Duke University Alumni Magazine

Please limit letters to no more than 300 words. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity. Include full name, address, and class year. Our fax number is (919) 681-1689 and our internet address --for Forum and class notes only--is: dukemag@acpub.duke.edu



    Congratulations on your last two issue, [March-April and May-June] -- and the bud- ding Internet supplements, The tribute to Terry Sanford gave me a real sense of what it would have been like to have been on campus during his amazing tenure. and provided new insight into his achievement in leading Duke to new horizons beyond the South.

The retrospective on the Vigil was very enlightening, and a good example of growing pains, Plus, [University Photographer] Chris Hildreth is an amazing photographer

Ed Richards '63, J.D. '66
via e-mail


    Speaking of Terry Sanford's legacy, I think his greatest gift to the state was the establishment of a climate of tolerance in North Carolina. Our state was tornamong bitter groups when Terry returned from World War II and entered politics. I was among those who opposed him at first. By the time he was running for the U.S. Senate, I had come around to the point where he quoted some of my editorials in his campaign ass.

By the time he was running for re-election, I was helping to manage his campaign in western North Carolina and was able to in- troduce him at one rally as a man who came home from the war "with a purple heart on his chest and an open heart in his bosom," I think that was Terry Sanford.

J.P. Huskins
Athens, Georgia



    While I enjoyed the "Fact File" [May-June 1998] on the Dawn Redwood in Duke Gardens, I must admit to being disappointed in the opening remark that continues the erroneous statement that the largest tree in the world is the Coastal Redwood.

The redwood has the distinction of tallest, but it is not the largest in at least two different ways: area covered and mass. The largest organism (not just tree) in the world is the quaking aspen, as documented in the technical literature (Nature, 360: page 216, 1992) and in the popular press (Discover, October 1993, pages 82-89). As senior author of these papers and a Duke alumnus, I would have hoped that this fascinating bit of biology might have been taken up by Duke Magazine, as did The New York Times and others, At the very least, I could hope that you might consider "correct- ing" the "Fact File!" (The largest Coastal Redwood on record, General Sherman, was less than one-third the size, in mass, of Panto, the giant aspen.)

Michael C. Grant Ph,D. '74
Professor of Biology
University of Colorado
Boulder, Colorado


    The recent article on the Duke Herbarium ["A Search for Green Treasure," May-June 1998] highlighted the current work and po- tential future value of such a facility. Many superb botanists associated with the herbarium and their travels, collections, and re- search showed the importance of maintaining a modern, well-curated collection.

I was extremely disappointed that a fairer and more inclusive hearing was not given to the lone voice for the herbarium over the past twenty years. Prior to the current popularity of the term "biodiversity," there was a long period during which few recognized the value of or a need for expending resources on such a facility. Dr. Robert Wilbur, the former curator, has spent his entire career collecting for and maintaing the Duke Vascular Plant Herbarium. Truth be told, it was quite rare to see another faculty member enter the herbarium during the five years I was at Duke.

Dr. Wilbur fought to keep the herbarium a vital part of the botany department, and he initiated the move to build a new facility. Moreover, his extensive collection for North Carolina and Central America form the backbone of the strengths of the Duke Herbarium. Collecting for a herbarium is largely a philanthropic activity, in the sense that the collector is rarely the person who uses those specimens for research. Rather, it is someone in the near or distant future, often at some other institution, who requests loans to use specimens. The amount of time and effort that Dr. Wilbur has devoted to these activities should not have been slighted, as they clearly were in the Duke Magazine article.

The herbarium still exists and is prominent worldwide because of Dr. Wilbur. Not to slight the excellent botanists now associated with the herbarium, a more accurate presentation would have highlighted the current and historical role of Dr, Wilbur,

Foster Levy A,M. '79, Ph,D. '89
Associate Professor of Biology
East Tennessee State University
Johnson C,ity, Tennessee



    I can tell you exactly where I was when I read the article "Oxford and Cambridge Calling" in the July-August issue. I was seated in a plastic chair outside a coin laundromat near my home, riveted while learning about the honors and accomplishments of the Duke graduates the article described. When I returned home, I told my wife, also a Duke graduate, "If you want to get an inferiority complex, read this,"

I should explain that when I read the article two loads were going in the dryer, about a minute apart; I was concerned about not being in attendance on the clothes, because an eager store owner had already been making inquiries about how a certain "toploader model" had stopped, and no one could lay claim to the underwear inside. Getting the clothes out of the dryer had me preoccupied, but the Oxford and Cambridge article put that worry in its proper perspective. "Inferior" is not the word to describe how the article made me feel; rather, I have decided that the article made me feel some degree of impurity. The large pictures of the student accompanying the story had a great effec Seven of the eight looked at the camera an smiled, or worked at their smiles, and eve the one who did not look at the camera (Michael Wenthe '95) had a nice smile. hope that you will realize at this point that was not personal resentment that I felt. I did not want to write a letter that undercut these students, or that praises them while questioning the ethic of "life equals achieve ment," which in reality would be underctting them.

Seeing these eight lives on glossy pages the alumni magazine triggered a self-indicting mechanism, which says more about me than it does about them. Two facts in particular hit hard. The first was the incident concerning Alison Meekhof '95, who at Duke "made the rounds of every faculty member she knew" to discuss an article. The second fact was the victory of Eric Greitens '96, boxing for I Oxford, Over a Cambridge opponent by a first-round technical knockout. These are incredible feats to me. I have never done either deed; usually I have been slow and cautious about life. Despite four years at Duke and five-plus in graduate school, I often experienced school as a threatening environment, while the students who are the subject of the magazine article have feasted on it. Yet, at the same time, they recognize their dissatisfactions, so theirs are not Pollyanna-ish atti- tudes.

I write this letter because I feel acutely the fear that others might share, that the institutional association of Duke follows me, that all -- the goals in my life, like the goals of the Duke capital campaigns or annual funds, must always be met and exceeded. I carry this fear not because of the magazine, which writes of former students like Emily Colas '87, also in the July-August issue, who has openly shared problems with obsessive-compulsiveness. Indeed, I remember the magazine in the past has encouraged alumni to send in news other than the milestones of marriage and birth, the promotions and changes in responsibilities. I have wanted to send in cards saying that I had read war and Peace, that I had supported my wife through a difficult time at work, that I had been remembering people's birthdays. But I did not send in these cards. I am writing so that others might know what I'm thinking, so the editors of this magazine might know that Duke as an institution does leave a patina on its graduates. I am writing to proclaim that I am living a magnificent life.

John C. Turnbull '85
Decatur, Georgia

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