Letters to the Editor

A photo shows a student sittingo n a bench in Alumnae Valley , with Lake Waban in the distance.

Photo by Webb Chappell

Photo by Webb Chappell

A Connection to Wellesley’s Landscape

I just wanted to say that I read “A Sense of Place” (fall 2021) by Catherine O’Neill Grace in my home in Baghdad, thousands of miles away from Wellesley, and was incredibly moved. Wellesley’s landscape has always been a refuge to me, and the article encapsulated that and transported me to Wellesley. Thank you so much for your work.

Marsin Alshamary ’13, Baghdad

Just Thrilled

[Susan Elia MacNeal ’91] has done an impressive job of capturing the spirit, intrigue, and heart of this fun book (“An Insider’s Political Thriller,” a review of State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69 and Louise Penny, winter 2022). W proud all the way around.

Narcissa Campion CE/DS ’82, Brookline, Mass.

An Admission

Mary Ellen Crawford Ames ’40 (“In Memoriam,” winter 2022) interviewed me for admission on an afternoon in 1973. After I recited the standard litany of extracurricular activities, she asked me with a sigh, “Anything else?” “Well,” I responded, “I play in a kazoo band for our high school so we can get into hockey games free.” She laughed and said, “That’s the best thing I’ve heard all day.” The next year, as a first-year student, I had trouble adjusting to Wellesley, as did the other student from my high school. We were the first two to attend Wellesley from what had earlier been an all-boys Episcopal school in Minnesota. When [Ames] found out, she took the two of us out to lunch to find out what was going on. I will never forget her kindness and sense of humor. Godspeed.

Catherine Scallen ’78, Shaker Heights, Ohio

Remembering Prof. D. Scott Birney

I was a student of Mr. Birney’s: freshman year, autumn 1971 (“In Memoriam,” winter 2022). I wish I’d kept the textbook and would be interested in obtaining a copy, if anyone has one she would be willing to sell. As the notice captures, Mr. Birney was an outstandingly kind man. He taught me the grace of seeking a way to reach students not naturally inclined to my subject (English lit) that I frequently drew on during the years of my teaching career.

Cheryl Weissman ’75, Rockville, Md.

Lifelong inspiration

Scott Birney (“In Memoriam,” winter 2022) was one of my most inspirational teachers, and had I discovered astronomy earlier in my college life (I foolishly waited to fulfill my science/math requirements until my senior year), I would have switched my major from theatre studies to astronomy. That would have meant an extra year of college, and that just wasn’t going to happen. But he was a great teacher and inspired a lifelong love of stargazing!

Joan Friedman Bentsen ’75, Copenhagen

Piece of Cake

I’ve just finished reading the sidebar, “A Taste of Ranked Choice Voting,” in the magazine’s recent article “How Math Can Save Democracy” (winter 2022). Great stuff, and a laudable goal, but please, may I have the recipe for Wellesley fudge cake? I have a recipe for pompadour pudding, in case an alum would like it.

Carol Dick Buell ’73, Reisterstown, Md.

From the Editor:

Of course! There are several variations of the recipe, but this is the one in our archives.

Ingredients for the cake
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup hot water
½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Ingredients for the frosting
3½ cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup butter, softened
1½ cups packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup half-and-half
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions for the cake: Heat the oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In another small bowl, whisk hot water with the cocoa powder until smooth. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix until incorporated. Add flour mixture, buttermilk, cocoa mixture, and vanilla, and mix until incorporated. Bake 25 to 30 minutes.

Instructions for the frosting: Sift together the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa. In a saucepan, heat butter, brown sugar, salt, and half-and-half over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until small bubbles appear, four to eight minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens slightly and turns deep golden brown, about eight to 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the chopped chocolate and the vanilla and stir until smooth. Slowly whisk in the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa until incorporated. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate for 30 to 40 minutes until the frosting reaches the desired spreading consistency. Frost the cake generously.

Serves up to 16.

A Vote for Math and Politics Education

My eighth grade “civics” class in 1951 in North Quincy, Mass., taught us all about the voting system then in force in the city. It was called Plan E, Proportional Representation, and we all knew it was better than the “other option,” Plan A. That was 71 years ago, and folks still don’t understand! Math and Politics (“How Math Can Save Democracy,” winter 2022) sounds like a great course … Can we audit??

Andrea Kundsin Dupree ’60, Cambridge, Mass.

Don’t Forget Our Struggles

The Pandemic Diaries” (summer 2021) claims to make “anthropological sense” out of COVID by studying past plagues and pandemics. But the significant differences are underplayed.

Historically, this generation has been lucky. During this 21st-century pandemic, most Americans have had homes to shelter in, food to eat, useful therapeutics, and a host of electronic media with which to keep in touch with the world. Fortunately for them, they have not been subjected to the brutality and suffering of war, the deprivations of internment, or the agony of starvation.

My generation—which lived through the Great Depression and World War II—was hardest hit by COVID. Many died. Those who survived are full of gratitude, not complaint.

Doris Schaffer O’Brien ’54, Las Vegas

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