I was privileged to begin my study of the German language at the University under Dr. Walter Heilbronner in 1961. He was a German Jew who, together with his parents, managed to flee the Holocaust to America. His grandparents, however, were not so fortunate and were murdered in the Nazi system of death camps. … Dr. Heilbronner took me—a “first-year man,” barely 17 years old, fatherless, and very unsure of himself—under his wing. He was a superb teacher and a demanding taskmaster who expected my best efforts. He got them. I owe him a lot, and Dr. Heilbronner will always remain my most revered teacher.
I found the news reports showing a host of loathsome individuals bearing Nazi flags while marching on the Grounds of the University and chanting anti-Semitic slogans very disturbing. My first thoughts were how sad my mentor would have been had he been alive to witness it. Intermingled with those Nazi banners were the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy. While some may argue there is a vast difference between the two, to my mind there is, more importantly, a definite connection. The Nazis sought to enslave the world. … Those who supported the Confederacy believed that people had the right to possess other people as property. …
The Confederate flag is a painful symbol to many of my countrymen, especially to those whose ancestors were dealt with as chattel. That it is a historical artifact of a tragic time in our history should not be forgotten. Nor should the fact that it joined the Nazi flag on that recent march at the University.
James Bodine McConville (Engr ’66)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Starting with the Aug. 11 torchlit march by anti-Semitic racists, leading through the Sept. 12 demonstration in which [protesters] shrouded the Thomas Jefferson statue in front of the Rotunda, the University of Virginia has found itself at the flashpoint of important national debate. One could argue that, as a public university, UVA is actually the ideal place for such debate to take place. Nevertheless, it is jarring to see attempts to define Mr. Jefferson’s character in categorical absolutes; to see his legacy reduced to “racist” and “rapist” [on protest placards].
… Let’s realize that Thomas Jefferson was an incredible man, emphasis on man, with faults mixed in with his brilliance. … Thanks to his legacy, generations of UVA alumni have had the education needed to be tremendously successful on the world’s greatest stages. Most importantly, it is not just UVA alumni who have benefited from Jefferson’s contributions. Citizens of democracies around the world, as well as those who aspire to democracy, owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Jefferson, faults and all. If we truly do “hold these truths to be self-evident,” we must collectively acknowledge that Thomas Jefferson’s strengths and brilliance are part and parcel of the man, along with his all-too-evident flaws. Without stifling the debate, and while respecting the freedom of speech Mr. Jefferson defended so strongly, we should not lose this perspective.
Michael Maquet-Diafouka (Col ’87)
Upper Saddle River, New Jersey
Marissa Hermanson’s wonderful piece about the redoubtable Grillswith put me in mind of another, less celebrated, destination for Cavalier comestibles. Back in the early 1950s, a delegation from the Beta Theta Pi house often trekked to the ever-popular Teeny Weeny Diner up Route 29 a short ways. Possibly catty-corner from Carroll’s Tea Room (“No Carrolls. No tea. No room.”). The mobile diner’s menu is well beyond my precise recall, but we were known to warn the lone cook that if the food wasn’t toothsome we would tow him and his Teeny Weeny to Culpeper.
David B. Bowes (Col ’56)
In the late 1960s, those of us in the School of Architecture often left our studio about 2 or 3 in the morning to grab some grub, and my choice was always what we called “grillies” (not “Grillswiths”). … Then, about 7 a.m., I was off to breakfast and, frequently, another full day on the drawing board (or maybe a class or two, if I really had to) and the prospect of another late-night snack of grillies.
Jim Pettit (Arch ’69)
It’s not a “Grillswith.” It’s simply “grills with.” That is, an order of grills (i.e., grilled doughnuts), with (i.e., with ice cream). Thus, in the year 1976, one would say to Ellwood Breeden: “I’ll have a one-eyed bacon cheeseburger, an order of piping-hot french-fried potatoes, and an order of grills with.” And Mr. Breeden would know I wanted ice cream on my grilled doughnuts.
Brad Peaseley (Col ’80)
I never knew that calorific concoction had a name. The diner’s menu never mentioned it. So in my day, you just called out, “Fried donuts!” Neither did the menu (or your story) mention the equally evil twin: a grilled cinnamon bun. [University Diner owner Lee Shiflett] would take one of those fat buns wrapped in cellophane, cut the whole thing down the middle, slap each half into a lake of sizzling butter and then peel the paper off.
J. Taylor Buckley (Col ’61)
Mr. Gates’ article omits several details about President Alderman that every University graduate should also know. …
… Who should be the speaker at the [May 21, 1924, unveiling of Charlottesville’s Robert E.] Lee statue before Confederate memorial groups but President Alderman himself. … Some might assign President Alderman’s participation in this dedication to Southern sentimentality and to regional pride. But his pro-segregation views and firm belief in the racial inferiority of African Americans suggest a deeper, more disturbing motivation for his participation. …
[When] the University received in 1921 a $1,000 pledge for the Memorial gymnasium fund from the Virginia Realm of the Knights of the KKK … Alderman had no difficulty in accepting this gift, and his letter of acknowledgment contained his “hearty thanks” for the gift. [See the ‘Turning Point’ article in this issue for President Sullivan’s response.]
As an American government major in the College, I recognize and appreciate that I am a beneficiary of Alderman’s efforts to supplement UVA’s traditional study of the classics with courses in social sciences. But I cannot remain silent in the face of Gates’ incomplete rendering of the odious beliefs of Alderman on race in America. I also cannot help but wonder what it is in the fiber of the University that permits some of its graduates to leave Grounds with such historically inaccurate and venomous attitudes toward equal rights and pluralistic American democracy. It seems that the time has come for every undergraduate UVA student … to take a required course focusing on the troubling legacy of race at the University of Virginia.
Rick Randolph (Col ’69)
As a 1964 graduate student in the science education area, I was deeply interested in the link between Edwin Alderman and the pseudoscience of eugenics. While a graduate student in science education at UVA, I didn’t hear a whisper about the eugenics movement, nor the central role played by the commonwealth of Virginia and our medical program in human genetics—nor about the  Buck v. Bell U.S. Supreme Court case and its link to Charlottesville. It was only after I left that I was made aware of other former faculty members and other prominent “card-carrying” eugenicists. It seems that the recent riots in Charlottesville involving white supremacists and neo-Nazis may also have deep roots associated with the scourge of the eugenics movement.
Irene Reynolds Clark (Educ ’64)
Raleigh, North Carolina
I was probably the least qualified undergrad to live on the Lawn in the Selection era. Actually, it was the Crackerbox, the former cookhouse on the southeast corner of the Range. It’s really the best room of all, twice the size of anything with a column out front, closest to the bathroom, and with a fireplace big enough to hold a trio of rocking chairs.
In late August 1985, I returned for fourth year with no place to live. As an architecture student saving up for a winter break pilgrimage to Rome and Vicenza, I needed low-cost accommodation. At the Housing Office, the few remaining options were discouraging, but then creativity sparked. Was there anything odd, unusual, or otherwise nonstandard—something most people wouldn’t consider? Well, there was the Crackerbox, which the “selected” occupant had just declined. Done.
I learned a great lesson: Persist, find things others miss, and make your own opportunities. My unexpected opportunity to live in the Crackerbox has always inspired me to think outside of any box.
Greg Sarab (Arch ’86)
Whether intentional or not, [your article] denigrated the pre-1975 residents of the Lawn [in noting the lack of a formal selection process]. In 1964, we were a proud group of student body leaders and future community leaders. I was president of my fraternity, an active member of the Jefferson Society and an officer of the Army ROTC honorary organization, the Jefferson Sabres Society. … Some years ago, when I was asked to help raise funds to restore my Lawn room [43 West], our successful effort was supported in most part by “old guard” residents. I guess nobody told them that they were not made of the right stuff.
Don Slesnick (Col ’65)
Coral Gables, Florida
During the 1971-72 academic year, a number of my fellow Lawnies and I would regularly have pickup games, generally Frisbee or football, on the Lawn. One day, we were playing touch football when University President Edgar F. Shannon walked by en route to his office in Pavilion VIII, and we all spontaneously broke into a chant: “Gar, Gar, Gar.”
“What’s with this Gar stuff?” Shannon asked.
“Sir,” one of our group explained, “if you want to play in this league you have to have a nickname.”
With that Shannon took off his suit coat, tossed it onto the nearest rocker, rolled up his sleeves, loosened his tie and said, “What’s the game?”
Over the course of the next nine months Mr. Shannon was a regular out on the gridiron that was the Lawn, much to his secretary’s angst. … One day … Mr. Shannon, at his insistence, was playing wide receiver. He got tripped up on a play and did a bodacious belly flop on the wet grass. When he got up, his entire front side—trousers, shirt and tie—were stained Lawn green. He excused himself, saying that he had a meeting with the deans in his office in a few minutes.
I said, “You can’t meet with the deans looking like that.”
“Sure I can,” he said. “I’m still the prez, and they’ll get over it.”
Alan W. Featherstone (Col ’72)
Miramar Beach, Florida
Thank you for the piece on Paul Saunier and the experiences of John Charles Thomas, who was on my floor my first year. … I had no notion of the strength required for a young African American to get through that year, but I recall his smile graduation day. … As you point out in your article, the years between 1968 and 1972 witnessed major change at the University, including more students of color and the first classes of undergraduate women. While most of us undergraduates were unaware of the persons who helped create those changes, the transition was appreciated.
… The article is thought-provoking in pointing out the enormous struggle required to steer attitudes from established patterns of discrimination. My hat is off to men and women like Mr. Saunier and Judge Thomas who engage successfully in this ongoing work.
Tom McKoy (Col ’72)
Santa Cruz, California
Mr. Leonoff’s letter [describing how graduate student housing paired international students with African-American roommates] in the fall of 1969 struck a chord. I didn’t come from the great distance of Canada but close enough—Buffalo, New York. My mother, who had lived in Virginia during World War II, had predicted that I would have an African-American roommate. She said they wouldn’t want a “nice white Southern girl” to have to room with someone black. Sure enough, my roommate was African American, from a small town in southern Virginia. The University did me a favor, not only by her presence but in giving me a reality check into the power of racism and white supremacy.
Kathleen Sams Russell (Grad ’72)
Your article on boxing is excellent. The pictures you showed of coach Johnny LaRowe were well-chosen, showing how handicapped he was, yet still an inspiring coach.
Roberta Bryan Bocock
Fall 2017 Corrections
Rufus Holsinger made the iconic black-and-white photograph of the 1895 Rotunda fire. His name was misspelled in the “Period Pieces” article.
The Zeta Tau Alpha sorority had members continuously in the 1970s. An obituary in the In Memoriam section contained unclear information.
We regret the errors.