Palin Comparison

In the most recent issue of Virginia Magazine, you refer to Tina Fey’s supposedly humorous impersonation of former Gov. Sarah Palin (“Quotable Quotes,” Summer 2009). Specifically, you quote Fey’s parody (“I can see Russia from my house”) of Palin’s remarks on Russia and its proximity to Alaska. As you correctly point out, Palin never spoke those words.

Rather, Palin tried to explain, when ambushed by Katie Couric (Col ’79) in an “interview,” that the government of Alaska has trade missions with Russia and Canada and that the location of the state is important to our national security. She tried to say, too, that the situation is especially urgent as Vladimir Putin works to return Russia to its glory days under Josef Stalin, whose inhuman repression of his own people will be well known to your readers.

You seem unable to distinguish the relative importance among the governor of one of our nation’s most vital states; a cynical, self-serving journalist; and a B-list TV personality and alleged comedian.

Why do so many progressive thinkers, including those at the Virginia Magazine, fear Palin? You should rely on Couric and Fey to savage her.

Norman Land (Col ’71, Grad ’74)
Columbia, Mo.

Film Buffs

You do not mention Janet Graham Borba (Col ’79), who had a passion for motion pictures throughout college and for years after college, that eventually led her to motion picture production school. After producing a substantial number of films with various companies, including a couple of years on the Disney studio lot, she went to HBO, where she has become an extremely successful producer. A few years ago, Janet was honored by the UVA Women’s Center, and she returned to the University to speak to students about her career.

Mark Levinstein (Col ’79)
Fairfax Station, Va.


I know you can’t mention everyone, but Glenn Williamson (Col ’85) has had an incredible 25-year career in the film business as a producer, including films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Deb Haas (Col ’85)
Austin, Texas

Not Hearing the Music

I was not surprised to read the worshipful, sycophantic piece about Obama’s coming out party (“Scenes from an Inauguration,” Summer 2009). As a Virginian and a patriot, two of whose ancestors died in the American Revolution, two of whom fought in the War Between the States, and one of whom died at Goliad in the Texas War for Independence in 1836, I found it particularly, and painfully, disheartening. Language such as that used by D. Keyserling would ordinarily be denominated hyperbole, but alas, it was not intended as such. He quotes [Obama] as saying that those who cling to deceit and the silencing of dissent are on the wrong side of history, but that “we will extend a hand,” and Mr. Keyserling challenges us to try not to hear the “music” and “poetry” in [Obama’s] words. Those millions of us who know a narcissistic charlatan when we see one were not deceived by the hypnotic rhetoric and deceit that was, and is, Barack Obama’s hallmark.

J.M. Perry Archer (Law ’60)
Houston, Texas

Freedom of Religion

I found the cover of the Summer [2009]issue interesting in that it highlights the contradiction between Thomas Jefferson and the text on the U.S. nickel on which he is featured. “In God We Trust” seems a strange text to associate with Jefferson. Inscribed on the Jefferson nickel since 1938 and on all U.S. coinage and currency since only 1957, it seems an affront to Jefferson’s own philosophy and his conclusions about religion, especially his position against mixing church, or religion, and our state or government. In a letter to Peter Carr, dated Aug. 10, 1787, Jefferson wrote, “Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.”

Also, the 1779 Statute for Religious Freedom, crafted by Jefferson, states, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”

As a nontheist American, I am personally affronted and disrespected by my own government by this phrase every time I handle our currency. I do not accept the observations of the U.S. Supreme court that this phrase has “lost through rote repetition any significant religious content” or that such “ceremonial deism” does not constitute an unconstitutional intermingling of religion and the state.

I stand with Jefferson and call upon all true Jeffersonians to call for a halt to this adoption and propagation of religion by our secular government.

Steven C. Lowe (Col ’72)
Washington, D.C.

Digital Dolley

I enjoyed reading the article “Dolley Madison Goes Digital” (Summer 2009). Holly Shulman’s work with the Dolley Madison Project is admirable and worthwhile. I read with interest the biographical sidebar, “The Ultimate Hostess.” I was surprised to see that, according to the dates in the article, Dolley married James Madison—after marrying, bearing two sons, and losing a son and her first husband—at the ripe old age of 8. I don’t think even Dolley Madison was quite that accomplished.

Tracey Mackey (Col ’90)
Atlanta, Ga.

You’re right. The date of Dolley’s birth in the article had two juxtaposed numbers. She was born in 1768, not 1786.—Ed.

Surfing Memories

I enjoyed reading the article about the UVA Surf Club by Elizabeth Mills (“Landlocked? No Problem, Dude,” Summer 2009). There were plenty of surfers in my Class of 1973, too. In fact, I purchased my first surfboard from a friend, Hank Marx, for $15 (he needed gas money to return home for Christmas 1969). Anyway, that began a longstanding passion for the sport. At age 58, I am still making regular trips to Wrightsville or Folly or Cocoa, and always watching for tropical storms to bubble up somewhere between the west coast of Africa and the eastern Antilles. Even my recently published book about baseball, The Road to the Big’s, contains a brief mention of surfing. Just can’t seem to get away from it. As [professional surfer] Kelly Slater once said, surfing is like the Mafia, once you’re in, you never get out. For all the dudes and dudettes who haven’t tried it, catch a wave someday and you will see what I mean.

Gerald A. Barnes (Col ’73)
Norcross, Ga.

Architectural Issues

Your letters in the Summer 2009 issue from alumni about the changes planned for Pavilion X give some hope that this decision might at least be delayed. I’m glad to have seen the Lawn before this misfortune becomes reality, and to have shared the beauty of the Grounds with our daughter in April 2008. She is an architect in Chicago, and it was her first visit. At least some of her architectural colleagues share my own dismay.

Thomas M. Dudley (Law ’55)
Durham, N.H.

Restoration plans for Pavilion X, including the installation of a parapet, have been approved and the project is expected to be completed by this fall.—Ed.


I enjoyed reading the articles in the “In with the Old” feature in the Spring 2009 issue, particularly about the various roof surfaces that the Rotunda has experienced in its lifetime. There is an ad in the Summer issue, “Estate of Mind,” showing a picture of Monticello with a white domed roof. Has there been any research as to what the original roof may have been and any changes in its lifetime to the present?

William E. Pinner Jr. (Arch ’50)
Thousand Oaks, Calif.

According to the Monticello Foundation, Jefferson experimented with a variety of roofing materials during his lifetime, but came to favor tin for its lightness and durability. This was the material he used for Monticello’s original roof. In 1992, Monticello’s roof was restored to its original design of unpainted tin. The restoration, which incorporated Jefferson’s innovative design and materials, won the first-ever Award for Excellence in the Stewardship of Historic Sites from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.—Ed.

Poe Paid Respects to Jefferson

Edgar Allan Poe matriculated at the University of Virginia in February 1826. Thomas Jefferson died that same year, in July 1826 at age 83.

On April 14, 2008, in a ceremony at the White House honoring the 265th birthday of President Jefferson, Mrs. Laura Bush, wife of President George W. Bush, made reference to the social custom of Mr. Jefferson inviting University of Virginia students on Sunday afternoons to have tea at Monticello. She stated that Edgar Allan Poe could well have been one of those first UVA students so honored.

Mr. Jefferson died at Monticello on July 4, 1826. Andrew K. Smith [who provided a remembrance of Jefferson’s funeral to the Washington Republican nearly 50 years later, in 1875] wrote, “Among the students present at the funeral, I recollect seeing Edgar Allan Poe, a high minded and honorable young man, though easily persuaded to his wrong.”

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

Act of Kindness

I am a fourth-year medical student here in Charlottesville. Recently, I was traveling to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to present a poster at a conference of ophthalmologists and researchers from around the world. On the flight down, I happened to meet Charles Murdock (Col ’71) and his wife, Marina. Because I was paying for the week with student loans, I was short of cash. The Murdocks gave me a ride to my hotel and informed me that there was a dinner later that week that I could attend as their guest (which they later paid for). The event, held on the Semester at Sea cruise ship, was a lavish treat for me. Camille Cline (Col ’91) and the other organizers managed the event expertly. We all had a wonderful time. It was a delightful end to a great week of research, and I felt blessed to have had the good fortune of meeting such warm-hearted hosts.

Tom Mendel (Med ’11)
Charlottesville, Va.

Blackburn Remembered

Family members, friends and colleagues of the late John A. “Jack” Blackburn gathered on the Lawn on June 9 to plant an ash tree in honor of the former dean of admission.

Dean John A. Blackburn was a giant among giants (“In Memoriam,” Spring 2009). I believe that he admitted my Class of 1982 and served for more than three decades with distinction as the gatekeeper in admissions. I fondly recall a conversation with him last year, discussing the lack of consistent standards in pedagogy for some AP high school courses. I sent him a New York Times article written by Tamar Lewin, leading to a spirited discussion about their weight in the admissions process as compared with the international baccalaureate and other academic programs. I also suggested that recruiting minorities was admirable, however retention and graduation rates could use improvement. I encouraged him to start in the seventh and eighth grades to identify college-bound African-American males for UVA. He told me to keep in touch as he was off to a Board of Visitors meeting. That was the legacy of Jack Blackburn, always strategizing and always willing to listen.

Shawn Grain Carter (Col ’82)
South Orange, N.J.