Skip to main content

Letters to the Editor

Who’s Buried Where?

Living just north of the University cemetery, on the other side of the creek, I was delighted to read your Spring issue’s article “Set in Stone.” But there is an error: Turner Ashby is no longer buried there, but in the Stonewall Cemetery in Winchester, Va.

Bill Bergen (Grad ’85)
Assistant Dean for Administrative Services
UVA School of Law


Please extend my appreciation to David Maurer for his article “Set in Stone.” My daughter is a first-year in Alderman dorms, and I noticed the cemetery each time we visited the school. On Easter, she and I spent time walking among the graves trying to locate the various headstones described in the article. Although we found some, we would have appreciated a map to guide us, since the writing on many of the stones is indecipherable. Another suggestion for the University would be to have tours available as an activity on Family Weekend.

Cathy Alifrangis
Herndon, Va.


I read with interest the article in the Spring issue of the magazine about the cemetery on McCormick Road. It mentioned that Ted Delaney found it a quiet place to escape to when he was a first-year student. This reminded me that I, too, found it a secluded place to propose to my wife in 1949, and I now wonder how many others have done the same.

Richard T. Ellison Jr. (Med ’52)
Jenkintown, Pa.


David Maurer’s article was a pleasure. I found the cemetery during a lull in the frenzy of Hancock Move-In Day in 2007. On visits to Grounds now, I make it a point to go back to that quiet place, chiefly to see Mr. Taylor’s marble marker. It is a magnificent assemblage, understated in its elegance. Can someone tell me more about the man it signifies?

Tom Bryan
Columbia, S.C.

This is the grave of Henry “Harry” Noble Taylor (Col ’51), who was an editor of the Cavalier Daily and a member of the Seven Society. A journalist who traveled extensively to report on trouble spots around the world, Taylor received the highest award given by the Scripps-Howard Newspaper Alliance before he was killed by machine-gun fire while observing military operations in the Congo on September 4, 1960. The inscription on his footstone reads in part: “He died to find and tell the truth.” —Ed.

Seeds of Honor

The Evolution of Honor” in the Spring 2008 issue was very illuminating. In the Spring 2006 issue, I submitted the following statement, which I continue to think is relevant:

For alumni of my generation, the Honor System was one of the essential components of our education. Before the courts and law students became involved, procedures were simple and quick in operation. One of the abiding principles was that it was an honor offense not to turn a student in who was an alleged violator. Also, the giving of one’s word was sacrosanct.

Since graduating, I have personally observed that vestiges of the Honor System have continued; in particular, the word of one alumnus to another remains important to many alumni relationships.

Unless there are changes to the current system or drastic societal changes involving morality, it is unlikely that “honor” will continue to be viable as an integral part of undergraduate education at the University. In my opinion, survival is dependent on intense leadership by the Board of Visitors, the president, deans and faculty to cause “integrity” (the current “honor” colloquialism) to be taught, on a mandatory basis, throughout the undergraduate years.

The various defenses available to an accused student which permit avoidance of the single sanction (e.g., the seriousness clause) merely provide an opportunity for jury nullification of offenses which otherwise would result in a guilty verdict. If the single sanction continues to deter students from turning in alleged violators, there has to be an adjustment. I have unsuccessfully suggested to the Honor Committee to cause a referendum on the deletion of “permanently” expelled from the Honor Constitution. While this may not alone increase the student body’s responsibility in turning their fellows in, at least it would provide an Honor Committee the opportunity to consider applications for readmission.

Leigh B. Middleditch Jr. (Col ’51, Law ’57)
Charlottesville, Va.

Reading the article on the history of the Honor System left me thinking that the single-sanction system is a total farce. It has ruined the educational opportunities for a number of people for trifling infractions but overlooked other instances such as a basketball star who turned in a paper written by someone else and was found to be excusable. And to lie in order to buy liquor is certainly within the realm of acceptable Wahoo behavior, with the reputation we have to maintain.

Not having any direct experience with the Honor Committee but serving as a character witness for a friend before the Bad Check Committee, I observed the theatrics performed by the defense. I believe that the Honor Committee trial is nothing more than an opportunity for law students to practice their skills at swaying and deceiving a jury!

A student-operated code of ethics is a good thing, but the UVA-style Honor System does not serve its purpose.

Allen R. Cooke (Engr ’76)
Charlotte, N.C.


A very fine article, that, on the Honor System. There was a lot of detail, right down to whether lying about one’s age at the ABC store was an honor offense. I hope we never get lost in the details, to lose sight of the forest for all of the trees. The article begins, “The Honor System makes possible a community of trust among students in which members are assumed to be men and women of integrity.” Let’s not lose sight of this. We must always know where we wish to go, just what we are trying to accomplish, and we’ll not go wrong if the details evolve as time goes on.

Emanuel Laufer (Grad ’63)
Halifax, Nova Scotia


My husband, Gerard V. (Gerry) Thibault Jr. (Col ’57) passed away on April 4. We had both recently read and had a deep discussion over the article “The Evolution of Honor.”

Gerry learned and lived the Honor System. At his celebration of life on April 8, our Episcopal priest and good friend wove the themes of “honor” and “gentleman” throughout the service. He always wore a coat and tie to church, having attended UVA when it was an all-male school, and that was the uniform of the day. He designed the columbarium, chancel and organ for the stunning interior of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert. Jefferson would have been proud. This church is where President Gerald Ford worshipped and the first funeral for him was held. On the back of my husband’s service booklet the serpentine wall was scanned. He loved his time at UVA, his family, friends and this complex world.

Linda Thibault
Palm Desert, Calif.


“The Long Recessional” might be an appropriate description of the Honor System, to borrow the title of David Gilmour’s outstanding biography of Rudyard Kipling, who clearly and frequently warned of the decline of the British Empire.

While I am unaware of any publication predicting attacks on and the decline of the University’s Honor System, I think most people of normal sensibilities, having analyzed the history of the system, would conclude that its evolution is quite natural.

I recently spoke with a University undergraduate and was informed, “The Honor System is obsolete, for in the real world of deceit and cant, one is rewarded for lying, cheating and stealing.” Thus, according to this young “idealist,” the Honor System is just as outdated as our former practice of wearing coats and ties. So it is. We old-timers simply don’t get it. Sadly, it appears our traditions and values have gone the way of the British Empire.

J. Randolph Segar Jr. (Com ’56)
Midlothian, Va.


I thought I knew a fair amount about the history of the system but your timeline contained a lot of new information for me.

I do, however, take issue with the part of your article concerning the Christopher Leggett case. Your characterization of events does not match my recollection. Mr. Leggett successfully appealed for a new trial after the Executive Committee of the Honor Committee determined that his case was mishandled. The circumstances were certainly unusual and the situation was not handled as smoothly as it should have been. The decision however, was made by students and not, as you stated, by the administration, and that is an important distinction.

It’s interesting to me that while your article began with “The student run Honor System,” you then fail to emphasize the student run aspect anywhere else in the article. That lack of administrative appeal sets the Virginia system apart from all other Honor Systems and contributes greatly to its effectiveness. The University administration has always understood this dynamic and has always complied with the Board of Visitors mandate to support the Honor System without intervening. They maintained that position during the Chris Leggett case, though numerous media outlets incorrectly reported otherwise during those events.

It is true that those reports created a firestorm of controversy, and you would have been correct if you stated alumni and student criticism came from suspected interference by the University administration with the traditionally student run system. I would take no issue if that were your characterization. However, your article states administrative interference as though it was known and accepted fact. It would have been the first and only time the administration intervened in the affairs of the student run Honor Committee in 100 years. Though it is a simple statement with no commentary, it completely undermines the foundation of the student run system.

Finally, for anyone who knew the facts of the case, it was not a surprise reversal. A jury of his peers needed only 15 minutes of deliberation during his second trial to find him not guilty.

I do thank you for taking the time to research and write the article. The Honor System was extremely important to me during my time at the University and I always enjoy learning more about it.

Jimmy Fang (Engr ’95)
Honor Committee Chairman ’94
Gloucester Point, Va.

About Brit Hume

I always enjoy the UVA Magazine. But I was sorry to see that your interviewer did not ask even one tough question of Brit Hume in the Spring 2008 issue. You guys had an opportunity to interview a newscaster for the current administration’s mouthpiece, FOX News, and you lobbed a couple of softballs. I know it’s not that kind of magazine, but how hard would it be to put just one hard-edged question out there?

It’s not hard to come up with such questions for Mr. Hume: What’s a concrete example of the so-called liberal bias you perceive in the media? Do sensationalism and commercialism in the media help or hinder democracy? What liability do you believe FOX News has in selling the Iraq war to America? Why don’t TV journalists engage in investigative journalism more?

You could get more specific with the question by doing a few minutes’ research with LexisNexis, or just by reading the footnotes in one book by, say, Al Gore, or even someone like Al Franken.

Christopher L. Spinelli (Law ’02)
Chesapeake, Va.


I have long admired the gentlemanly manner and the understated delivery of Brit Hume as a TV news commentator. In moving to FOX News, he has now revealed his deep-seated conservative convictions. This is in perfect sync with the viewpoint of FOX News.

It is not pure coincidence that FOX News is anti-abortion, doesn’t believe that global warming exists, is against gun control and is pro-military. This is the mandate of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. FOX News is not fair and balanced, as it proclaims. In reality, it is the public-relations branch of the Republicans!

If there is a Democratic victory in the fall election, don’t look for FOX News to continue its present reign.

Peter Levinson (Col ’56)
Malibu, Calif.

Shocked by Sexuality Study

I was both shocked and dismayed to read the article “Juvenile but not Delinquent” in the Spring 2008 issue regarding teen sexuality. At a time when STDs among teens are at unprecedented levels and teen pregnancies continue at alarming rates, it is irresponsible for the authors [of the study] to assert that sex among minors may actually be beneficial for their developing psyche. The article states that the lead author “does not ignore the negative aspects of early adolescent sexuality, such as unwanted pregnancy and disease.” It seems obvious that these physical risks of sex among children should far outweigh any benefit that the researchers purport to result from such behavior. I am hard-pressed to believe that the emotional baggage that an individual has amassed as a result of sexual relationships during childhood will bode well for his or her future marriage.

If we truly want to nurture a healthy self- image among children, we will do much better to teach them about the value of purity and self-worth rather than encourage them to engage in casual sex, which will ultimately expose them to countless health risks, both physical and emotional. We owe them nothing less.

Heather Henning Schueckler (Col ’95)
Chantilly, Va.

Compensation Suggestion

This is a follow-up on my classmate Robert Understein’s concerns about the obscene compensation paid to the football coach. I think Bob has done an excellent job in laying out the facts. I think that President Casteen should be paid at a level equal to that of the presidents of the Ivy League schools, which are the schools that the University believes we are competing against. When I graduated in 1963, I believe President Shannon made about $200,000. If President Casteen now makes $500,000, that is not much of a pay raise in 44 years!

I am well aware that the salaries of football coaches at major colleges and universities have skyrocketed in recent years, with a few schools paying more than $3 million per year. My suggestion is that the University should not be a part of this trend. I have an alternative solution: The University should pay the coach an amount equal to but not greater than what the president is receiving. The remainder of the compensation to the coach would be paid by the Virginia Athletics Foundation or some other entity not directly related to the University. To sum up, the University and the Foundation would share the cost of compensating the football coach so that we can continue to compete in the marketplace.

Hellmut Walter (Col ’63)
Salem, S.C.

For the Record

As a Virginia gentleman I feel that the smear against my reputation that you printed in the letters section of the Spring 2008 edition of the magazine by [another letter writer] must be refuted by the truth. I have never communicated with Michael Moore or I got my ideas from a man named Thomas Jefferson, who was not a leftist!

Robert John Jeffrey (Educ ’75)
Alexandria, Va.

Jefferson and Hemings

Thanks so much for including Gilbert S. Bahn’s letter, which necessarily offsets what is otherwise too hasty an approval of “Anatomy of a Mystery” (Fall 2007). I, too, had raised societal status quo as prejudicial cause to wrongfully reduce Mr. Jefferson’s love for Sally Hemings as mere want of tack. That Sally was half-sister to the very wife Jefferson was heartbrokenly mourning in the legally protective Paris (from which Sally waived emancipation upon choosing to return with Jefferson to Monticello) surely tests the limitations of a time we have no right to subjectively judge. Per Mr. Jefferson, that “the earth belongs always to the living generation” (while writing James Madison from Paris) should be our incantation. And since (as he also suggests to Madison) “no society can make a perpetual constitution or even a perpetual law,” we’re indeed better off summoning the greater good of an evolving America as a more credible witness to the Jefferson/Hemings mystery.

Chris Morris (Arch ’75)
Armonk, N.Y.


Jefferson’s possible relationship with Hemings is a continuing story and may never be solved beyond a shadow of a doubt. It is certain that some slave owners had personal relationships with their slaves. Even though this relationship took place a long time ago, it seems that science may find a way to answer the question definitely, but it also may be that genetics is inherently inaccurate to the extent that we will never know for certain. But it is science and genetics that will have to answer this question, and as science and genetics learn more as time passes, their verdicts may change from time to time.

There is a real problem with those who would impugn Jefferson’s honor on the basis of his status as slaveholder. I am absolutely certain that Jefferson did not invent this peculiar institution, and I am also absolutely certain that he inherited his position as a slaveholder. If we are ever to be rid of slavery once and for all, someone has to be the last slaveholder, and this person could be said to have been Jefferson. The people who argue that Jefferson’s status as a slaveholder somehow invalidates his written convictions about freedom are also quietly arguing to continue the practice of slavery until some messianic character can “properly” put an end to it.

Every wage slave in the world today—here in America and in the rest of the world—can attest to the fact that slavery is not dependent on a metal chain, but rather upon one’s very livelihood being dependent on another’s whim. The smarter ones realize that, just as with the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and others, slavery is never about the color of the skin but rather about power over another human being.

Our Founding Fathers, many of them slaveholders, started the war against slavery. The Civil War decisively liberated one portion of humanity but did not eradicate the practice. We still suffer from the prevalence of slavery. This prattle about Jefferson being somehow politically incorrect by the ethereal and variable mores of 21st century progressive thought serves in part to keep millions of people in servitude to the corporations that own them.

John Fornaro (Arch ’76, ’79)
Charlottesville, Va.

Beta Fraternity House

I write to update your readers on the fate of the Beta fraternity house, a Charlottesville landmark that is no more. The house was built in 1914 for Dr. Robert F. Compton. It was designed by Eugene Bradbury, a local architect of considerable renown who has been the focus of recent scholarly attention.

Last year, the building was acquired by the Jefferson Scholars Foundation (JSF).

Its goal was to create a center for its operations and living quarters for graduate fellowship recipients. Although the Beta/Compton House was capacious, structurally sound and eminently reusable, neither the JSF nor its advisers at VMDO Architects saw fit to incorporate it into its new complex.

Instead, over vocal opposition from preservationists, UVA architecture faculty and Charlottesville’s City Council, the JSF has created what politicians and military strategists call new facts on the ground. Those facts take the form of rubble, a large pile of which rises at 124 Maury Ave., where the historic Compton House once stood.

Aaron Wunsch (Arch ’96)
Charlottesville, Va.