Graphic Design

Our December cover story recounted how Leland Stanford’s youngest brother endowed “psychical research” at the university, inadvertently influencing the fledgling field of psychology.

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Cover image of STANFORD magazine, December 2019 issue

The cover story of the Stanford alumni magazine December issue is a comic! I’ll give more info after I read it!
Brittany Netherton

I just want to say how much I enjoyed reading the short graphic novel in the December 2019 issue! I have a bad tendency to quickly recycle the magazine, but the curious cover made me dig deeper. The story was an amazing way to learn more about Stanford’s history.

Katie Neville, MS ’19
Menlo Park, California

I was so thrilled to see Jonathan Fetter-Vorm’s [’05] “The Curious Case of Thomas Welton Stanford” in your December issue. Other readers who felt the same about this venture into graphic narratives might be interested in an organization I’ve spent more than a decade engaged with: Graphic Medicine, a group dedicated to bringing the power of graphic narratives to illuminate experiences of illness, medicine, disability and caregiving.

Susan Squier, MA ’75, PhD ’77 
Boalsburg, Pennsylvania

Already, as a psychology major at Stanford,
 I had read The Reach of the Mind, J.B. Rhine’s scientific research in parapsychology, and There Is a River, a biography of Edgar Cayce, America’s great psychic. Now, more than 
60 years later, with a PhD in psychology and a career of research in this field, I find mountains of evidence for the factuality and usefulness of psychic phenomena. Stanford’s neglect of this research opportunity is a great loss for the university and the world.

Herbert Bruce Puryear, ’57
Fountain Hills, Arizona

All Kinds of Reads

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Stack of books sitting on a fluffy white blanket, flanked by pinecones

Both delighted and amused that @stanfordmag put my book on a list with Susan Rice’s [’86] book.
Jasmine Guillory, JD ’02

Photo: Erin Attkisson

Democracy and Distrust

feature in the December issue reviewed Stanford scholarship on democratic recession worldwide.

My Stanford magazine came this week.
 I took it to bed so I could read and rest before I went to sleep. BUT! I read your article “Free Fall,” and it woke me up. First, it was amazingly written—you revealed the reality of this issue in a way that could be understood and form the basis for further discussion of this problem. Second, it is clear that a number of Stanford people are addressing the issue of American democracy’s survival. That is good news.

David Hopelain, ’58
North Fork, California

A more appropriate title for Jill Patton’s [’03, 
MA ’04] excellent and timely article might be “An Existential Moment for Civilization?” If democracy in the true sense of the word is indeed being inexorably undermined and weakened across the globe, including in the United States, then the future of human civilization could very well be in doubt. This conclusion requires us to consider only three facts. First, the ongoing process of global climate change; second, the possession of planet-ending weapons by antidemocratic state actors across the world; and third, the mind-controlling grasp of social media technologies that is already being put to nefarious use by narrow agenda–driven groups the world over. This deadly combination is unprecedented in history, and without the moderating influence of fully empowered democratic institutions and processes it could lead to the end of the world as we know it. It is deeply disturbing to see that while climate change does get some media coverage and discussion, the rise of antidemocracy is hardly ever brought up. 

If I may, I would like to point out that even the subject article did not mention some key examples of antidemocratic forces at play in the world today, such as the fired-up Hindu nationalist regime in the “largest democracy in the world,” India, and the enormous power and influence of global (mostly American) corporations. The massively damaging impact of the United States’ “Global War on Terror” on human rights and democracy was also not given the focus and attention it deserves. And saddest of all, I find, is the ready ease with which our billionaire elites, most importantly our tech giants, shamelessly collude with anti-human-rights and antidemocracy forces across the globe in their seeming quest for massive near-term profits. However, all in all, this article and the work of luminaries like Larry Diamond [’73, MA ’78, PhD ’80] and his colleagues give us some hope that all is not lost, and that if given half a chance, our younger generations will unite across nations and nationalities to establish a global culture of absolute, not relative, commitment to human rights, justice, fairness and democracy.

Saif M. Hussain, MS ’84
Woodland Hills, California

Jill Patton claims, “In the past, America has played a critical role on the global stage as a model for developing nations, a crusader for human rights and a bulwark against the spread of authoritarian regimes.” Our real history, well known to the rest of the world, is quite the opposite: a sordid legacy of toppling democracies to install ruthless dictators—Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), and Chile (1973) being the most notorious examples from a long, contemptible list. We used the Cold War to disguise our neocolonial machinations then. Now we use the “War on Terror.” Nonetheless, despite our invading Iraq under false pretenses, our drone-bombing civilians in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, our heinous rendition/torture program as well as our obscene military-industrial complex, Patton unabashedly refers to “China’s menace” and “Russian mischief.”

If the United States is ever to reestablish democracy at home or elsewhere, we must begin by abandoning the specious myth we tell of and to ourselves.

David Ellison, MA ’88
Berkeley, California

The implication that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is an example of dangerous antidemocratic insurgency throughout the world must be disputed. Prorogue—the ending of a parliamentary session in anticipation of convening anew at a later date—is a fixed feature of the unwritten British constitution, and the British High Court’s invalidation of the prime minister’s effort (and his acquiescence in it) shows that their democratic system is at least as healthy as ours. With hubris, we tend to think our system is a democratic ideal, lots of evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. The slur in your magazine on one of our last truly democratic allies was totally uncalled for.

Larry Tracy, ’61, JD ’65
Los Angeles, California

The article makes the case that our democracy is in danger. To support this thesis, the article cites “an American president getting cozy with dictators.” Later in the article, a Mr. Abramowitz says “no president in living memory has shown less respect for [the U.S. constitutional system’s] tenets, norms and principles” and Madeleine Albright says Trump is “the first anti-democratic president in modern history.” Wow! I disagree. Trump supports free enterprise, free and fair trade, limited government and an America that insists its allies share the responsibility for maintaining a free world. That agenda sounds very democratic to me. He does talk to our adversaries, but I would hardly classify that as being “cozy” with them. In contrast, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party derides capitalism and wants government to have a major role in running the country because it knows best what is good for its citizens. No thank you, I will take the Trump version every day. The “elites” quoted in the article and those running for the Democratic nomination are the ones who will ruin our democracy if given the chance.

Charles Hoppe, ’54
Carmel, California

“Free Fall” was an excellent survey of the state of the world.

In my opinion, globalization is the major cause of the turmoil we have seen in the past few decades. Due to the internet and efficient shipping, there is little friction to the world becoming a single labor marketplace. This has caused wages to even out over the globe. 
The result has been great for developing countries, but not so good for those countries where wages went down, such as the United States.

The hardships thus created led to anger and the desire to elect someone who promises to fix it. Especially if that person promises to bypass democracy’s slow decision processes.

It has always been ironic that the organs of the economy—corporations—are not themselves democracies but are autocratic, top-down affairs. Small wonder that a person with experience in them gets frustrated when he tries to run the country that way.

John Page
Saratoga, California

Thank you for the article. For those of us 
who value rationality over partisanship, it was 
a godsend.

Charles A. Krohn, Gr. ’62 
Panama City Beach, Florida

Tackling Medicine

Milt McColl, ’81, MD ’88, recently began practicing medicine after a pro football career and 25 years in biotech.

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Milt McColl playing football for the San Francisco 49ers

The pride of @clanmccoll. Now if he just had an Instagram handle.  
Kellen McColl, ’11


So proud of you, Uncle Milt! A cornerstone of the McColl family legacy. 
Daniel McColl, ’21


We join the profession and practice because we love it. This story is a perfect example.
Rolando Toyos, MA ’89


So that’s what happened to my Stanford Med classmate.
Marcus Wilson, MD ’84


I love everything about this.
Janice Kimball Key, ’80

Photo: Courtesy San Francisco 49ers


I’ve been reading Stanford for many years, beginning even before I graduated. I would say the issue of December 2019 is the best issue I have ever read—and the competition is formidable. The quality of the writing shines and reflects the impressive work of the authors and the staff working together. I always enjoy reading the comments and contributions of those in my era as well as younger (and older!) authors. But this issue is particularly effective in bringing Stanford to us alums in an unusually appealing and even captivating way. I know from working with many of them, past and present, that the staff producing this publication is dedicated as well as talented. And it all shows.

Thank you for keeping us alums connected!

Bob Hamrdla, ’59, MA ’64
Palo Alto, California

Of Cancer and Control

story in the December issue discussed a big-data technique, borrowed from sports betting, to continually calculate a patient’s cancer prognosis.

I passed along the article to a friend and neighbor who is currently battling a significant cancer (with some hope of success). Her insightful response: “I really don’t want to know the prognosis at this point. I am largely living day-to-day. My goals are simple . . . to enjoy peace, serenity and gratitude. 
 So much is right in my life in this moment. That is what I focus on.” 

Keep up the great coverage of Stanford’s amazing range of research. Given the current political times, it really is uplifting to see such exciting ventures—even though too often only in academia!

Jim Warren, MS ’77
Hansville, Washington

About Meyer Green

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Night view of Meyer Green and Hoover Tower

I prefer the old, dismal take on Meyer—but I suppose this is OK.
Christopher Oslebo, ’10


Wouldn’t a better name be “Green Green”?
Bob Svikhart, ’80 

Photo: Sandra Kong, ’21

Relationship Redux

We asked readers to tell us about a relationship that has lasted since their Stanford days. Read more responses on our website.

I am currently having a lot of fun working with my old roommate, Doug Schuetz. I’m Class of ’80 and he’s ’81, and we were roommates back in the late ’70s. We’ve stayed in touch over the years and it’s always good to hear from him.

I’ve written a couple of books, and a big audiobook company turned the first one into an audiobook. Shame on me—Doug is (among many other talents) a voice actor and he was disappointed that my book had been recorded by someone else. But never fear, my second book needed a reader, and who better than Doug?

So we’ve been working on it for the past month or so and having a blast. He’ll record chapters and send them to me, and then we’ll talk about them. He’s a terrific talent and always was—he wrote and acted and directed for Gaieties back in the day. When he records one of the funny passages in my book, I marvel at how it’s even funnier with him reading than it is on the page.

At the end of the book, there’s a short biography of me. I asked Doug if he’d like to add one for himself, and this is what he recorded: “Doug Schuetz, the reader, was Keith’s college roommate.”

Keith Van Sickle, ’80
Menlo Park, California