Letters to the Editor


Long before the Internet was born, I had an encounter with plagiarism at Stanford (“Whose Idea Was That?” September/ October).

A roommate of mine received an Incomplete, which required a visit to his instructor. The professor told my roommate he had initially given his term paper an A. So impressed was the professor, however, that he showed a teaching assistant the paper. By sheer coincidence, the grad student had recently read the same information, word for word, in published literature.

My roommate was allowed to submit another term paper for a grade, which left me as disappointed in the professor as I was with my roommate. I was amazed, then, to hear the roommate complaining angrily to the student down the hall from whom he had copied the first paper—and who, using the same paper, had received an A grade in a prior term. I was even more astounded when that person responded, “Gee, the person I copied it from never told me it was plagiarized!” The ultimate shock was my roommate’s later response to this: “I’ve lost all faith in my friends!”

There are plenty of kids in each generation who have somehow been instilled with the attitude that winning at any cost is more important than self-discovery and optimizing one’s own talent.

Unfortunately, technology has made cheating easier. It’s hard to tell when real talent is expressed. I no longer care much for college and professional sports, because I no longer have confidence that performances are not enhanced by drugs. I can no longer appreciate just any photograph, because I know how easy it is to digitally enhance them. I no longer assume when I read something that it is original. Others argue that sports are still competitive, pictures are still pretty or interesting, and writing still contains insights. While this may be true, I prefer life real and unadulterated.

One wishes every kid had the desire, guidance and discipline to speak with her or his own voice.

Fred Crowe, ’71
Bend, Oregon

As a student at Cooper Union, which used proctors during exams, I was surprised at the extent of cheating by some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. I then attended Columbia, where an honor system seemed to discourage cheating. Later I taught at City College of New York, where we proctored exams. Cheating was rampant. I experimented with an honor system, and the level of cheating dropped.

When I attended Stanford, cheating in the exam rooms was low, but students cheated by covertly obtaining the teacher’s earlier exams and answers.

Teaching at San Jose State, I tried proctoring and the honor system, but I believe students cheated no matter what I did. When I taught in India and Singapore, cheating also seemed widespread, although not so much by copying as by ingenious use of information that was not supposed to be available.

Is there any way to find out what students know and can do? Although time-consuming, oral exams can help. Give the written exam as usual, but randomly take students out of the room and quiz them individually on a single question. Another strategy is to prepare a written test in two slightly different versions, giving one to students in odd rows and the other to students in even rows.

Yet many professors perpetuate the problem by repeating the same exams and ignoring obvious cheating.

George M. Sicular, Engr. ’72
Palm Desert, California

When I arrived at the Business School in 1948, one of the first things that impressed me was the Honor Code (and in my two years on campus, I suspected only one or two infractions). I was impressed because I had completed my undergraduate degree at Notre Dame, where cheating was rampant. I’d taken a test there, for instance, while the professor purposely read a newspaper so as not to view what was going on!

That’s why, in 1956, when I read that Notre Dame had a new president, Father Hesburgh, I wrote him about this, contrasting the two schools’ treatment of this very important problem. I no longer have my letter, but I do have his reply indicating he’d take action on it. I now feel partially responsible for Notre Dame having an honor code.

Regarding your article on Jane Stanford’s death: while writing about the early history of American aviation, I once prepared a table of monetary equivalents and had it reviewed by the Federal Reserve. It makes an absolute mockery of your statement that the $15,000 left by Mrs. Stanford to her personal secretary would be “equivalent to about $100,000 today.” The value would actually be nearer to $750,000.

G.J. “Jack” Carpenter, MBA ’50
San Juan Capistrano, California


Having Stanford family ties that go back to the late 1940s, I thought I was pretty well informed on Stanford lore. “Who Killed Jane Stanford?” (September/October) sure killed that notion. What an extraordinary story, with eerie undertones. I can’t wait to read the book.

Scott O’Connor, ’79
Paradise Valley, Arizona

I am sitting here shocked, saddened and horrified at the story of Jane Stanford’s murder. I knew she had died in Hawaii, but I had never heard this take on it.

Other Stanfordites I talk to hadn’t heard it either. It’s like learning something terribly tragic about the fate of a beloved family member, indeed the “mother” of the Stanford University family. What stings even more is that this outrage did not merit cover placement and that it was written in such a matter-of-fact style, as if the news were a quaint bit of history. Well, this was Jane Stanford—and why didn’t we all know about it before?

The $15,000 her secretary received from the estate was mentioned, but how much did the University receive? Could a shortage of funds for school operations have been someone’s motive, too?

Give us the rest of the story, with some sense of grief or remorse, along with news —one hopes—of revisions in the school’s official histories of its founders.

Al Floda, MBA ’80
Atlanta, Georgia

“Who Killed Jane Stanford?” was both fascinating and chilling.

Could David Starr Jordan, the University’s first president, really have been capable of conspiring to poison Mrs. Stanford? Wouldn’t his high religious and moral scruples have rendered that unthinkable?

A Google search on the Internet produced the following from a paper titled “‘Our Refractory Human Material’: Eugenics and Social Control,” written in 1991 by Margaret Quigley and available at www.publiceye.org, the website of Political Research Associates:

Plans of eugenic murder, although not commonplace, did on occasion creep into the writings of eugenicists who were not seen as extremists. David Starr Jordan, for example, then president of Stanford University, wrote in 1911, “Dr. Amos G. Warner has well said that the ‘true function of charity is to restore to usefulness those who are temporarily unfit, and to allow those unfit from heredity to become extinct with as little pain as possible.’ Sooner or later the last duty will not be less important or pressing than the first.”

(Quigley quotes from Jordan’s treatise, The Heredity of Richard Roe: A Discussion of the Principles of Eugenics.)

Given these beliefs, might David Starr Jordan have judged the “extinction” of Mrs. Stanford an unfortunate but necessary expedient if he viewed her as a serious threat to his continued tenure as president of Stanford and to his vision for the University’s future?

Richard M. Lindenauer, ’62, MA ’63
Locust Grove, Virginia

To my mind, your article most strongly suggests that Jane Stanford was the author of her own killing.

We are given little information about her emotional state, but it is clear that significant events were occurring in her life during the period in question, including her surrender of control of the University to a board of trustees. (There must be a story in that change alone!) We are told that she was also receiving information to the effect that the University president was performing in a manner detrimental to the future of her beloved institution. Was she becoming depressed and unable to manage the pressures and demands of making decisions and interacting with others? Did she have visions of her dream failing?

Her reaction to the first poisoning is curious. Why did she make such a dramatic display concerning the water? A more natural reaction might be to dismiss the taste as being due to a faulty product or unclean bottle. Perhaps this was a trial run by her as well as a cry for help from someone who could not discuss her level of emotional distress and whose position precluded others from commenting or intervening, as occurred with Howard Hughes.

After her death, Dr. Jordan may well have tried to move attention away from the poison, not because he did not want a cloud of murder over the University but because he feared a scandal from an even more shocking demise. His behavior could have been an effort to shield the University from the possibility that such a morally taboo act as suicide would befoul the memory of a founder. It is likely that such suspicions on his part would not have been committed to writing or print even if discussed in private conversations.

What really happened? I do not know. I am suggesting that historical reconstructions are risky and subject to all sorts of distortions and misunderstandings, both personal and cultural, and should be viewed with skepticism if considered at all.

Larry Stewart, ’58
Alamo, California


John Hennessy’s tribute to the arts is encouraging (President’s Column, September/October). If Stanford is in fact strongly committed to the arts, the campus should have a world-class performing arts center. We are hoping that such a center will be included in the next round of fund raising and construction. If so, we will enthusiastically add our support.

Jon, MBA ’67, and Carol Richards
Palo Alto, California

Sometime around 1968 or 1969, there was at least one pottery wheel in the basement studio at Wilbur Hall. In fact, I believe there were several. That’s where, as a graduate resident tutor in Branner Hall, I threw my first pot. My experiences there gave me a lifelong appreciation for potters, pottery and glazes.

Owen Whitby, MS ’66, PhD ’72
New York, New York


In your article on Stanford myths (Farm Report, September/October), the section on the Tree mascot could use some elaboration.

In 1975-76, the campus was split over the selection of a mascot to succeed the Indian. The student body, by plurality, voted for the Robber Barons. The athletic department adopted the Cardinal without any vote. The Stanford Band had its own election, choosing from the Royal Order of Fries, the Sycamore, the Tree, the Native Americans and a fifth option which this Old Fart can no longer remember. The Tree won in a very close balloting. (My parents, also Stanford alums, were mortified.)

Thereafter, the Band had its own “marching” mascot, which has noticeably outlasted the student body’s Robber Baron. Guess we weren’t so out to lunch after all.

Mark A. Lester, ’77
Oak Park, California


What hypocrisy! ROTC was banned from campus in the Seventies and cadets still go to Berkeley to drill—but when someone with a tenuous connection with Stanford (not even a graduate) reaches a position of influence, then he, Lieutenant General John Abizaid, is “Our Man” (Red All Over, September/ October). I trust that Gen. Abizaid, who spent one year as a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is his own man and would be none too pleased to be claimed by Stanford.

Kenneth Coveney, JD ’72
San Diego, California


After reading “A Spiritual Home Finds Salvation” (Showcase, July/August), I wondered how such a thoughtful, well-written article could have been completed without mention of the Rev. John Tierney, who made St. Ann’s a spiritual home for Catholics attending Stanford during the 1950s.

My memories of St. Ann’s are dominated by the eloquent homilies and majestic musical tones of Father Tierney, who ripped the intellectual dishonesty of the “well-known but not famous Dr. Kinsey’s reports.” I remember the faith he demonstrated, and the patience and tolerance he had with borderline barbarians such as myself, a nominal Catholic. It was he who dubbed me “Paul Wayward” when I strenuously objected to kneeling in the confessional.

We must not forget that St. Ann’s Chapel provided sacred space to be filled by this humble messenger, whose messages still ring clear after 50 years. John Tierney was a man of God who loved us as students—albeit undisciplined, arrogant and intellectually immature students.

Paul S. Woodward, ’55
Laguna Woods, California

Writer Cynthia Haven marred an otherwise uplifting article with her misguided reference to the Catholic Church’s “passive, if not complicitous, wartime role” under Hitler. For whatever reason, it has been popular recently to beat this drum, despite all evidence to the contrary. Hundreds of priests and religious Catholics were arrested, imprisoned, tortured and killed by the Nazis for their opposition to the regime. Church resistance to Nazi activities was carried out in the heart of a ruthless fascist empire—not from the comfort of a secure and faraway place from which it is so easy, 60 years later, to casually criticize.

Please don’t participate in smearing courageous individuals who deserve far better.

James McMillan, ’86
Medina, Washington


I was disturbed to read adverse remarks on promoting Hawaiian tourism (Farm Report, July/August). Specifically, a student from Oahu who led an alternative spring break trip focusing on native Hawaiian issues was quoted as saying, “We spent a night at Waikiki, and it was wonderful because everyone was so disgusted. That was my goal—to show how tourism has impacted ecosystems and to do some beach cleanups.”

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

I think back to 1951, when my first job after graduating was with the Matson Navigation Co. We were then the dominating force promoting tourism in the islands. I sailed on the Matson passenger liner Lurline and worked at both Matson hotels, the Royal Hawaiian and the Princess Kailani. We were proud of our profession and spread our love for Hawaii at every opportunity.

Now there is a killjoy generation who want to rain on every parade still marching in the sunshine.

Wayne M. Crawford, ’51
Lewisburg, West Virginia


Thank you for writing about our late classmate and friend Amy Biehl and the work of the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust in South Africa (President’s Column and Red All Over, July/August).

Amy’s legacy also lives on through the work of the Stanford community. In 1997, the Biehl family and the Haas Center for Public Service created a summer fellowship in Amy’s name, using memorial funds given to the University in the wake of her August 1993 murder. The first fellows went to Cape Town in 1998 to assist in emerging programs of the Foundation Trust, and subsequent fellows have worked there each summer.

More recently, the fellowship program extended its reach to other parts of Africa. In 2002, Kelly Moylan, ’77, established an endowment for a permanent African Service Fellowship, co-administered by the Haas Center and the Center for African Studies. At least one student a year goes to South Africa as an Amy Biehl Fellow, while others work with nongovernmental organizations anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Faculty members David Abernethy, Larry Diamond, David Katzenstein, Richard Roberts, Joel Samoff and Steve Stedman have contributed to the development of the new fellowship.

Gail Mackauf Mosse, ’89, JD ’97
Anthony Mosse, ’88, MBA ’97

Burlingame, California


While Don Bunce (Remembering, July/ August) was well known for his athletic achievement, I met him when I needed help with my ankle in the mid-1980s. When Dr. Bunce introduced himself, I asked him if he quarterbacked a Rose Bowl-winning Stanford team in 1971 and was now the team doctor. He answered simply “yes,” and I was struck by how thin and tall he was—not the rippling Tom Buchanan I expected. He exuded reserved competence, so much so that I was spellbound.

He immediately pressed on the sore ankle, asking, “Does this hurt?” It was excruciating, and I turned green. That had never happened to me before, and I felt embarrassed and unworthy. I suggested it might be better if I lay down, and he looked right through my soul and agreed with me. Great, I thought.

But he told me something that has helped me with my running ever since: that I shouldn’t run with pain. Coming from him, it was like an 11th Commandment, and I think of it every time I feel a hint of pain. Almost 20 years later, I’m still running successfully. And I tell the story of my fainting spell often, including the day before I learned of his passing. I found a recent photo on the web and noted his smile of real contentment. That he left us early only reminds us to pay attention to those who have mastered the art of life.

Neil Cotter, MS ’81, MS ’85, PhD ’86
Salt Lake City, Utah

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