Forum: March-April 2008

Thelonius Monk

Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona

Mistakes Identified

During my student days at Duke, in the turbulent World War II days and the Navy V-12 program, I was told of the two "mistakes" relative to information about the university that were evident in buildings and to the eye, but I was not informed where they were. So, whenever I had time (in very small doses as I recall), I searched for them—to no avail.

Imagine my delight when reading the November-December issue [Retrospective] to learn of these two errata. I had already forgotten and had made my peace that I would go to the grave without ever finding out about them. I want to thank you for publishing that information and giving relief to a very old man, decades after I finally gave up.

Since, in those days, East was East, and West was—filled up with milling students here and there—it had never occurred to me that one of those "mistakes" was to be found in the girls' campus. And I always thought those very erect and serious gentlemen at the chapel were there because they had to be, and not because one of them was a misplaced one.

Thank you for clearing up the matter once and for all.

J.E. Masson '47, Longwood, Florida

Tim Pyatt '81, the university archivist, pointed out Baldwin's permanent typo in the November-December "Retrospective." Did he realize that Baldwin also has a permanent grammatical error? Note the "Sigilium Universitatis Dukensis" on the top of the seal. That translates to "Seal of the University of Duke," and was officially changed in 1957 to "Universitas Dukiana," more properly, Duke University. I remember my Latin professor, whose name escapes me, was a champion of the change.

Robert F. Clayton '58, Atlanta, Georgia

For more information on the history of Duke's seal and shield, see

Following Monk

Steve Dollar's article [November-December 2007] on Thelonious Monk reminded me of some of my cherished experiences from my undergraduate years at Duke. I became interested in jazz as a result of listening to the campus radio station. A small jazz club in Raleigh, the Frog and Nightgown, became the heaven for my new interest. There, I had the opportunity to meet many incredible performers such as Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, James Moody, and Zoot Sims.

My most incredible encounter was with Monk. During one of his performances at the club, I talked to his bassist, Wilbur Ware, between sets. Ware asked me whether I wanted to meet Monk. Subsequently, I had a conversation (if it could be considered a conversation) with Monk that, at the time, I considered weird. Interspaced among moments of inspirational and encouraging revelations about music and performance were fragmented sentences and lengthy pauses during which Monk simply stared as if frozen in time.

I thought he was demonstrating displeasure with my questions. After reading more about him and learning his music, I understood that such behavior was part of his character and that this behavior (along with his hat) had contributed to the power and uniqueness of that evening's amazing musical experience.

James Dorsey '70, M.D. '74, College Park, Maryland


Changing American Minds

Professor Bland's article "Rescrutinizing the American Mind" [Under the Gargoyle, November-December] proposes to shift the blame of who has failed democracy from "higher education" to "politicians in government." The author appears mystified by students who overwhelmingly choose business and pre-professional majors. The answer is obvious for those of us in the "real world."

The students' motivator is neither democracy nor educators, but rather the reality of capitalism. How else are we to pay off student loans and pay the bills? This is not the eighteenth century, when only the upper classes had the privilege of college and guaranteed livelihoods provided by virtue of their social class, regardless of what they studied.

But let's focus on the underlying disease rather than the symptoms. After all, who elected those politicians? It's not higher education, politicians, or capitalism [that] has failed democracy. It is us.

We have elected politicians who cut our taxes by running up debt, meanwhile lining the pockets of those corporate interests who provide the funding for their campaigns.

We invest in corporations based on earnings per share rather than the impact of their operations on our society and the environment. 

We have allowed laissez-faire capitalism to deteriorate into economic Darwinism where the rich are getting richer, the poor poorer, and those in the middle struggle.

We have allowed religion to become irrelevant in business life, relying on the almighty dollar as the deciding ethic.

It's time for us to move beyond shifting blame to action to save democracy and reclaim what we value. Let's be informed voters and political contributors, invest with a conscience, and participate fully in faith-based or civic organizations to work for the common good. As my mother always told me, "It's better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness."

Martha Shindelman Zeigler '74, Weaverville, North Carolina


Rove on Campus

It is a temptation, but I don't want to object to our having invited Karl Rove to be a Major Speaker at Duke University. But he was hardly challenged, not even in a "conversational" format. I heard him say "We [the U.S.] do not torture." This was met by silence. Were we in so much fear of being impolite that no one should have had an apoplectic fit at that? (Incidentally, I don't think the noise that was heard during the speech was coming so much from students but rather from those in the "aging hippie" category. Forgive them, they haven't even gotten over the last, the Vietnam, quagmire.)

Rove's conversation partner, professor Peter Feaver, seemed lost in deference and sympathy for him. Could not Feaver have brought up the main question: Rove's huge success was in getting the majority in our democracy to believe the two reasons given for attacking Iraq—that Saddam was in cahoots with Osama bin Laden; that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Does it matter that these were lies? ...

The heinous aspects of the war have made the White House the chief recruiters for al Qaeda…. We could have asked Karl Rove if he has any regrets about the war, having been such a talented "Minister of Propaganda." Can you just imagine the incredible spin?

In the necessity of our entertaining different points of view, I suggest that now it would be so cool for the Major Speakers Committee to invite a speaker from the Iraq Veterans Against the War. Or perhaps another Duke department could have a conversation between such a veteran and a military person of a different persuasion.

Sarah Schwab Freedman M.T.S. '92, Durham

Editor's note: Rove spoke at Duke in December at an event billed as "A Conversation with Karl Rove" (see news story). Freedman's letter was addressed to Peter Feaver, a professor of political science and the lecture's emcee; Michael Munger, chair of the political science department; and Bruce Kuniholm, director of the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy and a professor of public policy and history. The Sanford Institute and the political science department were among the event's co-sponsors. Kuniholm responds:

Last spring the Sanford Institute invited General Anthony Zinni, the former commanding general of CENTCOM, and one of the most significant and effective critics of the Bush administration's policies toward Iraq, here as a Sanford lecturer. He is also teaching for us this spring as the Sanford lecturer in residence. Earlier this past fall, we also hosted Paul Krugman, another Bush critic (although on a different set of subjects).

As a Marine officer who fought in Vietnam, as the father of a Marine officer who lost his arm in Iraq, and as an academic, I embrace with some passion your point about the necessity of entertaining different points of view (whether we agree with them or not) on some of the tough issues that have divided us as a nation, because I have personally experienced the consequences of what happens when debate is limited or stifled.

Debate is critical if we in the Duke community are to understand our differences, and such understanding can only happen if we learn to combat what we think are bad arguments with better arguments. Providing an opportunity for the exchange of some of those arguments is the role of universities, and that is precisely why I invited Tony Zinni and Paul Krugman to speak at Duke and co-sponsored the visit of Karl Rove.

Additional Letters

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


Correction: Owing to an editing error, the distance between Durham and Greenville, North Carolina, was incorrectly listed in "By the Numbers," January-February 2008. The correct distance is 110 miles.

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