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Open Forum

In a Sesquicentennial mood, we scanned back issues of the College magazine, which debuted in 1921, for some of the better letters to the editor.

January 1922 Still without a mascot, alumni and students cast about for their “totem”

Has anyone considered the bobcat of well-known fighting fame? It is sometimes known as a lynx or wild cat…. It is small but Oh! how it can fight. The fight the light Bates football team put up against heavier odds prompted this idea….
|Jack Williams ’11

February 1930 The role of athletics is always a topic of discussion 
I wish to express my gratification at the splendid showing Bates made in the recent report of the Carnegie Foundation regarding athletics…. I feel the heartiest sympathy for work in athletics as a mean to all-round development, but I have always been impatient of the attitude which seems to consider athletics an end in itself — such for instance as a pathetic plaint last year because we had won no victories — when we were continuing to reap laurels in debating, and in other academic fields.
Elisabeth Anthony Dexter ’08

March 1938 The Bates and Colby alumni clubs of Cleveland join Maine and Bowdoin alumni to “watch” the Polar Bear-Black Bear football game
[We] assembled to watch the game charted on a blackboard as play by play came over a special chartered Western Union line…. The game…was a tie, which satisfied the neutrals and pacified the partisans. Between the quarters and after the ticker was finally still, there were college movies, the proper amount of spontaneous foolishness, and music. The same crowd sang all four alma maters with impartial gusto and cacophony. The old rivalries were a far-away fiction; we were all brothers in exile, united by that strange, insane passion that grows more intense in the hearts of Maine natives the longer they stay away from her….
Clarence Hatch ’17

January 1942 A spirited defense of the liberal arts
Must the future Bates become a cog in the assembly line of modern business in order to survive? That would seem to be the conclusion urged by J.S. Norton in his letter published in the June 1941 Alumnus…. Bates is a liberal arts college. As such she fills and will continue to fill a need so long as democracy endures. Her function is to bring within the grasp of the student the richness of all knowledge so that he may fully understand his capacity for happiness and contentment. Her purpose is to stimulate the development of the student’s mind and soul on such a broad plane that he can effectively work to realize that capacity. When the college has done this job well she sends forth graduates who are prepared to live full lives…. It is graduates like these who are fitted to become leaders in their communities. It is graduates like these who promote the free exchange of ideas which is the basis of our way of life. In this hour of war it is graduates like these who have the vision and the courage to look forward to a better world.
Edmund Muskie ’36

May 1969 A thoughtful comment during a tumultuous time
I was interested in the May Alumnus issue entitled, “Ideally — A Community.”… When we are experiencing tremendous upheaval in many of our social and educational institutions, can we afford the luxury of blaming government, or a few students, or a college president and trustees? Can we continue to follow the path of non-involvement? I sometimes wonder who has really “copped out” — a few of the young generation or the vast majority of ours!
Art Watts ’43

September 1970 From the alum whose Bates legacy is the Frederick P. and Ursula P. Pettengill Hall
It was good to have a couple of days back at Bates again. The opportunity to meet with the student leaders and a range of faculty — from newcomer to veteran — was an eye-opener…. I [had] thought that the era of the Ramsdells, Goulds, Harms, Quimbys, and Sawyers had long since gone — professors who respected and loved students, were devoted to good teaching, and stayed at Bates even when a more glamorous opportunity was offered. Yet I heard a young professor tell how he’d elected to come to Bates in order that he might teach in the environment of his choosing. He went on to express his criteria for a good faculty member: a master of the knowledge of his discipline, a good lecturer, and an example to his students. We thought he meant a scholar. Upon query he said that it was more than scholarship, intellectual curiosity, research; that he hoped there was something in the philosophy and pattern of living of the faculty member which the student would find worth adopting and developing to fulfill his own needs….

Frederick “Pat” Pettengill ’31

Fall 1972 A football player refuses to play the blame game
The problem with the Bates College football team over the past four years has not been due to the lack of adequate coaching, but rather to complacency and a somewhat lackadaisical attitude [among the players]…. Coach Hatch could not block for us, he could not pass for us, he could not catch for us, he could not tackle for us, he could not run for us. These were things that we had not done in the last 24 games…. He was not to blame for the streak, we were.
Joseph Burke ’73

Fall 1996 The death of Edmund Muskie ’36 prompts a letter from Germany
My time at Bates and being exposed to [the] ideals and value demonstrated by men like Muskie have enriched my own perceptions of what an individual owes the society where he or she lives. The strength of these values has increasingly revealed itself over the last 20 years through the challenge of being in a foreign culture while trying to live up to what I believe to be my political obligations…. I interpret Muskie’s living a full life to mean that we must engage ourselves outside the confines of our own private lives. We were given the tools. I don’t know if everyone else does, but I still need my heroes.
Elizabeth Taylor d’Elsa ’70


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