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Of Flash, Dink, and Fiction

With reference to the amusing collection of “The Ten Greatest Yalies Who Never Were” (Feb.) by Mark Alden Branch, and with only memory to guide me, I wonder if Flash Gordon, the out-of-this-world 1930s comic strip hero, should have been included among them?

Is it possible that Flash Gordon’s creator (and wonderful draftsman) Alex Raymond might have been a real Yalie?

Itching to know!

Mr. Warren is right. The very first “Flash Gordon” strip in 1934 (below) identifies the hero as a “Yale graduate and world-renowned polo player.” Alex Raymond, though, went to Notre Dame. By the way, Buster Crabbe, the brawny Olympic swimmer who starred in the Flash Gordon movie serials, went to the University of Southern California—but he did star in the 1935 football film Hold 'Em Yale.—Eds.


As any reader of the alumni notes knows, Yale’s fictional alumni are mere shadows of the real offspring of Old Eli. However, the brief comments on the imaginary John Humperdink Stover are worthy of note for revealing Owen Johnson’s hidden agenda to give Yale its due for nurturing the intellectual life.

This resonates with a wayward thought I had recently when I learned the techni-cal meaning of “stover”: every part of the corn plant except the kernel. At present, these parts are waste. Of course, Stover is a not-uncommon family name, but I wonder, was Johnson trying to hint something about Dink?

Incidentally, Dink’s path from jock to scholar is parallel to current efforts to develop stover as a source of ethanol.


Yale Summer Program

Loved “A Slice of Life in Yale, Michigan” (Apr.). Can you tell me when the 2003 Yale Bologna Festival will be held and how to get information about it?

This year’s festival will be held July 25–27. For more information, go to yalechamber.com or call (810) 387-9253.—Eds.


Anti-Drug Ads Work

Contrary to the claims made by a letter writer (Mar.), the Partnership for a Drug-Free America accepts no funding from either alcohol or tobacco concerns.

There is no doubt that hard-hitting, consumer-focused, research-based messages are helping to change the minds of kids when it comes to drugs. Subrata K. Sen and his colleagues are hardly the only ones to reach this conclusion; published studies from researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Kentucky, among others, also speak to the effectiveness of our messages. Clearly, something is making a difference in the effort to reduce demand for illicit drugs: Today, compared to 1985—the year before the Partnership was formed—there are 7.4 million fewer regular drug users.

No one will suggest anti-drug ads alone will solve the drug problem, but experts agree they can make a difference.


Baraka Brouhaha

As an undergraduate from 1968 to 1972, I was one of the many white Yalies to march in protest during the Bobby Seale murder trial in 1970. Many of us shared Kingman Brewster’s skepticism about the ability of a black man to get a fair trial anywhere in America. I was not the only scrawny Jewish kid from the suburbs showing solidarity for oppressed blacks. We filled our lungs with tear gas for our troubles and had National Guardsmen aim rifles at us, which we later learned were loaded with live ammunition in those angry days, just weeks before the government-incited student murders at Kent State.

I now live in New Jersey, and I have watched an angry black man, Amiri Baraka, gain national notoriety through immature hate mongering. When questioned about his poem, “Somebody Blew Up America,” Mr. Baraka called on the authority of an Internet hate site. I am embarrassed that he received such a rousing welcome at Yale (“Faces,” Apr.), but I am not surprised.

My initial anger over the poem has turned to sadness. We humans have evolved intellectually in such a way that we try to reduce even complicated issues to simple black and white answers. Fear of “the other” is also an evolved propensity, which clouds our rational thoughts with biased passions. I realize that it was my mistake to expect more responsibility from a “poet laureate.”


How Grand the Strategy?

In at least three ways, John Lewis Gaddis does the Yale undergraduates so “lucky” to take his course on “Grand Strategy” (“Training the Next Leaders,” Mar.) a great disservice. First, he nourishes their illusion that there is a short-cut to mastery of “the big picture.” In fact, such mastery comes only through time and experience and through understanding of a variety of small pictures. Second, he fools them into believing that “Grand Strategy” itself is anything but the after-the-fact trick of seeing coherence in a set of measures taken with very little reference to one another. Finally, the comments of students interviewed for the article make clear that Professor Gaddis encourages in them what President Brewster once aptly characterized as “grim professionalism.”


Gifts in Bloom

Thank you for the beautifully nuanced portrait of Larry Kramer and the eponymous Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies (“Back in the Fold,” Apr.). Larry’s support has obviously been central to defining and expanding lesbian and gay studies at Yale. However, the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies, while vital, does not alone support the field here.

Through the years, several other important gifts have nourished lesbian and gay studies. An anonymous gift created the Fund for Lesbian and Gay Studies Research over a decade ago, supporting new scholarship through grants to faculty, students, and the libraries. The Adam R. Rose Teaching Fund continues to support visiting lesbian and gay studies faculty. The James Robert Brudner '83 Memorial Prize and Lecture Fund recognizes and awards leading scholars in the field. The Stephen T. Baker Professorship underwrites the provision of lesbian and gay studies at the undergraduate level. And a brand new fund, the Sarah Pettit Fund, honors the memory of a recently deceased young alumna whose efforts helped change the face of journalism for lesbian and gay people.

In addition to these funds, numerous other gifts have supported the ever-expanding profile of lesbian and gay studies. Too numerous to mention, their generous commitments to both Yale and lesbian and gay studies have long nourished that seedling these other gifts have caused to burst forth into full bloom.


The Secretest Society

Having just read Secrets of the Tomb by Alexandra Robbins '98 (“Faces,” Feb.), and having kept my own society secrets for more than 50 years, the time has come to report on Yale’s least-known, shortest-lived, and per capita most academically successful secret society.

The organization I refer to was known as the Fathers of the American Revolution (FAR). The four members first came together as participants in the Labor Party of the Yale Political Union.

Why did we form a secret society? Other than being at Yale, I do not know the answer. Gerald Hegarty '46 was probably the organizer. He came from a working-class Springfield, Massachusetts, family and had a very strong interest in Yale secret societies. He once broke into Skull and Bones to see what was inside.

We would all have been considered black-shoe in the Yale hierarchy of “white-shoe, brown-shoe, black-shoe.” Samuel Huntington '46 could have achieved white-shoe status, being a descendent of a Connecticut signer of the Declaration of Independence, but his total commitment to scholarship earned him his black-shoe status. Murray Gell-Mann '48 had entered Yale at the age of 13. His youth and obvious genius in physics and mathematics excluded him from any of the standard categories. I, Harold Morowitz, was outside of the mainstream at Yale, as I would have been at any university. Listening to my own drummer, I majored in physics and philosophy and had not yet acquired my passion for biophysics.

In any case, we met once a week, shared a bottle of wine, and talked about politics and how we would change Yale and change the world. It was not all that exciting, but it was enjoyable.

The society ceased regular meetings when Gerry graduated and went to the University of Michigan Law School. I was the next to graduate and went on to study biophysics at Yale’s Graduate School. Then, Sam and Murray were off to Harvard and MIT to study political science and physics.

A few years later, we had a JD and three PhDs among us. Gerry became a successful attorney in his hometown and was very active in community affairs. I spent most of my career at Yale as professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry and Master of Pierson College. I’ve written 16 or so books and am now Robinson Professor of Biology and Natural Philosophy at George Mason University. Sam has been on the faculty of Columbia and Harvard, where he is now Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor. He is the author of The Clash of Civilizations, one of the most influential political science books of our time. Murray is a Nobel laureate in physics and the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics of the California Institute of Technology. He is now associated with the Santa Fe Institute and the University of New Mexico. The members meet each other rarely, and have, I believe, lost all left-wing political sentiments. Gerry passed away a few years ago.

That is the basic story. After reviewing it, I still maintain that FAR is per capita the most successful Yale secret society, at least in terms of academic achievement of its members. Let’s have three cheers for the black-shoe brigade. If there is a moral to this story, it is that it probably could only have happened at Yale. That accounts for the affection many of us have for our alma mater.


A Tragic Flaw

Alas, that the Yale Alumni Magazine should misquote Shakespeare in the illustration accompanying the March article on “‘Seeing’ the Theater” (“Details”). Although this misquotation is all too common, a glance at page 1013 of The Yale Shakespeare would have shown you that what Hamlet says in “A Churchyard near Elsinore” is not “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well,” but “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.”



In the March article “Collateral Damage,” we refer to Deane Keller’s son as Deane Keller Jr. His name is Deane G. Keller. Also, the senior Keller’s papers and photographs were donated to Yale by his wife, Katherine H. Keller, not by his sons.



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