Open Forum

Remembering Tom Doyle

Thanks to Neill Miner ’71 for the much-appreciated sentiments in the obituary of Tom Patrick Doyle ’70 (Spring 2007). Tom Doyle represented what was best in the youngsters we sent to Vietnam and what was right with America at the time: devotion to principle, ability to follow orders, and belief in a greater purpose. At Bates, in our debates with Tom, those of us who opposed the war were totally annoyed that he steadfastly believed in the rightness of his Vietnam service. Yet at the same time, our own belief in an evil military was shaken by knowing that this wonderful person, day after day, placed his life on the line for his country. At a time when we could not believe the news releases from Vietnam, when the war seemed like a TV show, Tom represented something real, authentic, and frightening. He had been there, lost friends, and done all that he could for our county, following orders. He told me that one night while on guard duty, he thought he saw a Viet Cong soldier in the shadows. After holding his weapon on trigger alert for the longest time, he relaxed. Then the shadow moved, and Tom collapsed, realizing that death had been an instant away. Perhaps that’s why he and other veterans at Bates were able to sleep through the night only with military-prescribed medications, and why, when Walt Slovenski pushed him and the rest of us really hard in practice, Tom relished every moment.

William F. Menke ’69
Swarthmore, Pa.

Discussing Disgust

It is not, as Andrea Nightingale ’89 says, “disgusting” that J.J. Cummings ’89 wrote the names of people killed on Sept. 11 onto the first bombs he dropped in Afghanistan (Open Forum, Spring 2007). Rather, Cummings claims he wrote the names on the bombs not for revenge but to let the families of the deceased know that “someone was thinking about them,” so I tend to take him at his word. What he does to psyche himself up for his mission is his business.

America’s purpose in the bombings at Tora Bora was not to kill innocent civilians, but rather to draw the Taliban and al-Qaida out of the caves where they were hiding. There was no preponderance of innocent civilians milling about the caves in Tora Bora. And on what basis does Andrea claim the Afghanistan campaign is illegal? The United Nations passed no resolution to that effect, and most nations supported our search for al-Qaida members in Afghanistan.

True, there are other members of the Class of 1989 who have done noteworthy things, but I think that Cummings’ career is noteworthy in many respects. He is serving in the U.S. military for less pay than he could garner in the private sector and has obviously risen through the ranks rapidly. He and his wife are raising a family.

Nightingale also claims there are those who “better represent the spirit and educational standards of Bates.” I must take issue with this: Everyone in this country contributes something positive, including our military. So, a special thank-you to Sara ’89 and J.J. Cummings and family. I hope you don’t have to drop any more bombs.

Louis Clarke ’88
New York, N.Y.

What I find “disgusting” is that while “Doc” Cummings is out there protecting America and its citizens, he gets maligned by a letter to the editor in his own college magazine (Open Forum, Spring 2007). I served in the Marines with J.J., and he is a selfless, honorable man who absolutely represents the “spirit and educational standards of Bates.”

Charles Libby ’93
Windham, Maine

I found Andrea Nightingale’s letter disappointing for its slander of the very instrument that allows us the freedom to voice such opinions. I am grateful every day that there are still enough men and women in this country with the courage and conviction to defend my voice and my freedoms. And if anyone disagrees with the methods that people like Cummings use to supply our freedoms, maybe they should just say “thank you” and go on their way. Otherwise, I suggest they pick up a weapon and stand a post, to paraphrase Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.

I shared four years with J.J. but never said two words to him. I’d like to now: “Thank you.”

Using His Head

Here’s another perspective on the spectacular Hell Riders exhibition (“1953: Mayoralty,” Scene Again, Spring 2007). It’s a split second before the intrepid rider’s head poked through the fire wall, but his leg draped over the hood indicates his casual bravado. The Jolly Roger float seems tame in comparison!

David Hough ’89
Essex, Mass.

Bill Thurston ’53
Tallahassee, Fla.

Bill’s letter and photograph (above) highlight a glaring omission from our article: failure to note that John Dalco ’54 was lying headfirst atop the hood of that ’36 Ford. Also, the sign on the Ford’s door correctly reads “Hell Riders” not “Hell Reuls,” as we wrote last spring. On a sad note, this issue includes the obituary for ’53 Mayoralty candidate Cap’n Walter Reuling ’54. — Editor

Greater Design

While bored this snowy evening at my home in South Bend, Ind., I began to Google names of friends from the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis. I entered the name “Ellen Seeling” and learned of her death in 2003 when she was associate professor of theater at Bates (“If Memory Serves,” Winter 2004). In school in the ’70s, I marveled at her art and her constant sketching and watercolors of set designs. We would hang out on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and there she would be, doing ballet poses by the fountains. Once at a mall, Ellen was wearing this awful thrift-store coat with Cookie Monster blue fur. Suddenly, she jumped onto a children’s merry-go-round. The ride’s umbrella hid her head from view, so all you could see was a huge blue coat going around and around. For the school’s annual Costume Ball one year, I was Cher while Ellen was a hooker or transvestite (or both), dressed in a bright red slip, wig, and heavy blue eye shadow. She taught me German phrases I could try on my boyfriends, such as “Not tonight, I have a headache.” I will always remember her love of ballet, her beautiful set designs, and her crazy, silly, happy grin. It pleases me to know that she ended up doing what she loved and sharing that love with her students and audiences.

Mary Meehan Firtl
South Bend, Ind.

More than Frogs

The article on Taegan McMahon ’07 (“Frog in Her Heart,” Spring 2007) was exquisite and captured the essence and passion of our daughter. You brought us and, perhaps surprisingly, others to tears with your poignant article, and we have received innumerable comments. Yes, we are proud parents. But we also believe the story captured what is special about the people Bates selects and about Bates’ mission to give these people an opportunity to develop and explore their gifts and passions. For Taeg, her thesis is more than a science project. It is an extension of her life, her goals, and her passion for poison dart frogs and their habitats and environments.

Mac McMahon and Diane Hitchcock P’05, P’07
Noank, Conn.

About letters

Bates Magazine welcomes letters of 300 words or fewer. Letters will be edited and published based on for style, grammar, length, clarity, and relevance to College issues and issues discussed in Bates Magazine.

E-mail or mail letters to Bates Magazine, Office of Communications and Media Relations, 141 Nichols St., Lewiston ME 04240.