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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."

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Saturday, July 31, 2010


My rediscovery of Susie started with a trip to Dubrovnik, and throughout our marriage, we have traveled as often as we could arrange for me to be away from the university. I was eager to make up for the long stretch of years during which I had stayed close to home because of Cindy's phobias, and Susie loves to travel, for all that it takes her a week to pack for an overnight jaunt. I was making trips to South Africa at least once and often twice a year, and on several of them, Susie flew out to meet me after my USSAS business was done so that we could go on safari. Although my first attempt at a safari had been a comic disaster, I still longed to see the wild animals and birds of the African plains. The easiest and least expensive way to do that in South Africa is to make a driving visit to the Kruger National Park, located in the northeast corner of the country. Kruger is enormous -- two hundred fifty miles from north to south, roughly the distance from Boston to Philadelphia. The park is crisscrossed with roads, and the rules are that you stay on the roads and in your car. Even so, in several days driving slowly this way and that, you can see lions prowling, elephants tearing the tops off trees, hyenas fighting over the remain of a kill, eagles, vultures, Lilac Breasted Rollers, herds of impala and zebra, giraffe, even on occasion an elusive rhinoceros. During one of our several visits, I was driving slowly along a road in the northern part of the park when I came upon a large elephant walking parallel to the road in the brush with her baby beside her. I followed along for a while, but she grew irritated by my presence and suddenly wheeled into the road in front of me, flaring her ears and making it very clear that she did not want me around. As carefully as I could, I backed up until she lost interest in me and disappeared into the brush. One of our other trips occurred in the early Spring [which is to say, October or November, it being the Southern Hemisphere.] The mothers had recently given birth, and everywhere we looked, we saw baby animals -- elephants, giraffe, impala, wildebeest, even a hyena nursing her young by the side of the road. I am not much for tourist attractions, but safaris actually live up to the travel company hype.

Far and away our best safari -- and, taking all in all, our best trip of any sort -- was ten days in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. This was a real safari -- private camps, crashing through the brush in open Land Rovers, sundowner cocktails by the boot of the truck on the open veldt, lavish dinners at night in our elegantly tented camp. One day, as we were driving across the open plain, we came upon a pride of seven or eight female lions lying lazily on a mound. As we paused, they got up, one after the other, and padded off. We followed, and after a bit they flopped down on another mound maybe half a mile away. Then they were off again, and this time with a serious purpose in mind. In the distance we saw several warthogs grazing -- not much of a meal for seven lions, but apparently they were hungry. As we trailed after the pride, they approached the warthogs slowly from downwind, and very carefully, clearly communicating with one another, began to position themselves in a net around their prey. The lions were low to the ground, using the tall grass to hide them. We sat very still, actually inside the circumference of the net they had created, watching. Suddenly, by a signal we could not hear or see, three of the lions charged simultaneously -- and missed! The warthogs skittered away as fast as their little legs could carry them. The lions gathered together, rubbed noses and heads, and plopped down to rest.

Susie and I returned to Dubrovnik twice more, and spent a lovely time touring northern Italy in a rented car, but somehow we found ourselves coming back again and again to Paris. Our very first Paris trip was in 1987, even before we were married, to visit Patrick and his Isabel. Very quickly, we fixed upon the île St. Louis as a lovely and centrally located quartier in which to stay. The first two or three times we went, we stayed at first one and then another little hotel on the main street of the île, but then I stumbled on an advertisement in the back pages of the New York Review of Books. A Washington, D. C. psychiatrist, Dr. Eugene Frank, was offering an apartment on a side street of the île St. Louis for short term rentals, and we began going for a week at a time.

Those were happy visits, made memorable by lovely walks, exquisite meals, and even the occasional trip to a museum. On one occasion, we met Marx Wartofsky and Carol Gould, who were spending time in a rented apartment with their new baby son. The four of us had dinner at La Miraville, a one-star restaurant that is unfortunately no longer on the right bank quai. Susie and I returned there for a Christmas Eve dinner several years later and I ordered a beignet de foie gras that virtually floated off plate. I can taste it still.

We tried cruises, three in all. The first was a standard tourist excursion around the Hawaiian Islands. Next, we signed up for a Mass Audubon bird watching cruise to Baja, California. Finally, we joined a Harvard/Stanford Alumni/ae tour of the Dalmatian Coast that started at Athens and ended at Venice. All of these cruises suffered from the same problem, in my eyes. We were trapped on a boat for a week or more with people we did not know, whose politics we could only guess. Under the circumstances, the only safe thing to do was to eat, and the only safe things to talk about were grandchildren and previous cruises. Two moments stand out in my memory, both on the Athens-to-Venice cruise. In Athens, before we got on the boat, we were strolling downtown, checking out the new subway being built for the Olympics. The traffic was pretty heavy, and I noticed a truck stuck in a driveway waiting to get out onto the street. Now, I do not know any Greek, but as a result of a life spent teaching philosophy, I have learned to read the Greek alphabet, so having nothing better to do, I sounded out the word printed on the side of the truck. It was μεταφοροσ [I hope I have that right], which is to say "metaphoros." In other words, "metaphor." It was a moving van. The scales fell from my eyes, and I realized what the word "metaphor" means. And then it struck me that the word "metaphor" is a metaphor. How cool is that!

The other event was a bit darker. The tour directors had arranged some lectures to amuse us when we tired of eating. One of the speakers was Marvin Kalb, the long-time television news reporter and commentator who was then the director of something called the Shorenstein Center at Harvard. This cruise was in September, 2002, during the run up to America's invasion of Iraq, so Kalb devoted his lecture to a discussion of the pros and cons of the Bush Administration plans. During the question period, I raised my hand and made a comment about America's imperial foreign policy. There was a round of applause when I finished, but Kalb, this literate, educated, sophisticated public intellectual, assured me that America was not an empire, offering as proof the observation that our motives and intentions were always benign and altruistic. I realized that I was in the presence of an idiot, and shut up. Later, on the line at the buffet table at dinner, several people came up to me and very quietly thanked me for speaking up.

On December 31, 2003, Susie and I made our last mortgage payment on our Pelham house and owned it outright. The next April, we rented Dr. Frank's apartment once again and flew to Paris for a one week stay. On the plane, I said to Susie, "This time around, why don't we go into a real estate office and pretend that we are rich Americans looking to buy a pied à terre in Paris. We will get to see the insides of some apartments, and it will be fun." She was game, so the next day, we went around the corner to a little office on the île St. Louis and made our pitch. They were happy to oblige, and in the next few days we got to see four or five apartments. Spotting us as Jewish right off the bat, they started in the Marais, near rue des francs bourgeois, the heart of the old Jewish section, but Susie and I really had our hearts set on the Left Bank. The agent came up with a small rez de chaussėe studio in a seventeenth century building that formed part of a copropriėtė, or co-op, on a little one block long street called rue Maître Albert, which runs between quai de la tournelle and Place Maubert. I was thrilled when I discovered that Maître Albert was actually Albertus Magnus, the great thirteenth century teacher of Thomas Aquinas, but the apartment looked to me to be a disaster -- dark, gloomy, the walls covered with ugly brown grass paper.

We continued looking, but Susie had a vision I lacked, and insisted that we return to the little studio. With her help, I began to see its possibilities, and on Friday, we agreed to buy it. Getting a French mortgage is a complicated undertaking, so we decided to re-mortgage our Pelham house, so recently freed of all encumbrances, and buy the apartment outright. I asked myself, "Which would our four sons prefer to inherit when we die -- a fully paid up house in Pelham that not one of them will ever want to spend the night in, or a house in Pelham mortgaged to the hilt and a fully paid up apartment on the Left Bank in Paris?" The question answered itself.

We found an elegant "interior architect," Victoire de Boissieu, who transformed our gloomy flat into a light, airy, lovely, efficient apartment -- tiny by American standards, but more than adequate for a Parisian couple. To fill the shelves Victoire had designed, I brought over my complete forty volume set of the works of Marx and Engels [in German], all of my books about Immanuel Kant, and one copy of every edition of every book I had written, some sixty or seventy volumes in all. I threw in my small collection of French history from my days at Harvard teaching European history, and we settled in. It was an insane extravagance, and the smartest purchase Susie and I have ever made.

With the new millennium looming, Patrick decided to bring his professional chess career to an end and return to college to finish up his undergraduate degree. In 1995, Viswanathan Anand, the great young Indian Grandmaster, played Gary Kasparov for the world title. Anand hired Patrick as a second, and Patrick spent months training with "Vishy" for the face off, later publishing a book about the match. Patrick told me that seeing the level at which Anand played, and recognizing what it would take for him to rise to that level and become a genuine contender for the world title, he decided not to continue his professional career as a chess player. After completing his degree at Harvard, Patrick got a job with a business consulting firm. A year or so later, he moved to the West Coast and worked for two little dot com start-ups, neither of which was able to get off the ground.

While Patrick was in Silicon Valley, he decided to try his luck at on-line dating. Wonder of wonders, he met a simply marvelous young woman, Diana Schneider, who was working in San Francisco for a non-profit. Patrick had described himself in his little on-line blurb as a "former United States chess champion." I guess absolute accuracy is not all that common in the on-line dating world, and Diana apparently said to herself, "Yeah, right. Let's see who he really is." I met Diana in 2000 at the seventieth birthday party that my sister threw for herself in Washington, D. C. I was totally taken by her, and was beside myself with delight when Patrick announced some time later that he and Diana would be married.

The couple settled on a Napa Valley winery as the location for the affair, and picked July 14th as the date. I very much wanted to believe that Bastille Day had a political meaning to them, but I am afraid it was just a date that turned out to be convenient for everyone. Susie and I had met Diana's parents, Larry and Elizabeth, on an earlier trip to the West Coast. Just as you do not get to choose your relatives, so you do not, at least in our society, get to choose your in-laws. I had been rather unlucky with Cindy's parents, but Larry and Elizabeth turned out to be charming and sympatico. Larry was retired from a career as a college teacher, and I did not have to worry about making political remarks.

Patrick and Diana asked Barbara's son, Josh, to preside. Josh is actually a professor of psychology at Alleghany College in Meadville, PA, but he has also had careers as a baritone sax player, a tour guide in Russia, a story teller, and a lay minister. With great foresight, I had spent the previous summer dieting and working out with a personal trainer, so I actually looked pretty svelte in my tux. I danced at my son's wedding, and toasted him with champagne. When you get to be sixty-eight, as I was then, there is not much more you can ask.

During these same years, Tobias went from being a brilliant law student, an appellate court clerk, an Associate at Paul Weiss, and an Assistant Professor of Law at UC Davis to being the leading young Civil Proceduralist in academic law, a powerful voice for gay legal rights, and an important public intellectual. I watched every step of this transformation, and yet it continues to astonish and delight me. Tobias has played an important part in almost every successful legal effort to win marriage rights for same-sex couples in State courts. In 2004, he advised the Kerry campaign on LGBT issues, and in 2008, he was invited to serve as Chair of the Advisory Committee on LGBT issues to the Obama campaign. When Obama accepted the Democratic Party's nomination in Denver, he and I were in the audience [along with a football stadium of other people, of course.] Now, Tobias is a tenured Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania, ending, as I write these words, a year spent visiting at Harvard and NYU Law Schools. He consults regularly with the White House and various branches of the Administration on the Defense of Marriage Act, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy [on both of which he has written excoriatingly], and many other issues of public importance. I think it is a fair judgment to say that at the age of forty, he has already had a much larger impact on public policy than have I in a lifetime of writing.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Life wasn't all program building and good works, heaven knows. A good deal of fun stuff happened once we had all survived the Y2K panic. While the new decade, century, and millennium were getting themselves going, I decided to make a serious re-entry into the world of amateur chamber music. As with so many important turning points in my life, this came about quite by accident. Susie and I were shopping at a little fresh produce market one day -- a sort of Whole Foods without the pretension and self importance -- when we ran into Barbara Greenstein, a fellow resident of Pelham and wife of George, an Amherst College Physics Professor. Barbara was a warm, lively, pixy of a woman, deeply involved in all manner of Valley good works, and also a long-time serious classical quartet player. She knew that I had played a little violin in my time, and invited me to join her at her home for some quartets that next week. I dusted off my violin [and the bow I had bought at the urging of Rose Mary Harbison], and sat in as second violin. With her signature kindness, Barbara assured me that I had not done badly, but of course I knew better.

In Watertown, I had switched to viola, the better to find people willing to tolerate my playing, so I decided that if I was going to give quartets a try, I had better stay with that instrument and find someone to teach me how to play the thing. Stammel Strings, the local Amherst luthier, kept a mimeographed list of people in the Valley who offered lessons on the violin and viola, and I picked a woman who played viola with a local early music group that Susie and I liked. But she turned out to be having carpel tunnel problems [the bane of string players], so I went down the list a bit further and found another woman living in the town of Hadley, which sits like a strip mall between Northampton and Amherst. I made the call, and was set up for a first lesson.

Delores Thayer turned out to be a tall, beautiful blond woman who was co-principal violist of the nearby Springfield Symphony Orchestra -- a serious professional musician. After listening to me play for a bit, she started me out with a C major three octave scale -- one small step beyond learning which hand to hold the instrument with. Thus began an extraordinary eight year journey that brought me, by dint of countless hours of practice and weekly ninety minute lessons, to a point at which I could do a creditable job of the viola part in a middle Beethoven quartet or Schubert's Trout Quintet. I studied every major and minor three octave scale. I learned how to play them one note on a bow, two notes, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven [hard one, that], and twelve notes on a bow. I studied all of the natural, harmonic, and melodic minor scales, and then began on two octave double stop scales -- thirds, fourths, sixths, and octaves. I worked my way slowly and with great determination through Kreutzer and every other book of exercises Dolores had on her shelf, and tackled one solo piece after another, even essaying the Spring Sonata and the Bach Suites for unaccompanied cello, arranged for the viola.

A word about the little matter of arrangements for the viola. In the world of string instruments, the viola don't get no respect. There are websites devoted entirely to viola jokes [example: What is the difference between a lawnmower and a viola? Answer: You can tune a lawnmower.] Relatively little in the way of solo literature, or even exercise books, has been written expressly for the viola, so violists subsist on arrangements, usually from the vast violin literature, but sometimes, as in the case of the Bach Suites, from the smaller but still impressive cello literature. The one corner of the musical world in which the viola is acknowledged and respected is in the domain of the string quartet. I mean, if you don't have a viola, a quartet is just a trio. I had no illusions about being a solo violist, of course, nor even any real desire to be one. I just wanted to play well enough to be invited to participate in amateur quartets.

Very early on, I made a rather surprising discovery about arrangements. Many of the ones I was playing had been made by Joseph Vieland. Joe and Vera Vieland had been among my parents' closet friends, and I actually learned from their daughter not too many years ago that it was the Vielands who recommended to my parents that I study the violin with Irma Zacharias.

As a boy, I never practiced [I am here rehearsing some things that I say in Volume One, Chapter One of this Memoir, for those of you who joined me along life's way], but since I was, as teachers liked to say to parents, "talented," I managed to learn to play with some rudimentary facility. This time around was a totally different experience. Loree Thayer was a no-nonsense teacher, and I think she quickly sensed in me a pupil who was ready to do some serious work. Each day, I would go into the second floor spare bedroom next to my study and practice for an hour. Now, an hour a day is not much practicing for a real student of a string instrument. Those boys and girls on the way to careers as performers think nothing of putting in six or even eight hours of hard work each day. One hour, for them, is just a kind of clearing of the throat, some leg stretches before the serious running begins. But an hour was a great deal more than I had ever done, and before too long I could hear the difference. I actually learned how to play in tune.

Some things eluded me. Despite weeks on end of boring repetition and finger exercises, I never did develop a slow, beautiful vibrato. I had learned a sort of nervous shake as a boy, and could not break that bad habit. But I did learn how to play double stops, which as a boy had intimidated and baffled me.

Very shortly after I began my lessons, Barbara invited me to join several of her friends for regular weekly quartet playing. Don White, a retired professor, was a short man with considerable facility on both the violin and the viola. He would play first violin. Don actually had a case that could hold both a violin and a viola nestled side by side, something I had never seen before, but that I learned is common in the amateur quartet world. Barbara Davis was our cellist. Barbara was a young mother [young compared with the rest of us, that is to say] married to a neurologist who was in practice with Susie's MS doctor. Barbara was very self-deprecating, but she had a beautiful tone, and since, as viola, I sat next to her, I got to enjoy that sound while we played.

I was hopelessly outmatched by Don and the two Barbaras. They had been playing quartets forever, it seemed. Barbara Greenstein, who was several years older than I, had started when she was a girl, and told stories about her own teacher, who lived to be a hundred. Although each Haydn or Mozart or Beethoven quartet we played was an old, familiar friend to the three of them, it was terra incognita to me. Their customary modus operandi was simply to sit down and say, "What shall we play today?" But I insisted that they decide a week in advance which several quartets we would attempt, so that I could work on the viola parts before we met.

Real amateur quartet playing is a social as much as a musical event. At its best, it is a conversation among the instruments, and through the instruments, among the players. Really to enjoy amateur quartet playing, you have to like the people you are playing with. In addition, the second violinist, the violist, and the cellist have to be fortunate enough to find a first violinist who is willing to play with them despite being a great deal more proficient than they. The reason is that in the classical literature -- Haydn, Mozart, early and middle Beethoven, Schubert -- the first violin part is much, much harder than the other three. Indeed, in some cases, as for example in the Haydn opus 20 quartets, the first violin part is really a virtuoso turn with accompaniment from the rest of the quartet. Now, human nature and musical enjoyment being what they are, a violinist good enough to do a creditable job with the first violin part is probably going to want to play with folks who are up to his or her speed, so it is rare indeed to find four amateurs who will stay together and really enjoy playing with one another.

For some reason, with a generosity and patience at which I marvel even now, many years later, Don White and Barbara Greenstein and Barbara Davis chose to put up with my inferior playing as I practiced and practiced to catch up with them. Eventually, I think I did, and I hope that in the end they found it as enjoyable to play with me as I did to play with them.

The turning point came, in my mind at any rate, when we undertook to play Beethoven's Opus 59, Number 3, the third of the three Razumovsky quartets [so called because Beethoven dedicated them to Count Razumovsky]. As good fortune would have it, Susie and I were scheduled to spend a month in our Paris apartment just then, so I took my viola with me and devoted the month to working on my part. I figured -- four movements, four weeks, one week on each movement. Since the apartment is very small, Susie would sit in the little courtyard garden, or maybe go have her hair done, while I sawed away and tried to get myself up to speed. I say "get myself up to speed" advisedly, because the last movement poses some serious challenges. It is written by Beethoven in the form of a fugue, and mirabile dictu, the viola starts off. This, I can tell you, is very unusual in the classical quartet literature. I had a recording of the piece by the Emerson Quartet, who are well known for playing at manic speeds, and by my watch, they played the last movement at 165 quarter notes to the minute, a tempo so fast one cannot actually listen to the music. I took that as just another example of their bravado until I looked at a facsimile of the original and discovered that Beethoven himself had scored it for that speed.

Well, 165 was out of the question, so I started out legato, mastered the fingerings and bowings, and slowly ratcheted up the speed as the week went by. As we prepared to leave for home, I managed to play the entire movement at 100 quarter notes to the minute. Not even two-thirds what Beethoven called for, but not chopped chicken liver either. I hoped my quartet mates would be satisfied. Oh, did I mentioned that it is a simply gorgeous quartet?

When we met and started to play, I soldiered through the first three movements, steeling myself for my big solo in the last movement. The end of the third movement is scored attaca, which means that one does not pause, but goes directly from the coda at the end of the third movement into the fugue of the fourth. I plunged in at one hundred quarter notes to the minute, playing my heart out. After about five measures, the others stopped me and said that was too fast for them. I HAD ARRIVED.

Back in '86, when I was living in Watertown the year before Susie and I got married, I had bought myself a three thousand dollar viola, a very big step up from the violin my parents bought for me when I started studying with Mrs. Zacharias. But after I had been studying for three or four years, Loree told me that my instrument really was not capable of producing the sort of sound I was now skillful enough to make. She suggested I might want to look into a new and better viola. As it happened, the royalties from my textbook were piling up in a savings account, so I was in a position to make a move, if I could find the right instrument. I spent several long hours in an upstairs practice room at Stammel's, trying out violas. As you can imagine, that is a rather daunting undertaking for someone of my limited abilities. How could I be sure that an instrument's inferior tone was not simply a result of my incompetence? Nevertheless, I found a beautiful viola that had been made by Marten Cornellisen, a master luthier who lived in Northampton. This was a serious instrument, fully good enough to be used by a professional performer. It cost $17,000, and I was quite sure bargaining about the price was not an option.

That left the bow, which I had finally come to realize was quite as important as the viola. Barbara Greenstein agreed to come with me to Stammel to serve as an independent ear. We took a bunch of bows and my new viola upstairs to try them out. The bows ranged in price from twenty-five hundred to five thousand dollars, so this was going to be a major part of the total bill. I tried one bow after another, playing the Prelude to the Second Bach Suite, which I had mastered so that I could perform it as a gift at my sister's seventieth birthday party. [She had told the guests she did not want presents, because she had enough stuff, so I presented her with the performance of the Prelude with the explanation that it had cost me a great deal of effort but would take up no room at all in her apartment.] When I picked up the five thousand dollar bow made by the French bowmaker Benoit Roland, the viola began to sing. At the same moment, Barbara and I nodded. I had found my bow.

I brought my new viola and bow to my next lesson and showed them proudly to Loree. She took them from me, tried them out, and pronounced them excellent. "Now," she remarked dryly, "you have no more excuses."

Which brings me to the subject of excuses and T-shirts. I would work diligently at home on my exercises and my "piece," and then I would come into my lesson to play them for Loree. Quite often, I would flub a passage I had mastered at home. By now I had something of a crush on Loree, and I did not want her to think I had been shirking, so I would say, a bit plaintively, "I played it better at home." Each year Loree would hold a "recital" at which each pupil would play his or her best piece. Since her private pupils were mostly children, she would give each one of them a little gift at the recital. One year, she presented me with a T-shirt on which was written the message "I Played It Better At Home." This was not too long before I went off to Paris to master the third Razumovsky. When I got home, I ran right out and had a T-Shirt made with the message "I Played It Better In Paris," which I wore to my next lesson. That is the T-shirt that I wear as I take my morning walk here in Chapel Hill, and several fellow joggers and walkers have asked what it is that I played better in Paris.

The annual recitals were a trial for me. At one of the first in which I performed, I found when my turn came that my hand was shaking violently. As you will understand, this is a bit of a disaster for a string player. It always amused me that Loree, who regularly played for paying patrons of the Springfield Symphony, was terrified of speaking in public, something that I did with no qualms or terrors, even if the audience numbered a thousand. When I mentioned my bad experience to my quartet mates, they all said, "Oh, you need to take Indurol. It is a beta blocker." Now, I am no pharmacist, but I knew that beta blockers were serious medications given to patients with irregular heartbeats. My primary care physician at that point was a cardiologist, and I could just see myself asking him for a prescription for a beta blocker so that I could play at a viola recital. But Barbara Greenstein and Don were insistent. "Half the first violin section of the New York Philharmonic take them before a concert," they assured me. So, feeling like a fool, I called Dr. Larkin and explained my problem. "Sure," he said. "My wife takes them all the time." They really worked. Apparently, the shaking is caused by a flow of adrenaline into the blood stream, and the beta blocker interrupts the signal to the adrenal gland. The next time I had to play in public, I took a pill an hour in advance, and my hand was as steady as a rock.

For eight years, my viola was my constant companion. I even took it with me to Kutztown, Pennsylvania when I had a speaking gig there, and practiced in the room in which the University put me up. The world of amateur chamber music is like many other hobbyist worlds, complete with a national organization, the Amateur Chamber Music Players. I joined the ACMP and received their international directory, a publication listing hundreds, indeed thousands, of violinists, violists, cellists, oboists, flautists, pianists and others eager to make connections with fellow enthusiasts and play. There was one obvious problem with the listings. The ACMP members include everyone from beginners barely able to make their way through an early Haydn quartet to performance level musicians and even instructors. Some way is needed to sort these folks out, so that they will not suffer needlessly in a group either too good for them or not good enough. The ACMP solution is a system of self-ratings. When you fill out the form that gets you listed in the annual directory, you are required to rate yourself as an A player or a B- player or a D+ player, and so forth. Well, you can imagine the dangers of that sort of system. Some people regularly exaggerate their abilities, either from a genuine failure of self-understanding or in hopes of being invited to play in a group that is really above them. Others, like me, engage in ritual acts of self-abasement out of a morbid fear of being thought to have gotten above oneself.

The real difficulty for me with the ACMP system is that I did not want to play with people I did not know, people I did not feel at ease with. Professional musicians like Loree have an entirely different attitude, of course. They care only about the technical skill and musicianship of their orchestra or ensemble colleagues. So I shied away from cold-calling people listed in the directory and limited myself to my little quartet and a few other playing opportunities.

My most memorable bit of ensemble playing took place in Barbara Greenstein's living room, but not as part of a quartet. One of Barbara's oldest friends was James Yannatos, a violinist and composer who for forty-five years until this past season conducted the Harvard-Radcliffe orchestra. Barbara and Jimmy [as she always called him] had apparently been students together at the Greenwood Summer Music Camp in the Berkshires, and remained close throughout their lives. One day, Jimmy came out from Cambridge to see Barbara, and our quartet assembled to play Mozart viola quintets with him. For the occasion, Don White switched to viola, and I played second viola. [A viola quintet is a composition for quartet plus an additional viola. It is actually quite astonishing how completely the tonality of the ensemble is altered by the addition of the second viola.] Jimmy, who is a performance class violinist, played first violin, of course. and for the first and only time in my life, I discovered what it is like to be inside a quintet when the first violinist is playing the music as it is meant to be played. The experience was a revelation, not at all diminished [at least for me] by my own mediocre play. I have sometimes thought that if I found myself in possession of vast amounts of money, I would hire a professional quartet -- say, the Borromeo -- to let me sit in and play along with them. But then I reflect that no amount of money could compensate them for the musical pain of playing with me, so I revise my daydream and imagine myself hiring them to play for me while I sip wine and eat exquisite canapés.

In the winter of 2007-8, as I was preparing to retire, Barbara's cancer returned, and this time there seemed little hope that she could beat it. I drove her to Boston several times for her chemotherapy, and she was cheerful, upbeat, greeting the other patients as old friends, telling stories about Greenwood Music Camp. But is was to no avail. Very quickly, she declined, and passed away. I miss her still.

With Barbara's death, something went out of my involvement with the viola. I continued to take lessons that last Spring, and played a few times with one group or another, but somehow it did not seem to make sense to go on practicing. When Susie and I moved to Chapel Hill, I made efforts to find a quartet, without success. It is now two years since we packed up that big house and moved into a comfortable condominium in Meadowmont Village, and from that day to this, I have not taken the viola out of its case.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


The discerning reader will have noticed that several themes run through the programs I created and ran in the latter portions of my career. I have in mind particularly USSAS in South Africa, the SUMMA program in IASH, and the Scholars program in the Afro-American Studies department. In each case, I focused on ordinary students, not the handful of outstanding students, and in each case I sought to combine academic rigor with positive, supportive programmatic structures designed to counteract the discouragements and obstacles that average students so often face on their way to tertiary education. These concerns have their origin in the aversion I developed to the elite private higher educational sector that was my world for two decades, from 1950 to 1971. My concerns were reinforced by, but did not originate in, my ideological orientation, which very early on became radically progressive and has remained so, unwaveringly, to the present day. When I look back on the arc of my evolution in matters pedagogical, I am somewhat bemused by the fact that this populist, egalitarian strain in my thinking and action goes hand in hand with an utterly uncompromising elitism in the theoretical writing that I consider my real work.

I have never known how to make these two strains in my thought compatible, and I have long since given up trying. But several years ago, I finally made an attempt to think through the rationale for my commitment to the educational needs of ordinary, rather than extraordinary, students. The occasion for this effort was a request from Esther Terry. At about the time that I was retiring from my professorship and preparing to leave Amherst with Susie for Chapel Hill, Esther decided to seek State funding for yet another minority school-to-college program. She had made contact with Stan Rosenberg, a progressive State Senator from our part of Massachusetts who was a strong and faithful supporter of public higher education. Esther by this time had been appointed Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs, and she hoped to enlist the approval of a new Chancellor just arriving on the campus for her idea. She asked me to write a few lines that could serve as a rationale for her scheme, and as is my wont, I sat right down and banged out a little essay that gave voice, in an organized fashion, to convictions I had held for may decades. Nothing ever came of Esther's attempt -- the new Chancellor was quite uninterested in the needs of young minority men and women in the Commonwealth -- and as a consequence my essay never saw the light of day. I have decided to incorporate it into this Memoir because it says, more clearly than I ever have before, just why I believe that it is our responsibility as educators to concern ourselves with the needs of the great majority of young men and women who cannot compel our attention by the outstanding excellence of their talents and accomplishments.

Some Heretical Thoughts on the Rat Race for the Top Jobs

A society is an articulated structure of roles occupied by, and functions performed by, adult men and women. Every society, in order to continue in existence, must endlessly reproduce itself by preparing the young to occupy or perform those economic, governmental, religious, legal, military roles and functions, so that in time they can take the place of their parents’ generation. Some of this work of social reproduction takes place in the family, some of it takes place in the workplace, some of it is carried on by formal and informal social groupings and organizations, and, especially in societies like ours, much of the work of social reproduction is assigned to the schools.

In an agricultural economy, young boys and girls learn to grow crops and tend flocks. In a hunter/gatherer economy, the young are taken along on foraging and hunting expeditions so that they can acquire the skills necessary to obtain food. In some societies, the young apprentice to carpenters, masons, wheelwrights, or silversmiths. They serve as pages to knights while they master the sword and mace. As acolytes, they learn the religious mysteries of the temple. They are articled to barristers so that they may be initiated into the arcana of the law.

Now it happens, from time to time, that a young man or woman comes along who has a special gift for one or another of the adult social roles in his or her society. Some young women take naturally to the sword; some young men have a special gift for tending to the sick. Some people have green thumbs. Others are able to craft beautiful furniture with a chisel and saw. But no society can survive that depends on a regular supply of outstandingly talented young people. A little reflection will make it clear that every society must define its adult social and economic roles so that averagely gifted young people can fill them.

How could it be otherwise? If the food supply were to depend on the talents of outstanding agronomers, the society would likely starve before those young Luther Burbanks appeared. If the governance needed for survival absolutely required the gifts of a Thomas Jefferson or an Elizabeth Tudor, then a society would be doomed, for even if such a leader were to appear, he or she would not likely be followed by another, and another, and another. Sooner or later, and probably sooner, a Millard Fillmore or George W. Bush would appear. The legal institutions of a society must be so fashioned that lawyers of average ability can manage its essential functions. The society will celebrate a Louis Brandeis, should one appear, but it cannot depend on a regular supply of jurisprudential giants.

The truth of these observations is reinforced by the fact that almost every society systematically excludes large portions of its population from whole ranges of adult roles and functions. Most societies up to the present have excluded women from the military, the law, medicine, government, and major portions of the economy. Similar exclusions are regularly imposed on groups identified by race, class, religion, or ethnicity. The effect of these exclusions, of course, is dramatically to decrease the pool from which young people will be drawn to fill adult roles, thus making it ever more unlikely that outstandingly talented boys and girls will be available. In effect, the more exclusionary a society is, the more it depends on its institutions being manageable by average talents.

In American society in recent decades, formal education has taken the place of almost every other social mechanism for preparing the young for adult life. The legal, medical, business, and military spheres have come to rely on schooling and the associated credentials and degrees to prepare young people and determine which among them shall be assigned to one or another adult role or function.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with society choosing this way of reproducing itself, although listening to lectures and taking written examinations is not always the best way to prepare for a productive role in adult society. But the process is powerfully warped and conditioned by an extraneous factor so pervasive that many of us fail even to recognize it for what it is. I refer to the steeply pyramidal structure of the rewards and privileges associated with the various roles in modern society. To state the point simply, in post-industrial societies world-wide, there are a relatively few really good jobs with big salaries and great benefits, and lots of mediocre jobs with small salaries and very few benefits. In a society like ours, the quality of life of a young person is determined almost entirely by what sort of job he or she ends up in, and that, in turn, is very considerably determined by the character and quantity of education he or she obtains.

Now, the top jobs [corporate lawyer, business manager, doctor, engineer, etc] are scarce, and their rewards are way out of proportion to those associated with jobs lower down on the pyramid. Hence, there is a ferocious competition for the scarce slots. Since we live in a society that gives lip service to fairness, justice, and equality, those who end up in the favored positions quite naturally tell themselves – and also tell those who fail to make it – that success is a reward for extraordinary accomplishment. Those at the top, they tell themselves in self-congratulatory fashion, are the truly gifted and exquisitely trained. But as we observed above, this is surely not true. No society, not even ours, can survive if it must rely on finding an endless supply of outstanding lawyers, doctors, or CEOs to fill its positions. The simple truth is that despite the ferocity of the competition, those in the favored roles are, by and large, only averagely competent at them .

Enter “metrics” – Grades, the SAT, the LSAT, and all the other impressively mathematical devices for sifting and sorting young people, of allocating them to scarce positions and justifying that allocation. These measuring exercises play absolutely no role at all in preparing young people for productive adult life. Their sole purpose is to decide, in an ostensibly objective and neutral fashion, which boys and girls will be allowed to ascend to the heights of the job pyramid.

Now, in sheepherding society, all the young boys and girls learn to herd sheep. Some do it better than others, of course, but virtually all of them learn how to tend sheep sufficiently well to become shepherds. If someone were to propose that the boys and girls be tested every two years to determine their progress in sheepherding, he would be laughed out of the village. But in our society, every stage from infancy to young adulthood is accompanied by batteries of “objective” [which is to say machine graded] tests, and at crucial junctures – the completion of secondary school, the transition to college, and later the transition to graduate study – success on these tests, however that is defined, is treated as an absolute precondition for advancement to the next, more exclusive stage of education, and thus for admission to the ever more lucrative jobs.

After this system has been in place for a while, it quite naturally comes to be the case that the adults occupying the most favored social roles turn out to be the ones who performed unusually well on the various tests at each stage in their growing up. After all, since performance on the tests determines whether they are admitted to the cushy jobs, it is self-evident that those in the cushy jobs will be the ones who did well on the tests.

And now, by a flagrant bit of circular logic, society concludes that success on those tests is evidence of the outstanding ability absolutely required by the cushy jobs! After all, if the cushy jobs do NOT require outstanding ability and accomplishment, then how can we possibly justify their cushiness and their scarcity? And if the tests do not identify those special few capable of performing at the heights of the economy and society, then how can we explain the fact that those at the top have all done so well on the tests?

All of this is dangerous and arrant nonsense. But it is the nonsense on which our entire educational system rests. There is very little evidence that success in pre-school, in elementary school, in high school, on SAT exams, in college, on GRE exams, and in graduate school is intimately linked with the ability actually to perform well the jobs that are won by these strings of successes. It is of course true that the senior partners of the most prestigious law firms graduated from the most prestigious law schools. How could it be otherwise? Those are the schools from which the law firm’s young associates are recruited. But has anyone ever done an objective, double-blind evaluation of the work of such lawyers and of their counterparts at less prestigious firms who graduated from less prestigious law schools? We are no better able to carry out such evaluations of the performance of lawyers, doctors, and corporate executives than we are to evaluate the performance of auto mechanics. In the end, the “evidence” of the superiority of those in the privileged positions is the fact that they accumulated all the grades, degrees, and other markers that we have chosen to use as filters in allocating scarce desirable positions to an excess of applicants.

Let me say it again: virtually all of the boys and girls in our society are capable of learning how to perform well-compensated jobs in a perfectly adequate fashion, and most of them could perform creditably in even the most demanding jobs, if given half a chance and the proper preparation. The lesson I learn from a lifetime in the Academy is very simply this: Any group of averagely intelligent young boys and girls, given the proper support, socialization, assistance, and opportunity, can prepare themselves to fill successfully one of the good jobs in American society. If a large proportion of the young people of some racial, ethnic, religious, or gendered group are failing to do this, the fault lies with the society, not with the boys and girls. Performance on so-called objective tests is neither evidence of, nor a prerequisite for, the ability to succeed in American society. The boys and girls of every city, town, or village in every society in the world, are capable of becoming averagely competent and productive members of their adult world. If they are failing to do so, it is the fault of the adults in the society. With attention, guidance, and with the unshakable conviction on our part that they are going to succeed, they will in fact succeed in becoming averagely successful.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I think I am more proud of my success in funding our doctoral students than I am of anything else I accomplished during my half century career, with the possible exception of USSAS. It was a constant scramble, the desperate nature of which I concealed as best I could from my colleagues. All they knew was that each year, old Bob provided. But I would sit at dinner, moaning to Susie that I did not know where I was going to find enough money to cover everyone the next year, and she would assure me that somehow I would manage. I have never been quite sure whether my colleagues understood how crucial to the success of our doctoral program this funding really was. As I have indicated, the funding was never lavish. Other universities, I knew, offered students five year funding commitments of as much as $25,000 a year in addition to tuition waivers. But I held firm to the principle of equal sharing, and so there never developed that A-List/B-List split that caused so much trouble in the UMass Philosophy Department. This funding principle, which of course, all the students were well aware of, was our way of expressing our commitment to them in hard cash.

Needless to say, the Nellie Mae wanted evidence that the program was a success, so I built into the initial proposal several quantitative and qualitative measures that could provide some indication that our program was having the desired effect. My long-term hope was that some of the students we enrolled in the Scholars program would end up pursuing professional and academic careers, but we would not know about that for many years to come. The immediate measures were two: Their first year academic performance, as measured by grades, and -- most important of all -- the "one year retention rate." This latter is a very commonly used measure of the academic performance of a group of students. It is simply the proportion of Freshmen who make it through the first year and show up to enroll for their Sophomore courses. UMass has masses of statistics on the "one year retention rates" of all Freshmen, of men, of women, of African American students, of Latino students, of Asian American students, of science majors, humanities majors, business majors, engineering majors -- no matter how you slice and dice a class of undergraduates, the UMass Office of Institutional Research can tell you how likely they are to make it to the Sophomore year. The gold standard of this sort of measure is the "six year graduation rate," a statistic that has built into it the expectation that many students will take time off on their way to the degree, but by the time we would have numbers of that sort, our grant would have run out.

Almost immediately, it became clear that the program I had designed was succeeding in raising significantly the one year retention rate for the minority students in Scholars. Indeed, in the first few years, we lost almost no students at all, despite the fact that I had deliberately recruited students with sub-par SAT scores. I was very pleased, needless to say, and I flaunted the numbers wherever I could, virtually buttonholing administrators to tell them how successful our program was. Once again, I got lucky. It turned out that the particular bee in Charlena Seymour's bonnet was mentoring. She was focused principally on the mentoring of graduate students in the sciences, and mentoring of junior faculty on their way to the tenure decision. Nevertheless, there I was, building a program for minority undergraduates around mentoring, and she loved it.

Although I was delighted at our success, I cannot say I was especially surprised. It really seemed to me to be a no-brainer. If you take a group of students who have been thrown onto an enormous, impersonal, rather forbidding university campus, where they can quite easily make it through four years of undergraduate study without ever actually getting to know a single one of their instructors, how surprising is it that they do better if you pay attention to them, talk to them, and give them some individual instruction?

I would give each of my graduate student mentors a list of their five students before the first meeting of class in September. When those five students walked into the classroom on their very first day, their instructor already knew their names. I trained the graduate students to serve as much more than just instructors. They learned where on campus a student could go for help with writing, with math, with housing problems, with roommate conflicts, with health issues. My Tutor/Mentors were expected to learn what other courses their five students were taking, and to find out right away if there were problems. In a school as large as UMass, the first sign that a student is having trouble is a series of failing grades at the end of the semester. By then, it is often too late to do anything about it, and the student gets discouraged and drops out. But we were like canaries in a mine shaft. We could spot trouble when it cropped up on the first quiz or short paper.

The Mentors served two other functions, one of which I had planned for, the other of which, I confess, I did not at first anticipate. These were minority students of one category or another, being taught mostly, but not only, by minority doctoral students, all of whom were visibly academically successful. Their mere presence in the room as Instructors told our Freshmen that academic success was possible for them and that the demands we placed upon them were well within their capabilities. I had fully expected that this would be one of the benefits of using the Afro-American Studies doctoral students as Tutor/Mentors. But these Freshmen were also students of color on an overwhelmingly white campus. In many of their other courses, they were a tiny minority of Black or Latino or Asian-American students in a sea of White students. Almost all of our Freshmen had come from high schools with very large minority populations. Give the residential segregation that is as common in Massachusetts as it is elsewhere in America, some of them had come from virtually non-White high schools. They were frightened and intimidated by being thrust into a mostly White campus. The weekly meetings in their small Scholars class was an opportunity not only to study the Minority Experience in America but also to talk personally about their experiences as minorities at UMass. When Nellie Mae hired an outside firm several years later to do a systematic examination of the successes and failures of the Scholars program, that benefit of the structure of the program surfaced again and again in the replies of former students to the questions posed by the evaluators.

It was also clear from the responses of those interviewed that the Spring semester research paper was an unqualified success as a program element. Many students reported that this was the first time anyone had ever asked them to undertake an academic project of that magnitude [a devastating comment on the quality of the secondary education they had received from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts]. I was especially heartened by the many students who said that having completed one such project, they now felt confident that they could do it again, when it was required of them in more advanced courses.

Our doctoral students performed splendidly as Mentors, to my great relief and delight. I think they all liked being responsible for so small a group of students, and they enjoyed the opportunity to shape the curriculum to their particular interests. I knew that it would be valuable to them to be able to list their service as Instructors and mentors on their vitae when the time came for them to go on the job market. When I was starting out, in the late 50's of the last century, departments recruiting Assistant Professors looked long and hard at the disciplinary specialties of applicants, but they tended to pay little attention to evidence of teaching experience. By the 90's, however, budgetary pressures were forcing departments in the Humanities and Social Sciences to ramp up enrollments as a hedge against cuts to their professorial rolls. Hiring departments had started asking for graduate student teaching evaluations and other evidences of teaching ability. On campus finalist interviews now routinely included the teaching of a class with members of the recruitment committee sitting in the back row of the classroom. I knew that my ability to write detailed letters about the performance of my Mentors would serve them well in the job market.

Inevitably, some of the grad students were better mentors than others, although I always insisted that, like the children in Lake Woebegone, they were all above average. Jennifer Jensen-Wallach seemed to have the ability to form unbreakable bonds with her students. When the year was up, they would ask whether they could return to study with her as Sophomores. One year, there was a mix up in the scheduling of the first meeting of the course in the Fall -- the meeting at which I would match up each Mentor with a group of five students. Two rooms were listed, and I was terrified that some of our students would get lost and never resurface [I tend to worry, as Susie points out to me on occasion.] I sent Jennifer to the room originally listed, in case a few students had not received word of the room change. Sure enough, about fifteen minutes into the hour, she showed up with a little band of strays who had gone to the wrong room. When the time came to sort the students into their groups, one young woman got very upset. It seems she had bonded with Jennifer on the walk over from the other room, and now would not hear of having anyone but Jennifer as her Mentor. After that, I took to calling her "my Velcro Mentor."

The Scholars program was so successful that Nellie Mae extended our funding while UMass arranged to take ownership of it in an expanded and revised format. There was no way that the university could fund a program that put only five students in a class with a TA, so Charlena told me that I had to expand the class size to twenty. I pleaded and cried, and cried and pleaded, knowing that the essence of the program, and our great success, would be lost if we were forced to expand each group in that way. In the end, I was allowed to limit the groups to ten, at least in a transitional phase. The other change she insisted on was that I draw half of my Mentors from other departments. There was no way that she could lay that much bread on Afro-Am alone. I ran the expanded program, with some wonderful graduate students from Anthropology, English, and several other departments. One of our Afro-Am doctoral students, Cristina Tondeur, instituted several very successful supplementary programmatic features, most notably a fabulously successful day bus trip to New York that included a tour of Harlem, a visit to the Schomburg Museum, and a matinee performance of The Color Purple.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Money Makes The World Go 'Round

From the moment Esther floated the suggestion that I come on board to help create a doctoral program in Afro-American Studies, I knew that the key to our success would be my ability to find money to support the graduate students. UMass is perpetually underfunded and afflicted by periodic budget crises. Save in the sciences, which live off research grants into which doctoral student support is routinely built, graduate education is funded almost entirely by Teaching Assistantships. There are a handful of graduate fellowships, open in a university-wide competition, but without the TA-ships, doctoral programs in the Humanities and Social Sciences would wither and die. As is the case at countless other public universities in America, the allocation of TA-ships at UMass is tied to undergraduate enrollments, particularly in the introductory courses that are officially designated as satisfying the course distribution mandated by the university's General Education requirements. For this reason, major departments such as Economics, Psychology, and History routinely offer large introductory courses crafted to satisfy the Faculty Senate's General Education guidelines. Hundreds of students are enrolled in these courses, which are taught by a combination of lectures and weekly discussion sections. Doctoral students lead the discussion sections and do all the grading and student counseling associated with the course. All of this is of course second nature to anyone who has spent time teaching in a public university in America.

Since Afro-American Studies until this point did not have a graduate program, it received no allocation of Teaching Assistantships, but over the years, the Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts had given one or two TA-ships to the department because several of the courses actually enrolled so many students that the instructor could not handle the grading. The principal recipient of this assistance was Femi Richards, a gentle, soft-spoken scholar from Sierra Leone whose specialty was the design and making of beautiful African fabrics. Femi taught a wildly popular Introduction to African Studies that regularly drew as many as two hundred undergraduates. He recruited his TAs from other departments -- Art and History, principally.

Once our doctoral program had been approved, we applied to the Dean for an allocation of TA-ships, but immediately we ran into a problem that I had seen coming for the entire four years during which we had been planning our program and shepherding it through the approval process. TA allocations are a regular part of the annual Dean's budget. Each year, when it comes time to make up the next year's allocation, the default position is for every department to get the same allocation it currently enjoys. Every department asks for, indeed, demands, more TAs, flaunting its enrollment figures as justification. There was never a reserve pool of money from which those demands could be met. Every new TA position given to History meant one fewer allocated to Classics or Comparative Literature. As for TA transfers across deaconal lines, say from History to Economics, it would have been easier to ask the two departments to exchange buildings.

Thus when Afro-American Studies suddenly popped up with a brand new doctoral program, the Dean -- Lee Edwards, who had run for the job on a platform of favoring Women's Studies and Afro-American Studies -- gave the department exactly no new TA-ships. We had had one and a half TA-ships the year before [yes, this precious commodity, like the lembas carried by Sam and Frodo, was carefully parceled out in fragments], and we would have one and a half once our doctoral program was running. It would have been easy to conclude that this was racism rearing its ugly head once more, but that was not in fact the case. It was something much more insidious -- institutional inertia. The Dean was simply not prepared to weather the storm of protest she would have stirred up had she shifted her scarce TA money around to give us a fair share of it.

What to do? It was perfectly obvious to me that there were only three solutions, and even before the first students showed up to launch our new program, I began an effort to try all three. The first option was to apply for General Education accreditation for a number of our undergraduate courses and then reconfigure them so that they became lecture courses with discussion sections. At that time [this changed, subsequently] allocation of TA-ships specifically for Gen Ed courses was actually funded by a separate pool of money controlled by the Provost's Office, and I was pretty sure that if we could produce the enrolments, we would get some sort of TA allocation from that source. The Provost was less immediately answerable to departments than were the Deans. [If all of this strikes you as a lot of inside baseball, you are correct. Programs at public universities in America live and die by this sort of machination.]

Getting Gen Ed accreditation, although time-consuming, was entirely doable. The request had to go through a number of Faculty Senate committees and then to the floor of the Senate -- ordinarily a process consuming a year. I got that process under way. But there was considerable resistance in the department to the suggestion that we reconfigure our courses into large lectures with discussion sections. The members of the department had for a quarter of a century been running a first class undergraduate program, to which they devoted a great deal of time and energy. The saw themselves as performing an important educational service to countless White as well as Black students, and they were right. John Bracey was the most vocal opponent of the proposal, even though he actually had the most to gain professionally from the establishment of a successful doctoral program. John regularly drew many more students than could be handled even by the large room at the end of the hall in which we periodically held our department meetings. When John's classes met, students would pour out of the room into the hall, and sit on chairs pulled in from other classrooms, craning to hear what was going on inside the room. When I suggested that he move his courses to any one of a number of larger lecture halls in other buildings, he angrily refused. In the end, the idea of tapping into the existing pool of TA-ships on campus by using the General Education requirements went nowhere.

The second possibility was to bypass the Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts and try to get support directly from the Dean of the Graduate School. At UMass, the Graduate Deanship is a somewhat inferior position, inasmuch as it has a relatively small budget and no departments or programs reporting to it. In 1996, however, as we waited the arrival of our first class of students, the Graduate Dean was Charlena Seymour, an African-American Communications Disorders scholar who was past president of her national professional organization and a long-time friend of our department. My appeal to her actually produced a really significant measure of support, without which we would have been unable to make our program a success. Charlena went from the Graduate Deanship to the position of Interim Provost in 2001, and then to the regular Provostship in 2004, a completely unexpected and heaven-sent development that resulted in significant administrative support for our doctoral program for ten years.

Even with Charlena's help, we were going to need more money. The problem was a simple matter of math. We planned to take five students a year [although in the first and third years we actually admitted seven], and since we expected students to finish in five or six years, that meant that before long I was going to be looking for funding for as many as twenty-five or thirty active students. I knew from long experience in doctoral programs at UMass and elsewhere that adequate funding was the secret to success for our students. This was especially true because of a wrinkle in the rules governing student fees. Thanks to the fact that the graduate assistants had unionized and fought successfully for a pretty good contract [alongside their comrades, the members of the Faculty Union], a graduate student with at least a one-half Teaching Assistantship received a waiver of tuition and many additional fees, including a very hefty fee covering health care for the student and and his or her family. The stipend for a full Teaching Assistantship wasn't much -- it crept up above twelve thousand by the time I left, hardly "full funding" by any stretch of the imagination. But with the various waivers, the value of the full package was as much as twenty-five thousand dollars a year. So the difference between being funded and not being funded was enormous for our students. It was clear that I would have to put on an all-court press to secure the third source of support: outside grants and donations.

I had been raising money one way or another for almost ten years, by that point. What with HRAAA, USSAS, and IASH, I thought I was a pretty accomplished and successful fund-raiser. Well, I tried everything. My first idea was to reach out to the hundreds of former students who had come through our department's undergraduate program, many of whom, I was sure, had fond memories of Esther, John, Ernie, Mike, Bill, Archie, Max Roach, and even Jimmy Baldwin and Chinua Achebe. Surely they would be thrilled to support a revolutionary doctoral program. Alas, it was not to be. Working with the University's Development Office, I sent out hundreds of letters to our graduates, but the return was miniscule.

My next thought was to go to several of the big foundations who had laid major bread on the Temple University Africana Studies Program and other Black Studies programs around the country. I was especially optimistic about the Rockefeller Foundation, and actually made a trip to New York with John Bracey to talk to a program officer, but in the end, we got not a penny from them. John was convinced that the real reason for their refusal to help us was that "they know us, Bob. They know we are a dangerous group, from their point of view. Temple may talk big, but they are no threat, and neither is Skip at Harvard." He may have been right; but the result was no money.

At about that time, UMass had its moment of basketball glory with John Calipari as coach and a star, Marcus Camby, who went on to the NBA with a multi-million dollar contract. All of the UMass basketball players had studied in our department, and John Bracey was sure he could shake big bucks out of that tree, but there again, we got not a single dollar. We even had high hopes for Bill Cosby, who had taken a degree in the UMass School of Education. One of the graduate students in our first group was the granddaughter of a woman who had taught at UMass and was very friendly with Cosby's wife, Camille, but although the granddaughter did splendidly, the family connection never brought in any money.

So I spent a good deal of time in the Graduate School Fellowship Office, pouring over huge books listing all of the thousands of foundations that had a record of supporting educational programs. I discovered that while there were a good many fellowships for individual students fitting this or that profile, virtually no one offered programmatic support for doctoral programs in the Humanities. My search was not without results, however, for as I paged through endless listings of foundations, I began to notice that there was money out there for programs that helped minority students to make the transition from high school to tertiary education, and to succeed academically once they enrolled in a college or university. I had, I thought to myself, created a successful school-to-college program for minority students in Springfield, and had raised almost $700,000 to support it. Perhaps I could turn that success to my advantage.

Thus was born the idea for a new program, which I christened Scholars of the Twenty-First Century. My idea was simplicity itself. I would create a program for first year minority undergraduates that would combine a demanding academic component with a great deal of small group and one-on-one mentoring and instruction. I would recruit the Freshman students from each UMass entering class and hire my Afro-American Studies doctoral students as Tutor/Mentors. Even though fewer than twenty percent of each entering cohort could be considered "minority," in a class of four thousand Freshmen, there were more than enough potential Twenty-First Century Scholars. Fairly quickly, I settled on the structure and parameters of the program. [I had already learned that if you run everything by yourself, you need waste no time holding committee meetings or circulating memoranda. I routinely made major decisions for USSAS while taking a shower or waiting at an intersection for the light to change.]

I decided to divide the students into groups of five. To each group I would assign an Afro-Am grad students as Tutor/Mentor. In the Fall semester, all of the groups would do a three-credit course, as part of their regular five course UMass load, focused on the minority experience in America. There would be a great many short papers with instant feedback from their graduate student Instructor, trips to the University Library to learn how to use a research library, and individual meetings as well as group discussion meetings each week. We would choose a single text to be used by every group, but the graduate students would be free to flesh out the assigned reading with materials of their own choice.

In the Spring semester, the three credit course would be devoted to independent research. Each student would choose an individual research topic on any subject that interested him or her, and the semester would be spent working on that project under the guidance of the Tutor/Mentor. The written work of the semester would be first a brief statement of the project, then an outline, after that a series of preliminary drafts, and then a final paper submitted in time for the end of semester celebration. At that celebration, we would start with a dinner, after which a number of the students would get up before the entire group and assorted guests [the Chair of Afro-Am, the Dean, the Provost, etc.] and make a brief presentation of the results of his or her research. Over the summer, I would assemble all of the research papers, those that had been the subject of oral reports and those that had not, and I would desktop publish a volume of them that would be distributed to each student and to administrators as evidence of the quality of the students' work.

Although I designed the Scholars program quickly, I did not do so haphazardly or fecklessly. In fact, the program embodied three beliefs that I had long held about tertiary education, both in the United States and in South Africa. First, I was convinced that so-called "objective tests" like the Scholastic Aptitude Test are virtually worthless as indications of a the ability of a young man or woman to do satisfactory work at college. I decided, therefore, that I would test this thesis, if I were able to raise the money to launch the program, by deliberately recruiting minority Freshmen with strong high school records but very low SAT scores.

Second, I had long believed that the key to success for beginning students is a demanding curriculum combined with a great deal of individual and small group instruction. This, I had observed, was the sort of education routinely offered to students at elite small private colleges [although not at the richest and most highly rated large universities, where the senior professors by and large play little or no role in direct interactions with beginning undergraduates.] By limiting the Scholars classes to five students, I ensured that students would receive the sort of attention I believed would result in their success.

Finally, I wanted to test my conviction that students needed the experience of serious independent research at the beginning of their undergraduate careers, not the mere pretense of "research" in introductory science courses. Perhaps I was influenced in this belief by my farcical encounter with laboratory research in Harvard's much-hyped Physics 11 course, back in '50 - '51. I could still recall going through the charade of "testing" the law of the conservation of momentum by firing a twenty-two bullet into a block of wood hanging from a thread and measuring the displacement of the block from the vertical. The margin of error in the experiment was so large that virtually any theory of the conservation or non-conservation of momentum would have been consistent with the results we obtained in that "laboratory."

In addition, I hoped, by allowing students to choose any topic they wished for research , whether it bore a relation to the subject matter of the first semester or not, to engage their intellectual energies and curiosities in a way that the exercises in the large "Gen Ed" courses never could. If I may get ahead of my story just a bit, once the program was launched, students took advantage of the latitude allowed in the second semester to write their research papers on a range of topics that I would never have been able to anticipate. A young woman who had been born in Puerto Rico and hoped to become a small animal veterinarian wrote a lovely paper on endangered birds of Puerto Rico. A young Cape Verdean man took the opportunity to explore the patterns of immigration from the Cape Verde Islands to the Southeastern shoreline communities of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. An Asian American woman studied the relationship between traditional Chinese medicine and modern Western medicine. A young African-American man looked into opportunities for minorities in the medical professions. And - my favorite - one woman even wrote a first person narrative account of what it was like to be the only woman working in an automobile body shop.

When I began my search for funding, I ran into a bit of luck. During the time I was running the Summa program out of IASH [which, you will recall, was the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities], I had managed to secure four one year $25,000 grants from the Nellie Mae Foundation to supplement the big Balfour grant. Nellie Mae is the New England Loan Management Corporation or NELM [hence Nellie Mae], and in its original incarnation, it ran a small foundation whose grant limit was $25,000 per project per year. But in 1999, Nellie Mae was bought by Sallie Mae [SLM, or Student Loan Management Corporation -- are you following this?] and suddenly the endowment of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation was increased tenfold. Just as I was looking for support for the Scholars program, the NMEF announced that it was increasing its grant limit from $25,000 to $250,000.

The success of the SUMMA program had given me some street cred with Nellie Mae, and I succeeded in getting first a one year $100,000 grant [while they were making the transition to the new foundation format] and then a four year one million dollar grant. I was off and running. From then until I retired in 2008, I was able, by combining the Nellie Mae money with the support from Charlena and the bits and pieces of TA-ships from the Dean, to provide full support every year for every single one of our doctoral students. The first year students got scholarships, so that they would be free to tackle the big Major Works seminar. Thereafter, they were awarded TA-ships either to serve as Tutor/Mentors in the Scholars program or to work as regular TAs in departmental courses. Even the Nellie Mae money, generous as it was, was never quite enough, but some of our students won fellowships on and off campus, others were recruited by the University's Honors College to teach there, and for still others I was able to arrange teaching gigs at Hampshire College which, through a reciprocity agreement, carried the same waiver of tuition and fees.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


In the portion of my Memoirs posted on July 13, I said that several of the students in the first class of the doctoral program in Afro-American Studies at UMass were "asked to leave." A number of folks in a position to know have told me that I am just wrong about that. Several of the students chose to leave, but none of them was told that he or she could not continue. I named no names, but the internet being what it is, I am afraid people put some things together and figured out who was being alluded to. I am really sorry about this. There is no excuse, not age, and not the passage of years. If I was not dead certain, I should have made a few calls and checked. I am going to go back and edit that statement out of the narrative, so that at least in the future, if people should stumble on my Memoirs, that will not be misled. Once again, my apologies.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


A number of people have expressed an interest in the Major Works syllabus in the first year of the UMass Afro-American Studies doctoral program. Here is the Fall syllabus.

Selections from Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa and Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery
Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone
Herskovits, The Myth of the Negro Past, and selections from Mintz and Price, The Birth of African American Culture and Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks
Jennifer Morgan, Laboring Women
Eugene Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll
Slave Narratives of Douglass, Equiano, and Jacobs (in Gates, Classic American Slave Narratives)
Antebellum poetry, including Wheatley (in Sherman, African American Poetry 1773-1927
Martin Delany, Blake
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Holiday. No class
Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans
C.L.R. James, Black Jacobins
Herbert Aptheker, American Negro Slave Revolts
James and Lois Horton, In Hope of Liberty
Benjamin Quarles, Black Abolitionists
Jean Humez, Harriet Tubman
Don Fehrenbacher, The Slaveholding Republic
Leon Litwack, Been in the Storm So Long
Eric Foner, Reconstruction
No class (Thursday schedule)
Frances E. W. Harper, Iola Leroy
Post-Bellum, Pre-Harlem Renaissance Poetry, including Paul Laurence Dunbar (in Sherman, African American Poetry of the Nineteenth Century)
Mellonee Burnim and Portia Maultsby, African American Music
Charles Chesnutt, The Conjure Woman and Other Conjure Tales
James Weldon Johnson, Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (in Three Negro Classics)
Leon Litwack, Trouble in Mind
August Meier, Negro Thought in America; Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery (in Three Negro Classics
James Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South


The book about my parents, perhaps not surprisingly, was somewhat more difficult to write, despite the fact that I had a wonderful array of letters from each of them. As I have already indicated, the Wolffs and the Ornsteins were friends, because the young girls, Ella Nislow and Clara Perlmutter, had worked side by side in a cap-making sweatshop in Lower Manhattan when they were in their teens. My father, Walter, was the eldest of his brothers and sister, and my mother, Charlotte [or Lotte, as she came to be called] was also the eldest of the Ornstein children. In their late teens, they both belonged to Circle One of the Young People's Socialist League of Brooklyn. The Yipsels, as they are known, were the youth branch of the Socialist Party. They would have periodic get togethers that were part serious political talk and part dancing and gossip. Walter went to Boy's High School, from which he was apparently suspended at one point for making political speeches. As you can imagine, my sister and I were put under a good deal of pressure to excel in school. It came as a great delight, therefore, for me to discover that my father, the Great Brain and High School Principal, had graduated with a 65 average.

My mother, whom both my sister and I secretly believed had more brains than our father, was forced to leave high school at the age of sixteen to get secretarial training and find a job, because her father suffered a crippling stroke that placed severe economic burdens on the family. She became a spectacular typist and stenographer who could organize an entire office or turn a department store upside down over the phone if she did not get what she had ordered. Very quickly, she secured a position as secretary to the City Editor of the New York Herald Tribune, one of the major New York evening newspapers [and heir to the Herald in which Karl Marx published rafts of political reporting from his home in London.]

After squeaking out of Boys' High, my father enrolled in City College, which for generations offered poor young men an outstanding free college education [it was not until 1929, much later, that women were admitted to graduate programs, and only in 1951 did it become fully co-educational]. Walter, my uncle Bob, who was one year younger, Sidney Hook, and Ernest Nagel were all students together. Those were storied times, when each tiny faction on the left had its own booth in the student cafeteria. My father would take notes on the lectures he attended, and then repeat as much as he could to his friends in Circle One who could not even afford a free college education.

From the letters of those teenage years, I gradually formed an image of my father as an intense young man with severe hang ups about anything sexual. In the archive are several painful letters from him to his friends in which he writes with the stern disapproval of a Savonarola about the innocent kissing games that "the bunch" engaged in during their gatherings. Even as a young man, he exhibited the self-important pomposity that infuriated me so. But joined to this rather unattractive side of my father's personality was a genuine and quite charming love of the nature and of the Catskills where he spent each summer hiking and camping.

While Walter left New York each summer to hike and camp in the Catskills, Lotte stayed at home, working. They wrote to one another almost every day. Lotte told stories of seeing General Pershing march up Fifth Avenue in triumph after the conclusion of the Great War. Walter wrote lyrical descriptions of the mountains. At the risk of trying the patience of my readers, I am going to reproduce here in toto two letters written on the same day, September 6, 1919, the first from Walter describing a hike in the woods, the second from Lotte describing a meeting of Circle One. Taken together, they capture not only the relationship developing between these two young people [Walter at this point not yet eighteen, Lotte already turned nineteen] but also something of what their world was like.

"Dear Lottie,
I left off in my other letter with a discussion of my prowess as a walker - ha!ha! After leaving the men I attempted to live up to my reputation. The sun was hot, but the woods moist and cool; this alone was sufficient to spur me on.

I pushed up the trail at a great rate - past Brisbane’s (of the Journal) house, up, up, always up! And while rushing headlong on my way - I saw - the prettiest, daintiest, little fawn imaginable.

it was so tiny, so frail, and evidently so unsophisticated, even for an animal with its knowledge of the woods, that I felt like offering to help it. it was not even afraid of me! There it stood, thirty-five feet away, while I twisted and turned to a better position. When I could see its beautiful head, I stiffened; here we stood!
The fawn could not understand or recognize this object which did not move; the wonder of it is that it stayed near the trail while I was coming up, making so much noise; I verily believe the fawn was so young that it did not know ‘man.’
it was a sweet creature, tho' slight, of a dark brown thruout, except for the white patch on the throat underneath the jaw, and a similar patch, similarly colored on the under side of the tail.

Its eyes were dark, and limpid. Its ears delicately wrought as a Chinese vase.
All this I noticed as we stared at each other - Finally, it turned to go, as it did so I whistled - swift as a flash its head was turned toward me; I played with it for a minute or two - and then with a flirt of its tail it bounded away!
It was the second deer I have seen in a wild state - and it made me feel happy all the way up - it was as dainty and beautiful as if it had been cut from a picture; I hope I did not frighten it.

(But, gee, I wish you had been there - it would have given you so much plea¬sure to gaze into those liquid-eyes, and to whistle as it turned to go - all right! wait until next year, I’ll show you)

Well, I arrived - including the time I wasted washing my mouth at two springs, taking off my sweater, and watching the deer (not wasted) it took me one hour and five minutes - and I now, right here, lay claim to the world’s championship for climb¬ing Belle Ayre - one man, I know, went up in 58 minutes - but he never stopped - I wasted at least ten minutes - so Who Is Going To Dispute My Claim! (-- supposed to represent stentorian tones –) I pause for a reply!

The observer on Belle Ayre is a good friend of mine - he was very glad to see me - and so we chatted for a while before I went up the tower.

But I did go finally, and then - oh! Lottie, I wanted you there so much - if for nothing else than to see the astonishment, and the look of pleasure on your face, as you gazed on the most magnificent view of the Katskills.

The day was perfect! The air remarkably clear! Is it surprising that we saw the Berkshire Hills? (Yes, we, you and I: I had intended taking you up Slide, but I can't resist the temptation - and we’ll go up Slide, anyway.)

And do you remember how the view was divided: on the left fields, houses, clearings, roads, railroad tracks - on the right, hills, mountains, woods, and green trees all over?

To the left we saw magnificent hotels, beautiful inns, and cozy little homes. Do you remem¬ber the one I picked out for you - I’ll give it to you if you promise to make me a frequent guest! It was so pretty, there, in the sunshine, its red tile roof shining brightly, and its white sides giving the impression of coolness. And its garden, and lawn were so well kept - is it any wonder you wanted it?

And then - to the front, and right - mountains upon mountains, one growing out of the other, until to the right, towering high above them all, we saw giant Slide!
Lottie, I will never forget the grandeur of that scene - oh! how glad I was that you could be with me - to stand by my side and marvel at what Nature had done. And do you remember, how I explained all those formations? How I pointed out that the action of the wind, and rain, and above all the cutting action of the streams had worn down a gigantic plateau, until today, we have a region of hills and valleys?
Truly, Nature is wonderful - and the most wonderful part of it all was that we should be there; two minute specks in the world of ours - two ‘nothings’ in the universe which contains an infinite number of solar systems vastly greater than ours. The wonder of it all held us then - we could hardly speak, for fear that the spell would be dissolved, and we would once more assume our egoistic attitudes.
Yes, Lottie, such philosophic moments are good; they teach us more than schools and books can. They make us realize our true position; they give us humility, they give us, above all, patience and understanding.

But it grew a little chilly then, and we were forced to leave the tower. Oh! how hungry we were - we did justice to our lunch, did we not? Mr. Persons was kind enough, then, to show us around the place - to explain how he built his cabin, and his garden - both of which represent years of toil.

There was much more to learn from this fine, kindly old man, grown philo¬sophic and patient of the world and its ways because of his long sojourn on the moun¬tain. Eleven summers, from April to November, he has stayed there; apart from the world, and with but few people to whom he can talk, even in Summer months, when hardly a day passes without some visitors.

But the tower was too fascinating, and we were almost compelled to climb it once more. There we sat, our backs against the wire netting which surrounds it, wrapped in warm sweaters, and with a world of beauty before us.

Ah! what a place for conversation, Lottie. Just enough clouds to make the sky beautiful, a gentle breeze no longer chilling, the fields, the woods, the mountains - all about us, and above us - and we two perched there high above everything - is it remarkable that our mind was philosophic - and our discourse of the same nature?
We talked about life - about the earth - and about the universe - and marvelled that such things should be; and that we should sit there and consider them.
We wished that the millions of boys and girls the world over who lived in slums and worked their lives out for a mere pittance could come to the mountains, and could get, if only once, the Weltanschauung (world-outlook) which an experience like this gives one.

We talked about the Movement, the part we would like to play in it, the part we should play in it - and we spent many minutes considering what part a mother should devote to it. We agreed in many matters, and failed to agree in others - but we understood each other better for the discussion.
And then the conversation turned to our friends, their faults, their good points - and what they meant to us - a topic never-ending in its interest, and limitless in its scope.

But it was late then, and we were due at supper - How everyone would be frightened if we failed to appear - and how the tongues would begin to wag. ‘I knew he would hurt her by taking her up Belle Ayre, I knew it!’ Ha!Ha! we fooled them, eh? We had a wonderful time, we were raised on the wings of philosophy and friend¬ship to heights we never dared to climb and those prosaic fools were afraid he would tax her strength! As if he did not know how far he could go, and as if he would dare go farther!

The climb down was uneventful, we went down the Big Indian Trail - walked through the Fort Close Hollow, and, wonder of wonders, got a hitch! We were late for supper, just a bit, but we made up for it, all right! It was a pleasure to watch you eat - you’ll gain ten pounds if you don’t watch out.

A rest will make you feel better, and give back to you that vitality, that snap and vigour which will take you up Slide, which would take you anyplace.
Writing this has been a great pleasure to me - I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
Regards to all, As ever Walt"

"Sept 6, 1919
Dear Walt,
Today I must write to you, even if there were no 'one a day, 2 on Sunday' schedule, as per you. I'm sure you're dying to hear about the meeting.

Well, in the first place, Anne Shevitz was there. They have moved back to the city already. The honorable Louis Troupp was also there, as were, Joe Lapidus, Herb Cohen, Ben Batchkin and the rest of the lesser lights of the Club. Oh yes, Eddie Cohen was there, too.

Anne and Louis veritably fell on each other's necks after not having seen each other for so long. There wasn't much of a program. Nothing was prepared so we had an unprepared discussion on the Socialist movement in Mexico, and the relation of Mexico to the U.S. It was a very spirited affair led by Torgman and carried on mostly by Ked Ziegler, Herb Cohen and Torgman.

By the way, Torgman resigned from the circle last night and made a very touching little farewell speech.

After the meeting we sang songs and there was certainly a lot of pep in the singing due to Anne Shevitz's good playing.

Then we danced! And, oh Walter some dancing! Some strange fellow (strange to me) dropped in, and he played. My, but he could play ragtime! You just had to dance! Even staid Herb Cohen was dancing the shimmy. Think of it. We didn't want to go home. It was 12 before we left. Joe Lapidus walked me to the station. He is dying to learn to dance, so he's coming out to my house next week for a preliminary lesson.

Walt, if you don't stop calling me sick I'll kill you. I'm feeling splendidly, only as I said, I could stand a little more rest.

[Written above: I delivered all your regards. Anne said she hadn't received a letter from you yet.]

After this week tho, I think I'll be able to quiet down a little. My friends and the dressmaker have been leading me a merry chase for the past 2 weeks.
You ought to see the beautiful pink rose I have on me now. I saw it in the florists and couldn't resist buying it. If I thought you were still sentimental I'd press it and send it to you. I'll save it anyway, until, you write and tell me how sentimental you are.

Its funny to watch Louis Troupp and me. We're so very formal to each other, but in a jesting way. You see, when Morris and the gang and I went to Sea Edge Sunday, Morris was with me most of the time (yes, Tess was there, I know) and naturally we spoke a little about Louis Troupp and me.

Like a fool I told him the truth that I really admired Louis for his actions, etc. I suppose he told Louis and he with the usual egotistic masculine mind, put his own construction on it and probably thinks I only said that to hide my real feelings, that my heart was broken, etc. And again, like most men he takes pleasure in breaking a heart. The poor fish - if he only knew.

One thing and a very valuable one he has taught me however. Never to be serious with the boys in the Club. I don't know how I even got that way! Now, things are sailing beautifully I josh around with all of them and let them see I'm joshing. My trouble always was that I was too sincere. henceforth, I'll be very wary who I am sincere with. Some day I'll thank Louis for the lesson he taught me. I could kick myself for having to be taught such an obvious lesson. But, its all right. We all have to learn. No more paper, so, au revoir.

As ever, Lottie"

All my life, I have struggled with two conflicting images of my father -- the young, vigorous, athletic, romantic man, full of energy, eager to take on the world, and the old, overweight heavy smoking alcoholic, disappointed and bitter, seemingly insecure despite his professional success. I can see hints of the older man in the younger, to be sure, but I have never been able to discern in my experience of him, or in the letters and papers with which I spent so many hours, what went wrong. For many years, I was haunted by the fear that I would follow his path. Periodically, I dieted, I exercised, and -- though it might seem oddly incongruous -- I made certain repeatedly to tell my sons that I love them, something my father never once said to me. Now that I am seventy-six, only three years from the age at which my father died, I am confident that whatever other failings I may have, I am not that man whose final years caused me such dismay.

By the time I had finished my immersion in the archive of family papers and letters, I had two books, each roughly 120,000 words long. I made a selection of photographs from the manila envelopes and assembled the entire thing into two desktop published books. Collective Copies in Amherst xeroxed them and put them in ring binders, with a pair of pictures of Barney and Ella as grandparents on the cover of the first and pictures of Lotte and Walter as young adults on the second. Then I bundled them up and sent them off to my sister, my sons, and my cousins.

Barbara was quite interested in both volumes, of course, and my sons made polite comments, but only Cora, of all my cousins, even acknowledged the receipt of the books, and none of them seemed terribly interested in this intimate portrait of their forbears. I knew that there was no chance whatsoever of real publication, so I put the books on a shelf with my other unpublished work, the early book on Deterrence Theory and Game Theory, and more or less forgot about them. The writing had served its purpose. I felt that I had done honor to my grandparents and had come to terms with my feelings about my parents. Perhaps, after another fifty or one hundred years have passed, someone will find it valuable to have a detailed picture of life in early twentieth century New York socialist Jewish circles.