Peck of Letters
Thank you so much for your article “The Professor's Tale” about Professor Russell Peck and for the simply wonderful illustrations (March-April).
I, too, am one of the people whose life’s direction, seemingly off-track though it might be, was influenced by Professor Peck. I lived in the Medieval House my sophomore (1971–72) and junior (1972–73) years at Rochester. I was a classics major with a strong interest in medieval studies, and I was honored and quite delighted that the medievalists let me in.
Memories from the midnight Chaucer readings have stayed with me all these years. They were the best of fun, and Professor Peck deserves the credit for creating them. The living room in the Medieval House was always packed with students and professors. The text came alive off the page. Those late evenings were the height of my time at Rochester.
Visiting professors stayed in the guest room at the Medieval House during those years and they would actually take the time to talk with us. It truly enhanced my college experience to be able to interact with those professors in such an informal way.
I am highly amused that I now find myself where the Smokey, Pioneer, and Boulder mountain ranges meet in Idaho, not all that far from the Wind River Range in Wyoming, a place where I have backpacked and will go back to again. I had no idea, then, that Professor Peck was from Wyoming, and I would never have guessed that I would wind up in the Rockies myself.
Debra Kronenberg ’74
I read with great pleasure “The Professor's Tale.” When I was an undergraduate in 1967–71, I was involved in the all-volunteer, no credit, theatrical productions the students put on twice a year. I well remember the start-up of Drama House (in a different format, I think), with Peck’s enthusiastic support and encouragement. Vic Becker ’69 was the instigator of the University of Rochester Summer Theater—I don’t recall if Peck was involved in that.
I ultimately became a professor myself and am fortunate that I encountered such a wonderful role model in Professor Peck during my formative years. I am a member of the Society for the 26-Hour Day, and note that Professor Peck is one of the cofounders.
Mark David Gottsegen ’71
Chagrin Falls, Ohio
I wanted to thank you for your article on Russell Peck.
Professor Peck is a rare treasure, and Myra Gelband ’71 has done an excellent job of encapsulating much of what makes him so: his enrapturing lectures, his astonishing mastery of subjects, his extraordinary courage, his indefatigable spirit, his pure generosity, his limitless good humor, and his genuine human kindness. He is the finest of leaders and the most loyal of friends, an absolute force of nature in all the best of terms. Well done, Ms. Gelband and Rochester Review!
That said, I think more can and should be said regarding the wider impact that Professor Peck’s life and career has had beyond the University. He is respected and loved around the globe by his colleagues, of course, but it should not be underestimated that he has mentored long lines of graduate students who are each, in their own small ways, trying to pass along his extraordinary legacy to their own students. I spent close to five years in Rochester, earning first a master’s and then a PhD under Professor Peck’s tutelage, and I am pleased to be able to think of him as both a mentor and a friend. The example of his leadership drives me daily to be a better teacher, a better researcher, and a better human being. You cannot spend time with him and not feel the same.
I asked him once how I could ever repay him for what he had done for me and my life. It was, in retrospect, a silly question to ask, since I knew the answer already.
In fact, I’d known the answer all along, from within my first hour of meeting him, years and years ago, when I visited Rochester and determined that I had no need to apply elsewhere for my graduate degree since I couldn’t imagine not working with Professor Peck.
Predictably, though, Russell didn’t scold me for asking my silly question. He simply smiled that warm smile, nodded, and told me what I already knew: “Just do the same for your own students when it’s your turn.”
I am trying, Russell. We all are. And if we can have half the impact that you have had, we will be most fortunate indeed.
Michael Livingston ’04 (MA), ’06 (PhD), Captain (UMSC)
The writer is an assistant professor of English at The Citadel, where he’s also the associate director of the honors program.
I worked at the River Campus for almost 10 years, 1987–97, and took advantage of the tuition benefits to earn an MA in English in 1992. Some professors were a bit perplexed by those of us “odd ducks” who were neither undergrad nor PhD students (I and two other colleagues pursued this degree at the same time), but Professor Peck welcomed anyone in his classroom who was eager and willing to learn.
And you had to be—the reading load was incredibly challenging—but he made it all so enjoyable with his boundless enthusiasm and incredible knowledge. I took his course on Classical and Scriptural Backgrounds, and learned more in that one semester than I did my entire undergraduate career. In fact, I just recently referred to something I learned with him in a conversation I had with my children about Greek mythology.
I also enjoyed accompanying undergraduates on his annual treks to the Shakespeare festival in Stratford, as the driver/chaperone who also took advantage of the incredibly affordable and very intense theater weekend. Five plays in three days, I believe it was, topped off by an evening of shared conversation and Pavlova, another “Peck Passion.” How rare, and how wonderful, to meet someone who is so thoroughly enamored of his profession that it inspires everyone around him—and how lovely to know that, many years later, this tradition continues, and many a student is still benefitting from Russell Peck’s expertise, enthusiasm, and energy.
Deb Howe Allen ’92 (MA)
Kudos to Myra Gelband ’71 for her wonderful illustration of the life and times of Russell Peck. Like many Rochester students, I was fortunate in knowing Russell as a professor, advisor, and friend. My first year at Rochester was also, I believe, his first. My initial impression of this young assistant professor was striking. One day he was unaccountably late to his History of the English Language class, but then he rushed in, grabbed a piece of chalk, and wrote on the board in large letters of Old English—announcing the birth of his son, Gunther. The class turned into a celebration.
Decades later I returned to Rochester for an admissions position, and in touring the buildings I found all over the campus beautiful, framed prints on previously blank and unattractive walls. You might know: it was another Russell Peck project to beautify the Rochester campus. This seemingly small activity, in addition to the many student-centered programs he initiated, truly represented the ideal relationship of university, professor, and student.
I hope he knows how much he has influenced generations of Rochester students.
A Knyght ther was, and that a worthy man / That fro the tyme that he first bigan / To riden out, he loved chivalrie, / Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie / . . . And evere honoured for his worthynesse.
B. Ann Wright ’63, ’66 (MA) ’77 (PhD)
The article “Confronting Our Differences—Collaboratively” (Alumni Gazette, March-April), featuring Bonnie Thornton Dill ’65 was very poignant, as I was a classmate of both Bonnie and her roommate, Tina Scott ’65. I am moved to see the contributions that Bonnie has made, and to see their names after all of these years.
Thanks for the uplifting reportage—it never fails to inspire.
Dick English ’65 Aptos, Calif.
What Is Race?
Next to the picture of Stephanie Li (“Race Talk in the Age of Obama,” January-February) we read her assertion that: “We want to know racial identities because those are the handles by which we begin to establish intimacy.”
My mental reaction was instantaneous: “Only in America, the country unique in classifying its people in terms of mythical ‘races,’ could an intellectual express the belief that a person must know another person’s ‘race’ in order to ‘establish intimacy.’ ”
I contacted Professor Li, and she has graciously responded to my questions. Here is part of her explanation of that assertion: “I am thinking of the countless times in which I have been asked, ‘What are you?’ by strangers and new acquaintances who are bewildered by not being able to identify me racially simply upon meeting me.”
Such a thought has never entered my mind in my 79 years. Here in Sweden I have asked at least 50 people (more every day at the Red Cross) from the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Sweden what they think of in a similar situation, and not one has ever mentioned “race.” The same is true for Swedish medical researchers.
When I have then revealed my reason for asking, Africans in particular have viewed the thought as strange at best, and several who have lived in the USA have even stronger negative opinions.
I have an ongoing project on this subject that keeps me in contact with American sociologists and a Northwestern University law professor, Dorothy Roberts, who in her brilliant new book Fatal Invention provides the intellectual foundation for my belief that designating people by “race” is a racist approach to human difference (“Race is the product of racism, racism is not the product of race,” p. 35).
I would like to hear from readers. If you are interested, sample my blog, Only- NeverInSweden.blogspot.com and then respond to the Gmail address there.
Lundgren is a professor emeritus of earth and environmental sciences.
Tuning into Radio Days
Editor’s Note: In the March-April issue, we included a photo of two Rochester students at the controls of the campus radio station. The undated, archival photo had no information about the identities of the two women in the photo . . . until now:
In regards to the photo on the first page of Class Notes (March-April), I’m the gal with the glasses—Anne Gaffney Friday ’58. Unfortunately I can't remember the last name of the other girl. Her first name is Chris and she was probably in either the ’60 or ’61 class. Hopefully someone else has identified her for you.
It was quite a surprise to see this picture from so long ago, but I’ve had lots of fun showing it to my friends out here in Seattle.
Anne Gaffney Friday ’58
I think the woman on the left in the picture on page 51 is Chris McGuire, who was my sophomore year roommate. We had a lot of fun that year, but Chris transferred after that year and I have never heard from her since.
Marion (Rusty) Dearnley ’60, ’66W (Mas)
Treasure Island, Fla.
The woman on the left in the photograph on page 51 is Christine McGuire from Palmyra, N.Y. The photo was probably taken in the mid- to late 1950s.
Paula O’Brien Stewart ’63N
Cape Coral, Fla.
The young woman standing in the “Radio Days” photo is Christine McGuire, a fellow member of the Class of 1960, who graduated in nursing.
Takes me back to the fall of 1956 and my brief time as a DJ at WRUR.
Joan Briggs Ashton ’60
A Romance with Rochester
Reflections inspired by the “Rochester Romance” article (January-February) . . .
Joyful memories come to me after so many years. My life was illuminated with the great romance I had at the University of Rochester itself. It happened about one year after I arrived from my country looking for freedom. A feeling of sadness accompanied me. I had left behind my country, part of my family, my career, and that intense vocation that drove me to teach since the age of eighteen.
Dear University of Rochester,
You probably do not remember me, but my name is among your master’s degree graduates in the Warner School of Education. You opened your magnanimous doors to somebody with little knowledge of a new language, and whose dream was to teach again. You have been my love since then. Because of you I just completed 30 years of teaching in this country, achieving my goals with a lot of happiness.
I thank you and your staff for your support and kindness.
I will love you forever.
Dolores Martorell Pasarin ’69 (MA)
Remembering Nora Bredes
Thanks so much for the write-up on Nora Bredes (November-December 2011). I took a course with Nora during my time at Rochester and remain thankful for her many insights on dynamics of gender, leadership, and politics. As you acknowledged in the piece, Ms. Bredes always took the time to support women’s engagement at the University, and I am grateful for the opportunity she gave me to speak about the history of women at U of R during the 2002 Susan B. Anthony Legacy Dinner.
The Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership, the University, and its students lost a great champion of women’s leadership with Nora’s passing.
Lindsey Bickers Bock ’02
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