Saturday, October 13, 2007


The Ledyard Canoe Club has an annual tradition of sponsoring a four day, 218 mile canoe trip from Hanover down the Connecticut River to Long Island Sound (even unto this day). In the spring of my junior year at Dartmouth (1959), I had just taken my midterm exams and was feeling pretty feisty. Propitiously, Axel Grabowsky, the next-president of my fraternity, Sigma Nu, (and president of the canoe club) announced in the fraternity bar that very night (after I had downed a few too many frosties), “A bunch of us a going on a canoe trip down the Connecticut river. Who wants to go along?” I said, “Sure, why not.” Another brother, sophomore Bill Figilis, also rashly stepped forward. We were both quite foolish as we were canoeing tyros.

But there is no stopping callowed youth. So the next morning Bill and I packed a few changes of clothes, grabbed our sleeping bags (I also wore a straw boater hat and Bill brought a bottle of Beefeaters Gin) and took our place at the end of a queue of eight canoes pushing off from the Ledyard Canoe Club dock. After floundering around for the first few miles, Bill and I began to get the hang of the “J” stroke and how to steer this accursed Indian craft. That first evening in the canoe, as it started to get dark, a stiff headwind came up while we were in the middle of the river. This produced quite a bit of chop in the river and I knew, if we were dumped in the water, hypothermia would set in after only a few minutes and we would be goners. So, with a few bladder crises and even fewer paddling skills, we did manage to manhandle the canoe over to the river bank without mishap.

We slept under our canoe that night and most others … although Axel, our trip organizer, did arrange for us to sleep one night in a jail in Windsor, Connecticut (fortunately, for it rained like for Noah that night). The rest of the four day trip was a blur of portages (Wilder Dam, Turners Falls, and Windsor Locks among many others), bridges (Bill would always call out, “Bridges mean progress”), blisters, sore knees, and swigs of Beefeater Gin. We ate what we could scavenge at rest stops along the way and, I think, some stale cheese sandwiches at that jail. We were shadowed through the whole trip by a photographer from Life Magazine (see the May 18, 1959 issue) who wrote a small feature on this sojourn. (Neither Axel nor Bill made it into the article/pictures but I did appear as a boater-hatted background speck.)

This odyssey all ended a little ignominiously … a few canoes (including Bill’s and mine) had to be towed the last few miles because the tide had changed and we were going backwards whilst paddling a full speed. But this was quickly forgotten at a very lush barbeque thrown by an alumnus at his beautiful seaside house in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Then the boats were loaded onto a truck and all involved piled into cars to sleep their way back to Hanover … all, that is, except myself. Instead, I opted (much to Axel’s chagrin) to hitchhike over to Connecticut College for Women (then-so-named) to visit a coed that I had been seeing. I did stumble back the next day to resume my studies and the brew swilling that I had interrupted only six days prior.

Thank you Axel for these fond memories and have a very happy 70th birthday.

George and Bill

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wright’s Replacement

To see my surprising recommendation for (my ever-so hopeful) replacement for Prexy Wright’s see: Fletcher's Castoria

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


From Joe Malchow’s Dartblog: “Does anyone happen to have an update on the continuing search of the Dartmouth English Faculty for a Shakespeare professor?”

My Answer (tongue firmly in cheek): I understand that Dartmouth has had multiple candidates for this Professor of English position specializing in Shakespeare. However, all of these candidates have a very limited repertoire of Shakespeare’s plays on which they can pedagogically pontificate. These include Othello’s Moorish instincts in “Othello” and Kate’s internal gender conflicts in “The Taming of the Shrew”. These wantings in turn stem from the (unfortunate) limited range of literature classes that all these candidates took in college and graduate school. They were all constrained by their specialization in African-American and Feminine & Gender Studies programs.

(Talk about looking through the wrong end of the telescope.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Billet Doux

Dartmouth administration to Dartmouth alums, "F**k you!"

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Logical Course

I recently wrote a blog that discussed the dearth of critical thinking in our society. See: logical thinking This continues a blogging trend of mine – questioning the modern U.S. ethos -- our children are encouraged these days to decide things based only upon feelings and not on logical thought. TV shows like “The Daily Show” seem to make their stripes based upon making illogic thought popular (and sometimes even funny). I even wonder whether the audience laughs because they agree with these political barbs (usually against the right) or because they somehow sense that these barbs are inherently illogical.

As a consequence I went to the Dartmouth college website to see what kind of emphasis Dartmouth currently places on the study of Logic (remember Logic used to be a major course of study among our not-too-distant ancestors). See: Dartmouth course list What I discovered there was somewhat disturbing. Dartmouth, a supposed premier liberal arts college, offers only seven undergraduate courses in logic – three in the Mathematics department and four in the Philosophy department. (The three courses in the Mathematics department are only offered on alternate years!) To contrast with this, there are 46 courses offered in the African Studies department, 25 courses offered in the Native American Studies department, and 32 courses offered in the Women’s and Gender Studies. I guess I now understand why Jon Stewart is greeted with a chorus of “whoop, whoop”s when he makes an inane and illogical comment about our current governance.

Not that feelings have absolutely no place in our decision making process. Onetime, I got a fortune cookie at a Chinese restaurant that read: “When your head and your heart agree, you are seldom wrong.” If we could only hope to achieve this paltry norm?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


A good friend/fraternity brother of mine, Judge Haley Fromholtz, Dartmouth '60, recently presided over the Catholic Church’s $660 million settlement from the Los Angeles Archdiocese to its victims of priestly sexual abuse. Read more of the detail and my thoughts on this development in another of my blogs, Fletcher’s Castoria -- see this

Monday, June 11, 2007

“The Chair Recognizes …”

Dartmouth has deep-sixed another tradition. Instead of a homo sapiens, it has elected a piece of furniture to head its Board of Trustees.

From 6/8/07 “Speaking of Dartmouth”: “THE DARTMOUTH COLLEGE BOARD OF TRUSTEES ELECTS CHARLES "ED" HALDEMAN '70 AS ITS NEW CHAIR. HALDEMAN SENDS HIS BEST WISHES TO SPEAKING OF DARTMOUTH READERS AND TO THE ENTIRE CAMPUS COMMUNITY. Haldeman is CEO of Putnam Investments. He replaces William H. Neukom '64, who completed his term on the Board after 11 years of service.”

Is it a Morris chair, an armchair, a Hitchcock chair, a beach chair, a swivel chair, an Eames chair, a Chippendale side chair, a recliner, a barrel chair, a Windsor chair, a throne, a rocking chair, a wheelchair, a bean bag chair, or what?

My money is on a high chair.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I know that I may be veering off message here but excellence has been a tradition at Dartmouth and certainly should be in our newly-published mission statement. (It unfortunately isn’t … the recent Wright-written mission statement is the sickly pabulum “Dartmouth educates the most promising students of this generation to be leaders of the next generation with a faculty of scholars dedicated to teaching and the creation of new knowledge.”) I have published before (see “Booby Prize” at Fletchers Castoria) how poorly Dartmouth seems to perform when it comes to national scholarship awards. (For the sake of full disclosure, I too did not win any national scholarship award when I was in Hanover … not even close.)

Now, there is another award announcement wherein Dartmouth is sucking wind – the 2007 Goldwater scholarship awards for excellence in science. Yes, we did have one winner Laura Myers '08 (and my congratulations to her!) and two honorable mentions (Meghan Feely '08 and Kristen Lurie '08), but Harvard had four top winners (maximum number allowed), Cornell, four winners, MIT, three winners, and Yale, three winners. Even Mass Bay Community College had two winners for heaven’s sake. Next class reunion, I think I’ll wear a paper bag over my head.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


President Wright recently solicited input on Dartmouth’s mission and its legacy. The following are the words he chose to describe Dartmouth’s legacy:

“Since its founding in 1769, Dartmouth has provided an intimate and inspirational setting for distinguished faculty and talented students to come together in one of the finest academic communities in the world. Dartmouth faculty contribute [sic] substantially to the expansion of human understanding around critical issues. Dartmouth is committed to providing the best undergraduate liberal arts experience in the world and is enriched by excellent, historic professional programs in the Dartmouth Medical School (founded 1797), the Thayer School of Engineering (1867), the Tuck School of Business (1900) and the graduate programs in the Arts and Sciences. Together they sustain an exceptional learning environment that emphasizes independent thought, academic excellence, and the lifelong pursuit of learning.
Pioneering programs and continuing leadership in computation and international education are hallmarks of Dartmouth. The College provides a comprehensive out of classroom experience, including service opportunities, engagement in the arts, and strong athletic, recreational, and outdoor programs. Dartmouth graduates are marked by an understanding of the importance of teamwork, a capacity for leadership, and their keen enjoyment of a vibrant community. Alumni/ae loyalty to Dartmouth is legendary and their engagement is a defining and sustaining quality of the College.”

I have a few comments on President Wright’s notion of Dartmouth’s heritage (other than noticing the pedestrian prose that this statement exhibits):

!) How can Dartmouth’s traditions be enumerated with nary a mention of the primary purpose for which it was created (and to which it still somewhat aspires), that is, to educate Indians?

2) Dartmouth was an all-male institution until 1973. To me it is very strange, and perhaps telling, that President Wright seems to sweep this obvious legacy under the rug. Even though Dartmouth is now fully co-educational, clearly its roots and much of its alumni/ae body are males.

3) Dartmouth is therein boasted as having “continuing leadership in computation and international education” This may once have been the case, but I seriously question whether it still is. My profession has been in computers and I have not noticed much that Dartmouth has contributed to this field in the last twenty years. Also to my continued disappointment, Dartmouth is becoming famous for its dearth of students that are selected for international honors programs. Therefore President Wright’s braggadocio seems a little misplaced.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Q and A

Question (from:
"Suggest one radically innovative change-or one innovative policy or program-that would make Dartmouth a better college and which, to the best of your knowledge, no competitor college is doing."

My answer:
Eliminate our college's de facto segregation based on race, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. In other words shuffle the student body (in dorms, social organizations, cafeterias, cultural events, classrooms, etc.) so that the cultural diversity that is so professed in most college communiqués becomes a societal benefit and not a liability ... and the ethereal good claimed to accrue from such diversity can indeed evolve and prosper. Dispose of all faculty titles, pseudo "departments", college-sponsored events, and accredited courses that encourage this de facto segregation and, instead, create a monopole college culture that understands and champions cross-cultural interactions and character building such as described in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream.

Notice, in my dream, I do not include gender or religion (and disabilities too) as de facto segregations. These are exempted because, if all religions are melded, there is no religion. And if both genders are undifferentiated, then society gets the natural benefits from neither. These two special communities can and have provided great comfort and havens to students in the past (fraternities, sororities, churches, etc.). Now, our inability to make such simple and obvious distinctions as these forces today's society to insist that all sectors (including religion, gender and disabilities) are absolutely equivalent. As a consequence we get such ludicrous scenes as wheel-chair bound individuals "climbing" Mt. Everest, apologies during Christmas Eve services at the Wellesley College chapel for using the word "Christ" in carols, and the requiring of separate restrooms for cross-gender individuals. (I drive my liberal friends crazy when I take my Down syndrome brother-in-law into the voting booth to cast his vote. They say that I get two votes as a consequence. This is true and my brother-in-law should not be given the vote, but in order to show how ludicrous this societal "equivalence" is, I keep having him vote.).

Monday, February 19, 2007


“With the old pine above her,
And the loyal ones who love her.”

One of the deepest rooted of Dartmouth symbols is the Old (or Lone) Pine. It exists on the Dartmouth flag and college insignia … towering above a silhouetted depiction of Eliazer Wheelock, sitting on a barrel of rum, teaching to (or preaching to), one assumes, Samson Occum.
Rather than relate the history of the Old Pine myself, I quote from the Alumni Relations website (The Old Pine) talking about the Hill Winds Society, a student effort to keep alive Dartmouth College traditions by giving docented tours of the campus (see also the February, 2007 issue of “DartmouthLife”):

Mike Amico [of the Hill Winds Society] made a surprising discovery while researching the story of the Old Pine, perhaps the oldest in Dartmouth lore. One of the few pines not felled in 1769, when the College founders razed the woods in the area to build Dartmouth Hall, the Old Pine long stood the test of time on the rocky hill now named Observatory Hill. Eventually, after a lightning strike and other storm damage, the tree weakened, and in 1895 it was cut to a stump. In 1967, with the stump decomposed, the Class of 1927 decided to plant a New Pine nearby, in the Bema. Amico discovered that his own class, the Class of 2007, is to inherit the stewardship of the tree. When it planted the New Pine, the Class of 1927 placed its care in the hands of the Class of 1967, who promised to pass it on in another forty years to the Class of 2007.

The Hill Winds traditions tour begins at Robinson Hall, progresses down North Main Street to Webster Avenue, turns toward Baker Library, heads up Observatory Hill, and winds back down to Dartmouth Hall and the Green.

To arrange a tour by the Hill Winds Society contact Abby Drevs in the Office of Alumni Relations. You can call her at 603/646-2337 or send an e-mail to her at:

You can see a picture from a postcard of the stump of the Old Pine ... found at the “Dartmouth Review” website: (Dartmouth Review)

According to Peter Carini of the college, the Old Pine was a white pine (as are its replacements). For those who don’t know about white pines, they are the stateliest of pines. They can live for more than 200 years and grow 100 feet high or higher. They generally retain their limbs only for about the top half of their height. See Eastern White Pine

Unfortunately, white pines are susceptible to blister rust and, until control measures were taken, was the cause of the loss of many of these beauties. The primary control measure was (and is) to outlaw the cultivation of gooseberries and currents which are a vector for blister rust. Today, you cannot cultivate these berries in some eastern states. (I know something about white pines as I once had huge beauty growing in my Massachuttes back yard.)

Monday, February 12, 2007


For those who want to really immerse themselves in Dartmouth lore of yore, I suggest you might want to look at the book, “The Story of Dartmouth” by Wilder Dwight Quint.
You can see this offering on

Also, John D. Ash ‘56 has written a somewhat melodramatic book of limericks on the Dartmouth experience, “The Green Heart”. You can get a fair sample of this offering (and order it if you are enticed) on

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Writing about Sink Night when I was at (all-male) Dartmouth is not easy … possibly because much of it was a fuzzy, boozy memory. Nevertheless, here goes.

Rushing fraternities then (1957) at the beginning of your sophomore year was an interesting experience. One tried one’s best to be wooed by a goodly number of frat houses without spreading oneself too thin. Generally, you had a fair notion of what houses you could get into without compromising your standards (or, more likely, the fraternity’s). You dressed in de rigueur belt-in-the-back chinos (now known as kakis); white or blue button-down dress shirt, dirty white bucks (suede shoes), rep-striped tie, and hound’s-tooth plaid jacket … and then, breathlessly, made the rounds of Greekdom. This consisted of lots of cheddar cheese, cider (to counteract the effect of the cheese), and small talk. This small talk on both the fraternities' and your part was not necessarily “small”. It was at both ends of the spectrum, either chock full of insincerity or so sincere as to be maudlin. After a few nights of this charm waltz, you generally zeroed in on a house or two that seemed to like you … and you, them.

From then on it was code talk:
“If we offered to pledge you, would you be leaning our way?”
“I really like your house almost better than all the others.”
“We see you have been spending a lot of time at Sigma Nu. Can we infer something from this?”
“My roommate really likes you guys. Do you think he has a chance?”
“Rumor has it that you won’t be rowing again next year. Is that true?”
“My Dad was a Chi Phi and I feel a great loyalty to you guys.”

At the end of the week (I think it was Saturday night), you hopefully got an invitation from the house of your choice (Will we see you at DTD tonight?) or, if you were lucky, from more than one. And, when you showed up (as I recall it) in old clothes (for reasons you will soon understand), you were greeted at the door by a key brother with a pledge pin which you then were invited to wear. It was like the “one step forward” when you join the Army. This brother-assisted pinning (sinking) thus became your solemn commitment to this fraternity.

Once all the pledges had been assembled, you were introduced to those whom you didn’t already know … and then “sink night” began. This was a joyous outpouring of social acceptance. Every fraternity had a continuous open keg … much of which went on the floor. Pledges threw beers on each other, drank some, slapped each other on the back, and, as the night wore on, tore at each other’s clothing until traveling outside in the chilly fall air, became rather risky and risqué. The reason the various hoards of pledges traveled outside was that you were then obliged to visit those houses where you didn’t pledge and ooze some more insincerity (“I really wanted to pledge SAE but I though we might be a mismatch.”) You also went to the fraternities of your friends and roommates to slap them on the back, spill their beer (and yes, drink a bit), and continue to challenge the limits of modesty.

Was all this drunkenness and male nudity homo-erotic? I never believed so then, but being a tad more sophisticated now, I suspect that there was indeed a voyeuristic element to this tradition. I do hope, now that Dartmouth is co-educational, that this particular merriment has been somewhat mollified. In closing, I noticed on “The Dartmouth” website that “the College compiles figures on the number of students that are treated at Dick's House for alcohol-related incidents” after sink night. Let me just say that after one particularly well-behaved Winter Carnival at Dartmouth I came down with a legitimate case of the flu. When I went to Dick’s house, I was admitted and classified as experiencing alcohol poisoning. Nothing I could say would convince these oracles in white that this was a misdiagnosis.