Open Forum

Cat O’-59-Tale

The story “A Bobcat for the Ages” (Quad Angles, Fall 2007) discusses the formation of a Public Art Committee to establish guidelines before a Bobcat statue by the Class of 2004 can be properly executed. Because there is historical precedent here, I offer a recollection that may sway the planning process.

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Prior to the 1957 Bates-Bowdoin football game, a group of Bates hooligans traveled to Brunswick in an attempt to correct a defect in the Bowdoin polar bear statue. Realizing the gender-neutral bear was intended to represent a ferocious male, anatomical alterations were made utilizing a pliable putty-like substance. The enhancement was noted by many beneath the pines of dear old Bowdoin, but drew little attention on the Bates campus.

The following fall, using advanced soldering techniques, the group returned with sophisticated composites hoping to achieve permanency for the bear’s gender designation. Communication between the two potted ivies resulted in a covert investigation by the deans that failed to identify the Bates bad boys.

In the spring, the Class of ’59 voted to give a Bobcat statue to the school using as initial funding residual class fees. Bates officials, with visions of the Bowdoin polar bear firmly implanted in their memories, refused the gift — perhaps fearing the Bates statue would be the fuse setting off a long testicular war between the two schools.

The spunky Class of ’59 accordingly invoked a quid pro quo and demanded that each student be refunded their just portion of their class fees. Thus history was made: The Class of ’59 became the first and only class in the history of Bates to forgo a class gift. This nugget of Bates history is revealed here only to alert the current gifters that the devil may indeed be in the details. It is this writer’s sincere desire that the Bobcat statue be erected near the entrance of the Merrill Gym before both 1959’s and 2004’s Reunion in 2009. Maybe this will symbolize the final chapter — regardless of how ferocious the Bobcat may appear.

Tom Johnson ’59
St. Augustine, Fla.

History suggests that the College turned down Bobcat statue proposals twice: in 1959 and the year before, from the Class of 1958. In April 1958, The Bates Student reported on the “hard feelings” around the statue issue, adding that President Phillips wished that the “tradition of leaving something to the school be discontinued.” Happily, the tradition endured; this year’s Class of 2008 will make their gift to the Bates Fund. — Editor

Course Approval

As a student, I was always impressed with the faculty, the course selection, and the diversity on campus. I am now more impressed after reading the article about how and why Associate Professor of English Lavina Shankar created her Short Term course (“For the Love of Dogs,” Fall 2007). Since graduating from Bates, I have had the privilege of becoming a veterinarian, and am a resident in canine and feline internal medicine at Texas A&M University’s Small Animal Hospital. Though my academic training was excellent at Bates, I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of veterinary medicine–related topics, including human-animal relations. I can’t tell you how very happy I was to find that a course like Professor Shankar’s is available at Bates, and can only assume that it was very well received and attended. In short, thank you, Professor Shankar, for creating this course.

Rebecca Quinn ’00
College Station, Texas

Everywhere a Sign

This photo from our story in the Summer 2007 issue focuses on Vermont veterinarian Amy Dowd Bartholomew ’88, but what caught the eye of letter writer Chris Urban ’04 were the Hispanic names on the farm sign at upper left.

The story by Wilson Ring ’79 about Vermont large-animal veterinarian Amy Dowd Bartholomew ’88 (“Small Farms, Big Challenges,” Summer 2007) was interesting, but the background details in one photograph were even more intriguing. In the photo showing Amy on the phone outside her vehicle at the Lussier farm, one can see family names painted beneath a sign on a barn wall. Also seen are recently added names of undocumented migrant Mexican workers. I know this because in my work for the Vermont Migrant Education Program we completed statewide research about the migrant Mexican population. In fact, I just happen to know those guys. And though their names appear as just one detail on a white, paint-flecked wall, their presence in Vermont is a window into a larger story that connects all of us.

Chris Urban ’04
Monkton, Vt.

In February, Urban was in Mexico visiting his former students’ families and their towns.  “It’s a wonderful opportunity to see what Vermont-earned money provides, what pieces of American culture are carried back south, and just to see my former students-friends in a place where they are free of fear,” writes Urban. — Editor

Name that Writer

Comments by Carrie Curtis Young ’94 regarding the late Professor Williamson (Open Forum, Fall 2007) mention that she initially encountered her favorite author in his class. So, what is the name of that Afro-Caribbean author?

Norman Morford P’83
Indianapolis, Ind.

Carrie Young replies: “I am always happy to spread the word about a favorite author! She is Maryse Condé, the Guadeloupean, French-language author. I would be hard pressed to name a favorite novel, perhaps Heremakhonon or Les derniers rois mages / The Last of the African Kings. We read Moi, Tituba: Sorcière / I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem with Dick Williamson.”

King Day 2008

I was heartened and inspired to see the online slide show about Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities at Bates. As a freshman at Bates, I was happy for the day off but I was also impressed with Bates’ effort to make it a “day on.” Many schools offer a token lecture or nothing at all; Bates plans a day with activities and workshops and discussions. I didn’t realize the scope of Bates’ commitment to MLK Day until I was teaching art history at a college that did not openly celebrate it. To remedy this situation somewhat, I did a lesson on Charles Moore, photographer of the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. We analyzed photos of King, and I emphasized that this injustice took place just 40 years ago. Who was at the heart of the movement? I asked. I then showed a photograph of a group of black and white students, maybe 19 years old, marching together. It wasn’t only “adults” but students like themselves who had made a difference. Thank you, Bates, for continuing the discussion. It has inspired me to honor this day every year, and for the past two years I’ve attended a fundraising breakfast that supports my high school’s transportation program for inner-city teens.

Lindy Forrester ’00
Jamaica Plain, Mass.