Number Three

January 30, 2010

Old wives say death comes in threes. Those old wives who are also students of high-brow American letters will be well-vindicated by the trio which chose this week to shuffle off the mortal coil: Zinn, Salinger, Auchincloss.

Howard Zinn wrote A People’s History of the United States, a leftist polemic repudiating the idea that our founding fathers were anything but wealthy, white Protestants who hated paying taxes. That is, Republicans. He went on to teach at universities across the country and involved himself vocally in the civil rights struggles of his day. Professor Zinn died on Wednesday, January 27. He was 87 years old.

J.D. Salinger was an accomplished author of short stories, once (fleetingly) compared favorably to John Cheever in that genre. His most notable work, though, is The Catcher in the Rye, a coming-of-age story about precarious innocence and discontent. Its protagonist, Holden Caulfield, became a widely-identified with symbol of youthful rebellion while his creater, Mr. Salinger, became a reclusive eccentric, holed up in the foothills of Cornish, New Hampshire and suing to keep his words out of print. Mr. Salinger also died on Wednesday. He was 91.

More subtle horns announced the passing of Louis Auchincloss, the descendant of wealthy Scots who made a career of profiling, in fiction and memoir, New York’s Patrician class. Mr. Auchincloss wrote nearly 50 books, averaging one per year, each year of his career, a rate of production all the more impressive considering his simultaneous duties as a partner with Hawkins, Delafield & Wood, a prominent Wall Street law firm. Mr. Auchincloss was also the president of the American Academy of Arts & Letters. As an older author, he allowed his books to be edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, his cousin.

Louis Auchincloss, author and attorney.

“I’m rather inclined to be edgy when I’m not writing,” explained the author, of his reasons for turning out books in such droves. He was certainly as edgy as a man can be, while still starting sentences with the phrase “I’m rather inclined.”

Mr. Auchincloss wrote books about country clubs, boardrooms, summer homes, and dinner parties. Though ridiculed as “America’s foremost author of manners,” Gore Vidal defended Mr. Auchincloss: “Nobody else took those kinds of people, because nobody else understood them, except in the dumbest way.”

Mr. Auchincloss came to writing, and to the law, in the usual way of his generation: preparatory school at Groton, undergraduate work at Yale University, and legal studies at the University of Virginia. He served in the Navy during the second World War and then wrote The Indifferent Children under the name Andrew Lee. It was so well-recieved that he used his real name ever after.

In 1951 Mr. Auchincloss quit the practice of law to devote all his time to writing. Realizing that it wasn’t making any difference, he went back to work in 1954. He was later commissioned to write a short biography of President Theodore Roosevelt for Times Books. He delivered it personally, ahead of schedule, and handed over one he’d written of Calvin Coolidge also. Unfortunately, they told him, Coolidge had been assigned to somebody else.

Mr. Auchincloss died this past Tuesday, January 26. He was 92 years old.


Bones’ Bones

January 7, 2010

On January 22, Christie’s will auction 0ff a ballot box made from a human skull. The artifact, expected to fetch between $10,000 and $20,000, once belonged to the Skull and Bones society and is being sold by “a European art collector,” according to ambiguous auction-house publicity.

The skull, etc.

The skull is fitted with hinges and a panel on its top, which opens into the brain chamber, and is believed by Christie’s to have been used by the Yale University secret society during voting procedures. It may have also been displayed in the Bones tomb in New Haven during the nineteenth century; photographs from that time show it laid out amongst posing Bonesmen.

Bonesmen, with skull.

Former Bonesmen include public intellectual William F. Buckley, Jr., both Presidents Bush, President William Howard Taft, and businessman Averell Harriman. Brown Brothers Harriman, the investment banking firm founded, in part, by Harriman, still manages the society’s money under the guise of the Russell Trust Association. In fact, of Brown Brothers Harriman’s 16 founding partners, 11 were graduates of Yale and eight of those were members of Skull and Bones.

The skull ballot box is believed by Christie’s to have been the property of Edward T. Owen, an 1872 graduate of Yale who then taught linguistics at the University of Wisconsin. The skull is to be sold with a black book bearing Owen’s name, the year 1872, and the mysterious number 322. The book includes the names and photographs of 50 Bonesmen, including President Taft.

Yale: “We Won’t Be Fooled Again.”

December 4, 2009

An Ivy League degree opens doors around the world, as South Korean art professor Shin Jeong-ah knows: her diploma from Yale University helped her land a job at Dongguk University, in South Korea, and a prestigous museum curatorship. The problem was, Professor Jeong-ah was never a student at Yale. Or, perhaps the problem was that Yale said she was.

In September 2005, Dongguk University forwarded materials from Professor Jeong-ah to Yale, asking the Ivy League university to verify that their potential new hire had, in fact, earned a Yale degree. The materials had been faked but Yale bought it, and sent a letter back confirming Jeong-ah’s degree.

Professor Shin Jeong-ah, center.

As news broke, Yale back-tracked: “I’ve seen the fax that supposedly confirms that Shin earned a degree from Yale, and it bears no resemblance to the letter that [the university] sends when actually confirming someone’s degree,” Yale’s Director of Public Affairs wrote in an e-mail to the Yale Daily News.

Yet, quickly thereafter, that paper reported “the University reviewed its documents and determined it had indeed sent the fax in question.”

An official statement explains: “Responding quickly to what appeared to be a routine request, Yale’s staff mistakenly relied on the letterhead and signature on the purported May 2005 letter.”

In addition to her faked Yale degree, Jeong-ah also provided Dongguk University with her Ph.D. dissertation, “Guillaume Apollinaire: Catalyst for Primativism, for Picabia and Duchamp.” That dissertation was later revealed to have been submitted to the University of Virginia in 1981 by Ekaterini Samaltanou-Tsiakma.

After landing a museum curatorship with her fraudulent credentials, Jeong-ah embezzled nearly $400,000 from the institution, posed for nude photographs, and commenced an affair with a top aide to the President of South Korea. She staunchly maintains her Yale diploma, which is missing the signature of the President of that school, is authentic.

Yale has vowed to tighten up operations.

Rugby: Dartmouth 53, Yale 6

October 26, 2009

The Dartmouth Rugby Football Club continued its winning ways this past Saturday with a decisive win over Yale University at home and in ideal conditions: hours of rain swamped the pitch and half-drowned players, who gamely fought on for two full, muddy, miserable periods. The Dartmouth victory garnered that club yet another Ivy League title, its tenth in 13 years, and a bid to the Northeast Rugby Football Union playoffs.

Dartmouth All-American Paul Jarvis ’12 credited coaching for the team’s tremendous season: “Much of the credit for our success this season goes to our coach Alex Magleby ’00, who has instilled a winning culture in the team and continues to help us develop.” Though difficult for kickers and passing backs, wet conditions proved ideal for Dartmouth’s big forwards. From the official match report:

“‘In adverse weather conditions our forwards were able to dominate,’ said Dartmouth co-captain Mike DiBenedetto. Dartmouth was able to push the Yale scrum around at will and beat the Yale forwards to the contact point, turning over the ball a number of times.”

And Yale, for its part, managed to lose by a score of only 52 – 6, a sight better than its previous 62 – 8 loss to Dartmouth. Yale was able to avoid being shut out by hitting two penalty kicks in the early part of the match.

The DRFC hopes to build on its successful season with similar showings in the Northeast championships, where it will appear as the #1 Ivy seed and #2 seed overall, and compete for a Nationals bid.

Rugby: Dartmouth 36, Brown 15

October 19, 2009

The Dartmouth Rugby Football Club ended its regular season this weekend with a 36 – 15 win over Brown University, remaining the only undefeated club in Ivy League rugby.

Held in Providence on Brown’s home pitch, the match was defined by cold, mud, and mistakes on both sides. Dartmouth suffered heavy penalties in the first half of the game and gave up valuable ground to a physical, well-coached Brown side, but managed to hold its lead as Brown failed to capitalize on penalty kicks. “We came out slow, which is an issue we need to continue to work on in training over the upcoming week,” said Dartmouth sophomore Will Lehmann.

Ivy League playoffs begin next week, when Dartmouth will face fourth-seeded Yale University at home. A Dartmouth victory then will mean another Ivy League championship for that club.

The Dartmouth Rugby Football Club.

The Dartmouth Rugby Football Club.

Rugby: Dartmouth 62, Yale 8

September 27, 2009

In an unsurprising match this morning, the Dartmouth Rugby Football Club trounced Yale University in Dartmouth’s home opener at Brophy Field in Hanover, New Hampshire by a score of 62 to 8.

Dartmouth won its lead early on, then held its opponent at bay; a penalty kick dashed the DRFC’s hopes for a shutout, but hardly, as evidenced, upset any odds of a crushing victory. Yale men’s coach Jan Pikul noted, “If we played the first 25 minutes of the game like we played the last 25 minutes, we would have been in it. We shut [Dartmouth] out in the last 25 minutes… [but] we were slow to adjust to pressure. We gave up too many points off of turnovers.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Pikul and Yale, “shutting Dartmouth out in the last 25 minutes” proved too little, too late… especially given a 62 point deficit. Yale captain Pat Madden ’10 offered a more realistic take on the day: “Dartmouth came out strong, and we weren’t ready to play.”

Dartmouth will play Harvard University next week at home, coming into the match with a record of 3 – 0 and having outscored opponents by a total of 233-11.

The Dartmouth Rugby Football Club.

The Dartmouth Rugby Football Club.

Rugby: Dartmouth 80, Columbia 0

September 22, 2009

With the recent advent of collegiate rugby’s fall season, campus pitches across the country are once again alive with rucks, mauls, and scrums. One of the more lively is Sachem Field in Hanover, New Hampshire, home pitch to defending Ivy League title-holders the Dartmouth Rugby Football Club.

Fresh off a first-place finish in New England’s pre-season Granite Cup, an invitational tournament of squads from New Hampshire, Vermont, and Canada, Dartmouth opened its regular season this weekend with two matches against Columbia University, at Columbia. It won both by considerable margins, notching an 80-0 shutout in the second.

The Dartmouth Rugby Football Club.

The Dartmouth Rugby Football Club.

 “We moved the ball well and had good things come of that… It was a good weekend for us,” noted Dartmouth co-captain Sam Edandison ’10, “Columbia had a big and physical side. We didn’t match their physicality to the extent that we could and that is something we will work on.”

The DRFC is set to play its first home match against Yale University Saturday, September 26. This weekend’s wins make Dartmouth 2-0 in regular season play, outscoring opponents by a total of 171-3.

Dartmouth has won eight of the last 11 Ivy League championships and has won 13 New England championships and appeared in 12 national championships. It is the oldest continuously-touring collegiate rugby program in America.