Duke Magazine-Sep/Oct 2001-Forum

Address Change
Trailblazer • Honorable Actions • Not-So-Little Mistakes • Picture not Perfect • Good for a Change


  I thought the mini-profile about J. Stephens Mikita ’78 [“Choosing to Thrive,” May-June] was excellent, and I admire his attitude and many accomplishments.
  The article states, “In 1974, at a time when few schools accommodated disabilities, Mikita set a precedent as Duke’s first student in a wheelchair.” I think if you check the records at Duke, you will find that James Thomas Miller, a paraplegic in a wheelchair, attended Duke and graduated in 1974—which is before Mikita entered Duke.
  Jimmy was a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. His fraternity brothers and members of the football team made it possible for him to overcome the architectural barriers, and to attend classes and other activities at Duke; any of them would be glad to tell you of their experiences with Jimmy and the influence he had on their lives while at Duke and after graduation. Carl James was the athletics director, Mike McGee was the football coach, and Tom Butters was director of the Iron Dukes. They were also supportive of Jimmy while he was at Duke.
  In 1987, Jimmy was named the 1987 Handicapped South Carolinian of the Year. The award was presented by Governor Carroll Campbell.
  If you are going to recognize the first wheelchair student at Duke, I believe it should be James Thomas Miller ’74. Jimmy died in May 2000 in Denver, Colorado.

Walter James Miller ’47
Mount Airy, North Carolina
The correspondent is the father of James Thomas Miller.

  I believe you have a factual error in your article “Choosing to Thrive.” I believe there was a wheelchair student in the class ahead of mine; his name was Jimmy Miller. He was a Delta Tau Delta and had been paralyzed by a fall on a summer construction job. I well remember seeing him “dance” in his wheelchair at parties.

Lyn Miller Sennholz ’75
(via e-mail)

Honorable Actions

  I read your story “A Matter of Honor” in the May-June 2001 issue regarding honesty in the classroom.
  I would like to make an addition to the historical aspect of an honor code at Duke. The honor code and role of the Judicial Board at the School of Nursing were integral parts of our life and education in the Sixties. At the end of every exam and paper, the phrase “I have neither given nor received aid nor seen anyone do so” was written, dated, and signed by the student.
Carole Knutson Romp B.S.N. ’67
Sandusky, Ohio

  Re “A Matter of Honor”: Most “honor systems” I have experienced or know about are essentially faculty cop-outs. It is a faculty responsibility to supervise an academic system of integrity. To assign this responsibility to students invites the peril of poor judgment. Good judgment comes from experience and maturity.

Eugene Guazzo M.D. ’65
Maddox, Maryland

  I read with interest and amusement [Divinity School Professor] Stanley Hauerwas’ remarks in “A Matter of Honor.” Hauerwas doesn’t believe his students should “make up their own minds”; rather, he wants their minds to be shaped by “tradition-formed communities.”
  Since Hauerwas teaches in the Divinity School, I presume one of the communities he has in mind is the church. If that is true, then consider some of the mental habits the church has inculcated in its apprentices:
  • The notion that slavery is not only morally appropriate, but divinely sanctioned.
  • The notion that women are second-class citizens in both the church and the larger world.
  • The notion that homosexual orientation is somehow perverted and punished by God.
  To be sure, some tradition-formed communities have “taught” ideas in opposition to the ones above. But what if someone did not have the fortune to have been instructed in and by such a community? Where is there room in Hauerwas’ model for critical reflection and courageous protest of such bone-headed ideas? Taken to its logical extreme, Hauerwas’ argument would have such a “pupil” uncritically subjugate his mind to
the “wisdom” of the community in which she finds herself. Out of such communities arise the fascists and homophobes of the world.
  Sorry, Professor Hauerwas. I did and do have a mind worthy of discerning and dismissing such dogmatic and incredibly dangerous drivel. For the world’s sake, I hope your current and future pupils have the same discernment.

David B. Ramsey M.Div. ’88
Greensboro, North Carolina

Not-So-Little Mistakes

  Before throwing this at you, I wish to compliment you on your May-June issue. I found it so interesting I read almost everything in it. Of particular interest was the mention on page 50 of David Gergen’s father, Dr. John Gergen, chairman of Duke’s math department for many years. I had him for three courses and consider him one of the best teachers I ever had, anywhere. He was a physically large man, with big hands, in one of which he would hold several pieces of colored chalk. When he wished to emphasize a point, his white writing on the blackboard would suddenly change to orange, yellow, or something else.
  Dennis Meredith’s “The Fire Down Below” was also of great interest. I have had the barium enema X-ray and the long colonoscopy several times, and prefer the latter to the former.
  Now for the errors I found. Perhaps it was Pogo or someone equally erudite who said “Indecision is the key to flexibility.” The “Syllabus” column seems to follow this guideline. It varies the spelling of Professor Litle’s/
Lytle’s name through six mentions—four Litles and two Lytles. Should we apply voting logic here and declare Litle the winner?
  On page 19, we seem to have a choice between “excluding” and “extruding” sea turtles. The turtles, I am sure, would prefer the former rather than the latter.
  Some other small errors are less interesting, but indicate the desirability of adding a sharp-eyed proofreader to your staff, or getting back the one who apparently took a vacation for this issue.

Malcolm Murray ’52
Baytown, Texas

Voting logic does win in this case: The person behind “Women in Latin America in the Twentieth Century” is Professor Marcy Litle, and we apologize for the confusion.

Picture not Perfect

  Thanks for the lengthy, informative piece on Tom Rankin and the Indivisible project in the latest issue of Duke Magazine [“Getting the Picture,” May-June 2001]. As a Duke alumna, I always enjoy reading your magazine, no matter what the subject. It’s an excellent publication. As communications director at the Center for Documentary Studies, I’m particularly pleased to see such a substantial piece going out to Duke alumni and others interested in the university’s achievements.
  With that in mind, I’m writing to set the record straight on three points. The funding for the Indivisible project came from The Pew Charitable Trusts (not the Pew Memorial Trust), and the actual amount was $2.4 million (not $4.2 million). Also, the photo credits on pages 10 and 11 were switched. Eli Reed took the photo of “An Eau Claire street at dusk” and Joan Liftin took the photo of “A Haitian church outing.”

Lynn McKnight ’78
(via e-mail)

Good for a Change

  I was glad to finally see a worthwhile edition of Duke Magazine [May-June 2001]. Several of your previous editions have irritated me so much that I thought I never wanted to see your publication in my mailbox again.
My observation about folks at Duke is that, generally, they fall into two categories. The most prevalent category includes those who think they are better than everyone else, are out to prove it, who want a lot of power, a lot of money, are “into control,” and really don’t care who they harm or hurt in the process of reaching their goals. Frankly, I care to have nothing to do with such folks, and care even less for the hogwash they speak and write in their attempts to explain why their vantage points are worthwhile—as has been highlighted throughout many previous editions of Duke Magazine.
  The May-June issue was different, however, because I thought it concentrated on those who really try to do something worthwhile—the minority category of alumni, according to my experience and observations—casting much-deserved recognition on those who deserve it most of all, including marine biologists, engineers, and nurses.
  So, while I don’t care to go around Duke any more because of the prevalence of the “majority type” (described above) around the place, I certainly would enjoy seeing your building upon the theme of the latest edition.

John A. Sharpe III ’80
Oxford, North Carolina

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