Letters to the Editor

The New Bishop

Apart from trumpeting the obvious novelty of a female presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Diane Rogers’s article “Grace Under Pressure” (January/February) accurately highlights Bishop Jefferts Schori’s priorities. As the bishop stated in her investiture sermon, she intends to focus the energy of the Episcopal Church on the Millennium Development Goals, a United Nations-sponsored global strategy for achieving eight specific goals that emphasize poverty reduction and public health improvements.

The intrinsic merit of most—if not all—of these goals is self-evident, but what is less evident and more debatable is whether the leader of a major Christian denomination should enshroud that church in the cloak of a manifesto of a political institution. I believe this to be a grave mistake, one that will hasten the ongoing spiritual and numerical declension of this mainline denomination.

I have several Episcopalian friends who are saying “enough” with the politicization of the Episcopal Church, which appears to have jettisoned the propagation of the true gospel as found in the Great Commission (Matthew 28) in favor of the social gospel as promoted by the United Nations. Looking for a reason for the negative growth rate of this denomination? It is all too obvious. God help the Episcopal Church recover its true identity and purpose!

Mark Murphy, ’81
Fircrest, Washington

After reading the article, it is not hard to understand why the Episcopal Church is decreasing in numbers. While our society is self-destructing morally, Bishop Schori’s priorities are to focus on the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations. Her example of “Can we include Gentiles” is not quite the same as “Can we bless same-sex unions.” The first question was settled in the affirmative in Acts 11:18. The second question was answered in the negative in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. There does not appear to be much wiggle room here.

I take issue with her statement that “a belief in creationism or intelligent design is too limited an understanding of the divine because it assumes that we can comprehend what the designer is all about, that there is a fixity to the divine and that creation isn’t ongoing.” To believe in creationism or intelligent design only requires that one believes the Biblical account in Genesis, which I would have thought would be part of the job description of the head of any large Christian denomination.

Finally, her definition of the divine as “that which is drawing life into existence” and “the energy behind creation” sounds like Eastern Religions 101. Does the name “Christ” ring a bell?

Robert Griffin, ’63, MS ’64
Loomis, California

Bishop Katharine—a fantastic cover article that should be read by everyone for many reasons, but especially for her insights on the fundamental connections between science and religion. Bravo to Katharine and to Stanford for spreading her amazing story.

Richard T. Hart, ’50, MS ’51
Watsonville, California

Tears came to my eyes at the mailbox when I saw the cover of Stanford: the Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori adorned in ancient Catholic miter, holding the primatial cross, and assuming her role as spiritual leader of American Episcopalians. She takes on also the difficult task of witnessing to the larger Anglican Communion and other Christians the role of women in the church, as Diane Rogers points out in her fine article.

“She’s Mary Magdalene!” I thought to myself, “Beloved of and Chief of the Apostles, shut out all these years—even defamed, by a misogynous church—until now.”

I’m a former priest and lapsed Episcopalian. The new primate tempts me to return to a community I once loved and served. Her ordination to the episcopate and elevation to this high office is a statement, I believe, that God is indeed alive and well and doing amazing new things among us.

Gilbert Joel Keithly, ’57
Spokane Valley, Washington

While “Grace Under Pressure” showed Katharine Schori is a well-educated person in various subjects, she appears to be somewhat of a captive to particular political perspectives. Although the pattern in nature is not complete eternal Deity, it is evidence of the divine and intelligent design in a universe with a finite time/space dimension. However, biological determinism is an insufficient explanation for homosexuality in a complex modern society of humans with qualified but life-determining free will. It too easily relieves not only the individual but society from responsibility for their own actions, interactions and attitudes. Where hyper-sexism, extreme sexual competitiveness, loose moral standards, high family tensions, unequal male/female demographics and any number of other experiential and cultural factors exist, homosexuality is clearly a product of more than some genetic dispositions which themselves have an extensive range and uniqueness when coupled with personality variables.

Robert Walker, ’69
Soquel, California


In The Swim

I wanted to thank you for “Master Stroke” (January/February), documenting Skip Kenney and the Stanford men’s swim program. The article was well written, and it hit at the heart of what an athletic program should be. Hopefully everyone who reads the article can get a glimpse into the classroom of the Avery Aquatic Center that Skip Kenney and Ted Knapp teach in each day.

As a team member between the years of 1994 and 1998, I was brought back to some incredible memories and lessons that I rely on each day in my life. The dedication, discipline and intricacies of what it means to be a team unit are things I draw on in both my professional life and my personal life. In short, what Skip and Ted have created is more than a team. It truly is a family that has dramatically impacted my life and keeps me going every day.

Scott Claypool, ’98
San Francisco, California

Those of us who are swimming alums love to read about our storied history. We’ve all heard it before, but it’s really nice to know that a new generation of Stanford students is learning our traditions. Thank you for all your hard work.

Thomas Zochowski, ’03
Victoria, British Columbia

The article brought back a floodtide of memories at the pool. Even though I played only a small part in those teams from 1983 to 1986 (I was a diver), I drew strength from being part of a bigger unit, especially as it came to the end of each year and we competed at the Pac-10 and NCAA championships. “The Streak” is cool, and its significance grows over time; but what makes Stanford great is that we always had our sights set much higher.

The NCAA championships were the real target, and it was truly magical to be a part of the team in 1985 and 1986 when it all came together. Skip Kenney and diving coach Rick Schavone have built phenomenal legacies down at the pool. Thank you for the coverage of the teams.

Thor Johnson, ’86
San Juan Capistrano, California


Oil Pioneers

The Arabian Adventure of Wallace Stegner” article in your January/February issue is confusing in both content and rationale. The point of the article appears to be that Wallace Stegner was either a fool or a patsy when, in his book Discovery! (funded by Aramco in 1954), Stegner expressed admiration for the pioneering American geologists who first found oil on the Arabian peninsula. Apparently the article’s author, and her primary source, Robert Vitalis, would have preferred Stegner to have told a tale of unmitigated greed and “cowboy” dedication to profit. But Stegner’s admiration for those early pioneers was well placed. None of the men who explored for oil in Arabia in the 1930s—despite the occasional dashing pose—can fairly be compared to “kid[s] at a frat party.”

When the search for oil began in Arabia, the Saudis only recently had consolidated power. The country had no known resources, no agriculture, no industry and no money. Nomadic Bedouin life prevailed. The Saudis had to provide armed guards when local emirs attempted to assert authority over early exploration operations. Our stepfather, Robert P. Miller, was one of two Standard Oil geologists who arrived in Saudi Arabia in 1930. He was a salaried field geologist, motivated by the desire to do his job well and to discover. Balding, stoop-shouldered and irascible, he—unlike Max Steineke—bore no physical resemblance to Indiana Jones. But he did speak Arabic and habitually dress as an Arab.

Our stepfather and his colleagues were 12,000 miles from home, operating in a strange and largely unknown environment. They had no electricity and no air-conditioning. The water was bad. The flies were terrible. Roads were nonexistent; often they traveled where no non-Arab had gone before. These early explorers for oil improvised transportation, hired and trained Saudis, pioneered aerial surveys, and solved myriad problems of supply and personnel with little or no outside help. The telegraph from Jubail to San Francisco was their fastest means of communication. Mail took weeks. Correspondence and telegrams from the field detail personnel, political and operational issues that had to be resolved between the exploration camps, company headquarters, the Saudis and the locals, all of whom had cultural biases and perspectives and were communicating over vast distances, often in different languages.

The author of “Arabian Adventure” apparently views Stegner’s expressed admiration for the early oil explorers in Arabia as a foray into cheap boosterism—something he was paid to say. She intimates that because, in 1954, there was supposedly “a lot of knowledge in leftist circles” that Aramco was not as benign as its image, Stegner’s praise for the men who explored for oil in the 1930s was either bought and paid for or mindless parroting of company publicists.

Judging the pioneering geologists of the ’30s by today’s standards (or the standards of ’50s liberals) is to confuse the past, present and future. The men who constructed the Panama Canal were admirable despite any unfairness in the U.S./Panama operating agreements; the accomplishments of the men who found Arabia’s oil are not made less because of Aramco’s labor policies in later decades.

Both of us were privileged to study under Stegner while at Stanford. The implication that he was either bought off by Aramco or too stupid to recognize corporate puffery is profoundly insulting to Stegner as a man and professor. We also believe our stepfather, his associates and all the people who took monumental risks in exploring for oil on the Arabian Peninsula have been maligned. All are owed an apology.

Kenneth T. Sproul, ’61
Woodside, California
Judith Sproul Davis, ’58
Placerville, California

I found it troubling that Cynthia Haven trivialized the achievements of the geologists who worked in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s and 1940s. One of those geologists was my father, Max Steineke, ’21. He went to Saudi Arabia in 1934 and was joined there, in Dhahran, by my mother, my sister and myself from 1937 to 1939. 

When the geologists arrived in the early 1930s it was unknown whether their search for oil would be successful. They were a small group who lived and worked under rugged conditions in a harsh landscape. It is far off the mark to refer to them as being on a “junket.”

In 1937, when the oil camp had become built up enough for families to join the exploration crew, conditions were still austere and spartan. When we few families arrived we lived in small two-bedroom houses surrounded by desert. The men were often gone, working long hours out in the field for many weeks at a time. They were not on a “lark,” although they did like working on geology. Most, including my father, learned Arabic. They regarded their Arab guides as partners in their exploration.

Ms. Haven quotes Wallace Stegner’s book Discovery! The Search for Arabian Oil, but she seems so keen to discredit it that she follows Stegner quotes with belittling remarks of her own. After quoting a Stegner passage praising my father, she flippantly says, “In short, Indy Jones.” She makes fun of several photographs of my father. She says “in one photo, he grins from beneath the traditional checkered Arab headdress, like a kid at a frat costume party”—he actually was not a member of a frat; he worked his way through Stanford and was a hasher. She doesn’t seem to realize that the Arab garb was worn as a sign of courtesy on certain occasions. Of another photo she says “he sits on a stone . . . banging on a rock with a hammer. It looks posed, a visual cliché.” Apparently she doesn’t know that this is what geologists do. I saw him in this position hundreds of times. Her remark would be like calling a picture of a skier skiing or a writer at a desk a cliché. Max Steineke has been widely recognized for exceptional achievements in the discovery of vast reserves of oil and gas in Saudi Arabia. He and his early colleagues were serious professionals trying to figure out the geology of the Arabian Peninsula, a difficult task. To trivialize their efforts by using words such as “junket,” “playacting” and “lark” is a distortion of the immense challenges they faced and what really happened.

Maxine Steineke Goad, ’51, MS ’53
Santa Fe, New Mexico


Football Solutions

I believe that Stanford cannot field a strong enough football team to be competitive in Division I competition (“What We Tackled,” January/February). It is not that we cannot attract talented quarterbacks. It is that we cannot admit large and strong linemen. We do not have a strong enough line, both offensive and defensive, to protect the quarterback long enough for him to read the defense, find an open receiver and properly pass the ball. Likewise, without a strong line a running game is not possible. Defensively, we are not able to put pressure on the opposing quarterback due to our weak linemen.

There are three solutions. One, lower our admission standards to allow admission of beefy linemen. Two, get the NCAA to do their jobs and ban student-athletes who are not graduating (only 25 percent graduate from D-I programs in football). Three, drop out of D-I in football and play Pomona instead.

In my frequent discussions with fellow alumni the feeling is to lower our admission standards for football recruits. This will allow us to compete on the same footing with the rest of the Pac-10.

Kingsley Roberts, ’75, MS ’76
Menlo Park, California


A Welcome Ban

I am delighted to read that bicycles have been banned from the Quad arcades (“The New Rules for Cars and Bikes,” Farm Report, January/February). I only wish they were banned from the Quad entirely and that strict bike lanes were enforced. I write as a former faculty member who was hit, from behind, by a bike in the main Quad. It knocked me down, breaking my right elbow. I had to have horrible surgery and still have pins and wires holding the elbow together. For over a year I could not comfortably use the computer, open cans of food (for my cat), wash my hair, turn keys in locks, etc., and now, five years later, I still cannot rest my elbow on the table. I guess that will ensure I have good table manners!

Carol Delaney
Providence, Rhode Island


Habitat’s Founder

Your November/December article on Habitat for Humanity executive Jonathan Reckford (“He’d Like to Build the World a Home”) includes some incorrect and damaging information about Habitat founder Millard Fuller. The article falsely states that a “female staffer accused Habitat’s founder and longtime president Millard Fuller of groping her.” Most certainly, the allegations, which surfaced in 2004, never included anything that could be reasonably construed as “groping.” Furthermore, her allegations were adamantly denied by Fuller and ultimately proven to be unsubstantiated. The author goes on to state that Millard’s being “forced out” was a result of these accusations.

Again, this is damaging and erroneous. To support this, I have included the following paragraph from a letter that was written on September 7, 2006, by a Habitat official:

“It has come to our attention that we may have unintentionally and erroneously conveyed that Millard Fuller’s termination was directly caused by an allegation of inappropriate behavior toward a now former employee. The Habitat for Humanity International Board of Directors took the allegation very seriously, and after a thorough investigation stated that there was insufficient proof of inappropriate conduct.”

An accurate synopsis of what transpired should simply read: “After [his] successful record of more than 28 years as founder and president, the Board of Directors decided in 2005 that it was time to part ways due to major differences, primarily about Habitat’s vision and operating philosophy. Millard continues his mission to eliminate poverty housing around the world through a new organization, The Fuller Center for Housing.”

Lynda Spofford
Vice President of Communication
The Fuller Center for Housing
Americus, Georgia


The following letters did not appear in the print edition of Stanford.

Oil Pioneers

Cynthia Haven does both Wallace Stegner and Aramco a disservice in her article about Discovery! (“The Arabian Adventure of Wallace Stegner,” January/February). Aramco gave me a copy of the 1971 paperback as part of my orientation when I joined the company in 1979. The book was a good summary of the early Saudi and American pioneers. I know several of their children and grandchildren, who consider the book accurate. Haven totally ignores the desire of sovereign nations to control their own natural resources when she accuses Aramco of “unbridled exploitation.” During the time I worked in Saudi Arabia, Aramco handed back control of its oil concessions to the country in a peaceful transition for which the American owners received compensation, a rare achievement in the Middle East. Haven apparently has no knowledge of Aramco’s community involvement (hospitals, schools, roads and employee education) or its service in cleaning up the oil spills associated with the Gulf War. Based on my personal experience, Wally Stegner’s portrayal of Aramco is not in contradiction to his conservation values (or mine) and Discovery! is an early example of his uncanny ability to capture pioneering spirit truthfully, with all its rough edges. In fact, as general counsel of Aramco’s first downstream joint venture (1989 to 1999), I consider myself a pioneer, too.

Clydia J. Cuykendall, '71
Olympia, Washington

I have to wonder why Stanford would select such an obvious hit piece, long on innuendo and very short on established facts. Surely you can do better than a third party’s biased interpretation of what a second party thought about the initial writings of another.

Bob Elliott, ’52
Alamo, California

Your writer Cynthia Haven and Robert Vitalis (of the University of Pennsylvania) displayed journalistic writing styles worthy of the National Enquirer. For decades I have admired the serious writer-historian-novelist-conservationist Wallace Stegner as well as the accomplished and much honored geologist Max Steineke. Both of these former Stanfordites, still much revered by members of their respective professions, are cruelly ridiculed by Haven and Vitalis. Why these two have gone out of their way to castigate two honored and patriotic citizens totally mystifies me. What is their agenda?

Any sensible person who has read Stegner’s descriptions of failed farming efforts in overgrazed and deeply plowed fragile soils of Saskatchewan and Montana in Wolf Willow cannot fail to appreciate how sensitive Stegner was to the tragic economic and human costs resulting from inappropriate overexploitation of water, soil, plant and animal resources. And in Beyond the Hundredth Meridian (a magnificent biography of John Wesley Powell, the one-armed survivor of the Civil War who led the first party of explorers down the length of the Colorado River), Stegner describes how Maj. Powell investigated Indian ethnology, plants, animals, minerals, soils and limited water resources of the semi-desert and desert regions of the Western states. It is abundantly clear that Powell struggled against powerful and greedy land developers, speculators and certain members of the political leadership in Washington who tried to downplay Powell’s pleas for the protection of ecologically fragile biotopes and physiotopes against rapacious capitalism unconcerned with rational scientific land use on a sustainable basis.

Stegner obviously was in agreement with Powell’s assessment of the need for conservationist practices outlined in his Report on the Lands of the Arid Regions. Powell and Stegner were both visionary conservationists. That Stegner accepted $6,500 for 13 weeks’ work to compile and write on commission a book about the early days of oil exploration in Saudi Arabia in no way can discredit a lifetime of literary and historical excellence. Should he have refused the commission and remained “pure”? How many writers, poets and artists in the earlier hard times of the 1930s, when given the choice, would have chosen “purity” against what was a very generous fee? Just take a look at the murals in post office buildings, library buildings, bridges and national park lodges and cabins in the great land for the answer to that question.

As for Max Steineke, he was indeed an employee of Standard Oil Company of California (now Chevron). That company, unlike Gulf and some others, did not indiscriminately fire or lay off geologists and engineers during the Great Depression. Steineke and others were kept on four days a week but not discharged into the bread lines. I met Max Steineke, his wife and their daughters Maxine and Marian when I was a geology student at Stanford (1948-52), joined them on Stanford Alpine Club climbs, ski-mountaineering trips, and Sierra Club pack trips in Yosemite Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks, and on a 17- member, four-car ski trip to Sun Valley, where we crowded into a two-room motel unit and sidestepped down Baldy Mountain three hours every morning (the “grooming” technique of the day) in exchange for three hours of free lift passes after lunch! Truly a low-cost Christmas week vacation for impecunious students. The entire Steineke family were campers and hikers prior to a series of strokes that left Max incapacitated. Steineke, Bramkamp and other early SOCAL geologists of the 1930s were not Indiana Joneses playacting on geologists’ junkets to Arabia, but hardworking men who each spent several years in field geological studies in Saudi Arabia before drilling locations could be recommended with any scientifically reasonable hope of finding oil. Steineke loved the desert, developed good rapport with his Arab field workers, and explored the hinterland for months at a time by truck, on camel and on foot without air-conditioning or a fancy office.

Steineke’s Arabic became reasonably fluent, and Dr. Moujahed Al-Husseini, former exploration vice-president of Aramco, told me at a conference in Bahrain in 2000 that Steineke was dearly beloved by his Saudi associates, although his occasional misuse of singular/plural and masculine/feminine forms in Arabic brought on many smiles and gentle giggling. Max had a favorite Saudi field assistant named Rimthan to whom he was devoted, and in fact Max named one of the northern Saudi oil fields Rimthan in his honor. In no way should Max Steineke be mischaracterized as a kid at a frat costume party. (I suppose “colonialist British and others” would have called Rimthan a bearer, or servant—hardly unique to oil companies or to Saudi Arabia.)

Louis Christian, ’51, MS ’52
Dallas, Texas


Tough Row

I thoroughly enjoyed your article “The Erg to Compete” (Being There, January/February). My son has had a love-hate relationship with the erg for more than eight years and you captured the essence of erging perfectly—pain, intensity, vomit buckets and all. He rowed for an NCAA Division I university and appreciated the irony of the erg having been invented by Stanford grads.

Katherine West
Davis, California

Sustainable Sustenance

Wow! I am really impressed with Stanford Dining for their support for a sustainable table in the dorms (“On Dining Hall Tables, Farm Fresh Food,” Farm Report, January/February). Not only are they providing students with superior food, but they also are contributing substantially to a solution for global warming by cutting down on the fossil fuels used in transportation. As one who believes in buying from farmers’ markets and eating organic or at least locally grown, I thank Rafi Taherian, the director, for his foresight. I hope programs like this transfer to colleges and universities everywhere. What a wonderful teaching tool growing and eating good food can be.

Meredith Whitaker, ’49
San Luis Obispo, California


Rethinking Energy

Regarding the article “A Crude Awakening” (November/December), the authors correctly framed the problem as ”U.S. dependency on foreign oil from unreliable sources.” Many of these sources are already controlled by hostile governments that use their oil revenues to harm other countries. These days, most wars are fought over oil (not natural gas, coal, renewables, etc.). We should make all reasonable efforts to reduce oil consumption now in order to reduce armed conflicts and save lives, including American lives. In addition, windfall revenues from oil cause and aggravate corruption in governments, including our own. The U.S. government uses our oil and other tax revenues for “strategic purposes” every day.

Even if it is difficult, we need to transition away from gasoline and diesel. These are fossil fuels; we know that they will not last forever, so let’s get the transition going now. Most of the technology is already available, so we need to increase production of biofuels. A carbon tax could be applied to every barrel of oil to encourage people to immediately drive less and to drive more efficient vehicles eventually; the additional tax revenue can be applied to beefing up Social Security, Medicare and general revenues. Fuel economy standards can be increased to mandate smaller engines, lighter vehicles, better trucks and ethanol and biodiesel fueling capabilities; this could result in a biodiesel-powered, fuel-efficient Hummer that uses no oil at all. We can organize OPIC (Organization of Petroleum Importing Countries) to regulate storage and reduce consumption of oil and production of greenhouse gases on a worldwide basis and be a counterweight to OPEC, the cartel that sets production quotas in oil exporting countries. We can take all of these steps without any breakthrough inventions. The new Congress will have a lot of work to do.

Mike Timlin, MS ’81
Redwood City, California


They Said It First

The November/December issue has a short feature (“Just Plane Fun,” Red All Over) on a SkyMall parody (“SkyMaul”) written by several former Stanford Sierra Camp counselors and released in October.

Over a year earlier, however, Stanford’s very own humor magazine, the Chaparral, parodied SkyMall. The 48-page, free, full-color parody was written under the editorship of Matthew Henick, ’05, MA ’05, and Charlie Stockman, ’04, MS ’05.Douglas Kenter, ’07
Stanford, California


More on Medicine

At the end of his “need for kind doctors” letter to you (“Doctoring Medicine,” January/February), Myron Gananian, M.D., claims that “smart doctors are common.” I think an independent audit is needed to verify that.

I’ve read that loss of sleep over a long time causes permanent “cognitive impairment.” If so, is the change from the natural eunoia (an ancient Greek word, meaning “goodwill, kindness”) of beginning medical students to an iatronoia, developed and cultivated by medical training, an ascent to a higher level of awareness and understanding? Or, does it affirm Hell’s caring part, a health care system that kills 10,000 people a year? A kindly, professional authority, based on impaired use of medical knowledge, is something other than kind.

I think someone immune to organized medicine’s political pressures should compare the IQs and “kindness levels” of the healthy people beginning medical studies with their IQs and “kindness levels” after completion of residency. Publishing the results would help the public decide if “iatronoia” should be defined as healthy or pathological. We may find that kindness comes with intelligence, and the limited medical savant, who associates “smartness” with memorizing parts of the body, biochemical pathways, clinical and surgical procedures, and playing the piano, would find better work as an encarnalized computer hard drive.

By the way, Dr. Gananian, the American medical trades were prodded to reform themselves in the early 1900s by newspaper editorials demanding that incoming medical students have at least a high school diploma.

Peter Pansing, ’67
Culver City, California


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