Saturday, April 25, 2015

Transitioning


“Life is pleasant.  Death is peaceful.  It’s he transition that’s troublesome.”  Isaac Asimov

“‘All men are liars,’ said Roberta Muldoon, who knew this was true because she had once been a man.”  John Irving, “The World According to Garp”

At a retirement reception for Joe Pelliacciotti and David Malik, Chancellor William Lowe referred to the honorees as transitioning.  That evening Bruce Jenner used the word in an interview with Diane Sawyer to describe his transitioning to a woman.  So far as I know, the former IUN vice chancellors are comfortable in their male personas.  Both have been with IU for 35 years, and Malik is returning to IUPUI’s Chemistry department.

I also learned Friday that former acting chancellor Herman “Hy” Feldman passed away at age 88.  In our history of IUN, “Educating the Calumet Region” Paul Kern and I wrote:

  The early Seventies could aptly be called the Herman Feldman years.  Feldman played a key role in campus planning, moving from chair of Arts and Sciences into an administrative deanship and then assuming the post of acting chancellor.  One of the “Old Gang” who favored keeping Liberal Arts the bedrock of the curriculum and making IUN a miniature IU, he was ultimately unsuccessful in seeking the permanent chancellorship.

Somewhat embittered that he was passed over for permanent chancellor, in part, he believed, because he was Jewish but also because the Business and Education divisions sought a leader more amenable to their needs, Feldman never returned to campus, so far as I know, after he transitioned into retirement.

At the Faculty Organization meeting Neil Goodman recalled being good friends with Hy Feldman’s son Ted and that he would see Hy at family gatherings after he retired.  Hy would always greet him in Yiddish and next ask about “my campus,” which he did so much to nurture.   Dean Mark Hoyert eulogized Feldman with his typical verve.  In a written statement Hoyert recalled the university’s early days after moving to Glen Park:

  When Gary Main (Tamarack) first opened, the faculty shared one communal office.  There was one phone hanging on the wall for the entire faculty to share.  Hy was tasked with trying to convince Bloomington to allow them to get at least one more phone.  He called Bloomington and made his pitch.  The request was greeted with incredulity.  “How could it be possible they needed another phone?  Who were they calling all the time!  Surely that volume of calls could not be justifiable.”  And most irritatingly, “clearly the one phone was sufficient and working well; after all, he was using it to call them.”

Hy told a story about requesting some paper, some pencils, and an adding machine.  Bloomington could understand the paper and pencils, those were appropriate supplies for an extension teacher, but they put Hy through the ringer for the adding machine.  “Why would you need that?  Why can’t you just add it up using the paper and pencils we are giving you?”

I first met Hy in April of 1988 . . . and was especially privileged to benefit from his incredible wisdom earned through years of experience and his phantasmagoria of resulting stories. . . .  Once, when asked why we had been charged with completing yet another pointless and time consuming report, he pithily responded, “The bureaucracy needs its chow.”  Another time, Hy was asked if the university had grown more pernicious or whether we just hadn’t noticed it before.  His response was that “the enemy was always with us.”

Thank you Hy for your years of service and guidance.  We will remember the portly man with the rumpled suit and crooked smile.  We will try to follow your lead and strive to build a comprehensive university to serve the region.  We will feed the bureaucracy when necessary, will keep our eyes out for the enemy, and will resort to illusions to the Russian army only when absolutely necessary.  Alav Hasholom Haim Feldman.
An obit using an image of a young Herman Feldman stated that he served in the U.S. army in Japan and used the GI Bill to obtain a PhD from the University of Nebraska.  His family added: In retirement he became an avid flower and vegetable gardener, wine maker and woodworker. He left several woodworking projects undone and books unread because he could not stop being active and curious.”
above, Joseph Ferrandino; below, Demetra Andrews
At the retirement reception I met Marketing professor Demetra Andrews and SPEA professor Joseph Ferrandino.  Good old David Parnell, who attends virtually all university functions, was wearing a leather jacket similar to my old one that I outgrew and gave to Phil, which subsequently elicited several compliments from black men he’s passed on the street.  I refrained from telling Parnell that, uncertain how Demetra would react.  Not surprisingly, she seemed to know Parnell and was very personable; I’d like to know her better.  Greeting Pamela Lowe, I commented that Jake and Elwood did a good job in reference to earlier remarks her husband and Chuck Gallmeier made.  The two of them played the Blues Brothers in recent ads about the university. 
Richard and Ragen Hatcher in 2011
Evelyn Bottando offered me a chocolate concoction on a stick that City Council candidate Ragen Hatcher brought to a rally that Eve helped coordinate.  Campaign manager Carolyn McCrady drafted Eve into service.  That evening on the phone with Mayor Hatcher we commiserated over George Van Til and Mary Elgin being unfairly targeted by federal prosecutors, something to which Hatcher himself was no stranger while in office.  He is justly proud that his daughter is still striving to make Gary a better place despite all the pitfalls in her path.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Political Prisoner


“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”  Nelson Mandela

Because I was in California last week, I missed an opportunity to tell Steve McShane’s students about political prisoner Katherine Hyndman, whom I profiled in a 2006 Traces article entitled “Triumph Over travail.”  It began:

    On October 7, 1952, two agents of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service arrested 45 year-old Katherine Hyndman at her Gary home.  The agents took her to the Crown Point jail, where she was incarcerated for nearly ten months in a cellblock with prostitutes, alcoholics, drug addicts, and murderers.  Two years before, over President Harry Truman’s veto, Congress had passed the McCarren Internal Security Act, which called for the deportation of alien subversives.  The wife of a Gary steelworker, Hyndman had immigrated to America at the age of five from Croatia and had joined the Communist party in 1929, following in her father’s tradition.  Her criminal record [for helping evicted tenants move back into their apartments during the Great Depression] proved an insurmountable obstacle in her subsequent efforts to become an American citizen.

Locked up in Cellblock 3, North Hyndman began a prison diary that is now part of a Calumet Regional Archives collection.  She wrote on the backs of envelopes and cards since she was denied all writing paper save for a one-page letter to her husband each week.  She dedicated her writings “to the millions of Americans who have been ‘guests’ of the government, whether local, county, state or federal, and have partaken of the nameless slop that is called food in our ‘generous’ institutions in the richest country in the world.  The pigs on our little farm in Iowa were better fed.”


Here is Hyndman’s first entry, written two weeks after she arrived:

  My original six cellmates wanted to know “What are you in for?”  My arrest, without bail, on deportation charges was hard to explain.  I told them I was a non-citizen and that the federal government considered me a security risk, that I’m alleged to be very dangerous and subversive.  They took one look at me and laughed at the preposterous idea that a person my size [barely five feet tall and weighing 90 pounds] could overthrow the government.  It just didn’t make sense.  It was too fantastic to be real.  None had heard of the McCarren Act.

Former Lake County surveyor George Van Til reported to a federal correctional institution in Terre Haute, a week early to insure access to needed medications and commissary supplies. Stripped figuratively and literally [for a body cavity check] of his dignity, he began serving an 18-month sentence for activities that are common practice among officeholders.  Recently a half-dozen former and present-day African American elected officials invited Van Til to lunch and thanked him for being one of their few suburban elected officials who truly cared about minority constituents.  Indeed Van Til remained committed to Gary, the city of his birth, and attended countless community events.  At the end of the meal they all held hands and someone said a prayer to give George strength during his coming ordeal.  I conveyed the same sentiments over the phone to him. 

After more than 40 years of government service without enriching himself at the public till like so many others, Van Til deserved a better fate.  Having lost practically all his savings in attorney’s fees and living expenses while out of work, and ineligible for Social Security while incarcerated, he is expected somehow to start paying restitution for the hours employees allegedly engaged in political activities.  I’ll have to send him my Postwar Steel Shavings that contains Katherine Hyndman’s diary.  Maybe it will inspire him and cheer him up some.

Two trainers were holding forth in IUN’s library/conference center lobby with comfort dogs.  All day students lined up to interact with them.  I recall the first time I saw someone with a comfort dog and to my surprise noticed that the person wasn’t blind.
 Donald Fagen of Steely Dan


The Friday before I arrived in Rancho Mirage, members of Steely Dan were staying at a nearby hotel – probably the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa - preparing to perform that night at the Coachella Festival in nearby Indio.  Donald Fagen wrote this journal account for Rolling Stone magazine:

              The address card on the desk mentions “Rancho Mirage.” But could that be the name of a town?  It sounds more like a brand of toaster over.  Weird.
              In the dark room, trying to wake up, I heard the strains of “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” [from the musical Annie] wafting in from outside.  I slid the curtain open; blinding sunshine.  Giant palm trees and white pavilions.  On a patch of well-mowed grass, a group of children were running and laughing and yelling, playing various games with multicolored balls, like croquet balls only bigger.  These games, one with wooden ramps, another that required goal posts, were entirely unfamiliar to me.  The scene had a dreamlike quality, and that Lewis Carroll poem came to mind:
              ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
              Did gyre and gimble in the wabe
  These activities must be part of the hotel’s day-care service.

In a book about displaced Serbians after World War II Dorothy Mokry found a photo (above) of her mother Sofia Dragic and her brother George [wearing a Chetnik cap] at the Eboli refugee camp in Italy.  Dorothy’s family was originally supposed to go to Australia with other Serbian displaced persons, but she contracted pneumonia and nearly died.  Eventually St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in Gary sponsored the Dragic family, so they ended up in Indiana rather than Australia.

On the final night of bowling the Engineers edged out the Dingbats for fifteenth place.  The McCanns won’t be back next year, so I made it a point to chat with Bob and Shannon and convey how much they’ll be missed.  Shannon’s father, a longtime steelworker at Inland and member of Local 1010, trained women and minorities hired in the aftermath of the 1974 Consent Decrees.  Lots of mill workers lamented the new hiring guidelines, but Shannon’s dad realized that the safety of all of them depended on the newcomers being properly trained.  Like many “lifers,” his health was seriously impaired by his work environment, and he died shortly after retiring.
I started editing the student journals from Steve McShane’s class.  Sidney Algozine mentions attending a wake of someone who died much too young. Steve was able to convert the photos from tiffs to jpegs.