Viewing Progress

The anthropologists featured in “The Trouble With Civilization” (Fall 2010)  seem a bit confused about the concept of progress and ambiguous about modern civilization. May I suggest an evaluative standard that might assist them?

A progressive civilization will support researchers drawing upon a wide variety of social and technical science who can, in Patricia Wattenmaker’s words, “step outside of their own cultures and understand why we may value the benefits of civilization while overlooking or downplaying some of the costs.”

It is modern and, specifically, European civilization that has institutionalized and rationalized this endeavor. I hope Wattenmaker and others find their work of value and appreciate that the sophisticated scientific research that they and other professors do at the University, contributing to human knowledge, is a good definition of “progress.”

Page Nelson (Col ’76)
Cambridge, Mass.


While ecological unsustainability explains a lot about the disintegration of civilizations, stratification itself can be unsustainable. If the poorest become too numerous or too desperate, then those who would have written history get hauled out to a killing field where the brightest and most powerful are most cruelly punished for failing to improve the lives of the poor. The illiteracy of those left behind might explain some of the mystery of the downfalls of past civilizations.

Will Martin
Charlottesville, Va.

Advice on Advice

I both agree and disagree with your “How to Get Into Graduate School” expert piece (Fall 2010). It is true that the GMAT and GRE require substantial preparation. In fact, I believe that what high scores on these tests really show admissions officers is a candidate’s ability to commit to a difficult task and see it through to success. On the other hand, I absolutely do not want applicants to focus their application on being “memorable”—I want them to focus on being true to themselves. The worst applications are often the ones that try so hard to be unique that they lose all sense of their own personality. This leads to inconsistencies in the application—with the recommendations and with the interview. True introspection is important. Why does the applicant want the degree, and what do they really want to do with it? And I’m not looking for “fascinating” people to be members of the class. I’m looking for intelligent leaders to be amazing business school students.

Sara E. Neher (Col ’96)
Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions
Darden School of Business


In “How to Train for a Marathon” (Fall 2010), Nicole Kelleher writes that “using the appropriate running shoe is essential to injury-free training” and that there are three general categories of running shoes. I hate to correct the expert, but recent studies demonstrate that a running shoe is not essential to avoiding injury. In fact, traditional running shoes in the categories she describes might actually cause or contribute to injury. One such study was done by UVA’s own Dr. Casey Kerrigan. For those who choose to wear shoes, there is a fourth category of running shoe, often referred to as “minimalist.” While I have no intention of running another marathon, with or without shoes, there is a growing number of marathoners out there who choose to run with nothing or almost nothing on their feet.

Scott Rose (Col ’88)
Midlothian, Va.


How can you publish the blurb on “How to Make a Killer Cocktail” (Fall 2010)? After all the bad publicity of campus drinking within the past year, the reputation of UVA is bad enough. The column is in poor taste. How about a recipe for making a blueberry pie? As a parent of alums, I think this is over the top.

Gwen Amling
Potomac, Md.

Tuition Talk

The comments on University tuition (Fall 2010) brought a couple of memories. I entered UVA’s Darden School of Business in August 1965. Out-of-state tuition was $1,200. The second year, I tried for in-state tuition. I sought out Law School Dean Hardy Cross Dillard, who managed such things. We chatted for a few minutes, and he asked if I intended to stay in Virginia. I answered, “Affirmative.” Mr. Dillard said, “You’ve met the requirements. Go tell them that you are OK for in-state-tuition,” which was $600.

Lou Ives (GSBA ’67)
Earlysville, Va.


The Fall 2010 issue quoted our COO [UVA Executive Vice President Leonard W. Sandridge] recommending the “bold” action of raising tuition. Our board then followed suit. Far from being bold, this action was easy, common and—in light of the $435 million recently spent on new buildings—somewhat hypocritical. A bold action would be to stop the obsession with physical expansion and instead concentrate on building an endowment dedicated to covering the tuition of students attending the University with the ultimate goal of providing a tuition-free education to Virginia’s best and brightest.

Randolph Cole (Col ’78, Med ’82)
Abingdon, Va.

Casteen Anecdote

On the occasion of the retirement of President Casteen, I can share another anecdote to add to the charming ones that appeared in your Fall 2010 issue.

In 1981, Mr. Casteen came to my high school in Tallahassee, Fla., as an academic recruiter for the University. I had heard several previous college representatives’ enthusiastic pitches, including the great college sports and extracurricular activities available. But Mr. Casteen seemed a little more subdued. He began his presentation with the comment, “I understand that in this part of the country you are accustomed to great college football. If that is what you are looking for at a university, I suggest you not come to the University of Virginia. We do not have a distinguished history in football, and this year’s team will be particularly forgettable.” Needless to say this was in the days before George Welsh came to town. Mr. Casteen’s wry humor and confidence that I was looking for a university with more than simply a great football team impressed me profoundly.

Timothy M. Roberts (Col ’87)
Assistant Professor, Department of History
Western Illinois University
Macomb, Ill.

Athletic Emphasis

As a Virginia alumnus, I would like to express strong disagreement with John C. Barton’s letter to the editor (Summer 2010), which said that UVA “should duplicate the Ivy League schools” and “de-emphasize athletics.” As I recall, UVA did just that for more than two decades, from the ’50s through the ’70s, and it was the most depressing and embarrassing period of UVA’s proud history.

Thankfully for those alumni who thoroughly embrace anything and everything UVA, the University chose Stanford, rather than the Ivy League, as our model to emulate.

Stanford is ranked fourth nationally in academics by U.S. News, tied with Penn and ahead of four other Ivy League schools. Athletically, Stanford is in a class by itself, having won the Directors’ Cup for the 16th year in a row, signifying the most outstanding athletics department in the country and proving that outstanding academics and outstanding athletics are not mutually exclusive.

The Princeton Review and USA Today, in their “Best Value Colleges in 2009,” say, “The University of Virginia offers students the best education for their money of all the nation’s public universities ... few schools can match Virginia’s potent combination of phenomenal faculty, intelligent students, remarkable intercollegiate sports and extraordinary academics.”

In the final tabulation of Directors’ Cup points this year, the University finished third in the nation behind Stanford and Florida, five places higher than ever before. The University administration, athletics department and a staff of quality coaches who represent the University with class and dignity deserve all the praise in the world.

Now if we can get our academic standing to within two or three places of Stanford, we will truly have a university of which our athletes can be proud.

Roger A. Allison (Educ ’73)
Saltville, Va.

More on Yeardley Love

The caption with the picture on page 11 (Fall 2010) showing the vigil in response to the death of Yeardley Love is untruthful and insulting. It says “Students and faculty filled the McIntire Amphitheater.” Staff and community were also there, and there in great numbers, helping fill the amphitheater.

The words quoted from President Casteen and Student Council President Hood shout the need for holistic and thorough consideration of how our University and broader community must live together humanely and attentively, in order to achieve and guarantee mutual safety and success. But the magazine’s caption shouts separatism rooted in privilege and status: Staff are nonexistent, and the community not worth mentioning.

Edward Strickler Jr. (Grad ’81, ’94, ’07)
Scottsville, Va.


In response to Ms. Zickefoose’s letter in the Fall 2010 issue, the University’s athletes, like all of its students, should be held to the same code of ethics and honor, but also expect to be treated with the same rights and respect without prejudice.

Dr. Robert Zura (Col ’90, Med ’00)
Durham, N.C.


The letters regarding Yeardley Love in the Fall 2010 issue were from alumni who believe that some systemic change needs to take place at the University to address this tragedy. One thing that has struck me over these short four years of working in the field is that our alumni and parents want to be able to stake their claim to part ownership in the University, not just through celebrating the institution, but by expressing doubts about its progress, imperfections, ideas that things here and there might be wrong and need fixing. To be sure, some people have become engaged in the alumni experience (successfully and influentially) despite misgivings they have about aspects of the institutional culture. 

To some it can be intimidating to express concerns, as the University’s reputation and history are so rich and hallowed, and the enthusiasm about UVA so fervent (a good thing). So, I think it is meaningful that the University’s response is so honest and open. I’ve felt the same way about letters and dissenting viewpoints the Virginia Magazine has chosen to run on other issues, including the Honor System.

Tim Roscoe (Col ’01)
UVA Assistant Director of Regional Engagement (Western U.S.)
Los Angeles, Calif.


After months of trying to understand why the tragic death of a female lacrosse player happened, I decided to express my personal experience to the athletic department. When I was a member of the UVA football team (1951-53), it was the common practice for a troubled player to be assigned to a team captain or a fourth-year man as a “big brother.” I was assigned to a teammate who was getting poor grades, drinking, gambling and getting into fights. Under my guidance, his grades and behavior improved, and he later became a successful professional athlete. He always had potential but just needed someone to give him support, guidance and verbal counsel. The UVA lacrosse team and coaches knew that the male lacrosse player had problems with behavior, such as run-ins with the police. It’s sad to think that something as simple as a “big brother” program could have prevented this tragedy.

Joseph Mehalick (Educ ’54)
North Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Three Cheers

I loved watching the UVA cheerleaders at football games when I was a student, and I think they do a great job (“U-V-A! Cheerleaders build school spirit, one pyramid at a time,” October 2010 E-newsletter). College cheerleading is a demanding sport, and I agree that they deserve more respect than they get. I would appreciate a follow-up article on the scholarly pursuits of UVA cheerleaders to help further break down some of the stereotypes about them.

Janice Dean (Educ ’07)
Charlottesville, Va.

The team average GPA is 3.4, according to Kelley Haney, head coach of the UVA cheerleaders.


I was a cheerleader long, long ago—1954 to 1958. It was lots of fun. No formal training, but group practice at Scott Stadium once a week. UVA provided sweaters and megaphones plus $15 a day for away game personal expenses. We led cheers standing on the wall at the stadium, which at that time held 28,000. All the cheerleaders were men, given the fact that up to that time we were essentially an all-male University.

Tony St. John (Law ’60)
Bethlehem, Pa.