Letters To The Editors
Bostonia welcomes readers’ reactions and encourages expressions of opinion,
pro and con. Submit your letter below.
Where Was Social Work?
As a 1953 graduate of the BU School of Social Work, I was horrified to see in the articles “Final Answers” and “Chelsea at Twenty” (Spring 2008) that not one word was mentioned about medical social workers or school social workers. Ask any medical school graduate in the 1950s and 1960s who talked with their patients about end-of-life issues and you will find it was the medical social worker who tried to help doctors see their part in these issues while helping patients with end-of-life planning.
Jean Batal Moran (SSW’53)West Chester, Pennsylvania
Silber on Chelsea
I was disappointed to note a glaring omission in the story on the Chelsea school reform. The article fails to mention the person who did more to launch the program under my direction than anyone else. Peter Greer, a former dean of our School of Education, was instrumental in the development of this program, and it certainly would not have been a success without his involvement. Peter Greer:
• Rid the high school of the daily influence of the Crips and Bloods and set up a special 3 to 9 p.m. alternative program for the discipline-problem students. He went to countless afternoon and evening student events in order to gain support for the University.
• Gained the support of all the schools and colleges (with the exception of the School of Law). For example, he set up tutoring programs (College of Arts and Sciences and SED) — including the scheduling of buses; set up teacher training programs (SED); helped Chelsea parents and grandparents (School of Social Work); set up dental programs for the Cambodian children (School of Dental Medicine); arranged occasional medical operations for very poor children (School of Medicine); and established a program to train grandparents who were doing the child care at home (SED).
• Fought the unions when the city and schools went bankrupt (e.g., stood up for quality over seniority when eighty teachers had to be let go and did not give away the ship during contract negotiations).
• Established a television program and cohosted that weekly program with a Hispanic in order to discuss what Boston University was attempting to do.
• Visited Chelsea Hispanic homes frequently.
Set up a bus and babysitting program so that more Hispanic parents would come to school events.
• Got the Early Childhood Program up and running.
• Raised over $1 million, including $800,000 from a single source — a former friend.
• Established activities that involved the Chelsea community and Boston University, e.g., volleyball games, concerts, and softball games.
• Planned and implemented the first “classy” graduation exercise.
• Brought in Steven Tigner, who established a classics program that involved SED students teaching Chelsea students the classics.
• Worked on the middle and high school grades so that those parents were more supportive of the Boston University initiative (given that the Early Childhood Education was the priority).
• Served as a highly effective spokesman in facing intense and often critical local, national, and international media attention.
• Attended countless meetings of the Chelsea School Committee, the Governor’s Council, and the Boston University Management Team.
• Offered to take over as the superintendent when Diana Lam stepped down at a critical juncture, for which he was honored with a special Boston University award at Commencement.
I also noticed the failure of the article to mention the success of the Chelsea program for students who have attended continually from kindergarten through twelfth grade. There’s nothing Boston University can do in its reform efforts to stop the problem of transiency, and transiency is what explains the failure of our scores to be as high as they should be. Of all the hundreds of students attending school in Chelsea, only forty-nine continued through all grades as of 2004. The scores for those students who stayed with us — scores measuring what has actually been accomplished at Chelsea — were very good indeed. You quote Paul Reville’s negative assessment, but fail to offer any correction to that assessment by including that important data.
Why should Bostonia want to downgrade our achievement in Chelsea?
John Silber (Hon.’95) President Emeritus
Hollywood, or Not
It was thrilling to read about BU grads who’ve made it big in Hollywood — as I’d planned to do myself, so many years ago (“From BU to Hollywood: Six Who Made It,” Spring 2008).
At the 1985 COM Commencement ceremony, I sat next to Gary Fleder (COM’85), one of those profiled. We passed a bottle of warm champagne back and forth, and I was sure I would be the one who’d be a Hollywood director. Of course, it was Gary who had the guts, determination, and good fortune to make it. I, meanwhile, transitioned to the safer waters of television promotion in New York City — plan B.
It was good also to learn of the true-life travails of Carter Blanchard (“First Person,” Spring 2008) and his battles to make his name as a Hollywood writer. As one who has fought similar battles as a spare-time novelist here on the right coast, I can relate. We need to be reminded of the challenges BU grads face, as well as their triumphs.
Barry Fitzsimmons (COM’85) Darien, Connecticut
The interview with John Silber about egomaniac architects (“Perspectives,” Spring 2008) was one-sided and biased. As Mr. Silber knows, any architectural venture is a team effort. When there is a failure of the physical plant for any reason, all the team members are to blame, not just the architect. MIT may be right to sue, and Frank Gehry has a good defense: the university signed off on the plans.
We take a risk in any artistic adventure, and failure comes as part of the deal. Pointing fingers is unproductive and provocative, and academic in the extreme.
Mark Gottsegen (CFA’74) Climax, North Carolina
Another Angle on Praying
I would like to defend Bostonia’s supposed “oversight” in neglecting to include a Protestant representative in the Winter 2007–2008 article on student prayer life (“Letters,” Spring 2008). Indeed, a Protestant viewpoint would have been welcome; however, to be fair, Bostonia then would have been obligated to include the views of a Hare Krishna and an Advaita Vedantist, the views of Buddhists of the Theravada, Vajrayana, and Mahayana traditions, and those of a Sunni and a Shiite Muslim, not to mention the thousands of others who would have then felt left out.
There are common threads that justify grouping different denominations under the name “Christian,” and having one of the most ancient of these as a representative was certainly a sound choice. We all need to remember how colonial-minded it is for us to want to individually represent multiple Christian groups, while thinking the terms “Hinduism,” “Buddhism,” or “paganism” sufficient to cover the myriad forms of those religions, or any other.
Justin C. Maaia (GRS’03) Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Do you know how large Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Asian American Christian Fellowship, and Campus Crusade are on the BU campus? These are registered BU (Protestant) Christian organizations on campus. Surprising that the prayer article (“Students Talk About How They Pray,” Winter 2007–2008) did not include them.
Vicky Li Yip (COM’01) Beijing, China
More Who Made It
I enjoyed your piece on BU alums who have succeeded in Hollywood (“From BU to Hollywood: Six Who Made It,” Spring 2008), but you should expand the list to include journalists, publicists, editors, and other professions!
Stephen Pizzello (COM’88) North Hollywood, California
I have only one question: why wasn’t Howard Stern (CGS’74, COM'76) included in your “From BU to Hollywood” article?
Ronnie Matsil (CAS’80) New York, New York
Another graduate who made it (“BU’s Hollywood Express,” Spring 2008) was Scott Silver (COM’86). He wrote and directed Johns (1996) and The Mod Squad (1999) and did the screenplay for 8 Mile (2002). He has also written screenplays for movies in the works on the life of Hugh Hefner and Lance Armstrong, among others.
Ruth (Zief) Silver (SMG’57) West Boylston, Massachusetts
Matt Stenerson (COM’93) has pretty much made it to the A list as a movie cameraman. He’s the lead camera guy in Iron Man, the huge summer blockbuster, and his next project is so super-Hollywood-secret it has a code name. He’s become the go-to guy for huge special effects movies now.
We lived two doors down from each other in Warren Towers freshman year. It’s great to see how far he’s come.
Cooper Olson (COM’93) Los Angeles, California
The web extra list has several notable absences from my class year and the one before it:
• Chris Koch (CGS’84, COM’87) — director of the films Snow Day (2000) and A Guy Thing (2003) and multiple episodes of the TV shows My Name is Earl and Scrubs
• Niels Schuurmans (COM’87) — senior vice president of Spike TV
• Chris Stonich (COM’88) — co-owner of Lynn Lussier Co., a post-production house that does a lot of work for ABC and Oprah
• Sabrina Wind (COM’90) — producer of ABC’s Desperate Housewives
• Joanne Toll (COM’88) — producer of HBO’s In Treatment
• Emily (Helfgott) Cutler (COM’88) — writer for ABC’s Carpoolers
• Stephen Pizzello (COM’88) — executive editor of American Cinematographer magazine
• My old writing partner, Joshua Michael Stern (CFA’89) — writer and director of Neverwas (2005), starring Ian McKellen, and coming later this year, Swing Vote, starring Kevin Costner and Kelsey Grammer.
I know there are more, but there you go! BU is extremely underrated for its contributions to Hollywood. And despite my troubles getting a script produced, I’ve done pretty well out here myself.
Carter Blanchard (COM’88) Los Angeles, California
A Hollywood success you missed: Joseph Tobin (DGE’62, COM’64), a.k.a. Tobin Bell, has appeared with Clint Eastwood in In the Line of Fire (1993), with Tom Cruise in The Firm (1993), in season two of 24, and in the Saw series, The X Files, and others.
How about Faye Dunaway (CFA’62), who studied theater at BU? Faye starred in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The Arrangement (1969), Chinatown (1974), Three Days of the Condor (1975), and Network (1976), to name a few.
Dick Fannon (SED’64,’67) Westwood, Massachusetts
The spring 2008 issue refers to the many CFA alumni who have made a success in film and television. The primary educational process at CFA remains preparation for work on the stage, whether as an actor, director, designer, or author. It would be helpful for your list to be expanded to include those whose achievement was focused in this area. There are too many to mention in this letter.
Yes, I myself continue to pursue a stage career as an actor — the rare kind who has done so without moving to New York.
James Bodge (CFA’67) Somerville, Massachusetts