Mary Grabar to the Rescue
Mary said: Steve, I enjoyed reading this post especially.
Eugene Genovese's wife, Elizabeth, died recently, and I believe they were Roman Catholic. I've heard her referred to as Betsy, but not Kitty. I met her in the 1980s when I was still in my (misguided) feminist phase.
Here's a link.
Also, did you know I worked for Fred Eckert's advertising agency, Eckert-Hogan-Newell, from 1983-1985? That was before I was political but vaguely liberal. I just desperately needed a job. Fred was in Fiji as ambassador most of the time, so I worked with Jim Hogan. We ran the show.
Thanks for this remembrance and analysis of Rochester!
Following is my response to Mary, building somewhat on my comments about the University of Rochester and the University of Georgia:
I corresponded with Eugene Genovese, but sort of tippy-toed around his Marxist years, when he was basically an old-fashioned kind of historian (i.e., interested in history).
U of Rochester had a profound influence on my life because of the incredible value placed on ideas. University of Georgia was something like that in the 1970s, although the "liberals" or whatever the heck they were had begun to show up.
I was assistant editor of The Georgia Review from 1972-74 and was a very controversial (pro-conservative, pro-Southern lit) figure, although not as much as Ed Krickel, the editor, and Marion Hoyt Montgomery. I said the university was being run by people who didn't hate the South but were at best indifferent to it and at worst contemptuous. That was not a way to get ahead, to say the least.
The criticism of Krickel and me was that we were too Southern, too Christian, and too conservative. In general, we pleaded guilty as charged. The university was seeking to achieve something called "national recognition," which according to us meant it was striving to become the Deep South version of Ohio State, often trumpeted in those days as a model.
On Rochester/Monroe County days: I remember Frank Horton's jingle very well -- but not one darn thing he ever did. The Founding Fathers certainly were men of ideas. They saw the problems with the status quo, which in the 18th century meant George III. America must remain a good society that retains the capacity to get better, partly through the restoration of sound ideas that get lost over time.
When I was at the University of Georgia, Bob West, department chairman talked to me about J. Donald Wade, founder of The Georgia Review. He said, "You know, Don Wade only had one or maybe two ideas in his life. But," he added, "they were GOOD ideas." Wade, like Bob West's and Ed Krickel's teacher Donald Davidson, was a member of the Southern Agrarians, who wrote "I'll Take My Stand." I fit right in at The Georgia Review as it had been, but not the eclectic mess it would become under "nationally recognized" types.
On religion: My doctoral dissertation dealt with "Five Modern Spiritual Autobiographies" and was rather militantly pro-Christian. Nobody at the U or R seemed to hold it against me. There were a lot of intellectual grown ups around, and I wish that were true at more academic institutions.
In terms of positive influences on me, I've met Bill Buckley and Russell Kirk (deceased) on several occasions. While at the U of R, I heard Goldwater, Malcolm X, and Herman Kahn (Thinking the Unthinkable and many other books). The university invited controversial thinkers and always drew big crowds.
Herman Kahn spoke about the "stages" involved in nuclear war. He asked the audience what a proper presidential response would be to hearing that a Russian ICBM had just hit Briggs Stadium (the old baseball field) in Detroit.
The general reaction was that the President's response would be describable in two words: "Bombs away."
Kahn's response was: "NO!" He said the President's response SHOULD be: "Where are the OTHER bombs?"
That is, could it have been an accident? Or could it reflect Kruschev being in a snit -- and thus curable by us taking out Leningrad, so we could all be even? Or something else? The President could get the answer by picking up his red phone and dialing up Nikita in Red Square.
Malcolm X brought the "Fruit of Islam" with him and the speech/Q & A "rocked," extremely intriguing to a white boy from Irondequoit. My mother insisted on coming with me to the meeting -- and asked the first question! -- apparently afraid I might ask a hostile question and thus be beaten senseless by either Malcolm or the Fruit, or both.
Imagine that, an atmosphere of real diversity, as opposed to the phony variety that relies on ethnic and gender considerations. Rochester valued the free exchange of ideas, the real essence of diversity. My friend Joel Blatt's view was that he as a liberal would of course have conservative and traditionalist friends. If he didn't, who could he debate issues with? Remarkable guy.
Joel introduced me to R. J. Kaufman, one of the best teachers in the country (and winner of the Danforth Award for College Teaching).The "problem" with Kaufman was that he was so good he unintentionally convinced students that that some second-order literature (such as non-Shakespearean Elizabethans -- Jonson, Ford, Marlowe) were among history's greatest writers. He could have taught the classified ads.
He later went back to his native Southwest and taught at the University of Texas. I regarded him as a god-like figure, and he encouraged a Christian conservative (me) because, well, it was all about ideas, right?
Norman O. Brown, a classicist turned guru, was there, lecturing to a class of 400 students! His books included Hermes the Thief (in his classics period) and, later in the guru phase, Life Against Death: A Psychoanalytic View of History and Love's Body, a study of, well, love and bodies and such.
Those were the days my young friend; I wish they'd never come to an end.