the immigration debate as a “Hamiltonian-style rise to achieve the American dream” versus “an ever-growing fear surrounding the immigrants entering this country” (“Immigrant Journeys,” winter ’18).

The concern of many Americans is more specifically with illegal immigration—though this adjective has now all but conveniently vanished from discussions on the subject. Defiance of our national immigration laws coupled with our porous borders pose a clear and present danger to America.

Doris Schaffer O’Brien ’54, Pasadena, Calif.

The New Science Building

Regarding the new science center (“Science Under Construction,” winter ’18): The Trustees have given the green light to begin demolition of Sage Hall (opened in 1930–31) to make way for the new science building. Although they have been tight-lipped about releasing the design for its replacement, or seeking public comment about it, a harbinger of things to come is the “leaked” decision to demolish the Sage stair. This prominent feature of the Focus, the signature space of the award-winning 1977 Perry Dean Rogers building, deliberately mingled Modernist concrete and glass to stand side by side with the brick and stone of Gothic-revival Sage, including its external stairway.

The Sage stairway presents today’s student with an angular, zigzag transition from the 1977 building into its 1930 predecessor. Its irregular axes are consistent with the indirection of the landscape in which it once stood. Turning outside elements into inside ones (along with the former facade with its Perpendicular style windows and the iconic campus lampposts) intentionally juxtaposed old and new. The present architects’ proposed replacement for Sage opts for a linear, axial, over-scaled opening into the entirely new science building. The choice of directness and spatial penetration irrevocably diminishes the reference-rich Focus with its prominent history-markers.

In the Conservation Management Plan (2017), written by external consultants, the Sage staircase received a “Category 1” designation for protection, a view endorsed by the internal Facilities Advisory Committee. The architects have chosen to ignore both bodies, leading to the resignations from the committee of its two architectural historians. Demolishing the Sage stairway raises serious concerns about the process devised by the trustees for the new building. Transparency and consultation, long a part of Wellesley’s building history, could avoid such a blunder.

Peter Fergusson, Feldberg Professor of Art, emeritus, Wellesley, Mass.

A response from Dean Ann Velenchik:

None of the decisions that have been made about the renovation and construction plans for the Science Center have been made lightly, and at all points in the process we have been weighing our responsibility for stewardship of architectural history with our equally important responsibility to provide appropriate, safe, and modern space for teaching and research in science.

To that end, we commissioned a Conservation Management Plan (CMP), which, as Peter Fergusson points out, included both the Focus and the exterior glazing and colors of the building as “Category 1” features. The Sage stair, part of the Sage wall, is one of many elements of the Focus. What Peter does not mention is that the authors of the CMP, during a series of meetings with the core project team, the Facilities Advisory Committee, and the College president, repeatedly stated their support for the removal of the Sage stair as part of the project architects’ plans to create cohesion between the existing building and the new construction. Not only did the architects not ignore the advice of the conservation experts, the two groups worked closely together to advise the College. Removing the stair does indeed represent a compromise: Everyone involved sees the aesthetic and sentimental value of the stair, but we also see that to retain it would be to sacrifice other important functional and aesthetic values in the science complex.

The plan for the new building provides an elegant solution to many of the problems that make Sage unsuitable for work in science. Removing the stair allows the connection between the Focus and the new space to be visible and functional and reinforces the idea of a unified science center that the 1977 Perry Dean Rogers building established.

Ann Velenchik, Dean of Academic Affairs, Executive Sponsor, Science Center Project

On Being Open

The winter ’18 magazine is a marvelous issue. What a pleasure to see the myriad ways in which the College has blossomed over the last century!

I live in northern New Mexico. Several decades ago, I received an unexpected telephone call from a retired Wellesley faculty member who was one of my favorite teachers. She said she was in Taos and asked if I would take her to see the Taos pueblo. I drove the 40 miles to town and picked her up. She was a small person, only a few inches over 4 feet tall.

Her tiny, birdlike hand in mine, together we walked slowly across the dusty ancient ceremonial space between the two sections of the pueblo. Occasionally, a Pueblo Indian would speak to us—a person from a culture that had been there, as a community, more than 1,000 years, yet was somehow marginalized. As we walked, this faculty member told me her “close friend, so-and-so,” had died recently and she was taking this trip alone. She said to me: “You knew about her, didn’t you?” Actually, I didn’t.

It wasn’t until many years after I left Wellesley that I realized that quite a few of our much-admired professors were in long-term same-sex relationships. These were hidden. No teacher dared mention them and few students were aware. Nowadays, Wellesley publishes wedding photos of alumnae who have married female partners. These photos are great! How exhilarating for these young people to be so open.

It must be wonderful to study and live at a college where students and faculty can be so free, where they can be themselves. Thank you for your portrayal of this vital aspect of the Wellesley experience.

Margaret W. Lamb ’57, Questa, N.M.

Where’s the Conservative Perspective?

Schools dominated by liberal professors are promoting indoctrination rather than education. No wonder parents are finding college experience less and less attractive for their children. And why alumnae are loath to give financial support to these institutions.

I am truly distressed that the winter ’18 Wellesley magazine gave special prominence to the article “How to Raise a Feminist Boy.” The leftist concept of centuries of oppression of women creates a victim class and has bad consequences for the development of young boys—making them feel as though they have toxic impulses and are part of an oppressive patriarchy.

Where are you printing articles with a conservative perspective? If Wellesley is featuring two women raising a young boy to be a feminist boy, let’s hear from another viewpoint where a traditional married couple—a father and a mother—seek to help their son develop his potential. Most parents seek to raise confident and constructive young men through encouragement and support, not by indoctrination in today’s politically correct ideology.

Jane Levine Lewit ’62, Longboat Key, Fla.

Boys to Men

I was immediately drawn to “How to Raise a Feminist Boy” (winter ’18). As the mother of two sons, I can fondly remember diggers, cars, Legos, tigers, dinosaurs, and all that other good stuff that little boys are made of. For years, I was much less happy with the fighting, homemade guns, bows and arrows, and war play that my sons gravitated toward.

Based on my experience, there is something inherently male, or female, hard-wired within us. Not only that, but all things have a season. Now my sons are almost 15 and 12. Maybe we should consider another article entitled “How to Raise a Good Man.” This is one of my foremost thoughts as a mother. My sons are now of an age where they are dating, video gaming, and spending more time with their friends, teachers, and coaches than with their parents. It is worrisome to consider outside influences (vulgar language, questionable or even illegal media, the dearth of prominent male role models, the prevalence of addictions, the lack of viable jobs, gender stereotypes, etc.) on my sons’ development.

I believe in parenting by example. I believe in the importance of inspiring and enduring women and men in my sons’ lives. I believe in an emphasis on academics, sports, and arts. I follow movements like the Good Men Project and He for She/We for She. I talk openly with my sons about my expectations for their behavior, their future, their responsibility toward themselves and others, leadership, hard work, honor, integrity, hormones, well-being, spirituality, and emotional and physical intimacy. But is it enough? I will not know for many years. I do know that I will not give up pushing my sons towards becoming gentlemen of exception, men of the highest caliber.

Elizabeth Stevenson Haefliger ’93, Carouge, Switzerland

Boys and Gender

I was sad to read that Jordan Namerow ’05 (“How to Raise a Feminist Boy,” winter ’18) is uncomfortable whenever someone asks whether her son is a girl or a boy. If she’s uncomfortable identifying him as a boy, how will he ever be comfortable identifying himself as a boy? Gender may be a construct in social science, but it also is a genetic fact, and it makes sense for her son to start life with the gender that matches his DNA. Instead of bringing anxiety to the issue of his gender identity at this young age, why not put confidence behind her decision to raise him to be gentle and accepting of all genders, races, and religions? Who better than a Wellesley woman to do that? Haven’t tens of thousands of Wellesley women raised their sons that way?

Along with female and transgender role models, she could consider giving him male role models who display the qualities that she is trying to instill. Even if her son begins to explore what it’s like to be a girl, she would be wise to be restrained in embracing that as a lasting identity change. One of my daughters, on hearing recently that a 4-year-old’s parents went to court to change her identity to male, was really dismayed. When she was 4, she talked about wanting to be a boy, and often played male roles in games with her sisters and friends. But now she is a confident young woman, and thankful that no one acted on her interest in being a boy back then to “transition” her into an identity she would not want today.

Linda Goetz Tseitlin ’85, Peabody, Mass.

Remembering Beverly Layman

Beverly Layman was a great teacher (“In Memoriam,” winter ’18). I will never forget him striding into the classroom one autumn morning in, maybe, 1957, brandishing a copy of Portrait of a Lady, our assigned reading. “I do believe,” he said, with his slightly modulated Southern accent, a tremolo of emotion in his voice, “that this is the finest novel ever written in the English language.” And, pace Dickens, Eliot, Hemingway, Faulkner, I’m sure those of us who were there that morning continue to believe the truth of his statement.

Nancy Harmon Jenkins ’59, Camden, Maine

Inspired Stories

I received my print copy of the winter ’18 magazine and decided to start from the last page, so I just read the Endnote today (“Waters Rising”). What struck me is the parallel experience the writer has had to so many refugees and immigrants whose lives are upended—often with little or no advance warning. Given your meticulous planning and editorial oversight, I doubt that was an accidental coincidence. It is inspired.

Rachel Wang ’88, Amherst, Mass.