Where Were You When…?

Intro image for the Summer 2020 article 'Where Were You When?'

I was surprised and dismayed that the “Where Were You When…?” article failed to mention the June 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (Law ’51). Several of us at UVA at the time were working on his campaign for the presidency and were forever affected by his death.

John Paone (Law ’70)
Mashpee, Massachusetts


On 9/11, I had just arrived in NYC to begin Ph.D. studies at Bard Graduate Center. That morning, after initially absorbing the meaning of the attack on the WTC buildings, I employed my Air Force and nursing training to volunteer at St. Luke’s Hospital. Upon entering through the doors of the emergency room I passed through a six-row-deep phalanx of ER staff deployed bilaterally in a chevron formation of perhaps five practitioners each, all gowned, gloved, masked and ready to receive trauma patients, some of whom never arrived.

After presenting my nursing license and battlefield trauma nursing credentials I was assigned to a team and treated mostly first responders. My first patient, a firefighter, presented just to imbibe deep draughts of oxygen as while deployed he inhaled particulate dust from the explosive collapse. A police officer who fractured his ankle and required a splint was next. Eager to return to help others, both determined heroes got out of there as soon as they possibly could. I also vividly recall dressing injuries of a car accident victim who had been coincidentally down by the towers and desperately wanted to contact his wife to tell her that he was safe. And so it went.

I never finished my Ph.D. I chose hospice instead. That first year I choked or teared up, and told families where I was on 9/11. Eventually I shared that as I could do nothing to ease the pain of the dying then, I was called to serve in that capacity now.

Sarina E. Forbes (Arch ’00)
Renton, Washington


I noted that of the 16 events cited, in all but one the event associated with the date(s) is named in bold type above the date. In those 15, there is some brief narrative explaining the significance of the event.

Then we come to Sept. 11, 2001. There was no indication as to why 9/11 was significant in any way. Even more curious: There was no mention whatsoever of what happened on that day to merit its inclusion in this piece. So allow me to explain why that date is so meaningful to many of us.

On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 Islamic terrorists from the Middle East, all members of al-Qaeda, hijacked four U.S. airliners with passengers aboard and killed them. At least 2,977 people lost their lives to these terrorists. Over 25,000 were injured. The cost of property damage alone has been estimated to be in excess of $10 billion.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks upon the U.S. changed the world. One wonders why none of this was mentioned in the piece.

Alan W. Featherstone (Col ’72)
Miramar Beach, Florida


Your piece on alumni memories of the day President Reagan was shot shows our tendency to invent and forget.

The president was shot at 2:27 p.m. The wire report received in the Cavalier Daily’s newsroom would have alerted the editors within 15 minutes. I wasn’t in the newsroom, as my three-year tenure at the paper ended one year before. But at 3 p.m., there would have been only an idea of the next day’s front page. Reporters would have been in the newsroom for no more than two hours. The news editor (which I had been) wouldn’t have contemplated the next day’s front page for a couple more hours.

Most stunning is that no one in your story remembers that Virginia was to play LSU in the last championship consolation game the NCAA would hold. (I was at the semifinal in Philly, where the Sampson-led ’Hoos lost to Carolina.) The drama on Grounds was whether the NCAA would postpone that night’s games. When it appeared Reagan would survive, the NCAA went ahead. Virginia won, 78-74.

Bennett Minton (Col ’81)
Portland, Oregon

Athletics Gets a New Look [U-Digest]

I just saw that the Athletics Department recently modified the logo to include and then modified again to eliminate the “Serpentine” ridges on the sabre handles. I am a 1973 graduate of the University and learned about the Grounds and its architectural features, in particular the serpentine walls. Back then we were told the unique architectural design was done for aesthetics, to protect the professors’ gardens and give them privacy. However, one of the primary reasons was economics. A straight wall would need to be wider to remain stable, whereas the serpentine wall could be made with fewer bricks and be as stable. Was all of that not true? If this represents some facet of the history of slavery, why do we not see serpentine walls throughout the country during the slavery period but only here on the Grounds? I understand that there have indeed been years of oppression and that we do need to give support to the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s long overdue. However, if something wasn’t done with intent or evenly ultimately used to oppress slaves, we shouldn’t make out that it represents oppression.

James F. Walton II (Engr ’73)
Ballston Lake, New York


While the new logos’ classic “V” with swords seems pretty much unchanged, the attempt to make the Cavalier mascot faceless creates a nonsensical and absurd image.

Of the many alumni with whom I have discussed this mascot image change, none are pleased about it. The dashing Cavalier (with a face) represents an important part of the heritage of the University. Apart from solitary praise from the athletics director, the faceless Cavalier seems to be lacking in merit or meaningful support.

Harry R. Marshall Jr. (Col ’61)
Chevy Chase, Maryland

A Full Life [Retrospect]

I was absolutely thrilled to read the article “A Full Life” about Professor Abraham.

I had been wondering what happened to him, as he was absolutely my favorite professor on Grounds. I will never forget how kind the man was, not to mention his brilliance in all things constitutional law. I signed up for as many of his classes as I could—including a graduate class during my undergrad days. I loved how he challenged us to think. Professor Abraham was always seemingly available in his office to offer advice and guidance, particularly helpful for lost students like myself. You just knew he would be completely honest with you and that he came from a good place.

One of the best memories I have is when he offered to take my roommate and me out for a meal at Lord Hardwicke’s. I remember getting dressed in a suit so as not to disappoint him.

We had great discussions on the future. I was just amazed. Here I was—a poor college kid getting treated to a great meal by this esteemed professor taking time out of his busy schedule to get to know a couple of his students. He never told us about his childhood and how difficult his life was. Like your story revealed, it was not really a public discussion he engaged in.

Thank you for publishing the story of his life. While I was saddened to learn of his passing, the story brought back a flood of fond memories.

Greg DeStephanis (Col ’96)
Mechanicsville, Virginia


I am writing in response to the article published in the Summer 2020 issue, entitled “Politics do not seem to affect journalists’ coverage choices.” This story is written as a press release on the recently published paper by Professor Holbein, entitled, “There is no liberal media bias in which news stories political journalists choose to cover.”

By leaving out the adjective “political” to describe “journalist,” the editors are implying that all journalist types are not influenced by their political views, which is absurd. If liberal political views of the mainstream media did not affect coverage, there would be zero demand for alternative news sources away from the mainstream media.

Tamar Roomian (Col ’11)
Charlotte, North Carolina


I was surprised at the Batten School’s John Holbein’s position that the media has a liberal bias. It amazes me that a media scholar can’t scratch the surface of what he sees in the media to analyze its bias more realistically.

The mainstream media does have a bias: corporate bias. The clearest evidence of this was the biased spin against Bernie Sanders and his campaign platform, which was the biggest threat to corporate dominance in the past two decades. At first the media tried to ignore his campaign. Then, as his lead solidified, it overtly attacked the campaign, the high water mark being Chris Matthews and Chuck Todd both making comments on the parallels of the Sanders campaign and the rise of Nazism in Germany. Interesting spin on what would have been the first Jewish U.S. president.

The media has a bias, and scholars like Mr. Holbein perpetuate it. I would suggest he read Winners Take All or Goliath or maybe People, Power and Profits or watch the documentary “Bernie Blackout” for a better understanding of media bias in the 21st century.

Steve Kim (Com ’86)
Ellicott City, Maryland

Letter re: Jefferson Progression

I was extremely disappointed to see the letter to the editor in the Summer 2020 issue that referred to the relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson as a “liaison,” expressing a “hope” that it was a “mutually affectionate arrangement and that Sally was not forced into it.” While I recognize that this reflects someone’s personal opinion, I am dismayed that Virginia Magazine would validate or legitimize such a harmful and misguided view by publishing it. Because of the nature of enslavement, no sexual relationship between an enslaver and an enslaved person can be considered consensual or mutual. Such a “liaison” is more accurately described as rape. By validating such an opinion, you are invalidating the suffering of enslaved people and their descendants. Our understanding of history, particularly the history of slavery, is immensely important to the way we view the world today. I would hope that Virginia Magazine would be more mindful of the potential impact of such words before deciding to print and distribute them. 

Margaret Squires (Col ’16)
Houston, Texas

Making Old Dorms New Again [Fall 2019]

When Diane J. McDougall wrote the article “Making Old Dorms New Again” for the Fall 2019 edition of Virginia Magazine, she wrote, “there are big changes afoot.” Little did she know that the dorm renovations in time for the fall 2020 semester would more than likely need to be reevaluated as the University prepares to semester in place and social distancing becomes the norm, even in the dorms.

In the article McDougall states, “The first cohort of undergraduate women, admitted in fall 1970, lived in Maupin, Webb and Watson.” That statement excludes the group of female students who lived across the street from Alumni Hall in Mary Munford and Roberta Gwathmey. I was a member of that entering class, arriving at the University as a second-year transfer student. It is an honor that has been unequalled in my life. I was fortunate enough to live in single rooms during my three undergraduate years at the University, all in Mary Munford. Munford was a special place, with meeting rooms, a piano in the living room, screen doors and porches, and quiet spaces where you could entertain a guest.

As students return to UVA in the months ahead, the newly created residential communities will be tried and tested along with new rules for engagement and disengagement, rapprochement, and distancing. Everyone will be learning as they go about a new life order. The preservation of the facts, the intimate knowledge of what life was like in the past, can help to show a way forward. Even now.

Helene Nichols (Educ ’73, ’76)
Clifton, Virginia

Fall 2019 Correction

Members of the first cohort of undergraduate women lived in Lyle, Maupin, Webb, Watson, Munford and Gwathmey. The article “Making Old Dorms New Again,” from the Fall 2019 issue, contained incomplete information.