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Heartfelt Thanks from a Katrina Alumna/Mom

To Ithaca College Alumni,

As a graduate of the class of 1978, I am writing this letter to share news with my fellow alumni about Ithaca College’s recent gift to me and my family.

On August 29, 2005, my family and I became statistics of Hurricane Katrina. We evacuated Slidell, Louisiana, our home for 24 years, not knowing what to expect from the wrath of a category-5 hurricane. Once we realized that it was unlikely that my son Eddie would be able to return to his freshman year at the University of New Orleans, my lifelong friends and fellow IC alumnae, Ellen Israel ’79 and Lori Slater Wrubel ’79, kicked into high gear.

Ellen and Lori contacted Caroline Cox, director of major gifts at IC, to let them know of Eddie’s plight. Within days Caroline contacted me at my parents’ home in Greenwich, Connecticut, with the news that Eddie would be welcomed at IC for the fall semester on a full scholarship.

I was and still remain amazed at the College’s immense generosity.

I packed up what little Eddie had, and took that beautiful four-hour drive to my alma mater in the Finger Lakes.

Eddie and I were welcomed by Deb Mohlenhoff, coordinator of community leadership development, and some of her student volunteers, who promptly moved Eddie into the East Tower with the help of Jen Richardson, assistant director of housing. Kim Milling, director of continuing education and summer sessions, and Hormoz Movassaghi, professor and interim associate dean of the School of Business, set Eddie up with a schedule of classes. Eddie met up with his cousin, whom he’d never met, Joe Laraja ’09, and after a few days in a whirlwind, he became quite adjusted to the hills and the weather and has become a true fan of Bombers football.

Although this has been a trying time for my family, I cannot thank enough all the folks at IC who have made Eddie so welcome. It was the efforts of my good friends and of the phenomenally good people at Ithaca College that made this miracle happen. I loved every minute of my four years at IC, where my fondest memories remain. I am fortunate to have my son establish memories for himself in a place that few kids from the South get to experience.

Eddie has since been welcomed back for the spring semester, and I will be forever grateful to Ellen, Lori, Caroline Cox, Jen Richardson, Hormoz Movassaghi, Kim Milling, and especially to Deb Mohlenhoff for their true love and kindness toward Eddie and our family.

Susan Laraja Lemonier ’78
Slidell, Louisiana

One Story, Two Takes

Please remove my name from your mailing list. My stomach can’t handle articles like “Battle for Justice” (cover story, ICQ, 2005/4) that serve to elevate criminals like Ashcroft, Gonzalez, and Bush. An honorable lawyer would see that these men have no respect for the law.

        Margaret Lacey O’Leary ’69
        Dennis, Massachusetts

The featured profile of Michael Battle ’77 in your most recent issue was so fascinating that I read it twice.

My suggestion to those Ithaca College alumni who take such a firm position in supporting the selected president of these United States is to relax: Take a few hours and read two short books.

The first is Martin Luther King Jr.: Spirit-Led Prophet, by Richard Deats. Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, who passed away in January, spoke of the book as “an invaluable spiritual portrait” of the Nobel Peace Prize–winning American. On page 45 of the paperback version is the wonderful everlasting formula “NVR + L = J + P” (“nonviolent resistance plus love equals justice and peace”).

The second book, which is a recent publication (2005), is written by Nobel Peace Prize–winning President Jimmy Carter. Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis is a clear, in-depth explanation of the dangers of fundamentalism in this great democracy that we live in.

We all know that “violence ends where love begins.” And “happiness starts in loving hearts.”

        Jules D. Burgevin, Ph.D.
        Retired (1992) Ithaca College associate professor of sociology
        Trumansburg, New York

One Professor's Legacy

Professor John Harcourt scared the crap out of me.

I had just gotten by the first semester in my required literature course with an “easy” professor. I was most proud of my “gentleman’s C.” Because I had registered late for classes, the only opening left for this required second-semester course was with Professor John Harcourt. All the easy guys and/or ladies were taken already. This was going to be a very, very rough time for me. Harcourt’s aura was that of a tough, mean, demanding professor. Being very pedestrian when it came to anything that required reading, thought, and effort, I was in for a very bad semester.

Early into the course we were taking apart a poem by Ogden Nash: “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.” “What does this mean?” demanded Harcourt. My classmates, all either drama majors or lit majors—the “crème de la crème” when it came to this kind of stuff—jumped in with exotic explanations. Harcourt raged and stomped. All wrong! Stuffed idiots! Being somewhat of a slob, I timidly raised my hand and offered something about easier sex and booze (my two sophomore fantasies).

Bingo; good show! I was right on the mark for once. I spent the many remaining weeks in John Harcourt’s literature course learning and enjoying. I received a B in this course—up to that point the highest grade I had ever received at dear old IC.

Forty-plus years later I still carry this memory and a love for reading. Thank you, John Harcourt.

        Jim Levie ’63
        Lake Mary, Florida

Rebutting Hersh Rebuttal

I was appalled to read fellow alumnus Michael D. Wallace’s letter “Rebutting Seymour Hersh” (ICQ 2005/3). How could an Ithaca graduate be so lacking in empathy and so disconnected from the facts? His letter is filled with so many ridiculous arguments I don’t know where to begin.

He starts his letter by approving the torture at Abu Ghraib: “I don’t really have much of a problem with the torture he [Hersh] uncovered at Abu Ghraib.” Mr. Wallace is the only person that I know of who has publicly endorsed these atrocities.

Then he infers that torture is necessary to get information from suspected terrorists: “Do critics of the military really think you just nicely ask suspected terrorists for information, and they’ll tell you?”

If  Mr. Wallace would turn off Rush Limbaugh for a moment he would know that every expert on the subject says that torture doesn’t produce accurate information. Some of the critical intelligence that the Bush administration used to make the case for war was the result of torture, and as we all know now was not true.

Mr. Wallace tries to justify the Iraq war with the same old empty argument about the world being a better place without Saddam Hussein. The important questions are: Have this invasion and occupation made us safer? Are we better off? Was it worth it?

Now that the facts have come out about the manipulated intelligence and Bush’s lies, our credibility around the world has plummeted to an all-time low. We have the largest debt in our country’s history. As a result of our illegal invasion of a sovereign nation and systematic torture, terrorism recruitment has never been easier.  Nearly every good government program has been cut. The death toll for the American military is well over 2,000[cq at press time]. Thousands more are severely injured and permanently handicapped. Some reports indicate that more than 100,000 Iraqis have been killed. All of this for an unstable theocracy.

I suppose Mr. Wallace was happy to see that the members of the class of 2005 chose war supporter Ben Stein to be their Commencement speaker. Mr. Stein chose to focus on gratitude in his talk. Maybe he and Mr. Wallace should focus a little more on compassion and common sense.

        Joshua Welch ’02 
        Eugene, Oregon

Thoughts on Orientation

Bravo to Zachary Ford ’07 for sharing his experiences as an orientation leader for Ithaca College. (“Final Word,” ICQ 2005/3). I’m a former OL (1991 and ’92), and his piece brought back a swarm of happy memories.

It also concerned me a great deal to read about potential changes to the program.

To put it simply, I count my time as an OL in the list of my top experiences at IC. The leadership skills and self-confidence I gained from those two summers have seen me successfully through a career producing daytime television and into a new career in municipal recreation. I am horrified that there would even be a second thought given to the idea of redesigning the orientation program to focus strictly on academic preparation.

The connections made during the nonacademic activities provide necessary time for incoming students to begin to “find their way” on South Hill. They need time to begin to develop memories that will last them a lifetime.

I have always thought of my time at IC as so much more than just academics. Nearly 13 years after graduation, I am still in close contact with both of my OL advisers and many of my OL friends, and in daily contact with the six crazy roommates I had on South Hill. Orientation began these lifelong friendships. Please don’t take that chance away from the future students of IC.

        Heather Schechner Pew ’93
        Raleigh, North Carolina

Tap Roots

I was inspired to write this letter after reading “Put on Your Tap Shoes” (ICQ 2005/4), about the Ithaca College tap dance club, Rhythm ’n Shoes.

As an Ithaca College music ed student, my great loves were music and dancing. I was an advanced tap dancer when I went to Ithaca College. Female physical education students were required to take a tap dance class, which was held on top of the movie theater. (I wonder if Ithaca College still requires that course?) Mrs. Rita Larock was the instructor; she welcomed me into the class with all the phys ed girls, who had probably never had tap shoes on. To my surprise the girls found tap dancing difficult, so I went to their sorority house to tutor them. They became my close friends, along with music students.

I continued taking the tap dancing class. One year Mrs. Larock was very pregnant and tap dancing wasn’t that easy for her, so it was my pleasure to take over for her. We remained close friends for many years thereafter.

As I think back I must have looked pretty silly walking down Seneca Street, the snow up to my waist, carrying not only my books but a trombone; my tap shoes dangled over my wrist and banged into the trombone with every step I took!

Good luck to Rhythm ’n Shoes and to its president, senior Arleigh Rothenberg. I will be thinking of them and will try to attend the tap dance festival this spring.

        Merle Gutterman Holstein ’58
        Great Neck, New York

Dismay about "Passings"

I consider myself as a concerned loyal and active graduate of Ithaca College. However, I am concerned with the content and priorities of the ICQ. More specifically, “Alumni Notes,” which contains outdated and abbreviated obituaries. Most recently I noted the passing of my fellow class of 1949 members Roger Bunce and George Monagan. I am aware of these deaths because not only were they classmates but I forwarded copies of the obituaries to your desk. These two gentlemen were outstanding in perpetuating physical education, athletics, and IC in the state and the nation. They and their families deserved better in recognition of their accomplishments.

        Jack Rentz ’49
        Burnt Hills, New York

Editor’s reply: Mr. Rentz, please accept our sympathies on the loss of your fine classmates. When we learn of an IC community member’s passing (generally via a classmate or a published newspaper obituary provided by a contracted clipping service), we verify information, relying on the IC database and often contacting immediate family members as well. We publish information pertaining to the professional life and avocations of the deceased, but for space reasons we cannot publish family information. We mention only survivors who are members of the IC community (alumni, employees, retirees, current students, or Friends of Ithaca College). We do not have a research staff; in the case of Mr. Bunce and Mr. Monagan, we published all the information we had available at the time.

Warren Benson Remembered

In fall 1962 I came to Ithaca College to major in music, expecting to have fine teachers and to play in good ensembles. But I never expected to encounter a professor anything like Warren Benson.

It wasn’t in the classroom with him where I found a learning stimulus, for I was in his percussion techniques class only during his last year teaching percussion before turning full-time to composing. During walks in Dewitt Park and over coffee he challenged me not to settle for just getting by, to strive continually for excellence, and to be creative in every possible way. How sensitive he was with words, thoughts, and his gentle persona.

One time, as a member of Walter Beeler’s Concert band, I had the opportunity to play Warren’s Symphony for Drums and Wind Orchestra with the composer conducting. It was a truly mesmerizing experience—Warren had us all listening in new ways, bringing to life his every subtle nuance in that score. It was unbelievably exciting and stimulating time. This gentle man had us on the edge of our seats from the very first moment of the first rehearsal right through the performance!

I’ll never forget him introducing what would be the first-ever student jazz concert held in the music building downtown, in 1964. He called it simply “American music, an important original art form of our country,” never calling it jazz.

We kept in touch, and I had the privilege of inviting him to Maryland in summers for the 1972 and 1977 Tidewater Music Festivals, and later to Lawrence University in Wisconsin, where our wind ensemble performed and recorded that same symphony for drums, nearly 20 years after I’d first experienced it with him at Ithaca.

One summer in the mid-1970s he hosted an outdoor chat with students. They were expecting something rather analytical about his music. Instead, he told them not to waste a moment seeking out opportunities, brought the whole creative process to life in a way no one else I’ve ever encountered could.

Warren Benson left a legacy of wonderful, fresh, ingenious works for wind ensemble, which will have a lasting place in the repertory throughout the world. But, maybe even more than his music, his love for words and poetry is something I’ll forever cherish. He was a powerful teacher, mentor, inspiration, and dear friend. And one of a kind.

        Robert Levy ’66
        Greenville, Wisconsin

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