Dialogue — September 2023

September 2023

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September 2023 STANFORD magazine cover

Did Somebody Say McDonald?

Our July cover story chronicled the life of Stanford’s first Black administrator.

I always love Stanford but this article is out of this world. I would have loved to have known who Sam McDonald was when I was practicing for four years at the Stanford track (at the time a dirt track) to become a sub-three-hour marathon runner. I hope that with this article, future students will know of Sam’s story.
Pekka Hietala, MA ’85, PhD ’87
Espoo, Finland

Sam McDonald died in 1957. I enrolled at Stanford in 1959, barely two years later. My time on the Farm included four years as a sportswriter on the Stanford Daily, two volumes as sports editor, and two years as a student employee of the athletic department. In all that time, I doubt I ever heard two words about Sam McDonald. That is a damned shame. His story should be a more celebrated part of Stanford history.
Glenn Alford, ’63
Pocatello, Idaho

I attended a Stanford football game in the late 1940s when I was a student at Paly High (Class of ’50). At that game, a Black man took the “stage” and led the students in “Give ’em the Axe.” The Stanford students responded with great affection and enormous volume, and I knew he was some sort of hero. I suspect I witnessed Mr. McDonald in action that day, and I now have “the rest of the story.”
Robert Steinbach, MS ’62
San Diego, California

I graduated in 1940 while Ray Lyman Wilbur (Class of 1896, MA ’97, MD ’99) was president and McDonald was already a celebrity. He was certainly a remarkable person who attained success through hard work and determined effort and did not let so many roadblocks stop him. This was a great article and I appreciate what you have accomplished. 
George A. Jedenoff, ’40, MBA ’42
Orinda, California

I retired two years ago and joined a wonderful hiking group. We hike all over the Bay Area with regular jaunts through San Mateo County open space. Without a doubt, Sam McDonald’s beautiful hiking trails are my favorite. They offer a spiritualism and raw peace that is second to none. I am so happy to know more about the man who made these trails available to all. What an incredible life, what an incredible man.
Andrea Mirenda
Mountain View, California

I grew up on the campus beginning in 1947. Although I never saw Mr. McDonald, I heartily remember some of the places, fields, etc., with which he was associated. When the news at Stanford is not always the greatest recently, your article highlights a shining era in Stanford history, and I congratulate you for writing and researching it.
Carl B. Schmidt, ’63
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

The Man Behind the Voice

In July, we shared the story of associate professor of neurobiology and hit podcaster Andrew Huberman.

The Huberman profile stands out. Hearing his rough start as a young adult gives me hope for other bright kids who take a different, often awkward path that can be scary for us parents. Huberman truly inspires.
Karen Edwards, ’85
Palo Alto, California

I’ve been listening to the Huberman Lab podcast since 2021 and have learned so much from him. I’d heard whispers of his background, but assumed he’d always been a put-together, typical man. As someone who also climbed out of some holes with the help of a talented therapist, it means a lot to understand his success story, and inspires me (and I’m sure many like me) to keep going, despite my past.
Sarah Saweikis
Austin, Texas

Speaking Up

Our July issue included a profile of broadcaster Alyssa London, ’12, who works to increase media coverage of Native issues.

She’s had to face criticism, skepticism, and worse, but she can be proud of what she has given to young First Nations children: her story, and what can be their story. I loved her story, and I loved your last paragraph.
Tom Payne, ’76
Seattle, Washington

Instagram logo

George Segal’s Gay Liberation statues on Stanford campus


A photograph of George Segal’s Gay Liberation prompted alumni memories. 

This statue was vandalized at Stanford in 1994. The faculty response to that event—outrage—showed me that I was going to be OK being myself at Stanford. 
BJ Fogg, MA ’95, PhD ’97

Photo: H. Taghap

Fall In

July Q&A with undersecretary of the Army Gabe Camarillo, JD ’02, explored recruitment in the modern era.

The article on Camarillo and the challenges facing the all-volunteer Army minted a discussion of how the draft, while inconvenient and frightening to those of us subject to it (I was given a 4F in 1971, which allowed me to be JD ’74 rather than RIP ’72), had a beneficial collateral consequence: People of every socioeconomic status knew people who were fighting and dying.

Part of the reason that the country turned against the war was that parents, rich, poor, and middle class, were personally touched by young people whom they knew returning from Vietnam maimed, physically and mentally, or not returning at all.

With a mercenary army, there is no similar check on military adventurism. Does that mean that we should return to a draft? Maybe not. But having a professional military has consequences that we need to recognize.
Andrew E. Rubin, JD ’74
Los Angeles, California

A Commitment to Free Expression

In the July President’s Column, Marc Tessier-Lavigne explained university initiatives meant to strengthen the culture of academic freedom at Stanford.

 The column doesn’t mention that faculty tenure is supposed to protect controversial faculty. Why else would we take the extraordinary step of giving them a guaranteed position? Sadly, the cancel culture that has come to dominate Stanford and other elite universities came originally from faculty attempting to cancel their colleagues. And, of course, faculty will only support tenure for left-leaning academics, creating a monolithic point of view where diverse viewpoints are not welcome. The students have picked up the cancel culture from the faculty and now use it against faculty—a delicious irony—and other students. Our next president should take the lead in setting a rule that faculty who do not respect the views of other faculty or students or who seek to cancel them will lose their tenure. And tenure should only be granted to faculty who demonstrate that they teach without an ideological bias and do not seek 
to cancel viewpoints that are not consistent with a woke ideology. When we see that, we’ll know that Stanford is serious about freedom of inquiry and a diversity of viewpoints.
Chuck Ludlam, ’67
Washington, D.C.

Snips and Snails

In July, Brad Blake, ’80, MBA ’85, wrote about how an excursion with his toddler grandson helped him learn to live in the moment.

Best article I have read since graduating. Summed up the entire world in a few paragraphs. At least how the world should be. Really needed to read it—watching too much TV news that ruins our view of humanity and the planet.
Mike Silva, MS ’86
Santa Ana, California

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