Forum: July/August 2011

Ziggurat Found! Belabored Critics Chair-raising DetailsTurkey Missing

Ziggurat Found!

May/June 2011 CoverDuke’s pursuit of the Nixon Presidential Library was seen from a different perspective in California during the early 1980s. Note that the drawing of the “Durham Ziggurat” proposal [“The Nixon Library That Wasn’t,” May-June 2011] features topography and landscaping from Southern California, not Durham County. This was probably a well-intentioned effort to lure Nixon’s site team away from their focus on the “real” ziggurat site in Laguna Niguel, Orange County, California, built by North American Rockwell in 1971. This pyramid of over 1 million square feet with 6,200 parking spaces and helipad had been operated by the General Services Administration to house federal agencies since 1974, and dominated the local landscape.

Nixon loyalists in Southern California were determined “their” library would never be located in a “hillbilly backwater” like Durham. Using contacts in the Reagan White House, they pressured GSA to vacate the Laguna Niguel facility so Congress could make it available to Nixon’s library foundation.

A GSA colleague and I, working in the San Francisco real-estate office, were tasked with writing a report to justify vacating Laguna Niguel, just as student and faculty opposition to Duke’s bid was growing. (No Facebook existed in 1981, so the issue of my wife [Katharyn Antle May B.S.N. ’73] and I being Duke alums never came up.) To help the Nixon cause, political appointees had downplayed the occupancy levels at the ziggurat and had even hidden numerous requests for expansion space in a file drawer, instead of inputting them in the national data base of federal needs.

After inspecting the huge building and interviewing the happy tenants, we obtained the raw data on future space needs and inserted those numbers in our report. We concluded that relocating all the agencies into private, leased space violated federal regulations and was a waste of taxpayer dollars.

This little bombshell was not well-received by some in Washington, but the Nixon team quickly refocused on a site in Yorba Linda, California, where the library and museum were eventually built. Duke and president Terry Sanford never really had a chance of winning this contest against concentrated wealth and influence out West. Coincidentally, by 1983, my coauthor and I found ourselves working inCalifornia real estate outside of GSA and happier for it.

Today, the ziggurat is the Chet Holifield Federal Building and the U.S. District Courthouse for Southern California.

Michael D. May ’71
Madison, Wisconsin

Belabored Critics

Generally I enjoy reading issues of your publication to see the accomplishments of my fellow alums and what is happening around campus.

I was extremely disappointed by the interview with Nancy MacLean [May- June 2011]. Her political views do not belong in the magazine. Alternatively, such views should have been balanced by those of an economics professor.

Unions do have a role to play, especially to prevent abuses of employees. Having said that, there are alternative views of the public sector’s cost structure than those espoused by MacLean.

Whether it is liberal protax, pro-spending or conservative anti-tax, anti-spending views, I do not want such one-sided polemics in such a periodical.

Peter Weinstock J.D.’85


I was infuriated when I read the Q&A with Nancy MacLean. I do not agree with her political point of view at all. However, it was not her point of view on unions that upset me, but it was the fact she was a member of the faculty. I think it is wrong if she presents her pro-union and pro-Democrat ideology in her classroom. I do not think faculty with such one-sided points of view should present their political feelings in the classroom. I have no proof she does, but anyone reading the article would be inclined to think she does.

In fact, I think Duke Magazine should present an interview from someone with an opposing point of view.

I know they may not have to turn off the lights, but I will have to think twice when the university calls for a donation next time.

Jerry V. Cox B.S.E.E. ’54
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida


It is interesting that in the same issue of Duke Magazine, there is news that Duke’s tuition is $40,655 and also a screed regarding Wisconsin’s dispute with public sector unions from a Democrat and union activist, Nancy MacLean, masquerading as a history professor, in which she disparages and insults Republican efforts to bring fiscal sanity to a nearly bankrupt state. Interestingly, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has found the Republican governor and legislature’s actions legal. Moreover, the Democrat legislators fled the state in a cowardly fashion rather that perform their elected duties. Inasmuch as Republicans make up somewhere between 33 and 50 percent of the adult population, it is difficult to understand why a Republican would want to pay so much money to have their child indoctrinated by the likes of Professor MacLean.

Paul D. Risher B.S.M.E. ’57
Stamford, Connecticut

Chair-raising Details

The history of the Order of the Chair, described in Forum [May-June 2011], dates back to the early 1950s. Thanks to the vision of an enterprising student named Denny Marks [’53], the society had its beginning when a car with a toilet strapped on the roof drove slowly up the approach to Duke Chapel. The toilet was unloaded in front of the chapel and guarded by a silent figure with a paper bag over his head. After an appropriate period of suspense, the figure tapped several of the bystanders and placed paper bags over their heads.

When the ceremony was repeated the following year, Duke president Hollis Edens (presumably in collusion with Denny Marks) happened to be present and was inducted into the society but was spared the paper bag. Unfortunately, the Duke Bureau of Public Information, where I was working at the time, had not been notified in advance, so the event was unrecorded for posterity.

Turkey Missing

In his article “The Remaking of the Middle East” [May- June 2011], Bruce Jentleson aptly notes there is and will continue to be instability in the Arab world. For the U.S., he poses a flexible coalitionminded policy with less emphasis on past policy of strongman support. Interestingly, he fails to mention the potential of Turkey as model and peacemaker in this volatile region.

The Arab Spring has raised many questions for the West. What leadership will rise from the apparent turmoil? As the political future of the Middle East is created, in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, the final forms of these governments are all in present doubt. Will our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan bear fruit? Will Saudi Arabia be moved by the same pressures? Will Iran’s brief uprising in response to the “elections” of 2009 produce a more democratic and less antagonistic regime? What do these pressures mean for Israel?

The picture of stability in the region is Turkey. The economy is booming (sixteenth-largest GDP in the world with plans to become the tenth-largest GDP by 2023). Turkey is seeking European Union membership and has complied with most of the entrance qualifications. The government is secular, democratic, and parliamentary, somewhat analogous to the model of Great Britain. Ninety-nine percent of its population is Muslim.

History tells us there will be flare-ups in this region. The U.S. knows it has limits on its influence and needs a friend that seeks peace and stability. Turkey can spread the message that an Islamic population can handle democracy with booming economic growth. Give the people a stake in their country’s economy, and the population has an interest in political stability and good relations with its neighbors and the world. Peace is in their best interests and ours as well. We must pay more and better attention to Turkey.

Carle Felton ’70
Jacksonville, Florida

Send letters to: Box 90572, Durham, N.C. 27708 or e-mail Please limit letters to 300 words and include your full name, address, and class year or Duke affiliation. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. Owing to space constraints, we are unable to print all letters received. du.


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