Nevermore

I read with much interest your detailed and well-researched article on the thefts from the Alderman rare book vault. My thoughts often return to the circumstances of the case, and, alas, one of my unsolved cases. However, the rumors of my death are premature. I am the Eric Shoemaker who investigated the thefts. I left UVA Police in 1978 to pursue a master’s degree at Virginia Commonwealth University, while there managed the first campus police academy in the country, then served as chief of police at Longwood College, then Old Dominion University, and culminated my campus career at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. Returning to government service, I served as an operations planner for U.S. Southern Command with a focus on countering illicit drug production and smuggling. After 9/11, I was transferred to a three-letter agency in Washington, and retired as a branch chief in the Directorate for Analysis. Having said all this, my work on the Alderman Library heist helped shape my work as an investigator, later chief of police, as a counter-drug planner, intelligence officer and in retirement a fiction writer.

I enjoyed reading of my exploits of many years ago as a young investigator.

Eric Shoemaker
Pomfret, Maryland

 

The article on the stolen items from Alderman Library was a deja vu. My second year at UVA saw me kicked out of the dorms and seeking off-Grounds housing. My good friend Richard J. Haas (Col ’69) was living in a room at a home on Winston Road. Another room was available at that home because the student who just vacated it was arrested for stealing rare books from Alderman. I was able to rent the room and finish my second year with much better grades than my first 1½ years, and managed to get my MD degree in 1973. I never heard what happened to the room’s former resident, but I am sure he was in big trouble. I heard that he crawled through an open window after hours to pilfer the library. This was in the spring of 1967, over six years before the great theft from the McGregor vault was discovered. My thoughts in 1967 were: “Boy, is that a major Honor Code violation.”

Randall H. Suslick, MD (Col ’69)
Chase City, Virginia

 

Beautifully written, tantalizing look at “history as it was and is made,” and a clear threat of a pending divorce between “arts” and “sciences”!

Virginia Roy
Charlottesville

 

What a terrific article on Edgar Allan Poe and the purloined letters. And photographs. And other objects. It was admittedly shocking to see how easily valuable items were taken from the “vault,” and how long it took to notice. Tough news to share, but I’m sure readers, like me, are grateful for Richard Gard’s entertaining and revealing probe into UVA’s history. Kudos to the magazine for this investigative reporting. 

Jack Greer (Col ’69)
Shenandoah, Virginia

 

As a member of the cohort of Rare Books Department staff newly hired just after “the awful crime,” I can report we had our own theories about the theft, speculating that the presumably “insider” perpetrators, more prankish than malevolent, had removed the valuables from the vault and then hidden them in labyrinthine Alderman Library as the ultimate bad joke on the established supervisory order. Perhaps they were sequestered in the cavernous attic, taped under bottom shelves, or entombed in the claustrophobic “Dirt Room” beneath the granite entrance stairs? Our treasure hunts were fun but fruitless. Yet as none of the items have surfaced, after 46 years, in the usual venues, our high-spirited intuition is not entirely discredited—and looking to another major article in your Spring issue (“Library Renewal”), construction crews undertaking the library’s renovation might be clued in to the possibility of discovering old papers in odd places.

Page Nelson (Col ’76)
Charlottesville


Library Renewal

For over 50 years, we have put up with that eyesore tacked onto the back of Alderman Library in 1967. … That ugly box … was never harmonious with the rest of the building. Bring on the reno!

Warren Tate (Engr ’68)
Magnolia, Texas

 

Thankfully no one was searching for “bolder, more abstract architectural statements” as referenced in the article. That would have produced something as date-stamped as Clemons Library, which is about as inspiring as the exterior of a 1970s insecticide factory.

Nathan Norris (Col ’88)
Pike Road, Alabama

 

Just wanted to thank you for including so many stories lately about UVA’s libraries. I just received the Spring ’19 issue, and it was fantastic. 

I graduated from UVA in 2014 and just finished my master’s degree in library and information science at UCLA. I love seeing stories about the libraries and their collections. I think it’s so important to show how vital libraries are for the health of our communities.

Maggie Rank (Col ’14)
Los Angeles, California


First-Gens First

Great article on first gens—I was one of those back in 1970 and to this day still wonder why anyone at UVA would pick a middle-American kid from a small all-boys Catholic high school in South St. Louis, Missouri, with not much else to show than good grades, a reasonably good SAT score, and a desire to study astronomy and work at Leander McCormick Observatory. My parents were shocked when I was accepted—how are we going to afford this (I was one of three boys roughly the same age)? Going to a local college was a big dream for them, but going to UVA? Really? The first day I showed up on the Grounds in September 1970 was the first time I was ever east of the Mississippi River. Checked into Page dorm, I opened my suitcase with a couple of sports jackets, and soon found out that Kent State had changed the world at UVA three months earlier. I guess having an all-boys Catholic high school background somewhat prepared me for the first year UVA went coed—at least more or less on paper. I studied astronomy and physics and actually got to work at the observatory (yeah!). There were no trips home on Thanksgiving or spring break, and I took advantage of the bulletin board in Newcomb Hall at Christmas to share rides back to Missouri with students who actually had cars. I look back now, almost 50 years later, and still wonder why someone at UVA accepted me. I hope I made him proud: I worked on the space shuttle for McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. for nine years after graduating and then for NASA itself for more than 34 years, all in Houston. Frankly, I owe it all to whoever it was who accepted me, and to the astronomy department for letting me use their precious telescope.

Don Pearson (Col ’74)
Houston, Texas

 

It is noticeable that your stats regarding continuing-gen students don’t specify those accepted based on legacy. While it is admirable that the University has developed the first-gen program, UVA is known for giving legacy applications greater weight to a portion of other students. I am more than disappointed that a public university utilizes the practice of alumni legacy, which minimizes diversity among the population of students without financial need and for the purposes of increasing donor gifts. We taxpayers also support the University at which this practice removes the level playing field for our children and disregards our democratic rights to an education at a public university.

Barbara Battiston
Keswick, Virginia


The George Welsh Way

I can remember the team’s first winning season in memory in Fall 1979: People audibly worried that it portended a shift that might not be welcome. One example of concern: “The University might become like Michigan State, where folks actually pay attention to what’s happening on the field!”

Karl Saur (Col ’83)
Melrose, Massachusetts

 

My oldest son, Eric (Col ’02), who grew up watching George Welsh-coached teams, had an expectation of excellence from Wahoos football that none of us who lived through the teams of the ’70s would have thought possible.

Robert Appel (Med ’81)
Fayetteville, North Carolina


On the Beat

As a recovering journalist of some 40 years—reporter, bureau chief, editorialist and senior editor at papers large and small—I subscribe to just about everything said in this piece about the value of a good liberal arts education as preparation for a career as an ink-stained wretch. Trying to make heads or tails out of the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book on deadline at The Wall Street Journal, I had Kenneth Elzinga to thank for any sense my stories made, not a journalism class on something like counting a headline. In Panama to cover the handover of the canal for another paper, William Harbaugh’s memorable lectures on Teddy Roosevelt and American Empire came vividly home to me.

I must differ, though, on the value of media studies. Time spent splitting hairs over Twitter versus Facebook versus Pinterest, or the pivot to video for small publications, bears a high opportunity cost. (Again, thanks, Mr. Elzinga.) It’s long been a point of pride that the University doesn’t award honorary degrees and focused on real academics instead of pop culture. Sadly, the latter no longer can be said.

Winston Wood (Col ’72)
Paris, Virginia


Data Science

I was pleased to see that UVA is establishing a School of Data Science. It was also gratifying to see President Ryan acknowledge that the “explosion of data is exposing us to serious risks.” I recognize the promise that data collection and use offers, but I hope the School of Data Science will also include a focus on security (especially cybersecurity) and ethical use of all data.

As a former college president and current fraud and Internet security specialist, I urge you to consider the effect of data use on individual privacy, health and life insurance decisions, medical data collection and decisions, and other important matters.

At the same time, I read about UVA’s Siva Vaidhyanathan’s recently released book concerning the dangers of Facebook. Professor Vaidhyanathan “argues that Facebook is not merely a time-wasting distraction but an actively destructive force undermining the foundations of democratic society.” Recent news reports have highlighted how Facebook, Equifax, Google and other “data brokers” have exposed their users, often without permission, to serious risk.

I applaud UVA for establishing the School of Data Science but, in doing so, I hope that UVA will become the leader in highlighting security, risk management, forensics and other issues as the Internet evolves and grows. The coming Internet of Things (loT), and expansion of the Internet Protocol (IP) address system, promise to greatly expand our knowledge while at the same time exponentially increasing the threat to all of us.

Ron Bartley (Educ ’79)
North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina


Retrospect

I am a guide at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Both of these works hung recently in our museum. She learned a great deal during her tenure at UVA. These two works show how O’Keeffe was influenced by both the Arts and Crafts Movement and also the symmetry and precision of early Japanese woodcuts.

Barb Isham
Santa Fe, New Mexico


Notable Alumni (Winter 2018)

In the Virginia Magazine issue that highlighted prestigious UVA alumni, I was very disappointed to see Laura Ingraham’s listing. Ingraham is well known for her racist statements and positions. Promotion of a racist appears at odds with UVA’s recent efforts to unearth, understand and help heal past racist acts and the lessons learned from the tragic white nationalist Charlottesville event.

Deo Garlock (Col ’82)
Raleigh, North Carolina


Class of the Classroom (Winter 2018)

Thank you for the Bicentennial edition. I see in the Spring issue, Deborah Rib recommended that Dr. Fred Diehl, biology professor and beloved adviser, also be included in this list of transformative professors. I cannot emphasize enough what a difference Dr. Diehl made in my experience at UVA. For years, he bravely took groups of biology students to study coral reef ecology at the Bahamian Field Station in San Salvador. I was fortunate enough to be his student both in the classroom and on one of these trips during the summer of 2001. He taught us life lessons there—that family comes first (he brought his wife and young children), that we don’t need elaborate laboratories or advanced technologies to study our world, and that, as Wahoos, “we work harder and play harder than anyone else here.”

His legacy at UVA, and all the way to the Bahamian Field Station, would make a wonderful feature in Virginia Magazine.

Kate Allen McKnew (Col ’02)
Virginia Beach, Virginia

 

Belated congratulations on a splendid Bicentennial issue. It was an enjoyable read.

Space limitations obviously prohibited acknowledgment of many noteworthy professors who so well served the University. It would seem, however, that the first recipient of the Alumni Association Distinguished Professor Award would have merited space. There were compelling reasons [my father] T. Braxton Woody was chosen as the first to receive this award, and his numerous contributions over a long career at UVA should have been noted.

In addition to the Alumni Association award, Mr. Woody received many other honors, including the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, the IMP Award, and
the Raven Award. He belonged to Phi Beta Kappa, ODK, and the Jefferson and Raven societies.

For 43 years as professor of French and Spanish language, literature and history, he was an imaginative and demanding teacher who was remembered with affection by those he taught. He gave dedicated support to the Jeffersonian concept of a close relationship between faculty and students.

Mr. Woody served for 13 years as assistant dean of the University and in this capacity, he was named as chairman of the committee that, in 1968, recommended unrestricted undergraduate co-education, which was implemented two years later.

Professor Woody was a champion of the customs and traditions that have made UVA a special place. Over a number of years, he gave a legendary First Year orientation talk on the Honor System, which had a profound effect on a great many who heard it.

There is a commemorative tree dedicated to him near the University Chapel, and a bench to the left of Cabell Hall. Also, there is a First Year dormitory named for him.

After retirement in 1971, he remained actively involved with the organizations to which he belonged. It is fitting that even today, students live in his former home located not far from Cabell Hall.

Thaddeus Braxton Woody died in 2000 at age 98.

James B. Woody (Col ’54)
Richmond, Virginia


Letters

A number of letters to the editor in Virginia Magazine have called attention to what they judge to be President Jefferson’s faults and/or failings. Jefferson accomplished one of the greatest achievements in our American history when he executed the Louisiana Purchase.

Having farmed for a number of years in Missouri and Iowa, I can personally attest that the Louisiana Purchase is not a desert (as it was scornfully called by New England congressmen who failed to support the president’s decision). But then, perhaps the price seemed exorbitant at the time—3 cents an acre!

Warren Speckhart (Educ ’64)
Quincy, Illinois


Spring 2019 Corrections

“Nevermore,” our story on the 1973 Alderman Library rare books and manuscripts thefts, wrongly said that University Police investigator Eric W. Shoemaker was dead.  We’re delighted to say he’s alive (see his letter, above) and profoundly sorry to have reported otherwise.

The obituary for William B. “Bill” Lucas (Law ’50) misstated his graduation year. Mr. Lucas graduated from the Law School in 1950. A correct obituary can be found here (and in our Summer 2019 print issue on Page 97).