12/20/2016 Staff

Letters to the Editor (Fall 2016)

This magazine article is part of Fall 2016/Issue 87
Remembering Professor Vanderzell

Professor of Government John Vanderzell (Obituaries, Summer 2016) was very important in my life. During my senior year, I applied to three graduate programs in public administration. Accepted at each one, I needed an additional $1,000 in aid from my first choice, the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, the top program in the nation. John had earned his Ph.D. from the Maxwell School. When I told him my sad story, he got on the phone and convinced the director to give me another $1,000. The happy result was that after I earned the M.P.A., I stayed and got my Ph.D. in political science.

By an even happier coincidence, I ended up on a career path very similar to the one John Vanderzell took. I became a professor at a liberal arts college similar to F&M with time out to serve as dean of the faculty.

During John’s last years, I talked to him regularly by phone and was amazed by his ability to keep his spirits up under trying conditions. Our conversations were always lively and punctuated by laughter. He was quite a person, full of wisdom and courage. I think of him almost daily. My debt is great.

James Underwood ’59
Schenectady, N.Y.


Concerts of Yesteryear

The story on concerts (“When Mayser Rocked,” Summer 2016) brought back memories of F&M’s sophomore prom in 1940, which I chaired with a budget of $400. The best band I could get for that money was a new group called Les Brown and His Band of Renown. Brown’s soloist was a girl named Doris Day, who was just starting out in her career. It took place in the old Biesecker Gym. This was the start of the Big Band era. We couldn’t afford Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman, but the senior class got Woody Herman for $800. Doris Day became a radio singer and movie star, and Les Brown performed with Bob Hope for many years.

Roy Lightner ’42
Durham, N.C.

The article in the summer issue brought back a lot of old and wonderful memories for me. I was president of the Student Union Board from 1966 through 1967. I started my term with a pledge that we would have the best entertainment of any college in the country. That pledge was fulfilled in the opinion of many.

It is important in that context to remember that Franklin & Marshall was an all-men’s school at that time. If there was no entertainment on campus, a large percentage of students went home for the weekend. Big events equated to entertainment on campus, bringing dates to campus for the weekend or having bus loads of women visiting campus from local colleges.

Entertainers during my senior year included the Righteous Brothers, The Young Rascals, The Supremes, The Ramsey Lewis Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, Johnny Mathis, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Al Hirt, the Four Tops and Ray Charles.

I remember Bill Honney of our booking agency trying to convince me to engage a new hot young group called the Jackson Five and hearing about Michael Jackson. I remember telling him that they were not a big enough name for us to book. I believe that the most we paid a group was about $5,000, which included all of their expenses.

It is so hard to believe this was all 50 years ago. I went to medical school but always wondered what life would have been like if I chose a career as a concert promoter.

(Here is a 50-year-old photo that my children still marvel at: That’s me with the Supremes taken as they arrived on campus.) 

  • The Supremes pose with Dennis Riff, M.D., ’67. The Supremes pose with Dennis Riff, M.D., ’67. Image Credit: Courtesy of Dennis Riff

Dennis Riff, M.D., ’67
Laguna Beach, Calif.

I can't believe that an article on the history of concerts in Mayser, which included quite a bit on the Grateful Dead, omitted the story of the legend of Jerry Garcia and the "FUM SUB" t-shirt. Just Google it—you’ll see what I'm talking about. My fellow alumni from the 1970s and later-graduating Deadheads will know.

Suellen Burkey ’76
Chambersburg, Pa.

Although I never really loved the band, I was surprised that you neglected the appearance of Chicago—I believe in the spring of ’74.  My recollections of the show are mostly bad. We were forced to wait for way too long outside in a pouring rain for some inexplicable reason, and the fire marshal insisted that there be a diligent squad of students with flashlights running around and repressing every lighted match that appeared. It reminded me of the joke about what the two Deadheads said at a show when they ran out of pot: “This concert sucks!”

A couple of other notables who appeared during my stay at F&M: Horace Silver, Larry Coryell, Bonnie Rait and Zoot Sims.

Allan Raskin, M.D. ’77
Providence, R.I.

The article on concerts brought back fond memories of my year at F&M as an exchange student from Hong Kong in 1974-75, my first time leaving the tiny little former British enclave. You can imagine my culture shock seeing miles and miles of cornfields and buggies, but nothing was more shocking than attending one of these concerts! The one I attended was Dionne Warwick. Somehow, one of my suite mates at Thomas Hall got me up close and even introduced me to Ms. Warwick, proudly proclaiming I was a Chinese Kung Fu master. I did take some Wing Chun classes in Hong Kong but I’m definitely no Bruce Lee. Those were crazy but fun days!

Alfred Ho ’75
Mira Loma, Calif.

With all due respect to Jack Roberts ’71, I have a very different recollection of the Simon and Garfunkel concert in 1968. The concert was delayed by at least two hours because the duo was running late. The crowd was understandably restless, and well lubricated, when the performers finally arrived and entered the stage. I remember the announcer introducing them and instructing the crowd that the pair were artists and demanded absolute decorum from the audience. Their very first song was “Homeward Bound.” When they reached the chorus line, “I wish I was.... Homeward Bound,” one of my brothers from Lambda Chi stood on his seat and gave out a great “Yeeeehaaaa.” With that, Simon and Garfunkel walked off stage, but returned within a few minutes. The urban legend was that they returned after being informed they would not get paid until they did.

Larry Haas ’72
Newfield, N.J.

Great article! Professor Flaherty's memory is a little rusty on the James Taylor concert, however. The opening act was Mimi Farina—not Carole King. Carole King appeared later when James Taylor brought her out onstage part way through his concert (after the bomb threat evacuation). And she was pretty well known even then, so the crowd went bananas at the idea of a “twofer!” I remember Taylor abruptly stopping right in the middle of one of his first songs to ask the crowd to quiet down. He couldn't even hear himself sing! It was a great (and wild) night. Thanks again for bringing back the memories.

Jonathan Berg ’71
Geneva, Ill.

I enjoyed your article on concerts from the summer edition of Franklin & Marshall Magazine. Here is the poster from the concert mentioned in the opening paragraph.

Dr. Phil Schwartz ’73
Lancaster, Pa. 

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