Looking for balance
Colgate is dear to my heart, with many lifelong friendships made and cherished. I look forward to receiving the Colgate Scene in my mailbox and reading it. However, your choices for feature stories, I would say pretty much invariably, espouse an overtly left-leaning worldview. The winter 2015 Scene is a case in point: rainforests; sex talk, and the ACLU. I am not in agreement with the aims of the American Civil Liberties Union, but at least your story highlighted a Colgate alumnus.
Please use your features section to report on the many distinguished and mainstream alumni success stories and leave the political moralizing to the Sierra Club, Cosmopolitan, and Mother Jones.
These esoteric features have little relevance to the life of the university. Colgate University belongs to its alumni; it would be nice if the features you print were to reflect, honor, and promote the alumni community’s diversity and magnificent achievements and creativity, rather than promoting the left’s political agenda.
P.S.: Congratulations to Professor Jill Harsin on being named Colgate’s interim president; I was a student in her first history classes on campus and it is welcome to see her dedication to the school recognized.
Daniel Wiseman ’85
I think you misquoted me in “Sex Talk: Beyond Yes and No.” The gender neutral pronouns were written “hir and zir,” but it is actually “hir and ze.”
Elizabeth “Biz” Yoder ’15
Remembering Coleman Brown
Coleman Brown has gone home, but he leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of wisdom, love, and intelligence. He was my teacher — I don’t just mean I took classes with him, which I did, but I mean he was my teacher in the truest, deepest sense — and he remains my teacher 43 years after my graduation. More than anyone in my life, with the possible exception of my father, he taught me lessons I carry with me every day. In my work as a judge in Connecticut, not a week goes by during which I don’t ask myself how Coleman would evaluate a particularly difficult situation.
How does one sum up the life and character of this magnificent human being, whom I came to respect more that anyone else I have ever known? It is, of course, impossible. Coleman was, from the standpoint of character, intelligence, and integrity, in his own league. He embodied an extraordinary combination of rare traits. His mind was like a jewel, his analytical powers exceptional, informed by love but unencumbered by cheap sentimentality. Unlike so many people I have known, he was not only very smart, but very wise.
He was a wonderful listener and brought his warm, loving, discerning heart to any conversation — including my frequent requests for advice or insights. His view of complex issues was exquisitely nuanced, equally informed by a deep and abiding idealism and a Niebuhrian Christian pragmatism. I learned from Coleman that while we often view the world in stark colors — good and evil, black and white — there is much ambiguity in life. But notwithstanding that, we have a moral obligation to ourselves, and our communities, to act — to get our hands dirty — with purpose but always with humility. (One of the courses I took with him was an independent study class on the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.)
Coleman was, of course, a Christian minister with a deep interest in the life and theology of Martin Luther King Jr. His PhD thesis was titled: “Grounds for American Loyalty in a Prophetic Christian Social Ethic — With Special Attention to Martin Luther King Jr.” It took him a good while to finish it because as a teacher, and university chaplain, he always put his students’ needs before his own. I remember, as if it was last week, the time he asked us to sing “We Shall Overcome” in his P&R class.
We devoted many conversations to Abraham Lincoln. Coleman was a great admirer of Lincoln’s political skills, moral courage, and literary genius. Because of Coleman, I have become a lifetime student of Lincoln and his life. By the way, Coleman told me that the abolitionist John Brown, who led the raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859, was a relative.
He was deeply respectful of the religious belief system — or lack of a religious belief system — in others. He had the utmost respect for Jewish tradition and learning. I am not particularly observant, and I suspect he sensed that when he suggested that I read Andre Schwarz-Bart’s novel, The Last of the Just, the story of the “just men” of a family, over eight centuries, the last of whom, Ernie Levy, dies in the Holocaust. I have always believed he wanted, in his own gentle way, to prompt me to take a deeper look into my own tradition. I realize now, as I write these words, that I have always viewed Coleman himself as the model of a “just man.”
Over the years, I was privileged to come to not only view Coleman as a mentor and a role model, but also to view Coleman and Irene as friends. I frequently sought his counsel on a wide variety of topics. He was always available and always willing to share his thoughts with me on the phone, by letter, or over lunch or dinner at the Colgate Inn or the Seven Oaks restaurant.
I loved Coleman and still do. At a time in my life when I was impressionable, and looking for direction, he made it clear to me that the search for knowledge — and answers — was a lifelong pursuit. I have known many fine people, but no one like Coleman. He was a human being in the fullest sense; he was a teacher in the truest, richest sense. I will miss his deep, rich voice, his penetrating insights, and his extraordinary kindness, but he lives on in my heart and mind.
Coleman, thank you so very, very much, for your mentoring, your guidance, your friendship, and most of all, your example of what it means to live a good life as a good man.
Douglas Lavine ’72
West Hartford, Conn.
I can’t imagine my Colgate experience – or my life today as a Presbyterian pastor — without Coleman Brown being part of it. Of all the professors who helped me along the way, and of all the activities in which I was involved during my time at Colgate (1982-1986) Coleman and his ministry as university chaplain made the greatest impact on me, both at the time and even now, 30 years later.
I met Coleman during my first week at Colgate. I had been active in my home church and was eager to make a faith connection at college. After worship on that first Sunday after orientation, Coleman invited me to his home later that week for a meeting of the Outreach Committee. I showed up on the wrong night and his delightful wife and partner in ministry, Irene, offered me a cup of tea while we waited for him to come home. When Coleman finally arrived, he could not have been more patient and understanding with me.
Over the next few years, Coleman became a constant source of inspiration, encouragement, faith, and wisdom. Coleman was there for me during a very difficult first year when I was trying to find my niche. He encouraged and coached me in my volunteer chaplaincy work in the nursing home wing of Community Memorial Hospital. He was the one who tracked me down in Case Library and told me the devastating news of my father’s heart attack.
University Church was my sole reason for getting up on Sunday mornings, and it was at Coleman’s services that my faith grew and I found my community of friends at Colgate. Under his leadership, University Church was a place where students from the black church tradition connected at a deep level with students from mainline protestant (mostly white) congregations.
Coleman also offered the entire student body a calm, faithful, and unifying perspective in the midst of conflict and confusion. He led university-wide memorials commemorating the death of students (at least two during my years) and provided wise counsel to student leaders who were trying to bring the fraternity system into greater conformity with Colgate’s historic values.
He taught classes each semester, demonstrating in a very visible way that faith and intellectual rigor are not mutually exclusive. His students knew how seriously Coleman took his work – writing exhaustive comments on our papers in his distinctive script — and we never dared to give him less than our best. We felt bad even thinking about skipping class. Coleman perfectly embodied Colgate’s motto. In him, God and truth truly came together.
I am a better man and a better pastor for having known him.
Jeffrey W. Gibelius ’86
As Colgate’s Chaplain, longtime professor, dean of students, and a guide for so many, Coleman Brown led us to wrestle with the legacy of Martin Luther King and so many other great thinkers of spirit, civic endeavor, and intellect. As the film Selma emerges, with the controversy about its portrayal of the LBJ/MLK connection, I wish he were here to illuminate it, as he undoubtedly would. Of all things to be grateful about Colgate, certainly the greatest to appreciate has to be our great teachers. Coleman stood high, very high, on that ground. His loss is a deep one, and very keenly felt.
Donald C. Wilson ’79
Remembering Ernie Vandeweghe ’49
I liked your piece on the death of basketball star Ernie Vandeweghe ’49 (Winter 2015). While a student, I saw all the Colgate home games in Ernie’s last two years and he was indeed terrific.
Your piece calls him a 6’3″ guard, but he always played center. The 7-footers had not yet come to dominate the game, but most centers were from about 6’5″ to 6’10”, so Ernie crafted his great college career almost entirely against significantly bigger men. Almost none were quicker, however, and only rarely could he be stopped. In his six years with the N.Y. Knicks, still as a star, he continued to outplay men of all sizes.
One sign of his stature as a college player: In 1949, Kentucky ruled the college basketball world, and four of its players were named starters for the annual East-West college all-star game. The fifth starter was Ernie.
Ernie was preceded at the Knicks by another Colgate star, a wonderful shooter named Carl Braun ’49. Braun also became an all-star at the Knicks, was among the league’s leading scorers, and coached the team his last two years with it. Braun died in 2010.
Ted Stanton ’51
Ernie’s freshman year at Colgate, he played football, basketball, and baseball. The coaching staff persuaded him to give up football as a pre-med, so he played soccer in the fall. He later gave up baseball as Eppie Barnes, the coach, wanted to spend two hours going over the opposing letters and Ernie had labs to attend.
No obit mentions that Ernie, as a 17 year old freshman in 1946, was named most valuable player in the East-West all star game at Madison Square Garden.
W. Edwards ’52
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
What I am about to say is not easy. I have contributed to Colgate at the Presidents’ Club level every year since graduating, participated in all capital fund drives, and made a six-figure gift in memory of my wife. However, I have decided to temporarily suspend further financial support until the university shows evidence of curtailing expenses as other schools are doing.
I have had the opportunity of reviewing Colgate’s audited financial statements. Between 2008 and 2011, operating expenses stayed in the range of $150 million. Colgate’s explanation for rising costs [since then] is so the university can remain competitive in attracting top students; however, administrators tell me they turn away many qualified applicants.
I say rising costs can be attributed to inflated administrative and faculty costs, and there are many other excessive costs, including unnecessary cafeteria offerings and extensive workout facilities. These kinds of administrative costs only add to the charge next year of $60,000 plus. At this price, the university becomes either a haven for foreign students whose governments are willing to pay this kind of cost or a spiraling hole of unconscionable debt for graduating students.
Colgate should be a leader in reducing costs, not an enabler of increasing them. Former White House adviser Lawrence Summers is among the economists arguing that student debt is undermining the housing market and dampening U.S. economic recovery.
Russell C. Buchanan ’50
Editor’s note: Colgate is committed to meeting 100 percent of the demonstrated need of accepted students and has invested in 60 additional aid slots in the last five years. Today, 43.4 percent of students receive financial aid, and the average financial aid award for the Class of 2018 is $45,924. The average debt load for aided students in the Class of 2013 was $15,995. Nationally, debt loads average $28,400 for graduates of public and nonprofit colleges.
In terms of savings, a number of initiatives have been undertaken in recent years, including the extensive OAK (optimization/analytics/knowledge) project that will result in greater administrative efficiency as well as financial savings. Members of the faculty also look for ways to save; you can read one story, “Lightening lab costs.”
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