Letters

by SCM |

Bonfire, poems, humanity

While making a presentation to a group of eighth-graders who had asked me about the college experience and writing careers, I was pleased to show the students a simple, vivid, and relevant example of both—the winter edition cover story on the humanities and the cover text, “Because everybody savors a good story.” 

No need to defend the humanities. Being an English major was a natural fit for me, and my appreciation for the profs who taught me the skills to understand and participate in the world has grown over the years. Still, it is gratifying to see a full-color acknowledgment that the humanities are of value, even if the piece would have been improved by discussing more than the practical reward of a paycheck. As a writer, I’ve been sharing the stories of the U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine for more than 15 years, translating scientific concepts into plain English for lay audiences. It has been meaningful work.

The interview about Fr. William Rewak was even more welcome. I took several courses and received much advice from him. As I tried to convey the essence of my long-ago college experience to students who are only starting to prepare for higher education, I was delighted to be able to point out Father’s photo and say, “This is the person who taught me how to write.”

Lynn Narlesky ’74
Davis, Calif.

 

Regarding “How to prevent a bonfire of the humanities,” by Michael S. Malone ’75, MBA ’77, I never thought C.P. Snow had it right, and I think history supports that view. The “scientists” brought us the Long-Term Capital Management crisis, the tech bubble, and the Great Financial Crisis through misguided financial engineering and “mathematical” certainty.

In over 30 years of doing business in manufacturing, farm and construction equipment distribution, and finance, I have never hired an undergraduate business major or a scientist. I have always preferred humanities majors who can write a complete, grammatically correct sentence that readers can comprehend. I particularly prefer economics (classic, not econometrics), political science, and history majors, as they understand that the world is not as simple as the United States or the community in which they grew up and matured.

My view was influenced by Fr. Rewak, who, as president of Santa Clara in the late 1970s, taught a poetry class for engineers. Also by an experience I had in the mid-1980s at a Stanford summer college program on leadership. There, I met the CFO of Apple at the time. He was an English major as an undergraduate. Steve Jobs put his ideas into practice.

It would be helpful to the economy if more firms had the view that Malone presents in his article—and put that view into practice. Any time my friends ask me what their kids should major in as undergraduates, I tell them arts and humanities! An undergraduate education should be about learning to think, challenging ideas, developing independent thoughts, and being able to communicate through storytelling, both orally and in writing. If parents want their children to get a job and a life they will love, that is what they should encourage them to do.

James Canales ’80
New York, N.Y.

 

Scientists and engineers need help from others to stay in the fold of humanity. Those versed in humanities, with their creativity, art, and eloquence, can and should point the way forward for those harnessed to the engine of technology. Who else is going to do it? An MBA can miss entirely the monetary value of an organization or fail outright in understanding what win-win means. Enter mass layoffs rather than spin-offs.

Hello? Where is the vision? Where is the setting of goals worthy of the people at hand in the organization?

Engineers can go on forever on autopilot: optimizing, optimizing, adding features whether useful or not. Science, like software engineering, requires a total personal commitment, as there is no limit to the amount of intellect required to address any particular challenge.

In my family, with a house full of humanities majors, I jump for joy seeing articles like this. I am an engineer. Yes, the technology world needs people who can help guide the work, who can inspire, who can tell the story of why a product needs to be done, not just what the product does, not just the profit, not just the advancement of science. This approach with humanities may need to take the same entrepreneurial path taken to launch personal computing—doing it from the garage.

Can a humanities major lead well enough from their personal blog? Can they work hard to create relevance and fully embarrass compensation out of so many companies? Even though there are few jobs at tech companies today? Get ready: Even engineers are needing to publish personally or remain out of work indefinitely. Enter humanities here. Please don’t miss the opportunity for teamwork.

Rene Clabaugh M.S. ’05
Santa Clara

 

Trying to imagine Facebook and Google without an elegantly designed user interface (art majors!) or content worth searching or sharing (music, political science, psychology...).

Nope. Can’t do it.

Carole K. Meagher MBA ’98
Pleasanton

 

The problem is not that the humanities don’t have a contribution to make to the tech industry but, rather, that those who study the humanities often don’t see how they can contribute to that industry.

The challenge we often have at the SCU Career Center is educating the English majors that their Jane Austen monographs and deconstructions of The Tempest arm them with a unique set of transferable skills. Although they may not be discussing the death of the novel over the virtual water cooler at Google (Chief Legal Officer David Drummond ’85 was a history major), the skills they have acquired and honed in the classroom are valuable in the workplace.

Careful analysis of the motivations of a character in literature, the ability to articulate thoughts and persuade others of your ideas and convictions, the creativity and imagination inherent in writing or interpreting poetry—all of these require traits that employers value. Data from LinkedIn (Co-Founder Reid Hoffman was a philosophy major) show us that Google and Apple (Co-Founder Steve Jobs was inspired by a calligraphy class) hire more of our alumni into nontechnical than technical positions; in fact, 54 percent of SCU alumni at Apple are in nontechnical positions. Employers hire a person, not a major.

Elspeth Rossetti ’75, M.A. ’96
Director, SCU Career Center

[David Drummond will speak at the law school commencement this year. —Ed.]

 

Technology is indispensable, and Malone sullies all clear-headed advocates for and agents of technological advancement with this piece of self-indulgent tripe. As though technological phenomena and their effects on humanity are self-evidently explicable. As though the role of those who critically examine human beings and how they exist in our ever-changing world is to serve as optional adjunct to the manufacturers of semiconductors, as an embellishment on the genuinely valuable work of the scientist. Malone’s weak thesis that the humanities are begrudgingly useful—his professed angle, that he’s simply, generously attempting to rescue the pitiful humanities from themselves; his supposed desire to “rebuild the shattered bridge”—is undone by his smug, self-congratulatory condescension and his ignorance toward what the humanities actually are and do. (Not to mention his ignorance [or, more generously, his blithe dismissal] of how the infrastructure of the contemporary university—how all of Western education—came to be in the first place.) Sadly, this brand of self-indulgent myopia is all too common here in Silicon Valley. Thankfully, it has not won the day.

Kevin Hilke
San Jose

 

I feel compelled to comment on this discussion thread. I studied liberal arts in the days when teaching seemed to be the only available career for the English, history, or philosophy major. Once I obtained my B.A. degree in English, I continued my literary studies with an M.A. degree in English. In between the two English degrees, I picked up a math minor so I could teach English and math in secondary school. This combination seemed to be an on-demand duo, as several schools seemed to need the English-math combination to round out their class schedules.

Looking for a slightly higher salary and the privilege of working with adults, I obtained a Silicon Valley job as a technical editor. Wanting to make the transition to technical writing, I picked up an MBA in data systems and then an M.S. in software engineering. Continuing along the lifelong learning path, I enrolled in the SCU Engineering Management program and earned my second M.S. degree in 2005. Encouraged by one professor to work on my doctorate, I completed my doctoral studies in 2011. I am still working as a technical writer and recently as an adjunct professor.

I don’t believe everyone needs enough degrees to “choke a horse,” as the saying goes, but technical writing is a great career for an English major with a large dose of computer savvy. A few degrees or certificates certainly help the résumé appearance, but the proof of the writing is in the ability to work hard, meet schedules, and produce quality work. As one recent blog posed the question: Where are all the young technical writers? I am solidly of the baby boomer generation, but many of my fellow technical writers are of the same chronological ilk (wandering their way toward retirement). Do not despair if you like to dot your i’s and cross your t’s; the world needs people who can write for printed and online media. Where have all the English majors gone? Hopefully, they have gone back to school for Java 101 and another cup of joe to spill on a document due yesterday.

Michael J. Piellusch M.S. ’05
San Jose

 

This will not be on the test

The feature article in the Winter 2013 edition, entitled “This will not be on the test” regarding the people and activities of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Santa Clara University, was an outstanding piece of work on the part of Mitch Finley ’73. The article was very timely in that it sets the stage for OLLI at SCU as we prepare to begin the 10th anniversary year (2013–2014) of this fine program. In conjunction with the decennial anniversary is the beginning of a Membership Initiative to reach the 1,000 member level, with details to be unveiled at our Annual Fall Kick-Off on Aug. 24, 2013. We know the “seasoned adult” scholars are out there. All we need to do is find a way to get the message to all those who do not yet know that this quality community outreach offering can be found on the campus of Santa Clara University. Special thanks to Santa Clara Magazine for your role in bringing this message to all your readers in the Bay Area.

Ron Lindsay
Chair, OLLI@SCU membership committee 

 

As an enthusiastic and dedicated Osher member who is so grateful to have a home at SCU, I want to applaud you for your superb article about the Osher Lifelong Learning program. I believe that the program has been especially effective in attracting and nurturing many non-SCU alums in our county. Not only is there contentedness with the extraordinarily rich OLLI program, but also there has been frequent positive feedback at the discovery that Bronco students are courteous and solicitous to senior citizens who walk the campus. That civility is significant during these times when courtesy and respect seem to be vanishing from the general population that does not have access to the inspiration of the Jesuit mission. How lucky we Osher-ites are! Thanks for recognizing us and our privileged program.

Vilma Kennedy Pallette
Santa Clara

 

One of the great programs that Santa Clara University offers to the broader community: Local residents, alums, staff, and faculty are all part of this worthwhile outreach effort.

Pat Debrincat
Portola Valley, Calif.

 

I, too, identify with the enthusiasm of the article. My first time on the Santa Clara University campus was when I took a fabulous course called The Historical Jesus, offered by OLLI. I am not only hooked on OLLI but also on the University and have taken advantage of University lectures as well as many OLLI courses. I was a professor for 30 years. It is even more fun being a student—and not having tests!

Katharine Rosenberry
Mountain View

 

Predictive Policing 

This is a very good article. Match this work to predicting mass killings by young men with known mental problems and more funding by DOJ and others will follow. Look at the following site for citizens with clean records–www.InfraGard.net. Find a chapter near you. San Francisco has a chapter and so does L.A.

Henry Newton MBA ’72
Metairie, La.

 

To track or not to track 

This article raises exceptionally important questions. I wonder, however, if they will rise to the level of discussion and lead us to a paradigm shift, should we need one, as long as there is any monetary benefit from tracking.

Ethical choices are suddenly confusing for us when there is financial benefit to be had. A cautionary note from St. Francis: Where there is money, there is fighting to protect it. Information is power in our society. Will information become the new resource we’ll war over? Can tracking information not be a preventative measure for peace?

Sarah Kirby ’01
Mountain View

 

Heart of the matter

The Mission Gardens and the welcoming Statue of the Sacred Heart helped me to fall in love with Santa Clara. As a high school student taking a campus tour of my future college, I knew SCU was a very special place. I became one of the students studying on the grass near the Mission.

All these years later, I return to campus to stroll the grounds and take lovely photos. There are many of this historic statue. Somehow I am pleased that my photos are of the original.

Michele Terzian Munda ’71
San Mateo

 

I was really taken aback when I came to SCU for my 40th reunion and found the statue of the Sacred Heart absent! I asked the nearest student where “He” was—and was relieved to find out that “He” would be returning. I said a prayer in thanksgiving, Sacred Heart of Jesus!

Sheila Kraus Boyd ’72
Upland, Calif.

 

I have many times sat at the foot of Jesus, and have said many prayers. I think Jesus must have been listening, as I passed my exams and graduated.

Mike Salerno ’75
San Jose

 

You state that it was decided to rotate the statue to face south in about 1930. I have been telling relatives and friends since my student days that the statue responded to the SF earthquake of 1906 and assumed the new orientation by itself. I like my story better. Who is right? What orientation are you going to set the statue back on?

Harry Williams ’51
Claremont, Calif.

[We like that quake story, too. We'll see what we can dig up. —Ed.]

 

Twice as sweet

It’s great to see Chuck Hildebrand back writing about SCU sports. When he was working for the old Palo Alto Times and Mid-Peninsula Tribune, he was the finest sports writer in the Bay Area and certainly did the best job of covering SCU, especially men’s basketball. Chuck’s book Bronco Sundays (about SCU football) and his biography of now-retired basketball coach Dick Davies are superb.

Tim Fennell ’71
Los Altos

 

My dad, Bryce T. Brown ’37, was on that team.

Bryce M. Brown ’64
Renton, Wash.

 

Fantastic.

Bryan Barker ’86
Neptune Beach, Florida

[We'd like to point out that Bryan Barker played 16 years and 236 games in the NFL before retiring in 2007. Before that, he finished his SCU career as the Broncos’ all-time leader in punts, and in one game he booted the ball 81 yards. Fantastic, yes?Ed.] 

 

Stories, poems, teachers

Great review—I am excited to get the book. I have always loved reading what Fr. Rewak has to say about poetry. Thanks!

Martina Nicholson ‘72
Soquel

 

Gringos at the gate

A few comments on Mark Purdy's article “A rivalry like no other” (Fall 2012): He wrote: “Mexico’s eroding soccer dominance in the Western Hemisphere. Now Brazil and Argentina dominate.”

Mexico was never dominant in the Western Hemisphere. However, in North America they were and still are. Western Hemisphere dominance has come from South America, which, incidentally, is also in the Western Hemisphere. Brazil has won the World Cup five times and was runner-up two times; Argentina has won the WC two times and was runner-up twice; Uruguay has won the WC two times.

But Mexico is no slouch either. Mexico has qualified for 14 World Cups and has qualified consecutively since 1994. Mexico's best results in the WC were reaching the quarterfinals in 1970 and 1986.

Mexico is historically the most successful national team in the CONCACAF region (North America) and is the only team from the region to win an official FIFA recognized title. They won the FIFA Confederations Cup which is held every four years, pitting the six continental champions. Although Mexico is under the jurisdiction of CONCACAF, its national football team has been regularly invited to compete in South America’s Copa America tournament since 1993. Mexico has finished as runner-up twice and third place on three occasions.

Purdy also wrote that in August 2012, “Team USA beat Mexico 1–0 at Azteca Stadium."

My comment: That game was a “friendly” and like most “friendlies,” the score results are as meaningful as a Cactus League baseball game.

In the last several years, Mexico has revamped its youth development soccer program and the results have been impressive. Besides the 2012 Olympic gold (under-23 competition), Mexico, since June 2011, has won the CONCACAF Gold Cup, U-17 World Cup, the Pan-American Games, the Toulon Espoirs tournament, the Northern Ireland Milk Cup (under-19 competition), finished third at the 2011 U-20 World Cup, and just recently won the 2013 CONCACAF under-20 tournament, beating the U.S. in the final 3–1. They’re now on to the under-20 WC, where they’ll be a favorite to win, now arguably having been recognized as the best youth team in the world.

Purdy also asked whether “a consistently dominant USA soccer team [would] convince more Mexican Americans to assimilate … to their adopted country.”

My comment: They already have. In California, many Mexican Americans have been here longer than imports from, say, Ohio. The team that just won the 2012 CONCACAF under-23 tournament featured seven starters of Mexican-American descent. The team was selected by a new coach (Tab Ramos), not a Brit BTW, who was certainly not adverse to selecting players on technical skill (physically and otherwise) rather than just by size and speed.

Purdy wrote: "Many Mexican-American fathers would secretly be proud to play for the U.S. National team.”

My comment: Previous U.S. national coaches at any level made it a point of not selecting Hispanic players. It’s getting better, but it’s still there. Witness the Mexican goalkeeper on the Mexican under-20 team that just beat the US. He, like several other members of that team, is an American citizen.

Incidentally, my son played professionally in Mexico after graduating from Santa Clara. He experienced first-hand the much higher standards of play and practice not seen in the MLS.

Norm Alexander ’68, M.S. ’71
San Jose

 

Montgomery

The fall article about John Montgomery was of special interest to me, because my father, Robert F. Keefe ’02, was fortunate to have Montgomery as his physics professor. My father’s father operated a successful gold-mining operation in eastern Sacramento County, but there were no secondary schools in the area, so my dad attended Santa Clara as a boarding school student for both high school and college.

While at Santa Clara, my father was the star pitcher, and his lifelong friend, Charley Graham, was the catcher. At that time, Santa Clara was the dominant baseball team of the area, easily defeating Stanford and Cal. A special day was held for him when a Pacific Coast League game was moved to San Jose for the benefit of Bronco fans. He was playing for Tacoma before going to the Majors. Fortunately for Santa Clara, he pitched a no-hitter against Oakland that day.

I have two Santa Clara magazines from the early 1900s containing pictures of Montgomery and some of his work on wing designs. I assume the University also has copies. I graduated from SCU in 1948 after serving as a naval officer in the Pacific in WWII and I enjoy Santa Clara Magazine

Keep up the excellent quality.

John Franklin Keefe ’48
Sacramento

 

Corrections

What's in a name? A lot, if it’s yours and someone gets it wrong. In “The play’s the thing” (Winter SCM), Sahar Jamal is the name of the young woman originally identified as Nawaf Ashur. A note from Mr. Ashur pointed out that he is not a woman (and doesn’t tend to sport high heels, shades, and jeans) and is not studying international relations. He graciously accepted our apology for the mix-up. More serious, a reference to “isolated killings” in the article is one we’d like to take back; as Peter Friedrich ’91 pointed out, there’s been exactly one American killed in Sulaimani in the past 20 years, and that was not related to sectarian violence.

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Spring 2014

Table of contents

Features

Radiant house

Building a house for the 2013 Solar Decathlon. That, and changing the world.

Américas cuisine

Telling a delicious tale of food and family with chef David Cordúa ’04.

Lessons from the field

Taut and tranquil moments in Afghanistan—an essay in words and images.

Mission Matters

Carried with compassion

The Dalai Lama’s first visit to Santa Clara.

Farther afield

Building safer houses in Ecuador. Research on capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica. Helping empower girls in The Gambia. And this is just the beginning for the Johnson Scholars Program.

What connects us

The annual State of the University address, including some fabulous news for the arts and humanities. And the announcement of Santa Clara 2020, a new vision for the University.