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Letters

Dan Stockwell ’64 is an “everyday hero,” and John Tagliabue remembers a student in verse.

Everyday Hero

I was heartened to read the article “Deeds Not Words,” (winter/spring 2001 Bates Magazine) about the heroic actions of Dan Stockwell ’64. The selfless deeds described in the article speak volumes about this humble hero. Not mentioned in the article, however, is that Dan Stockwell is a hero not only in the midst of great adversity but he is an “everyday hero” as well.

Dan Stockwell, or “Mr. Stockwell,” as I remember him, was my principal while I attended Winnisquam Regional High School in a rural, blue-collar New Hampshire town. During my senior year, I was fortunate that Mr. Stockwell took an interest in me and my future and suggested that I apply to Bates. Without his encouragement, I never would have considered attending Bates. As such, his interest and encouragement led me to four wonderful years at Bates and, ultimately, changed my life, both personally and professionally.

Since I left Winnisquam, I never took the opportunity to thank Mr. Stockwell for his help and direction. So, thank you, Mr. Stockwell, for being my everyday hero! I am confident that you continue to impact the lives of your students to this very day as you impacted mine some 20 years ago.

Lisa Marshall Schwiebert ’86
via e-mail

The writer earned her Ph.D. at Dartmouth and is an assistant professor of physiology and biophysics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. — Editor

My Student’s Death “A Particular Future Drowns; the Motion of the Sea Still Active in My Memory”

It happened long ago
but it comes back to my memory now and then
like the tide moving back and forth and back again
to the shore,
the thought of my freshman student who on a Sunday
college outing
at a beautiful rocky Maine beach with a group of
playful students
went in to rescue a friend who could hardly swim, tried
to get him saved
but then the strong current pulled him out to sea; no one
could rescue him;
now he would be almost 60. We had been reading some
Rilke in class
a short time before that fatal outing. Young handsome
friendly healthy
radiant Freshman churned turned in the indifferent strong
grasp of the sea.

The above poem I wrote recently, 38 years after the tragic accident at Popham Beach. I wrote it before reading the sensitive and moving report by Merry Stockwell ’65 (“Deeds Not Words,” winter/spring Bates Magazine), told with accurate details and good sentiments and meaning. Here I won’t try to offer a full account. Dale Hatch ’66 hoped to save another student, Steve Quattropani ’65, who had been swept off the rocks. He tied a series of sweatshirts into a rope — but while throwing that rope, he fell in. Dan Stockwell ’64 managed to save Steve. But Dale, pulled out by the tide, drowned.

Dale was a student of mine; and for years after having heard about the tragedy, the thought of my student’s death surfaced in my mind. I did not know Dale well; he seemed gentle, made a good impression. I think (if I remember correctly) he had handed in a good paper about a Rilke poem we had been discussing in class a few days before the fatal accident.

Strange what memory and the passing of time can change, and what the sea and nature can do. When I wrote the poem with its theme of loss, I was perhaps also thinking of others who died young, others who were lost — lost at sea, or in war, or in the “sea of troubles.”

John Tagliabue
Providence, R.I.

The writer is professor of English emeritus. — Editor

The Irony of AstroTurf

Like Robert F. Harrington ’47 (“Turf vs. the Earth,” Letters, winter/spring 2001 Bates Magazine), I reject Bates’ decision to lay AstroTurf over some of its playing fields, on philosophical and environmental grounds. The environmental grounds should be fairly obvious: the manufacture of perhaps 3,000 cubic meters of synthetic materials (AstroTurf and support structure) can be expected to release untold toxins and other inorganics into the environment. (And how will these acre-sized carpets be disposed of?) The removal of several acres of lawns kills some amount of carbon-sink vegetation and large numbers of soil microbes.

Philosophical grounds are less obvious. The history of Western philosophy shows a resolute unacceptance of an untamed, untrammeled nature. Descartes urged “men” to “bend nature to our will,” to render “her” pliable and malleable; nature, previously alive and organic, became conceptually dead and inert with his help and that of other Enlightenment thinkers. The radical transformation of the New World was on the agenda of early settlers and the U.S. government; “wilderness” was wasteland and simultaneously contained dangerous biota, including savages, needing to be tamed. Jefferson and his “yeoman farmers” endeavored to transform the continent into a “vast Brunelleschi piazza.” The chaotic dangers of unrestrained, wild nature in the New World were intolerable and had to be removed or subdued.

So, too, have the roughness, dirtiness, and unpredictability of the organic playing surfaces of Bates’ fields become intolerable. The weak statistical support for their actual injury danger has been overpowered by the traditional Western idea of the unacceptable inconsistency and risk of nonsynthetic nature. Meanwhile, these ironies are left to the wind: that many people turn to sports as a way of getting closer to unbuilt nature; that physical risk is an inherent component of sports — something to play against; that students have played contact sports voluntarily, in the mud, for eons; that people indigenous to this continent played ball sports over dozens of miles of back woods and mountains; that sports are ultimately games, and yet are experiencing a mechanization similar to that in industry, agriculture, and business.

The decision to lay AstroTurf, grand in scale, must be seen as part of a larger transformation of a free and natural game to a (not-too-distant) rationalized, mechanized techno-encounter, where genetically engineered bodies, pumped with bioengineered chemicals, play in completely synthetic environments. In this picture, eventually the body itself will disappear, completing Plato’s fantasy (and that of much science fiction) of the independence of mind from body, which in the case of sports, holds the ultimate irony.

Ken Worthy ’83
via e-mail

Amy’s Murder

Last winter, I received word from the College that my classmate Amy Michaelson ’91 had been murdered in December, and her husband was arrested for her death. Amy and I did not run in close circles while we were at Bates, but we shared classes together, and memories of her came instantly to mind — her love of the Russian language and her delicate accent, her tiny frame and long beautiful hair, her dramatic flair.

Who would ever expect such a tragic outcome for a Bates graduate? Saddened and angered, I looked back at her yearbook picture, and wondered how many of us from Bates are involved or have been involved in violent relationships. I also wished I had known how to recognize abuse before I found myself in the middle of it.

I work at a domestic violence agency in Maine. My agency and others across the country believe that education about healthy and unhealthy relationships is one of the strongest ways to break cultural cycles of violence. Schools are also beginning to engage this issue: One Massachusetts initiative would require all Massachusetts college students to take a course in domestic and family violence in order to graduate.

Something akin to this was discussed a few years ago as Bates examined its sexual-assault policies. I continue to feel strongly that Bates students benefit greatly from ongoing comprehensive educational exposure to issues of violence, abuse, sexual assault, and healthy/unhealthy relationships. Bates students are not only not immune to violent relationships, they are as vulnerable as everyone.

We at the community level must keep talking about how to make murder and abuse stop. I remember sitting in a psychology class at Bates and hearing the statistic that one in three women will be raped and one in four women will experience domestic abuse at the hands of a boyfriend or husband. I have two older sisters, and at the time I felt the sudden weight of the realization that one of us would likely experience these things. In fact, it has been more than one of us.

All the domestic violence and sexual assault services in the world won’t end abuse unless society as a whole says it is not okay, and abusers cannot hide.

My sympathies and best wishes go to Amy’s family.

Kate Faragher ’91
via e-mail

Brother Berkelman

Bill Dill ’51’s tribute to Professor Berkelman (I still don’t dare to call him Bobby) in the winter/spring Bates Magazine triggered all sorts of memories, indelible after more than 50 years. Suffice it to say every time Ev ’47 and I go to museums, which is often both here and abroad, Professor Berkelman’s spirit and the principles he taught sit squarely on our shoulders, keeping us alert to see and appreciate line, style, and design. He demanded and expected the best and wouldn’t settle for less in all he taught — art, writing, literature.

When we go to theater, he’s also there, particularly with Shakespeare, which he analyzed with relish and pulled insights from us, his students, with equal relish.

What else do I remember? His rapier wit. Once when my parents came for a visit, I had no chance to do my assignment (one never went unprepared to his class) and of course that was one of the mornings he opened with “sharpen your wits and your pencils” (one of his infamous pop quizzes). Devastated, I wrote that I guess I would have to take a zero and explained why. My paper came back with the terse comment, “I guess you will — 0.”

When I applied to his Advanced Composition course in order to sharpen my skills (I wrote the skits for the football rallies), he said, “Maybe you should get a job playing the piano in a saloon somewhere.” So I had to learn the validity of “clear, concise, and meaty” sentences in his other courses.

Professor Berkelman signaled that you had arrived with him when he called you Sister or Brother and your last name, instead of Mr. or Miss. When the day came that he called me “Sister Greenberg,” I felt I had earned the Medal of Honor.

Ev and I planned a trip to Stratford in 1971 with our daughter, who was then a sophomore in high school. We learned that he was going to be in Stratford at the same time and agreed to meet. It had been more than 20 years since we had seen each other. Amy had heard much about him over the years and she was looking forward as well. He was a complete delight, claiming steadfastly he never could have said and done the things I retold. But there was a twinkle in his eye that gave him away.

He was the best professor Ev and I had at Bates, and his most precious legacy is that he is still teaching us after more than 50 years. How many can achieve that?

Joan Greenberg Brenner ’49

Port Washington, N.Y.

Your wonderful article on Professor Berkelman sparked many memories for me as an English major. My classmates and I recall his famous saying: “Messy notebook, messy mind.”

Berkelman definitely taught us conciseness. Papers written for Shakespeare class were a page precisely, not one word more or less. Computers would have helped greatly!

I was privileged to be in the last class ever taught by Berkelman. He teetered precariously on top of his desk, with camera on tripod, photographing our Shakespeare class. Then we ate a large sheet cake, brought in by a student, reading “Our revels now are ended.”

Elizabeth Maker Gardner ’71
via e-mail

It was with a mixture of interest, pleasure, and nostalgia that I read Bill Dill ’51’s essay about Professor Berkelman. As a first-semester freshman in 1952, I unwittingly signed up for six 7:40 a.m. classes with a certain Professor Berkelman. My life was never the same again. And neither, I am fairly certain, was his. I took every course he offered. In my well-worn, green-covered Shakespeare book, there are a dozen notes in his handwriting. Most admonish me to do a better job. Sometimes they are funny and sometimes he is quite cross with me. I already had a love of reading when we met. He instilled in me a love of learning that has lasted my entire life. I doubt that he realized this. I wish I had told him. I am quite certain he would be flabbergasted that a few years ago I endowed a scholarship in his memory at Bates.

Jessie Thompson Huberty ’56
via e-mail

Thesis Go “Boom”

I particularly enjoyed the winter/spring issue of the Bates Magazine, though I found it hard to believe no one mentioned what we thought was a Berkelman watchword: “Messy paper, messy mind”!

My real reason for writing is to correct something written on pg. 9: “History was made in November, when a…bomb threat — believed to be the first ever at Bates.” Not so! In the late winter (February or March) of 1969, our evening studies were interrupted by a bomb threat at Cheney House. When it became obvious that we were not going to be able to return until everything checked out, we were invited into Rand Hall by the senior women, who were gracious hostesses in our time of confusion. The roommates who adopted me for the evening pulled out all the stoppers to help alleviate my anxiety and raise spirits. While some residents of Cheney were concerned about clothing and other possessions, a small group of us were panic stricken to think that if the house did blow up, all of our thesis resources would be blown to smithereens. We were in possession of all the source material the library had on our topics, and it was too late to start over again from scratch. Surely this is a predicament that only Bates undergrads could appreciate. Happily, the threat turned out to be unfounded and we few three-year seniors were able to complete our masterpieces, return all materials unscathed to the library, and graduate on time on July 4, 1969 (a true Independence Day).

Sheila Schnitt ’70
via e-mail

To Our Letter Writers

We welcome letters of approximately 400 or fewer words. Letters may be edited for style, grammar, length, clarity, and relevance to College issues and issues discussed in Bates Magazine. Please address letters to Bates Magazine, Office of College Relations, 141 Nichols St., Lewiston, ME 04240, or e-mail magazine@bates.edu.


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