Clearing the Shelves
At first, Sanjay Suchak’s image of our beloved Alderman Library’s facade stripped away, its remains as rubble, cinderblock and brick covered by gray dust, hit me like a gut punch. For a thousand late, long nights, those stacks were my refuge. My habitual study carrel was a portal, opening up possibilities, cheering me on to decipher inscrutable texts, to solve equations that sometimes seemed to mock me. It offered relief from annoying roommates; from cramped dorm rooms, dim lighting and questionable hygiene; from uninvited distractions. Its long stacks invited me to roam, to treasure hunt, promising a delectable treat reserved only for those who survived quests, which many may attempt but few conquer.
As the late afternoon bathed Alderman Library’s stripped facade with long shadows cast, I felt uplifted. Its scar became a promise. It became a canvas onto which UVA’s future can be laid down by students, scholars, anyone with a thirst for knowledge, an appetite for becoming part of a better world. I miss those stacks. But I know that they are becoming redefined for a new era. Just as they welcomed me as a naive, wide-eyed first-year, new classes will discover their own portal into new worlds, whether in physical or virtual environments. Thank you, UVA, for preparing for a bold future while remaining grounded in Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village, whose light still burns bright.
Jeffrey H. Toney (Col ’81)
Scotch Plains, New Jersey
Sort of Open
[Comment from website] I confess that I expected a rah-rah piece of puffery about how well UVA was tackling the pandemic challenge—one I would simply skim-read. Instead I found a refreshingly frank look at how difficult it has been for the University to navigate this pandemic. Thank you for bravely publishing this look at the current realities of trying to keep the doors semi-open at the university level.
Bonnie Price Lofton
Eat, Eat, Darlings
Like most of us, my wife, Robyn, and I are cooped up and suffering from cabin fever due to COVID-19. Since we are beyond bored and Robyn loves to cook, she decided to try her hand at the recipe for picadillo that Lynna Martinez shared with your readers in the Winter 2020 issue. It was fabulous! Robyn made enough for us to eat it three consecutive nights, and we highly recommend everyone make a potful. Thank you, Lynna, for sharing. If we are ever in your area, you can be assured we will visit your restaurant and work our way through the menu.
Carl Markowitz (Com ’67)
BOV Blesses Racial Equity Plan
I read with interest your piece “BOV Blesses Racial Equity Plan.” Although I agree that the plan is a long time coming, I am grateful that the University is finally—and publicly—taking necessary steps to begin to seriously address and dismantle a white supremacist system, and our role—as Wahoos—in it.
To that end, I couldn’t help but notice the subtitle, “More diversity, less Confederacy.” At the risk of becoming a magazine copy editor, shouldn’t it be no Confederacy?
Alexandra Toma (Col ’01)
I am appalled and saddened by the racial equity plan. It copies the latest fad, with no original thinking. It excoriates people who held views contrary to today’s interpretation, though they are no longer alive to defend themselves.
It rebukes the Confederacy for its support for slavery. Lincoln said to restore the union he would free all the slaves or none of them. His emancipation covered only the Confederate states. Most Confederate soldiers did not own slaves. Robert E. Lee was offered command of the Union armies before he chose loyalty to Virginia. Virginia was an integral part of the Confederacy, with its capital in Richmond.
The Black essayist Thomas Sowell makes a comment germane to the article: “Wishful thinking is not idealism. It is self-indulgence at best and self-exaltation at worst. In either case it is usually at the expense of others.”
I believe changing history to reflect current ideas destroys history. I am deeply concerned that Virginia promotes it.
Henry H. Gilbert (Col ’67)
Monroe Township, New Jersey
I read of the BOV’s approval of a racial equity program for the University in the Winter edition. I was most interested in the proposal to bring the student enrollment racial percentages more in line with state and national percentages. I checked on Virginia’s racial population percentages (U.S. Census) and came up with the following numbers, in comparison with our 2020 enrollment racial breakdown (from the Winter 2020 edition):
|Race||Va. %||UVA %|
This would seem to be a delicate rebalancing. Not only Blacks, but Hispanics and whites, need greater representation. Alumni should be kept aware of the progress of this effort and be assured that hard decisions will be made to accomplish this goal. Attaining parity for all races is essential, and it should occur simultaneously. Perhaps, an independent committee of alumni of all races should be formed to ensure that these percentages are met.
Richard W. Dyas (Com ’67)
Your recent article regarding the BOV was chilling. I find it remarkable that a group of educated people find it comfortable to use 21st century norms and sensibilities to judge 19th century events and personages. I am speaking about the renaming of buildings and moving of statues on Grounds in order to not celebrate the Confederacy. Does anybody give a damn about this particular bit of history? Does canceling this bit of obscure history move the University forward? It appears to me that the BOV is just trying to be currently fashionable and make itself feel good at the same time.
In the long term, the idea of anti-racist classes and training is more frightening than the “cancellation” of statuary and names. Is it possible that in a few years an “anti-racism” certification will be necessary to get a University diploma after passing your academic requirements?
In my day, the only additional requirement after passing your academics was to be sober enough to walk across the stage to get your diploma. I know, I know, that was in the 20th century—that was then and this is now!
Mr. Jefferson, be careful, in five to 10 years these nice folks will be coming after you.
Gil Faccio (Col ’61, Educ ’63)
Welcome, Class of 2024
It was heartening to see the magazine highlight the contributions of so many alumni who are people of color in last month’s issue.
That representation cast in stark relief the University’s incoming enrollment numbers, shown in a series of charts in “Welcome, Class of 2024.” In particular, the underrepresentation of Black students, at 7.1 percent, is woefully below the commonwealth’s Black population of 20 percent.
That fewer than 10 percent of incoming first years are from low-income families is similarly dispiriting.
As a teacher in New York City’s public schools, I found that these blatant racial and economic inequities, which we have lived with for so long, reminded me of the ongoing debate surrounding who deserves entry to the city’s “elite” public schools, such as Stuyvesant High School.
Here the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has created an opportunity for officials to reconsider many of the arbitrary barriers, such as standardized test scores, we erect to preserve our elite status.
The University should also use this time of unprecedented uncertainty to construct a more equitable future, one incoming class at a time.
Andrew Cedermark (Col ’08)
Jersey City, New Jersey
I am replying to your question regarding my favorite musical artist while at UVA. I saw a lot of great concerts at U-Hall in the early ’70s, but by far my favorite and easily most memorable was the night I saw Jackson Browne perform in the old Cabell Hall auditorium. It was magical. And here’s another time capsule-worthy bit of nostalgia: Digging through a box of very old photos recently, I found a copy of my first semester (Fall 1971) bill from Student Accounts. Bear in mind, I was an out-of-state student from Maryland, and my itemized charges were as follows:
Room Rent: $182.50
Grant #5345: $150.00
Amt Due: $543.50
And written below the printed charges in my father’s hand was the following notation:
“Linen Service $29.12 8-9-71 CK #2040”
Mind-blowing, huh? Great issue, by the way.
Mark Heckler (Com ’77)
What musicians did your fellow UVA alumni enjoy while on Grounds? See Time Capsule »
Women at UVA [Fall 2020]
When I attended the University of Virginia in 1966, my grandmother Eula Mae Petty told me the story of her attendance in 1900. She was the eldest of nine siblings living on a farm in Virginia, and her father sponsored her attendance to become certified as a schoolteacher. I always wondered how she was able to attend, because women were clearly not accepted at UVA at that time. As a result of the last issue in Virginia Magazine, I now know that she was part of the 312 women in the “Normal School.” I proudly attended UVA as the second woman in my family, and my daughter, Pia (B.A. in Italian and Art History, 1995), is the third! I have the portrait of my grandmother in Charlottesville, called the Butter and Eggs Portrait because she churned butter and sold eggs to help finance her studies at UVA. Thank you for providing this link in the magazine.
Judith Bernardini (Nurs ’66)
I read with interest your fall issue, “Women at UVA: What Took So Long.” I was a student from 1966 to 1974. Full coeducation has been good for UVA. My spouse (Nursing 1971) and daughter (College 2005) would agree with me. You did, however, make it sound throughout your piece that UVA was far behind the times. That was not really the case in Virginia. In 1966 most of the colleges in Virginia were single-sex institutions, including Hollins, Sweet Briar, Longwood, Madison, VMI, Mary Baldwin and RMWC, to name a few. Your article did not convey this.
Joseph L. Verdirame (Col ’70, Med ’74)
I would like to add one more name to your list of women blazing trails in UVA Athletics. I believe that the swimmer in the center of your photo on Pages 54 and 55 in the Fall 2020 issue is Elizabeth (Nan) Hawthorne (Col ’75), one of my suitemates our first year at UVA. There were no women’s teams in 1971, so Nan was the lone female swimmer with the men’s team for three years, until there were finally enough other women to start a women’s team in her fourth year. She qualified for nationals that year in backstroke and came in eighth place. She was recognized by UVA with an award in her fourth year (perhaps Female Athlete of the Year), but I don’t remember the exact name.
Her suitemates all wondered why she got up at 5 a.m. and went to bed early. When we had to wake her up at 9 p.m. for her birthday party in late November, we discovered that she was getting up at the crack of dawn every day to swim.
I have many good memories of my time at Virginia, and some not-so-good of the obstacles we faced as one of the early group of invaders to a previously (almost) all-male institution. My nephew graduated from UVA, and his sister started last fall. The environment she is encountering is challenging, but in a very different way from mine.
Lynn Ruggles (Col ’75)