It's a wonderful life

A belated expression of gratitude to the writers and editors for the cover feature "Coping in the Nineties" in the Winter 1996 (Volume 19, Number 3) issue of the Bulletin. I agree with the feature's introductory comments on the criteria used by most alumni publications, and society as a whole, in determining the worthiness of accomplishments for public recognition and celebration (i.e., attainment of professional honors and status, acquisition of power and wealth, good works for public welfare). Too often it is the personal accomplishments of others, usually more profound because of their triumph over personal adversity and self, that go unrecognized, the accomplishments of those living in the present, taking one day at a time, leading productive lives despite personal challenges.

Though I enjoy reading the Bulletin, one does grow tired of always hearing about "the beautiful people," or at least of the people of achievement as defined by societal norms, who make up only a small percentage of the whole. Celebration of personal accomplishment provides perspective, inspiration, and hope. Celebration of the "ordinary" provides acknowledgement that everyone does have an impact on the lives of others and the world around them, though not necessarily enough to the level of front page news--remember It's a Wonderful Life! (Some of the most interesting letters I've received over the years have been delightful narratives of what the writer feels is important in his or her life--often the joys and pains of their lives. How much more interesting it is read about persons who are similar to us and what we stand for.)

I have shared the Winter 1996 issue of the Bulletin with a number of friends and colleagues who have also been impressed with the "Coping" feature articles, their expressed sentiments similar to those I have expressed here.

Paul J. Soska III '85
Toledo, Ohio

The reason we didn't major in mathematics is showing

Congratulations on the outstanding Spring 1997 issue of the Bulletin, which I read with considerable interest. One quibble, though: as the parent of an alumna, Samantha Sanderson '91, and the imminent father-in-law of another, Charles Cammack '89, I've come to have great admiration for the creativity, verve, and purposefulness of Kenyon graduates. Still, I was almost incredulous about the day last December experienced by Manas Bapela '93, "seventeen hours in a plane and eight hours in an automobile." Is it because he is emerging as a world-class mathematician that he gets twenty-five while the rest of us have to settle for twenty-four?

Martin Krasney P'91
Sausalito, California

Return to the top of the page.

Time capsule

Who was Kenyon Gambier?
by Tom Stamp

This summer, while on vacation at a friend's summer home in Charlevoix, Michigan, I came across The White Horse and the Red-Haired Girl by an author named Kenyon Gambier. Intrigued, when I got back to campus I asked Special Collections Librarian Jami Peelle for information on the writer. She pointed out a Fall 1980 Bulletin article (first published in the Gambier Observer of November/December 1972) by the late Thomas B. Greenslade '31 that covered the essential elements of Kenyon Gambier's biography. An excerpt appears below.

The identity of Kenyon Gambier is revealed most easily by quoting President William Foster Peirce's citation read when the author received an honorary degree from Kenyon at the Commencement of 1925:

"The faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences confer the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters upon Lorin Andrews Lathrop, the +Kenyon Gambier' of the world of fiction. Mr. Lathrop was born in Gambier. His grandfather came to America in order to become a member of the faculty of Kenyon College. His father was a graduate of Kenyon and, at the time of his birth, principal of the preparatory school, Milnor Hall. The elder Lathrop, the father of +Kenyon Gambier,' was a great admirer of Kenyon's [Civil War] president, Lorin Andrews, who lies buried in the College cemetery close by. This child was named for Andrews.

"Mr. Lathrop has spent his life in the consular service of the United States. Before 1914 he attained distinction as a writer under the pen name of Andrew Loring, derived, as you see, from Lorin Andrews. When [World War I] broke out, he wished to write on certain political subjects more freely than a member of the consular service could readily do. It became necessary to adopt another pen name, and thus +Kenyon Gambier' came into being.

"It is with some relief that I present this candidate for the degree and make this announcement, for hundreds of times in the past few years I have been asked the identity of +Kenyon Gambier' of fiction. Every member of the faculty of English has been accused over and over again of responsibility for these excellent stories. A few weeks ago the faculty of arts and sciences took this action, cabled to Mr. Lathrop at his home in Nassau, and he immediately started for the United States in order to be present at this Commencement. We welcome a man who was born in Gambier and whose writings have given distinction to this place and to the college."

[In the summer of 1972] my wife, Mary, and I were driving on Route A368 near Bristol, England, where Lathrop spent many years as United States Consul, and suddenly came across the little village of Stanton Drew; the hero of The Mad Masquerade is "Stanton Drew, of Mount Vernon, Ohio, and Kenyon College."

Lathrop was born in Gambier in 1859 and died in Paris in1929. Kenyon Gambier's novels [which were serialized in The Saturday Evening Post] cannot be considered great literature, but they were entertaining, and they are of interest to Kenyonites for the author's connection with the College and the village.

Back to Top