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Fall 2007 Letters

Read the President's Message, Letter from the Editor, and Letters to the Editor

President's Message
Probably nothing symbolizes the durability and legacy of Knox College better than Old Main. The Original Circular & Plan for a college and a town that George Washington Gale and the other founders of Knox and Galesburg drafted in New York in 1834 -- before they set out for the prairies of western Illinois -- hangs on the wall on Old Main's first floor. The bas-reliefs on the east exterior wall of the building mark the site of the fifth Lincoln-Douglas Debate on October 7, 1858. Old Main is the only building still standing that was a site of the historic debates. The Alumni Room on the first floor reminds us of the renovation of the building in 1937, the 100th anniversary of the College, led by Janet Greig Post, Knox Class of 1894.

Virtually all Knox alumni share the experience of having taken a course in a classroom in Old Main. Many of us received our diplomas on platforms erected for Commencement on either the east or south sides of the building. Even though Old Main houses several administrative offices now, it is teaching and learning that still constitutes the predominant activity of this historic centerpiece of Knox College. Thus, we devote this issue of the Knox Magazine to celebrating Old Main's 150th anniversary and the enduring legacy of Knox College.

In this issue, you will read about Old Main's architectural and historical past, as well as its connection to Knox alumni. As Professor Emeritus Rodney Davis explains in his article "Strength, Resilience, and Endurance: Old Main at 150," Old Main is the veritable heart of the Knox campus. I couldn't agree with him more.


Roger L. Taylor '63

Letter from the Editor
When I think of Old Main, two memories come to mind. My first memory is of May 25, 2002, when my husband, Brian Tibbets '96, and I were married on Old Main's south steps. We woke up to rain and an overcast sky, but at 2:00 p.m., the Old Main bell rang, the sun came out, and we had a beautiful ceremony at our favorite spot on campus.

My second is of walking up the west stairwell of Old Main with Professor Bill Brady. On our way to a third-floor classroom, he told me that Old Main's worn steps are authentic -- they have been worn by time and by thousands of faculty, students, and staff. He added that other schools -- I can't remember which ones, of course -- actually make their steps look worn in order to recreate the feeling of being at a time-honored school like Oxford or Cambridge.

What I love about these very personal memories is that they are part of a larger, collective memory of Knox's most beloved building. On the following pages, you'll not only learn about Old Main's history, but you'll also read alumni memories of the building -- many of which include walking up the flights of slick, slate stairs -- and see photos of others who were married in or around Old Main.

At the dedication of the newly renovated Old Main in 1937, Janet Greig Post said, "Old Main is the link that binds the Knox of 1937 to the Knox of the founders in 1857." She was right, for the most part. Old Main does link us to Knox's founders, but, more important, it links us -- Knox alumni and friends -- to each other. And that's a bond worth celebrating.


Megan Scott '96

Letters to the Editor

Partners in Science
Dear Editor,

I just wanted to tell you what a pleasure it is to receive such a quality publication from Knox. The magazine has been improving steadily, and your "Science" issue is the best yet.

We recently published a "Science" issue of our magazine at DePaul University, which, like Knox, has stellar programs in the life sciences for undergraduates. It was interesting to me, as director of university communications at DePaul, to see what my alma mater did to position Knox in the field of undergraduate science education. Nice work!

Coincidentally, one of the people we featured in our magazine is Assistant Biology Professor Dorothy Kozlowski, a neuroscientist and terrific teacher who began her career at Knox. Dorothy mentioned when I interviewed her that there also are other Knox alums in the biology department at DePaul. -- Best wishes, Carol Sadtler '70

Where has Geology Gone?
Dear Editor, I read the recent issue of Knox Magazine with great interest since it focused on science. Though I majored in theater at Knox, I wound up studying geology later -- it's a long story, and it would have been impossible without the liberal arts background or the inspiring example of Knox geology professor Larry DeMott.

I've been with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for 17 years and have spoken to classrooms of kids about geology and groups of girls about careers in science. Anyone who thinks the bias against women scientists is out of date should revisit recent statements of Harvard's now ex-president. Your article is timely.

Just one thing, though. I'm still angry that Knox eliminated the geology department in the early '80s. Didn't anyone take note of all the Knox-educated professional geologists in industry and academics? Didn't anyone realize that the oil bust of the early '80s was giving way to the environmental boom, which has been staffed by innumerable geologists? Didn't anyone realize that geology is the most liberal-artsy of all the sciences?

As a Knox grad, I'm happy that Knox is still a place where students don't have to pigeonhole themselves into a single area of interest. As a scientist, I'm encouraged to see science going strong at Knox. Wouldn't it be a great time for geology, not just environmental science, to come back to Knox? -- Sincerely, Anna Kokines Miller '83

Editor's note: Knox's current environmental studies program has reached the point where the College is currently searching for a new tenure-track position in earth sciences; one that will re-establish geology courses in the curriculum under the aegis of environmental studies. Stay tuned to future issues of the magazine for more information on this new position.

Personality Politics
Dear Editor,

Personality politics appear to have overcome Knox's tradition of educational excellence when it comes to Commencement speakers.

I was shocked to see the 2006 honor go to theater-as-news celebrity Stephen Colbert. My reaction is not philosophic, since I would have been equally offended had the honor been bestowed on Rush Limbaugh.

Now comes the news that the 2007 Commencement speaker will be former President Bill Clinton -- along with an honorary degree. Only two presidents will be recipients of Knox honorary degrees: Clinton and Abraham Lincoln. The juxtaposition forms the extreme edges of the qualification continuum. Ironies abound.

In attempting to justify this dubious choice, Knox President Roger Taylor claimed that "Clinton's achievements are consistent with Knox College's commitments to diversity, community service, and access to a changing liberal arts education." If the former president is consistent with Knox's commitments to anything, my alma mater has, indeed, descended from its once lofty heights of intellectual integrity.

One does not have to be a Clinton basher to recognize the difference between the noble and eloquent Lincoln and the ethically flawed Clinton -- the difference between a man martyred in service to his country and a man impeached for lying about service of a more personal nature. Both men will appear under Knox's emblem, inscribed with the word "veritas." Only one exemplifies the designation.

In keeping with this new Knox tradition, and to at least correct the partisan imbalance, perhaps Old Siwash can select former Governor George Ryan as next year's honoree.  -- Larry Horist '65

Dear Editor,

Congratulations on publishing another informative edition of the Knox Magazine (Spring 2007). A fine college deserves a fine magazine to keep its family of graduates, faculty and students, and the potential applicant up-to-date. Knox has done it again.

I am proud to have graduated from Knox in 1954. To this day I count among my memories nothing but good things about the College, and I count several fellow graduates among my closest friends. I have found that generally Knox lives up to its self-description as being "dedicated to providing an experience that transforms students into the best versions of what they can become."(www.knox.edu/aboutknox)

However, it is possible for even the best of institutions to slip, and it is clear that Knox has hit the skids. That former President Bill Clinton will be the 2007 Commencement speaker is a huge mistake; a mistake that is compounded by plans to award Mr. Clinton an honorary degree. As a person who is an impeached president, a convicted perjurer, an abuser of women, an adulterer, and a disbarred lawyer, Bill Clinton cannot possibly provide graduates "an experience that transforms students into the best versions of what they can become." That Knox College will bestow upon Bill Clinton the same honor it bestowed upon Abraham Lincoln, a man of integrity and the antithesis of Clinton, is contrary to all that Knox College supposedly stands for. I find Clinton's selection disgusting and an action that places Knox College in the worst possible light.

You proclaim that Bill Clinton is "one of the hottest tickets in town." If celebrity is a qualification for Commencement speaker, Knox could have invited Britney Spears or any other of the Forbes Celebrity 100. At least the graduates might be entertained by a professional entertainer than by a buffoon.  -- Sincerely, Don Padgitt '54

Editor's Note: By long tradition, the Knox College senior class nominates its Commencement speaker, and Knox does not pay an honorarium to Commencement speakers.

Kappa Kappa Gamma Memories
Dear Editor,

I enjoyed the spring 2007 issue. I was surprised to read of the KKG sorority now on campus. As you no doubt know, the alpha chapter is in Monmouth, Illinois, where the founders met and organized.

My wife, Isabelle Brainard, was a Kappa and Monmouth graduate in 1939. We helped finance a lily garden in her name at the sorority. I'm sure Knox's new Kappa chapter would enjoy a tour, which is filled with memories and information from that era.  -- Yours Truly, G.R. "Bob" Fender '41

Good Will for Wrestling
Dear Editor,

Congratulations to Jaran Rutledge '08 on his third place finish at Wrestling Division III Nationals. Congratulations are also in order to Coach Islas for doing a great job building the program. And finally, thanks to the alumni who have contributed to the new wrestling facilities.

The program has come a long way. During my years at Knox, we practiced and competed in the Auxiliary Gym, and, believe me, these were no luxury accommodations. In 1978, both Mark Stewart '81 and I qualified for Nationals. Coach Partin may have forgotten this in his letter to the editor because we never got to compete. This was due to the fact that the program had no funds to send Coach Partin and the two of us to the tournament.

Here we are in 2007, when many Division III schools no longer even have wrestling, yet the program at Knox is flourishing. Congratulations to the administration, alumni, coach, and wrestlers on a job well done! -- Sincerely, Steve McClure '79

Correcting the Record, Round 4
Dear Editor,

I was a member of the 1974-1975 Knox basketball team that is now in the Knox Hall of Fame. Through corrections to you, I have now seen our record slip from being the second best record in Knox history to being the fifth. In all fairness, I think the corrections are a result of comparing apples to oranges.

Our 1974-1975 team compiled a regular season record of 16-5, the second best record in Knox history. The season for all other Knox teams was over at this point, but we were invited to the NCAA tournament because we had such a fine season. In the NCAA tournament, we were a turnover away from winning the first game against Augustana, a team that went on to take third in the tournament. But it is true that we lost two games in the NCAAs to finish with a record of 16-7 (a record that is fifth best in Knox history).

How should this team's record be regarded? Let's say Knox's next 10 teams finish 21-1, but don't win conference and aren't invited to the NCAA tournament. The following year, the team goes 22-0 . . . gets invited to the NCAA tournament . . . loses two games and finishes with a record of 22-2. Currently, I think you would write that the 22-2 record was the worst record in the last 11 years. That seems wrong, doesn't it? I believe it is more accurate to compare the pre-NCAA records in comparing team records if only one of the teams gets invited to the NCAAs.

My hat is off to the 1958-1959 team that compiled a record of 20-3 and truly had a better season than our 1974-1975 team. My hopes are that Knox basketball improves tremendously, so that many teams in the near future will have better records than both the 1958-1959 team and the 1974-1975 team.  -- Kjeld Sorensen '75

Dear Editor,

I can add information to the ongoing exchanges about athletics and NCAA status at Knox. There was no NCAA Division III in the early 1960s. At that time, Knox was part of the "College Division" of the NCAA; I have three track and field medals from the 1961 and 1962 NCAA Regional Championships, one of which was held at Knox on its new and almost one of a kind "grass-tex" track in one of those years. I also competed in the 1963 NCAA College Division Championships in Track and Field at the University of Chicago, where I placed seventh in the hop-step-jump, now triple jump.

I do not recall when the NCAA instituted the three divisions that exist to this day, but in the years 1961 to 1963, minimally, when I competed on the Knox varsity track and field team, the NCAA had only the University and College Divisions. Some of the "colleges" were actually fairly large schools, like San Jose State, that were then and later the Division I level track powers; they certainly overpowered us in 1963.

What is rather disconcerting is the loss of records by Knox, a College that has always seemed to take pride in its heritage. I had written many years ago to try to retrieve some of the records from track and field archives, and I was told that they had been destroyed. Fortunately, I still have some of the medals I won, and my parents had managed to obtain a couple press clippings. The rest must remain as memories.

I understand that academic records are the prime records for a college. However, a college like Knox that prides itself on its cultural traditions and legacies would seem to want to maintain records, even sports records. -- Jim Seago '63

Editor's Response: Comparing teams from different eras is definitely an apples-and-oranges comparison. We based our rankings solely on overall winning percentage and did not mean to infer that any one team was better than another. It would be purely subjective to select the best basketball team at Knox, but winning conference championships and advancing to post-season play would definitely overshadow any regular-season success in most minds. The NCAA divided into its current three divisions in 1973. Before that time, Knox did compete in the College Division. The sports information office, head coaches, and college archives have maintained the majority of the athletics records over the years. Starting this summer, Brian Thiessen, sports information director, and student workers will start going through the information and compiling more thorough record books for each sport. The process will take some time, so please check out the Knox athletics Web pages for periodic updates.