Wednesday, October 22, 2014

AMERICAN OXONIAN: 2014, Spring–Swan Song (Updated Dec. 21, 2015)

Spring 2014 issue just out. Worth reading!
Oct. 22, 2014–I just received my Spring 2014 issue of The American Oxonian, a 152-page book crammed with interesting information.

The alumni quarterly is sent to all Rhodes Scholars plus other Oxonians who pay annual dues of $50. The annual directory includes all Rhodes Scholars, plus the other Oxonians who subscribe. (The directory is extremely useful. It would be even more useful if it included all American Oxonians.)

The Centennial Year of The American Oxonian was a tour de force, and this issue is the swan song or farewell issue for outgoing editor Todd Breyfogle, who must be exhausted from his effort putting out this publication. The last paragraph of his introduction to the last issue reads:
It has been a great and humbling privilege to have been the editor of our collective autobiography, to have been custodian of a time of that interior dialogue of higher responsibility. There are, alas, obituaries and articles unwritten, opportunities missed, conversations that I would like to have pursued. But most of all, I'm grateful for the gift of a constant, sometimes nagging, demand to reflect – in such remarkable company – on what it means to learn, and what it means to live.
This final issue under his editorship is well worth taking time to peruse. I will discuss three articles. Regarding the first one, the outgoing editor says:
Rhodes Scholars, like most if not all high-achieving professionals, have a substantially higher incidence of suicide.
1. "The Incomprehensible." This brave and helpful. Patrick Shea (Utah and New College '70) tells about the impact on him in his last term at Oxford of finding out that his stockbroker father had just committed suicide. Apparently his father entrusted much of his savings to a group of Canadian con men who bought up penny stocks in Utah, recruited two Utah State football stars to front for them, and unloaded the stocks on his father and his father's customers. It was not a victimless crime. Patrick Shea's father, uncle and grandfather all committed suicide both because of their own financial loss and because they had recommended the stock to customers. Writing 40 years later, Shea is still struggling with his feelings. He cites Durkheim and Freud and gives us a powerful paragraph on what's wrong with suicide as a way out:
Suicide is the ultimate egotistical step. The individual who commits suicide fails to recognize, does not want to recognize, or is incapable of recognizing the permanent, indelible scar he or she is leaving on those around him or her, friend, family, or stranger. The survivor's pain is unspeakable. It is as if a permanent question has been imprinted in one's psyche, which repeats itself daily, if not hourly. WHY would someone kill him or herself and hurt those around them? ...
2. "Raise Good Men." Christopher B. Howard (Texas and St. Anne's '91), President of the all-male Hampden-Sydney College, talks about the special problems of educating young men today. When I was a student, women were a minority. At Harvard, women were in the same classes but they were a minority, lived a segregated life and received a Radcliffe degree. This changed the year after I graduated, in 1963, but is indicative of the status of women at the time (the Class of 1962 has welcomed Radcliffe alums to our class reunions). It used to be that co-ed education was considered better for boys, but women benefited from all-girl schools because they had a chance to exercise leadership and excel. Today:
Boys are twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with an attention-deficit or learning disorder. They're likely to score worse on reading and writing tests, more likely to be held back, more likely to drop out of school, five times more prone to suicide, and sixteen times more likely to go to prison. In college, young men make up only a third of students in volunteering, studying abroad, using tutoring, or taking advantage of counseling or health services. They get lower grades and fewer honors than female counterparts. Currently women comprise 60 percent of the undergraduate college population, and we could soon reach a "70/30" female/male mix in the not so distant future.
These facts are from a book of essays published as What Works, published by Hampden-Sydney College. We may be at a point where the arguments used for single-sex education apply more to men than women.

3. "Honoring a Legend." John W. Kennedy, who is not an Oxonian but served as assistant to President of the Naval War College, then-Vice Admiral Stansfield Turner (Illinois and Exeter '47).  He writes to honor Professor John B. Hattendorf (Pembroke '73). It is a nice idea to honor people while they are still alive and can hear some nice things said about them! Kennedy describes a conference at All Souls earlier this year at which someone examined the tradition of requiring others to dip their flag at sea out of respect to the British Navy and dated it back as far as 1293. But not till Edward III took the throne – and the inclusion of Scotland in Great Britain and the St. Andrew's cross in the Union Jack took effect independent of who was on the throne in Scotland – did it became an offense not to dip the flag to the Union Jack in the English Channel. The first Anglo-Dutch war in the 17th century was initiated by such an offense. Dipping the flag has now devolved as friendly gestures between armed vessels.

The rest of the issue is composed of:
  • A reprint of a speech at the Chicago Boat Club Dinner.
  • An illuminating article about Rhodes Scholars in a 1947 issue of Pathfinder.
  • Photos and stamps "from the Archives" featuring the image of Cecil Rhodes.
  • An 1896 article about the exploitation of the riches of southern Africa by the British, especially the Cape Colony by Cecil Rhodes.
  • Book Reviews, Class Letters, Obituaries (of which I wrote two, on George Goodman and Peter Darrow). 
On p. 131 are two postcards showing "college crests". They should be described as "college shields". I refer you to another post on that topic.

A measure of the achievement of an editor is the quality of his or her successor, who is Kathrin Day Lassila, a 1982 matriculant at Trinity College, Oxford (20 years after I was at the college).  She was elected a Rhodes Scholar from Iowa and Yale. From 2003 to 2014 she was editor of the Yale Alumni Magazine, with a circulation of 130,000, and is President of the Ivy League Magazine Network.

To subscribe to The American Oxonian, send an email to or send a $50 check to AARS, 8229 Boone Boulevard, Suite 240, Vienna, VA 22182.

No comments:

Post a Comment