Letters to the Editor

The Bulletin welcomes letters of three hundred or fewer words. Letters to the editor may be used for publication unless the author states the letter is not to be published. Letters may be edited for style, length, clarity, grammar, and relevance to Kenyon issues. Please address submissions to: Editor, Kenyon College Alumni Bulletin, Office of Public Affairs, Gambier, Ohio 43022. Letters may also be submitted to alumni@kenyon.edu or through our online feedback form.


When I was a small boy, my attention was diverted by a series of numbers tattooed in dark blue on the forearm of a neighborhood woman. She was escorting her young son onto a camp bus my brother had just boarded. I was small, so the tattooed serial number appeared right at eye level. My loving mother, sensing my perplexity, took me home and told me in simple and chilling terms of the destruction of the European Jews, explained how our family avoided their fate, and pointedly noted that the woman's tattoo was Hitler's way of depriving our neighbor of her humanity for a time.

When I became a father and my children expressed an interest in tattoos, I told them that if applying a tattoo to a person's skin was Hitler's method of segregating one race from another, marking the former for slavery and slaughter, we as a family should have nothing of staining our skins. They understood.

And so as a Kenyon alumnus ('67, literature and religion) and father of a Kenyon alumnus ('05, classics), I was disappointed that the alumni magazine proudly displayed a gallery of photos of tattooed Kenyon undergraduates. Surely there were some other aspects of the liberal arts curriculum--the same humanistic curriculum that boasts a role in countering depraved ideologies--that merited portrayal.

-Richard G. Freeman '67 P'05

The mark of a Kenyon education

I want to thank you for the artful piece on thoughtful tattoos of Kenyon College students. Too often, and usually across a generation gap or two, tattoos and those who choose them are misunderstood. The mark of the amazing education and experience Kenyon College offers its students and eventual alumni was displayed in each of those pictures and the corresponding stories. No matter your belief system (or lack thereof), none of us had any say in how we looked coming into the world. But our choices lead to our experiences, like our times at Kenyon, and have a say in how we look on our way out. Besides walking every day in the spirit of inquiry and critical thinking that a Kenyon degree affords, I think a tattoo is an amazing physical symbol of all that we've learned and will keep with us forever. Tattoos are as personal as the choice to come to Kenyon, the classes we take whilst there, the connections we make and cultivate once we leave, and what we make of our experience for the years beyond. Thank you for thinking outside of the box and demonstrating that art and knowledge, when they collide, look different and beautiful!

-Kelly Dillon '00

P.S.-Yes, I have some ink myself and one is based on a story I learned while studying abroad in a program (and class) recommended by a Kenyon professor. Coincidentally, I learned the same story in a religion class--same impact/moral, different belief system.

Favorite issue

I had to write and let you know how much my family enjoyed "Inked"! With three small children, I rarely have time to read anything and usually just pass the Bulletin on to my husband, who is also an alumnus. This issue immediately caught my attention and I happily took a break from laundry, dishes, and children to sit down and read it. The stories were heartfelt, the tattoo designs were flawless, and the photography was inspiring. To say that it was my favorite issue would be an understatement. My husband, who wears Jack London's book print (a wolf) proudly on his shoulder, loved it as well. Thank you for making us feel more in touch with our alma mater.

-Maggie Fielding Martin '00

What a disappointment

I don't want to sound like an old fogey, but what a disappointment in the cover and the article "Inked" in the spring/summer issue of the Bulletin. Surely there are students accomplishing more than the defacement and debasement of their bodies with these ugly tattoos. They will be scarred with these for the rest of their lives--both physically and, eventually, emotionally. At least Margaret Hughes's blazing purple/red hair can be changed when she grows up! The tattoo will be difficult if not impossible to remove or cover up. What a shame. And shame on you for glamorizing this inane activity.

I do think the layouts, headings, illustrations, and organization are fine. I'm not sure I could tell you which ones are "new."

I found the rest of the articles really interesting stories/insights into students and alumni achievements. Particularly interesting to me were "Steen Begat," "Phenomenal," "Death on the Tracks," and the feature on Jane Reiss (what a great job!).

I look forward to receiving the Bulletin and its usually positive, upbeat portrayal of Kenyon.

-Joseph A. Hall '52

Perfect cover, fine issue

At one point as a sophomore at Kenyon, I had a pierced nose, pierced tongue, and buzz cut. I needed people to see how fiercely I despised social norms around beauty and gender, and this was before having multiple piercings was less interesting than having a golden retriever. Now I don't have any piercings, and am a suburban mom. But I do have a tattoo. I got it done after I left Kenyon, but it marks my time there, because it was done to memorialize dear friends who died before they could graduate with me. It says "Be Brave." It's a reminder to me that I have a responsibility to do things that scare me, because my friends did not have the same opportunity to take risks and reap the rewards.

In "Inked," I saw confirmation of what I know and try to explain to people who find tattoos offensive, tacky, or stupid. A tattoo is a way to write clearly for yourself and everyone who sees it what is important to you. If the thing a young person wants to share, to remember, to hold closely to her forever, right on her very surface, is a love of knowledge, of art, of philosophy, of music, or even of family, then I say that's a good indication that person should be admitted to Kenyon College. I
can think of nothing more "Kenyon" to me than a girl with purple hair and a Virginia Woolf tattoo.

To me, the photo was a perfect cover for the Alumni Bulletin, especially a redesigned one. It introduced an era during which I hope an audience of young(ish) alumni like myself--for whom tattoos are no more offensive than wearing jeans at the office--will discover, share, and continue to enjoy the Bulletin.

Congratulations on a very fine issue.

-Emily (Huigens) Berry '00

Remarkable from cover to cover

The latest Kenyon Alumni Bulletin is remarkable!! From cover to cover. It is also an issue that mentions at least forty friends by name. How many other college journals can say that? And it even reviewed Bruce Haywood's new book! Job well done!

The article on body image, or images on a body, so eloquently enflames the liberal arts ideal. The lust for knowledge and wisdom is alive and well at Kenyon College. These commitments made by the students in their zeal to a life-long statement are astonishing enough. It is also a watershed experience for me. Thank you to Amy Blumenthal, and to Stefan Hester for the great pix.

I am the father of daughters and sons-in-law. All inked. Their statements have been made, but were not carefully listened to by me. My alma mater recognizing tattoos as art suddenly gives them the "cred" that such pain has never had before!

Consider that in my USAF experience, post-Kenyon ROTC, I navigated my crew and plane to the Philippines. I did not get a tattoo.

I am torn by the cover photo of Lucy Hughes. She has a representation of her favorite author and muse, with her hair color/piercing in the fashion. Such is my youngest daughter, who changes her color every week and has plenty of alternative "jewelry." She hasn't found her passion yet, but she's only a child of thirty. She was accepted at Kenyon but made her own choices.

I gave an impromptu sermon on "Being Fated to Attend Kenyon College" when P.F. Kluge came to speak at a New York alumni event. We spoke of Denny Sutcliffe and his exposition of the greatest novel, Moby-Dick. Mr. Brendan O'Connor takes on the Great White Whale, in its original line drawing by Rockwell Kent. So much comes together in such a small space of three square inches. With a name like Brendan, he should come to understand navigation too. I plan to meet him and give him a legacy of KC, a trust.

The other students' choices are equally laudable.

I'll bet this launches a new campaign among the folks to amuse, astound, and bewilder. Is the rest of the world ready yet for Kenyon graduates?

-Peter Fluchere '70

Profound dismay

Your call for feedback in the current issue of the Alumni Bulletin dovetails perfectly with my need to convey my response to this edition. First, let me say, I have been happy to see the many improvements you and your staff have made to the Alumni Bulletin, including (not surprisingly) a couple of my own suggestions. The design, layout, and photography have me starting from the front, working my way back to the Class Notes. I particularly enjoyed the "plot summary" issue, but can we please give the "lens baby--out of focus picture sides" special effect a rest?

It was with profound dismay I saw the latest issue: Body Image. An appalling story choice on many levels. First, while tattoos have become somewhat fashionable in some "polite" and "hipster" segments of society, they are primarily hallmarks of gangs and criminals. Their adoption by the middle class is akin to tobacco use by young people: immature defiance, self-destructive, and short-sighted. Further, as late as the 1970s, tattoos were indicators often used in the diagnosis of psychopathy. For workers in mental institutions, a cardinal rule for personal safety was: never, EVER, let a tattooed patient get behind you. Second, the older generations that are ready to make large donations and bequests will definitely not approve. For the vast majority, tattoos are simply disreputable. Third, what's the point? What is the story telling us? We are told that these students' "intellectual passions" have brought them to perform this deed, with the implication that it is worthy. To the contrary, I submit that giving them a cover story is like giving trophies to all the children playing in a soccer game. The only action these students took was to select a design and sit while it was applied--by someone else!

Then there is a justification pretext that the "body as text" with "wrinkles, scars, and grey hair" tells the bodies' story. Sounds good, except that tattoos are not the result of hard work, assiduousness, or dedication--traits the Bulletin should be showcasing. How nice it would have been to read about scars created by living life. Imagine a story chronicling a group of students who had spent their spring break or summer working for Habitat for Humanity, a pursuit that might necessarily result in blackened thumbs, scrapes, cuts, stitches, and even a broken finger or two that are inevitable with sustained hard work. Or, perhaps, a story of students so passionate regarding various authors and pieces of literature that more advocacy groups were forming than Nu Pi Kappa could hold! They were holding contests of dramatic readings to champion their favorites! Wow! What if the new film major and drama department got involved and together they created little productions of these dramatic readings, videos that had to be shown at Rosse Hall to accommodate the enthusiastic student body!

Featuring tattooed students was a dreadful mistake.

-Richard Titus '80

Pleased and delighted

I was pleased and delighted by your cover story about the connection between the intellectual passion of Kenyon students and their tattoos.

I think the prevalence of tattoos represents an interesting cultural and generational shift happening in America right now. For example, a 2006 study by researchers from Northwestern University found that 36 percent of Americans aged eighteen to twenty-nine now have a tattoo, but only 15 percent of those aged forty to fifty have one. The Alumni Bulletin shows foresight by exploring Kenyon's contribution to this indisputable national trend.

On a personal note, as a Kenyon alum with an armful of H.P. Lovecraft tattoos, I felt a real connection to Kenyon as a consequence of this story.

Keep up the excellent work.

-Scott Kenemore '00

Dekes deserve a better grade

In the more than fifty-five years since I graduated, I have been proud to stay involved as an active Kenyon alumnus. One reason for my attachment to the College was my involvement in the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. I was disappointed to see the DKE chapter occupying a lower level on the pass/fail thermometer on page five of the last Alumni Bulletin.

I have been in touch with members of the Lambda DKE Alumni Association, who work with the actives to reform fraternal governance and improve the chapter. They understand the seriousness of disciplinary sanctions against the Dekes and will work on achieving the goals agreed upon by them and the administration. But they also are of the opinion that Dekes and other fraternities have been responsible for many constructive projects. I share that opinion. In the past two years, Dekes helped collect over $7,000 for ALS research in honor of Professor of Drama Tom Turgeon. For more than a decade, the chapter has organized a benefit giving presents to needy children in Knox County at the Shawn Kelly Memorial Christmas Party. Further, Dekes have consistently scored high academic marks in class.

I fear that the near-failing grade appearing in the same issue as the tragic death of Stuart Pierson in 1905 will leave readers with a negative impression of DKE and Greek life in general. There is no excuse for any infraction, but there have been many favorable actions by Dekes and all of the Greek organizations. While DKE's rush activity received a near-failing grade in the Alumni Bulletin, I believe they offer many positives to Kenyon's campus life.

-Philip R. Currier '56 P'82

editor's note: See page twelve for an example of A+ work by the DKEs.

Coach's philosophy

I would like to commend the Alumni Bulletin, along with Dan Laskin and Kent Hannon, for the great article on Kenyon swimmers who have gone on to become swim coaches. This topic is one of particular significance to me, not only as a former Kenyon swimmer but as one who has spent the past three years as a swim coach for the Mt. Lebanon Aqua Club, a large swim team in Pittsburgh. My perspective on Coach Steen is unique in that I spent my first two years at Kenyon as a swimmer and my last two as a student assistant for the team. From a new vantage point on the pool deck, I got to watch Coach inspire his swimmers to be their best. I learned more about the sport of swimming in those two years working alongside Coach and his outstanding assistant coaches at the time, Aaron Weddle and Kate Kovenock, than I had in eleven years as an athlete. I draw on my years with Kenyon swimming every day in my work. The article did an excellent job of highlighting many of Coach Steen's philosophies that have shaped Kenyon swimming, and I'll dare to add one more: while Coach is confident in his abilities, he is also a humble guy who never believes he has all the answers. He's always learning and changing his approach, always searching for a better way. As Kenyon swimmers, we are encouraged to do the same.

This philosophy is, I believe, a major contributing factor to the prolonged success of the program. Thank you for the article and for sharing this piece of the Kenyon swimming story with the larger Kenyon community.

-Jake Hoyson '08

A mighty protest

I protest mightily for myself and my classmates who read the Alumni Bulletin. In your last edition's "Letters," Caroline Crowell '11 wrote that Alfred Blake "...did not die in the prime of his life...he died...at the ripe old age of sixty-seven."

Madame, poor Alfred died prematurely, hardly more than a snot-nosed kid, at only the beginning of mid-life, in the prime of his life.

I don't doubt Caroline is a good person and means no offense. We should forgive her naiveté.

Oh to be only sixty-seven again!! I just wish Sam Todd '47 would stop writing me about his tennis game.

-P.J. Wall '49

Grammar lapse

I don't mean to be nitpicky, but the liberal arts education that I received at Kenyon inclines me to do so. Kenyon is indeed very special to me, which is why I eagerly read every Alumni Bulletin. Imagine my dismay at seeing this copy: "You wouldn't be reading this magazine if Kenyon wasn't [sic] special to you" (page 50). The word "if" always takes the subjunctive, so the statement should read thus: "You wouldn't be reading this magazine if Kenyon weren't special to you." Although I was not an English major (I chose to major in philosophy), I know that Kenyon College has one of the top English departments of any college in the country. I would expect no less than proper grammar in our alumni magazine!

-Megan B. Pomeroy '90

Mistaken identity

I am a 1960 graduate of Kenyon. What do you think of when you ponder 1960? JFK being elected? The U-2 spy plane? Mazeroski for President, perhaps? Well, most of all I think of how fortunate I was to have such great professors as Denny Sutcliffe and Virgil Aldrich during my college years.

You have committed a big faux pas on page 67 of the Spring/Summer Alumni Bulletin by putting a photo of Sutcliffe where Virgil Aldrich's should have been. I know it has been over half a century since Kenyon had these great men on the faculty, but they deserve to be correctly identified!

-Philip Levering '60

A dear Kenyon friend

It was with great sadness that I belatedly learned of the passing of a dear Kenyon friend, Myron "Mike" Harrison '65. While we were not close in later years, the memories of the past rushed in and all appeared as if only a fraction of time had passed by. "Our Time" is trapped in an impenetrable sphere that preserves us as we were when we believed that we could not be swallowed by the cosmos, but continue that wonderful trek we began forty-five years ago to a time and place not defined by years.

Alas, we have come to find our bodily temples crumbling and realize that we are but chaff to be blown a short distance, fall to the ground, and become assimilated by the clay beneath. To be reborn? A question that can be answered only by science or technology, but a mystery we will solve only after we pass the veil.

Mike gave to me, and I am sure many others, that camaraderie that can only be found in a place like Kenyon College during those years when 550 men strolled the campus, played the games, wenched, and drank their brains out. Peoples have had their Elysiums, Valhallas, Camelots, and God knows what other dream worlds. We had Kenyon, and it was unique and can never be forgotten or replicated.

As we fail and come to know that Hermes (reprised by Larry Brown in our initiations) and the River Styx await us, if all is good and right, Mike will be there to greet us. I will hear "Newwwwwwks!"

-Steve Newcomer '65

Not so cautious

Wow! One of your past parents brought me a copy of the Kenyon magazine this morning. It is gorgeous. I love the organic feel of it, the shape, the edgy cover, the layout, the fonts, the photos, the range of articles--everything.

This is particularly difficult for me as an Oberlin grad and a former NCAA player who had a pretty fixed notion of Kenyon as a good but somewhat conservative school that did things well but maybe too cautiously. Would it be shallow of me to put Kenyon on my daughter's college look list just because I love your magazine?


-Sherri Bergman

correction: The Bulletin failed to list Bruce Haywood H'80 as the editor of Letters From Europe.

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