Fall Winter 07

The Core


Summer in the City

In Fermi’s Footsteps

Seeds of Change


Editor's Note

Vox Populi

Science Beyond Boundaries

Supporting Students as They Are

Summer Stock

Head of the Class

Geeking Out

Goin' West

Go Ask Alumni


We asked alumni to share with us the most memorable question they could recall being asked during their time at the College.

“The most memorable experience of my College years was reading The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber. The question that came out of that book was, ‘How do the religious beliefs of a population affect public policy and the actions of individual members of that population?’ David Halberstam in The Best and the Brightest looks at how U.S. foreign policy and the war in Vietnam were affected by America’s Christian beliefs, political pollsters look at religion and voting patterns, and there are studies on the effect of religion and child rearing. On the whole, however, most scholars find this issue too hot to touch and it remains a question I have been unable to answer for the last 40-plus years.”
Alan Bloom, AB’68

“That’s easy....
“‘Is that half dark or light?’
“Harold’s Chicken counter at 53rd and Kenwood.”
Peter McCarthy, AB’84

“It was during my second year in Allen Sanderson’s Intro to Microeconomics class.

“Sanderson presented the following situation to the women in the class: If your husband made enough money (whatever amount of money you felt comfortable as being enough), and he was guaranteed that for life, how many of you would not work? Only a few women raised their hands.

“Sanderson presented the same situation to the men in the class, yet this time it was their wives who would make enough money. All the men quickly shot up their hands—they would happily not work. “

A very interesting economic and sociological question.”
Liz Frate, AB’04, AM’06

“There are two questions from exams that I still remember after nearly 60 years.

“One was on a math exam essay question. We were given a never published paper to read which discussed a new type of non-Euclidean math and the moon. Being very Euclidean-oriented, the mere idea shook my world to the core. I passed the exam but had no memory of what I wrote and can still remember how upset I was. No other new concept or idea has ever had a similar effect on my mind.

“The other was on an exam for Observation, Orientation and Integration. It gave a quote from Kant and multiple-choice answers as to its meaning, all of which seemed equally valid. I had no clue as to which was correct and guessed. A week later, reading Time magazine, I saw a full-page advertisement for Continental Can with the Kant quote. I wondered what the Time readers made of the quote and decided I must have missed something obvious, or perhaps it was a universal truth of great importance.”
Kari Rubin, AB’51

“It was the answer that was so interesting.

“The question was: Is it better to be a pig satisfied or Socrates dissatisfied?

“And the answer was: If you are asking the question it is too late.”
Sylvia Winter, AB’53

“In response to the invariable probing of the meaning of a text, the follow-up question was always, ‘But what do you mean by mean?’”
Judith E. Stein, AB’62, AM’64

“It was 1958 on the first day of Professor Wegener’s OMP [Organizations, Methods, and Principles of the Sciences] class. Professor Wegener, an initially forbidding character, spent the opening five minutes— or so it seemed—busily reaming out his pipe in perfect silence. As we students grew restive, he wheeled on some hapless young man in the first row and barked, ‘You, what is truth?’ We all sighed and thought that it was going to be a long quarter.”
Linda Rosenberg Sher, AB’59

“The most memorable question asked of me during my time at the College came in Karl Weintraub’s section of the History of Western Civilization in early 1984. At the end of one class Mr. Weintraub asked in his inimical Socratic style and his booming German accent, ‘Where was the center of Western Civilization in the year 1000? Mr. Baum?’ My reply? ‘In the East.’

“While one can make a certain argument for the validity of that answer, it wasn’t what he was looking for. He grimaced and moved on. However, some classmates have not moved on, ridiculing me from that day to the present.”
Ed Baum, AB’86

“Professor Amy Kass asked, ‘What is an excellent human being and citizen?’ For the next three quarters we pondered, read, and debated the question for HBC. Were the answers in glory, intellect, love, or worship? Opinions were heated. One day Mrs. Kass directed the discussion group to search their souls and answer, ‘Are you ambitious?’ A few tentative hands went up, including mine. ‘Why?’ Mrs. Kass did not expect an answer, but her questions remained with me long after spring quarter. I thought I wanted to study forever, write brilliant books, win a few Nobel Prizes, and bask in the admiration of my peers. How did my ambitions reflect on me as a human being and citizen? Compared with the heroes of our texts (obvious and unsung), my dreams seemed selfish and arrogant.

“When I ultimately left Chicago it was to pursue a career in urban public education, decidedly not a field of glory or recognition. I may never be an excellent human being or citizen, but for my students I wake up trying. Each and every child is a challenge and an object of wonder. And, regardless of their first language or lunch status, every single one of them will graduate from college. Am I ambitious? Damn straight!”
Amy Althoff, AB’03