Good Reads

I love The University of Virginia Magazine, and by far, my favorite column is “Required Reading,” where almost always there is a list of books that the interviewed person recommends. In the latest issue (Winter 2012), there are no books listed for the interview with Meg Jay and her research on 20-somethings. Thus, what are the “required readings”? I would love to know what books influenced her research or what books we might check out that will give us more insight into 20-somethings these days.

Sherri Bowen (Grad '87)
Austin, Texas

We followed up with Meg Jay for book recommendations. —Ed.

"I try to give my clients a crash course in adult development," says Jay. "To that end, books that have helped me are: Carol Dweck's Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Tim Wilson's Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change, Sheena Iyengar's The Art of Choosing, Christakis' and Fowler's Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. A fun and provocative read is Lori Gottleib's Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. Right now I'm reading Andrew Solomon's Far From the Tree, which is about when children and parents are different from one another; it truly is a work of art that must be read."

Food History

I enjoyed the article about the "Crystal Palace" [the temporary dining facility that served students during the Newcomb Hall renovations].

During my years at UVA we did have the "Commons," which was a University dining facility in what is now Garrett Hall; the major food service offering was a not so charming establishment that we dubbed (without affection) as "Ptomaine Tavern."

This establishment was housed in a temporary wooden building located on Emmet Street, (presently occupied by a parking lot) across the street from what is now the Central Grounds parking garage. Those of us not on a food plan (and there were many) soon discovered the Corner. I also found a second year who owned a truck that could also take us to a facility near the Monticello Hotel, which we called the "50 Center." (You guessed it, dinners were 50 cents.)

Having read the review on the recently renovated Newcomb Hall dining facilities, today's students don't always appreciate an honest attempt of providing good institutional meals. One student told me that the menu improves considerably on Parents' Weekend!

My congratulations to those who are trying to make dining on the Grounds better.

Richard Evans (Engr '57)

Saving the Rotunda

Really enjoyed the in-depth look at the Rotunda renovation in the Winter 2012 issue. Looking forward to the completion of the work brings the thought that a significant improvement in the viewing of the north side would be to remove the base from under the statue of Jefferson.

Michael Pierry
Abingdon, Va.


I read with interest the article on the Rotunda. I'm sure in your research you read Mr. Joe Vaughan and Omer Allen Gianniny Jr.'s book about the 1973-76 "restoration," Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda Restored. It is a very complete book with many pictures, including pictures of the construction underway.

John Staley, a mechanical engineer and Virginia Tech alumnus, and I, an architect and a 1967 graduate of the University, may be the last living members of the Ballou and Justice Architects and Engineers team who worked on the Rotunda. Louis W. Ballou, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and my partner, Charles C. Justice, were two senior principles of the A&E firm. Mr. Ballou, whose life-long dream was to "restore" the Rotunda, headed up the "restoration" team.

Bruce M. Justice (Arch '67)
Chesterfield, Va.


One aspect of the article in Virginia Magazine regarding the ongoing work on the Rotunda caught my attention, and I thought I'd pass on a bit of information in case it might be relevant.

I collect threaded glass insulators. Yes, it's a rather odd hobby, but I find the glass objects very interesting. Often, the history behind them is interesting as well. Most were made between the 1880s and the 1920s. One of the more desirable colors (for collectors) is purple. But all purple insulators started out as clear pieces.

Often, manganese was added to the glass to neutralize the blue-green coloring that results from iron impurities in the glass. In other words, it was added to keep the glass clear by removing any aqua tint. However, when the manganese in the glass was exposed to sunlight, it turned the glass purple. The longer the exposure to sunlight, the deeper the shade of purple. Also, the greater the amount of manganese added, the stronger the reaction to sunlight and the darker the purple color. Not all clear glass used to manufacture insulators had the manganese; but most older glass did.

In the insulator-collecting community, glass that has a light purple hue is called "sun-colored amethyst." The piece of glass pictured in the article looks exactly like glass that is sun-colored amethyst. Absent any other information, I would have guessed that the glass had been manufactured as "clear" around the turn of the century and had been exposed to a modest amount of sunlight over some period of time; not much, but enough to get that slight purple hue.

The article was not clear as to the sequence of events in terms of this glass being uncovered. It stated that the glass had been in the dark for decades and, as a result, had turned slightly purple. But that is the opposite of what normally happens. Glass manufactured at the turn of the century would only turn purple from exposure to sunlight. Being kept in darkness would have maintained the original color of clear or light gray.

Therefore, the information in the article did not make sense. Was this glass ever exposed to the sun for any length of time; even if the roof below was never opened up for the skylight? If it was, that would explain the coloring.

Andrew Levin (Col '75)
Chapel Hill, N.C.

We got it wrong. A University expert provides more detail below. —Ed.

The project team was aware that the glass was originally clear and darkened after being exposed to light due to its chemical content. The preservationist, with John G. Waite and Associates, performed research on the hundreds of glass tiles discovered in the rubble buried beneath the lower step of the roof. Manganese was used in the glass manufacturing process from c. 1860 to c. 1915 and the resulting color is a common means for dating antique glass. Before that period, lead was used as a clarifying agent, and selenium was used after c. 1915.

One of Stephen Ratliff's glass tile samples

We don't know how long the tiles were exposed to light. Presumably for at least a year or so after they were initially installed, while the work on the interior progressed, but perhaps for many years—then certainly again during the 1976 renovation, when the steps were demolished and the rubble was used to fill the vault below the lowest step. The tile I held in the photo was one I picked from the top of the bucket and was in pretty bad shape. I have nicer samples I keep on my desk.

Stephen P. Ratliff (Col '79)
Acting Academic Division Director,
UVA Facilities Planning and Construction Department

Rockfish Gap

In the Winter 2012 issue—"A Message From the President"—Ms. Sullivan begins her letter as follows:

"In August 1818, Thomas Jefferson and several prominent colleagues gathered in a Rockfish Gap tavern in the Blue Ridge Mountains to produce a comprehensive plan for the University of Virginia."

UVA alumni, history buffs and President Sullivan may like to know that there is a Virginia Historical Marker on Afton Mountain describing this historic event. It reads as follows:

The commission appointed to select a site for the University of Virginia met 1-4 August 1818 in the tavern that stood nearby. Among the 21 members present were former presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, as well as judges Spencer Roane, Archibald Stuart, and Creed Taylor. The commissioners chose Charlottesville over Lexington and Staunton for the site of the university. The tavern at which they met was owned by Samuel Leake (1790-1858) and Walter Leake (1792-1859). Enlarged later, as part of the Mountain Top Hotel and Springs, the popular tavern burned in 1909.

President Sullivan concludes her letter with, "Our obligation extends back in time to the moment when Mr. Jefferson and his team of collaborators met at Rockfish Gap … and forward in time to the future generations of students who will come here to learn in UVA's third century and beyond."

I have been so fortunate to be a UVA alumnus with three UVA alumni sons and one UVA alumnus grandson.

Edward A. Leake Jr. (Col '51)
Richmond, Va.

Examining Honor

The January edition of the Virginia Magazine E-newsletter reported on proposed changes to the Honor System. The Feb. 25-28 student vote on the proposal occurred after press time. For the results of the vote, and to see more information and discussion on the proposal, visit Below are just a few comments, originally submitted online, about the proposal.

I hope we stay true to our value of Honor, but also look at the facts on the ground and shape our community by considering both value and fact. Jefferson did not create the Honor Code; Jefferson, however, was a man of the Enlightenment who did not believe in dogma but cast his lot with reason.

Toby Zhang (Com '07)
Santa Monica, Calif.


The current Honor System has evolved into a nightmarish and unfair debacle that at best makes a mockery of due process. These changes can only help, but the appeals process has to be addressed as well.

Patrick Ryan (Col '71, Law '79),
Titusville, N.J.


The current single sanction penalty is fundamentally wrong because it leaves no opportunity for forgiveness. This proposed change to the Honor System clearly addresses that ideal.

Hughes Bakewell (Com '81)
Mountain Lakes, N.J.


The last thing the University needs to do is take away the representative and random nature of the jury. The issue is with the penalty; the single sanction is the largest deterrent to the reporting of violations and the cause of most of the uneasiness.

R. Arun Bala (Com '10)
New York, N.Y.


I find the whole discussion alarming and saddening. Making the system more flexible will not improve honor, or make it more "significant in the lives of students." The Honor System should be held up as the ideal, that which we strive for. It should not be watered down to reflect the current state of honor at the University. It is not meant to be a reflection of what is, but rather a model for what should be.

W. Scott Gillespie (Col '95, Educ '97)


As Student Council president in 1998-99, we challenged the single sanction and put the issue to student referendum. It narrowly lost. At that time there were substantial disparities in treatment of minority students in the system. The Committee should remember that some student populations are severely under-represented in the system; and any jury that appears to be "packed" rings of unfairness and invokes old historical biases that once persisted in the Old Dominion.

Howard A. Foard III (Col '99)
Fairfax, Va.


The real issue is the same as it has always been: what is a "significant" act of lying, cheating or stealing? What would really help the system is a much more clearly defined concept of "significance," based on the views of the current generation of students in consultation with the faculty.

John T. Chesser III (Col '83)
Des Moines, Iowa


The Honor Committee seems to be dancing around the obvious problem. Creating a "professional" jury of questionable intent does not address the issues inherent with a single sanction approach. Offering an "informed retraction" does nothing more than provide an alternative single sanction that punishes all offenses with one sweeping and likely inappropriate penalty. Is the University of Virginia community willing to stand by the single sanction fallacy solely to promote the delusion that innocence and guilt are always black and white?

Ethan Heil (Engr '11, Grad '16)


Today's Honor Committee is moving exactly in the wrong direction, bending over backwards to make the responsibility of self-governance feel good. Bending the Honor Code to fit today's relativistic culture of corruption and compromise simply adds shades of gray to an issue that's black and white, and any student entering UVA who thinks that a small lie, a bit of plagiarism or a trivial theft is not the same thing as lying, cheating or stealing needs to be reoriented and reprogrammed on Day One. Which is to say, every student. The Honor Code should be short and bitter, its fruit sweet. I'm disappointed to learn that the Honor Code is being further watered down, and that the University is immersed in self-delusion.

John L. Tindale III (Darden '77)
Pawleys Island, S.C.


I commend the Honor Committee for proposing these changes, but I fear that the one-year suspension is still such a draconian penalty that it won't change much The single sanction was appealing in its simplicity; but the school has changed so much that the single sanction is no longer appropriate. Perhaps it is time to lay portions of the Honor Code to rest.

Barbara Koch Silversmith (Com '83)
Burke, Va.


I am puzzled. The Honor System seemed to work when I was a student in the '60s. But then, we were not as smart, I am told, as students of today. Dumb as we were, we were still able to comprehend and deal with the single sanction and graduate in reasonable numbers. Perhaps smarter and honorable do not go hand in hand. I do not accept the argument that the problem is the Honor System. I will accept an argument that today's students and faculty are more lazy and less motivated by honor than those who passed before them.

Don Lovett (Engr '71)
Smithfield, Va.


A funny story: A classmate and I are visiting another school when a fan belt breaks on his car. The belt was not readily available and the mechanic worked hard to find one to fit. The installation was very costly. We did not have the cash or a credit card to cover the repair. So, in a very rural area at a very late hour, my classmate says, "We are students of the University and I'm sure you heard of our Honor System. On my honor, I will send you the money immediately upon our return and the bank opening." The mechanic looked at us and said, "We have an honor system here also. He drives a big car with a badge on the side of it." We left a set of golf clubs as collateral and returned the next week to exchange.

Johnnie Barr (Col '74)
Staunton, Va.