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Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

The College Pump

Tidbits, One Ringtailed

March-April 2010

A contributing editor of this magazine, Christopher S. Johnson ’64, of Cambridge, read the entire forty-fifth anniversary report of his College class, all 576 pages, and sent Primus a note pointing to dozens of good parts. The report has reflections by 719 people on the pains and pleasures of their lives. The class has, by the way, a Stephen Johnson and a Steven Johnson, two David Nelsons, two David Millers, two Brian Silvers, two Larry Sheltons, two David Stones, two John Thorndikes, two Stephen Schlesingers, and a woman whose first name is Christopher—Christopher Boldt Affleck, mother of Ben. Class reports burst with humanity. We have space to cite only a few tidbits.

Christopher Carlsen, of Santa Fe, an attorney, observed: “As one goes forth, day following day, to right (or at least attempt to do so) wrongs done to individuals, one sometimes feels a sense of hopelessness at the sheer magnitude of the task. But one keeps on. Always a little startled that one still has one’s hand in; but more puzzled by those who, having spent a lifetime learning how to do something well, suddenly throw it over and move to Florida. Well, God bless them anyway. God bless us all for that matter.”

Peter H. Lowry, of Cincinnati, a physician, worried about the future his granddaughter will face: “I don’t think Congress can act collectively to dow what makes sense for the country. Our 200-year-old governmental system, designed to diffuse power in a rural agrarian society, seems, to me, to be breaking down. No matter who is president or what his (or her) program is, it is bound to be frustrated and the president is liable to end up wandering the halls of the White House at night talking to pictures of Richard Nixon.”

Martin Quinn, of San Francisco, a mediator, reported a conviction about himself: “I know one thing for sure. Where I am now, 45 years after leaving Harvard College, is largely due to stupendous luck. Yeah, some talent was involved. And yes, being diligent and conscientious played a part. But in the end—pure luck.”

Anne Brown Keith, of New Gloucester, Maine, a semiretired public-health and nursing consultant, wrote: “I am enjoying the growth of wisdom and the fading of desire for power.”

Richard Brayton Olson, of Provincetown, Massachusetts, a retired lawyer, made a discovery about his past: “Have largely confined my travel to the British Isles and never fail to spend a week in London, staying at the inestimable Garrick Club....Ah, but my new, and greatest, love is Ireland. I always have known that I was adopted as an infant, and by the best parents who could have picked me. Massachusetts law now makes it possible to obtain original birth records for an adoptee, and I was, in fact, of all-Irish ancestry and originally christened ‘Robert Jeremy Bates.’ Richard and Robert Jeremy get along just fine inhabiting the same skin, and the Irishness explains a lot—like how much I love to sing in pubs!”

Nicholas Pyle, of Los Angeles, telegraphed: “Retired from architecture. Writing now. Use only predicates—saves time. Don’t know how had time for work before retired. Unthinkable now. Travel more. Loved India. Bought Kindle, reduced danger of house collapsing. Missed chance for California same-sex marriage. Over-thought it. Fascinated watching investments evaporate like spilled gasoline on hot pavement. Expect end of world soon. Didn’t work out as hoped.”

 

Photograph by Robert Hyne

Who’s been walking on our mirrors? asked astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian’s Whipple Observatory in Arizona. In a building that holds the MEarth project—eight robotic telescopes designed to search for distant planets—they found footprints upon the fragile mirrors of five telescopes. Whoever made the tracks kept returning. Finally, the scientists captured alive, and released at some distance, a ringtail cat, a member of the raccoon family and the state mammal of Arizona.