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Amherst College > News & Events > Amherst Magazine > Archives > Summer 2003 > Letters


The lack of letters
Having found “Letters to the Editor” to be one of the most interesting portions of Amherst, I looked in vain for them in your spring edition. My initial question to myself was misguided: had no alums written letters of any interest? I finally did come upon the small announcement (p. 36) that letters to the editor could be found on a Website. Although such a placement may save money, I hope that future issues of Amherst will return to providing us with the texts of letters we can immediately hold in our hands and read.

Lewis H. Miller, Jr. ’60
Bloomington, Ind.

The letters in the spring issue were published on the Web ( rather than the print magazine because of a scheduling anomaly. Letters will continue to appear as usual in the print editions.–Ed.

The American Khrushchev
Regarding the review of Wiliam Taubman’s book, Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, in the spring issue, it would have been of interest if the reviewer, Kate Smith ’87, had mentioned that Khrushchev’s son, Sergei Khrushchev, has been on the faculty at Brown University for about 10 years in the Watson Institute for International Studies. Sergei and his wife are naturalized U.S. citizens living in Cranston, R.I. When our granddaughter Jessica graduated from Georgetown University in 1995 and took a job teaching English to Russian students at the Smith School in Moscow, Sergei helped her prepare.

Ned Hastings ’38
Warwick, R.I.

The following responses to the volunteering article in the spring issue are among those submitted to the online forum on this subject. If you’d like to read more or add your own comments, visit the Responding Together Forum. –Ed.

A doctor on call
My career in volunteerism actually was initiated during my sophomore year at Amherst. A classmate invited me to go on a work weekend with the members of the Christian Association. We worked hard, along with young men and women from other schools, to improve the physical conditions of an interfaith, interracial camp near Winchester, N.H. I was very moved by speaking with the camp’s chaplain, who represented the Harlem minister James Robinson, the founder and developer of this ministry for boys and girls from Harlem. In fact, I was so inspired by that experience that I returned to several work weekends over the remaining years at Amherst and served as counselor there for three summers.

I continue to feel that I have been graced with a privileged status in the overall society and that it is incumbent on me to share my talents with those people less fortunate than I. Being semiretired from my last position as a public-health physician, I find my volunteer work being directed toward homeless persons, medically indigent persons and foster children who have been removed from abusive or neglectful parents.

I do believe that my volunteer efforts make a difference in people’s lives. While it does not really matter if I see results of my efforts, frequently I am aware that I have had a positive impact on the lives of those people I serve. I can sum up my feelings about my volunteer activities as “compassion in action.”

I believe that opportunities for volunteering should be made available to students at Amherst, perhaps at a student-to-student level, with faculty and/or administrative support of the activities. A natural outgrowth of that service would be alumni continuing to volunteer. Doing it corporately with other Amherst alumni (as well as other people, of course) might be an effective witness to the larger U.S. audience about the great importance of volunteerism in our society.

Thomas C. Washburn ’53
Bradenton, Fla.

Paying rent in the world
I was delighted to read about the Responding Together project. Constructive action is the best way to react to a tragedy such as the events of Sept. 11. We defy violence! I can only hope that such enthusiastic volunteerism will stick for the long term.

I have always volunteered in some form or another. I view it as paying my rent in the world, a duty (what a quaint notion!) that comes automatically with the privileges I have enjoyed: good health, a loving family, a rich and peaceful country, good education, dumb luck. I don’t have the kind of money that would make much difference to a struggling not-for-profit organization, but I do give my time.

I was active with various scientific organizations for many years, but recently have concentrated on my children’s schools. I choose causes based on my familiarity with the organization and the issues; effort and passion can be mis-invested as much as money. In part I work for the good of my profession and my children, in part from self-interest, but, as my husband wryly points out, a few lines in my résumé do not justify the hours I put in.

For the past three years I have been the president of the board of directors of the Amherst Montessori School. The all-volunteer board is charged with the oversight and long-term direction of a school for young children from over 90 families. In this well-loved college town, there is a high demand for early childhood education, but only one public preschool program, leaving the rest to not-for-profit private schools such as ours. On two campuses, we have three classrooms for 3- to-5-year-olds, an elementary classroom for grades one to four and a toddler room.

The Montessori families are a diverse lot, ethnically and economically; we have large proportions of student parents, single parents and recipients of various forms of financial aid. Every year the board must come up with a budget, set tuition and try to provide as many scholarships as possible, while keeping up with the bills. Fundraising is an increasingly important piece of the board’s business as we attempt to plug the holes and, with luck, pull ahead to our ambitions.

As the town of Amherst grows, the Montessori school is growing too. I hope that my efforts with the board have at least laid some groundwork for the next phase of expansion or set into motion the next wave of action. We hope to see a new building someday, with playing fields and facilities for new programs. Probably I will no longer be with the organization when they break ground, but I hope I’m around to celebrate. More than almost any other organization I have worked with, I have found the AMS community of preschoolers and their families to be warm, cohesive and friendly. But it is common that volunteers feel they get back more than they give.

Anne Walton ’81E
Amherst, Mass.

More than one kind of risk
I do not want this to sound as though I’m bragging. Volunteerism is a way of life, and has been to me since before my college days. However, I do take some umbrage at the comments of Dick Hubert ’60, for I have risked my life for many years as a volunteer. No, not in the military, but in technical mountaineering search and rescue and, equally if not more importantly, as the organizer, trainer and fire chief of two volunteer fire departments, one in Colorado, the other in New Mexico.

I say to Dick, whom I remember but vaguely, there already is a “different side to Amherst,” and I doubt that I am its only representative. It may not be seen as a sudden desire to join the military, but may well have been and continue to be expressed in other meaningful ways of helping those in need of help. Firefighters and other emergency-response personnel are injured and die in the line of duty, and many in this group of people are graduates of colleges and universities.

John Liebson ’61
Santa Fe, N.M.

Volunteering, despite Amherst
Yes, I volunteer time in my community, and have for over 50 years. Yes, I feel as though my efforts make a difference. I believe that results come sooner and better if one does not seek the credit for a project. I volunteer because I think I should, and I hope what I give makes a constructive difference. The distinction does not matter.

Being a graduate of Amherst does not/did not play into why I have done what I have done and am doing. My time in the Navy and my graduate education were much greater contributing factors. If anything, I am convinced that Amherst and most private colleges have lost their way when it comes to serving our society. It is not a privilege to attend Amherst; Amherst and all colleges owe it to our society to serve by being open to all, not merely the children of the wealthy. Please don’t give me that stuff about [need-]blind admissions. $35,000 per year divides too much of our society into those few who can afford it and those who can’t or won’t. The higher educational future of our society lies with the public colleges and universities. Our leaders come increasingly from the public ranks, since the quality of teaching and the nature of curriculum are not essentially different. Yes, the facilities may be greater in the privates, but that’s all. I think that colleges like Amherst could do a real public service by reducing their costs so that entrance is as open as it was when I was an applicant in 1942. All this was so much healthier 60 years ago.

Daniel Dick ’46
Worcester, Mass.

Another vote for the military
Bravo Zulu, Mr. Hubert, for your commentary on the “Responding Together” effort in the spring issue of Amherst. As an Amherst graduate and a commander in the active reserves of the United States Navy, I echo your sentiments. I have always been disturbed by the neglect and not-infrequent outright contempt that individuals at the “college of liberal thoughts” have shown for the men and women in our military, who, at any time, in any place and in any circumstance freely “respond together” to protect and defend this great country and human freedoms everywhere in the world. Perhaps the college should review its lessons in history and pay a little more attention to the fact that American slavery, Nazism, fascism and totalitarianism have been defeated by the courage, fortitude and sacrifice of men and women wearing the uniforms of the United States military.

Sept. 11th was not merely a terrible tragedy, but an act of war against our country and all it stands for. As a consequence, we are at war again; this time with fanatic terrorists, international terrorism and all the states and institutions that support and promote them. We have again called upon our servicemen and servicewomen to defend our country and our way of life.

Although I applaud the community-service efforts of Amherst graduates, I am, as is Mr. Hubert, discouraged by the lack of enthusiasm in the support of our troops. These are the brave men and women who are continually fighting to preserve and protect our freedoms and those of others throughout the world. It should be noted that the majority of these individuals earn meager incomes (with many of their families qualifying for food-stamp programs), are separated for great lengths of time from their loved ones and are working in unpleasant and frequently hostile environments. It is time for the Amherst College community to acknowledge our military men and women for their service and sacrifices, both past and present.

There are countless ways of showing support and providing assistance to our troops and many organizations, such as the USO, to assist in these endeavors. If nothing else, be sure to keep these individuals in your prayers and thank them and their families for what they have done for this great country and human liberty everywhere.

James Bates ’86
San Diego, Calif.


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