Forum: January-February 2008

Couch: standing tall

Couch: standing tall. Patrice Gilbert

It All Comes Together

Thank you for the wonderful article "Going With the Flow" [September-October 2007]. I have two things to say. First, as they say that the theologians and the physicists will meet at the top of the mountain, it's now apparent that so will the poets and the engineers. Second, could someone please apply these principles to the health-care system in this country?

Sally Zaino '74, Hummelstown, Pennsylvania

Reviewing a Book Review

If you like MSNBC and Keith Olbermann, with his uncontrollable anger management issues, you will probably love Jon Sher's review of It's Not About The Truth: The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Case and the Lives It Shattered [September-October 2007].

However, I was so exhausted by the unfocused collateral rhetoric that I have no idea whether or not the review is accurate.

Duke Magazine deserves better than this.

William Miller '60, Hilton Head, South Carolina


Trust in the Colonel

I cannot be the only member of the Duke community who sees the startling juxtaposition in your most recent issue. 

President Brodhead, in his inept handling of the lacrosse team incident, looks even worse when he is placed side by side with a man with the integrity and grit of Duke alumnus Stu Couch ["For God and Country," September-October 2007].

Brodhead's vacuous, soft response to the lacrosse team fiasco; his selfish, political calculations of a difficult situation; and his willingness to place his career above the greater community brings shame to us all.

Lt. Col. Couch is precisely the opposite: a man with the intestinal fortitude to put his own career on the line when he sees an injustice being done. He shows us that some are willing to suffer, personally, in the cause of that which is right.

In the fall of 1986, standing in front of the Allen Building, Stu Couch taught me the most important single leadership lesson of my life. I, like him, was an undergrad aspiring to be a Marine officer, and I was trying to figure out how such leaders were made. Stu put it very simply: A leader is a man to whom you would trust the life of your son in combat. 

At age nineteen, I didn't get it. At age forty, as a combat veteran—and with three sons—I do now. We should all be proud that Stu is one of us. And we should be ashamed that President Brodhead is.

Lt. Col. Stan Coerr '89, Newport, Rhode Island

While I enjoyed your story on Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, there was a glaring omission: where he went to law school, Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina.

The story suggests that his time at Duke was spent at parties. His time at Campbell was perhaps more reflective of the man he would become.

Huguette Baker, Angier, North Carolina


Sweat Inspiration

As I turned to the opening pages of the latest Duke Magazine [November-December 2007], I was stunned by the photo of Coach Buehler. Like a ghost emerging from the tunnel and the concrete walls of Wallace Wade Stadium, his image transported me to freshman phys-ed in the fall of 1973. As a fat, physically lazy kid from Pittsburgh, I was not thrilled to be assigned to mandatory class, let alone to be unlucky enough to have the track coach as my teacher.

What I didn't appreciate at first was the almost magical inspirational power of this man to transform my life from [that of] a hopeless "couch potato" to one of regular physical activity and good health.

From his sappy but memorable movies about the suicidal New York City writer and the bilateral amputee who both found themselves and saved their lives through running, to his lectures about the lifelong wellness through running philosophy, he quietly changed my life in one short semester.

As other Duke coaches have struggled with exotic-dancer scandals or descended into a Grecian Formula alternate reality, I am thrilled to know that Coach Buehler continues to inspire anyone willing to listen that running and regular physical activity is the key to lifelong health. Al Buehler is without question in my mind the personification of the Iron Duke.

Stephen D. Campanella '77, Pittsburgh


Lacrosse Fallout

The fallout from the Duke lacrosse incident will require more than just a wish by the administration, faculty, students, and alumni to "move on" or "move forward." The ripple effect of the incident has not subsided. It can and will take on the character of a tsunami if left unchecked. Moving forward requires an understanding and appreciation of what overhangs from behind.

As I am sure you are aware, there is widespread discontent. The administration is discontented with the various portrayals of its response to the incident. The alumni are discontented with the sullied reputation of an institution that was once a source of unquestioned pride. The students are discontented about what happened in the past and what may still be happening now: Are they open targets for overzealous police and rogue prosecutors? The athletes and faculty also have their own sources of discontent.

I have been disappointed with the magazine's attempts to address the case thus far. It is not enough to select a handful of letters for posting on the website and to choose even fewer for publication in the hard copy mailed to the Duke community. If there is to be a meaningful healing process, there must be an open and central avenue to air the concerns. Not everyone who cares about Duke can attend a conference, caucus with the board of trustees, or meet at a summit.

That is why I propose that your magazine be the pivotal, driving force. There needs to be an entire issue devoted to the lacrosse incident, with unvarnished input from all sides. We need to vent, we need to listen to each other and, yes, we may even need to act. Action may be the most frightening prospect of the exercise. If, however, we as a Duke community remain dormant, actions not of our direction and guidance will overwhelm us.

Can you commit to doing this? Thank you. 

Brian Smith J.D. '81, Fairfield, Connecticut


Editor's Note: The magazine has devoted two cover stories and a number of news stories to the issue, all of which represented a wide range of opinions. We will continue to engage with the topic as events warrant.

Life Lessons


For the past three years I have been studying the Bible at an Evangelic church in Washington, Illinois. We are reviewing Galatians, Chapter 6. St. Paul writes, "Brothers, if someone is cause in a sin…you should restore him gently" (v.1) and "If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself." (v.3)

This sent a flashback to me when I was a junior at Duke in 1951. George (not his real name) and I were sent by our friends to purchase ten bottles of liquor at the North Carolina state store in Durham. On our return to campus, George stopped abruptly at a red light. Bottles banged together. As I surveyed the damage, a Durham policeman peered into the car window and discovered the excess liquor (you could legally transport only five bottles of liquor).

Well, George, the driver, was arrested and his car impounded for illegally transporting liquor. I was not charged. My first job was to get George out of jail. I went to a prominent clergyman in Durham. When he heard that a Duke student was involved with liquor he refused any help (see Galatians above Chap 6:1-3).

Since George and I minored in accounting and were A or B students in Professor "Scrappy" Shields' advanced accounting class, I thought I would ask for his help. Halfway through my story, Professor Shields said, "George is in trouble? I'll get my hat and coat." And off we went to the police station.

George's cash bail was unbelievably high for a Duke student or a Duke professor. Professor Shields was advised that if he pledged his Durham residence then George and his car would be released, but not the (10 bottles of) liquor.

As I look back to whom would St. Paul offer praise…the clergyman who offered no help, or Professor Shields who pledged his residence to save a wayward Duke student?

Raymond Allison '52, Washington, Illinois


Lacrosse Letter

Many of us hope that we will never again have to listen to or read of Mr. Brodhead's lame excuses as to the way he and his administration handled the matter of the lacrosse player. He wants to "move on" while exonerating himself of any fault.

Actually there is absolutely no excuse for the way he handled the lacrosse matter then and now. Such a demonstrated lack of judgment certainly brings into question the possibility that the job he holds is larger than he is. The trustees, of course, rather than having him "move on", do and say nothing, apparently having undergone the spinectomies to which most American university trustees submit themselves.

What a shame that throughout this country great universities founded and funded by great men had been allowed to fall under control of Lillputians.

Thomas Harrington '48, Eden, North Carolina



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