What Friends Are For

Our July cover article told the story of long-lost best friends Kevin Bennett and John Coyleboth ’90, and how a chance encounter led to their reunion and to housing for Bennett.

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Cover of the July 2021 STANFORD magazine

Can’t stop thinking about this piece on poet Kevin Bennett in @stanfordmag. Two once-inseparable college friends, one living on the streets of New Orleans & feared dead, reunited after 13 yrs. Smoking cigars & listening to Def Leppard in sleeping bags by the Esplanade.
Amy Mason, MA ’98
@AmyLDoan
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This story hit my heart. Thank you, @stanfordmag, for this inspiring story of friendship and humanity.
Mimi Gan, ’79
@Mi2Media
 



This pandemic has taught me the value of relationships forged in our youth, when everything seemed so much simpler. I have started looking for teachers, classmates and relatives I have lost touch with and am now enjoying rekindled relationships with wiser versions of ourselves.
Jennifer De los Reyes, ’83
City of Muntinlupa
Metro Manila, Philippines


You mention that [Bennett’s] “illness may always make him vulnerable to setbacks,” and as someone who works in the disability community, I want to point out the social constructionist view of disabilities, which recognizes that it is not the illness/disability but society’s attitudinal barriers that may significantly get in the way. Thank you for humanizing mental health diagnoses and playing a part in eradicating such stigma.
Kimberley Warsett, ’98
Somerville, Massachusetts


From the beginning of college until he died 35 years later, our son lived with unmitigated courage. The consistent involvement he had from his family is not available to all who are afflicted with severe mental illness. Friends who are willing and able to spend time navigating the myriad available resources can be critical.
Peter Schwabe, ’57
Tiburon, California


The stranger who befriended Kevin Bennett and sought to reconnect him with his worried friends displayed a selfless act of kindness and compassion. However, I bristled at her comment that she did so because she somehow felt that he was out of place on the streets. This seems to imply that it is acceptable for any human being to live an unsheltered life. 

Intellect and talent are, unfortunately, no guarantee against physical or mental disability that so often leads to severe hardship. But more to the point, “elite” accomplishments are not the only contributions of value to a society. Many others who experience homelessness were once a teacher’s favorite student, someone’s best friend, or a generous and loving family member.
Katrina Perttula Matheson, ’01
Ellsworth, Maine


Several years ago, Stanford reported the death of David Yob, ’76. David died from exposure while homeless in Las Vegas. He never encountered his Cheryl Gerber. I met David in the early ’80s after learning that Stanford had admitted another person from Muskegon. Considering our lackluster academic achievements, we often joked that we killed the chances of other hometown students to attend Stanford.

I never probed what he did or how he lived. After learning of his death, I cried not just over his life but also over my lackluster attempts to find one of my best friends. David’s cold death left my life smaller and crushed my virtue. Don’t be me; find your lost friends.
Dennis Ashendorf, ’79
Costa Mesa, California


A poignant reminder of the fragility of the human condition, and that no environment, no matter how rarefied, imparts immunity therefrom.
Tarif Abboushi, MS ’80
Houston, Texas


The uplifting and hopeful “A Friendship Mission” is the very best thing I’ve ever read in Stanford. In a world of so much bad news, this article is one I’ll keep and share.
Ann Staley, MA ’84
Corvallis, Oregon


Old West, New West

A July feature examined the generation gap between Wallace Stegner and some of his most famous students.

“Westword, Bound” neglects the one big writer who broke the mold and redirected American writing far more than Kesey or McMurtry: Robert Stone, whose Dog Soldiers in 1974 was the first Vietnam novel of substance, and the first to tie America’s burgeoning drug culture to the corruption of a pointless war.
Don Wallace
Honolulu, Hawaii 


One of the highlights of my time on the Farm was a writing class I had with Wallace Stegner. I was audacious enough to invite him for a coffee, and he accepted. I wasn’t nearly his best student, but I like to believe that I wasn’t his worst. Daniel Arnold’s excellent piece brought back many pleasant memories. Thanks.
Doug Glant, ’64
Mercer Island, Washington


Yurt Sweet Yurt

A July article took a peek inside the tiny, rustic home of Grace Hartman, ’90, and her family.

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A yurt with snow on the ground


I would try this in a heartbeat! What a grand adventure! 
Anne Lyons, ’67

Photo: Sargent Schutt



On the Same Wavelength

In July, we profiled bioengineer and “frugal science” inventor Manu Prakash.

“Just Curious” is a remarkable story to find in Stanford. Recognizing actual scientific inquiry rather than scientific posturing to justify conventional opinions. Promoting intellectual curiosity rather than ideological conformity. Celebrating achievement without focus on supposed victimhood and oppression. Quite a surprising article for the magazine of recent years.
Stephen G. Wesche, ’73
Edmonds, Washington


Beyond Black and White

The July President’s Column discussed Stanford’s efforts to advance racial justice.

The efforts reflected in President Marc Tessier-Lavigne’s July column are long overdue. The problem is that racial justice challenges in this country extend far beyond the Black population; in particular, Latinos have historically faced the same structural racism that has resulted in the same wealth, income, educational and health inequities that face their Black brethren. Latinos also bear the brunt of a current wave of immigrant bashing. It seems anomalous to read about a major California institution’s efforts directed toward “advancing racial justice” and not mention, even in passing, a group constituting 39 percent of the state’s population and 17 percent of Stanford’s undergraduate enrollment, and that struggles with social justice challenges every day.  
Agustin Medina, MA ’69, JD ’77
South Pasadena, California


Correction:

In our July Farewells section, the obituary for Robert Bruce “Robby” Beyers, ’80, MS ’82, PhD ’89, erroneously stated that he had played in the Band. He was the Band’s photographer.