Oberlin Alumni Magazine

Winter 2009-10 Vol. 105 No. 2 OAM Home | Oberlin Online


GOP OK, Helms, Not So Much

I do not believe, as Ed Helms does, that learning and labor "suck," or that if you are a Republican at Oberlin you are a "badass" (Fall 2009). The Oberlin of my days had a Republican alumnus, Erwin Griswold, dean of the Harvard Law School and future solicitor general of the United States, as the chairman of the Board of Trustees. Another Oberlin alumnus, Charles Mosher, a Republican, represented the city in Congress. I was a government major, not a "politics" major. I learned how government works, not whom to elect. I did not know the politics of my Oberlin professors. In my days at Oberlin, it would have been unthinkable for any Obie professor to support a boycott of any academic. Heraclitus taught us that the only thing constant is change, but the real question might be whether Oberlin has changed for the better. And, oh yes, my Oberlin was the second-highest ranked liberal arts college in the nation, not tied for 22.

Benjamin Sevitch ’60
Newington, Conn.

Editor’s reply: At the end of his note, Mr. Sevitch cites a statistic that is often misrepresented. Ross Peacock, Oberlin’s director of institutional research, tells us that U.S. News and World Report (which currently ranks Oberlin #22) did not begin ranking schools until 1983. The rankings to which Mr. Sevitch refers likely come from a series of Chicago Tribune articles published in 1957 that were cited in Oberlin Today, a college publication of the time. The author, Chesly Manly, separately ranked men’s, women’s, and coeducational colleges based largely on reputation by consulting 33 "experts." He also tabulated a limited amount of data, such as future PhD production—an area in which Oberlin continues to excel. It is important to note that the universe of coed colleges has expanded significantly since 1957; in fact, all of the men’s colleges and two of the women’s colleges in Manly’s rankings are now coeducational. We’ll take a more detailed look at the rankings issue in a future edition of OAM.


The photo of the college bus in front of Talcott Hall taken in 1958 by Rosalee Figge Beasley ’59 (Spring 2009) brings to mind one of the bus’s historically important moments.

On a Saturday night in the spring of ’59, if memory serves, the bus was moved, without authorization, from the college parking barn to the center of Tappan Square by members of the Class of 1962. Five or so conspirators from Burton, led by Bill Graafmeyer, planned the caper. Bill drove the bus onto the square, and while the others were letting air out of the tires, the authorities interrupted their labors. The intent had been to have it sitting there for the student body to admire on the way to morning church services. While the Burton men were being hunted in various places of concealment around the campus, a second group, three freshmen from Noah, were crossing the square after an evening of too much 3.2 beer. They took note of the bus’s location, and, knowing it should not be there, boarded and drove it a half block to the Talcott/conservatory corner. There, in an exciting moment, police ended the misadventure. Of course, full restitution was made for slight damage to the door frame of the bus barn and a few scratches on the side of the bus itself. All but one of the plotters and two of the Noah incidentals were sent home for a week by the dean of men to create the circumstances for self-appraisal. Most graduated from Oberlin, becoming community leaders, scholars, etc. Keys were no longer left in the unlocked bus, and the driver, as a matter of precaution, checked the barn for interlopers after returning from his missions. All learned something.

Ray W. Pollari ’62
Litchfield Park, Ariz.


Spanish in the Elementary Schools (SITES) (Summer 2009) prompts me to recall my first teaching job in the Oberlin Public Schools. As a French major (and Spanish minor) taking required education courses for secondary certification, I was chosen to extend the Eastwood School program to Prospect School. A Fulbright student from France began the initial classes. By November 1956 (my senior year), I was hired to continue the program while also teaching at the high school. During my four-year tenure I traveled to four schools daily. A change of administration brought differing philosophies, eliminating the elementary program. Kudos to SITES; may it flourish. Bonne Chance y Buena Suerte.

Barbara Weller Wonderly ’57
Aurora, Ohio

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