Friday, May 10, 2013


“The tassel’s worth the hassle,” author unknown

John Applegate, IU Vice President for Regional Affairs, thanked me for my latest Shavings and noted that the photo of Lady Gaga on page 1 was quite arresting.  I had meant her lines from “Born This Way” - about not hiding yourself in regret but just loving yourself “and you’re set” – to be a theme for the entire issue.  I realized it would be an attention-getter – and it’s one of the few illustrations that does not have a direct connection to Northwest Indiana -  but in my naivety I didn’t anticipate that several subscribers would be offended.  Fortunately, Applegate was not one of them; in fact, he joked that he is so clueless he didn’t recognize “her ladyship.”
above, John S. Applegate; below, 2013 IUN commencement, photo by Jeff Addison
A former environmental law professor and co-author of “The Regulation of Toxic Substances and Hazardous Wastes,” Applegate mentioned that he’d be in Gary later in the day for commencement.   Unfortunately, he didn’t make it, as President Michael McRobbie’s plane from Bloomington got delayed.   It is customary for IU brass to attend all eight campus ceremonies. Chancellor Lowe, according to the Post-Trib, selected three graduates to highlight in his remarks, Cara Thigpan, Sophia Olazba, and Eden Strange.  “I am always struck,” he said, “by the number of graduates whose individual stories reflect the desire for still more education and a commitment to lifetime learning.”

The last commencement I attended was five years ago – in street clothes since I had officially retired the year before – because granddaughter Alissa was taking photographs as an intern for Chris Sheid in University Relations.   Walking among students and faculty afterwards, I noticed the robing area for bigwigs contained a sumptuous buffet and spirits while most professors had to settle for fruit.  For a few years after he retired, Bill Neil continued to take part in his colorful University of Chicago regalia.  Emeritus faculty are not encouraged to participate; no invitation or notice went out.  I still have my University of Maryland doctoral hood in the cedar chest.

IU Northwest’s first graduations took place outdoors on campus.  One year when it rained, it got moved to the Lew Wallace High School gym.  The basketball scoreboard read 19 for the home team and 77 for visitors, and it took me a few seconds to realize it stood for the Class of 1977.  A few years later a sudden storm interrupted proceedings just as graduates were about to receive diplomas on stage.  President John Ryan yelled out something like, “By the power vested in me, you’ve all graduated, now everyone take cover.”  That was the death knell for outdoor graduation.  For the next decade the venue was Merrillville’s Star Plaza.  I was on its stage in 1995 when President Myles Brand conferred an honorary degree to Region humorist Jean Shepherd.  Limited seating restricted graduates to just two tickets, however, so Gary’s Genesis Center is more ideal.  Often a dozen or more relatives cheer when a loved one – perhaps the first collegian in the family – crosses the stage.  For years Garrett Cope read the list.  He’d examine each one beforehand and contact the degree recipient if there was a question about pronunciation.
I met Anne Balay and daughter Leah for lunch at Jonathan’s in Miller.  Leah is back from Smith College for a month before starting an internship with a mathematics professor on Wisconsin.  She’ll spend Fall semester in Budapest, Hungary.  The four-page menu appeared to stump her until I passed her a single-page list of specials.  She settled for eggs, biscuits and gravy.  I had salad, meat loaf, gravy, and mashed potatoes and took half of it home.

Still reeling from being denied tenure and promotion, Anne said it was the first graduation she’s missed.  I pressed her to appeal to the campus Board of Review on the procedural grounds that she received no warning on annual reviews about her alleged teaching deficiencies. If her superiors didn’t like her methods or course content, they should have mentored her or, at the least, discussed the source of their dissatisfaction.  She is pretty down in the dumps about her future, but plenty of students and faculty admire all she has done and want her to stay.  Some will be at a party Pat Buckler is having for her Saturday.  Anne has ordered cherry pastry she won in a silent auction during Temple Israel trivia night.

Home for “Jeopardy,” now on at 2:30, an hour earlier, I missed the final question involving which continent has the most countries in the United Nations.  I thought Europe, as did two contestants, but Africa was the answer, with 57 nations, nine more than Europe.  Southern Sudan joined in 2011.
Indiana Historical Society’s “In Perspective” contains a photo of “The Boyle Products Special,” the 1934 Indianapolis 500 winner.  Inside are driver Bill Cummings and mechanic Earl Unversaw.  Back then, mechanics kept drivers informed about cars behind them about to pass.  Indianapolis native Cummings finished just 100 yeards ahead of Mauri Rose.  His car averaged 104.8 miles per hour.  Another photo by Oran Henley shows a full-bodied woman telephone switchboard operator at work in Carthage, Indiana, a century ago.

Hailed as a hero for rescuing Cleveland kidnap victim Amanda Berry, held captive along with two others for a decade by a sex abuser, Charles Ramsey, the object of intense media scrutiny, once served time in prison for drug abuse and domestic violence.  His 15 minutes of fame turned sour.

In “The Shackles of Power” John Dos Passos mentions how New Hampshire Senator William Plumer started out as a High Federalist sympathetic to William Pickering’s scheme but gradually became a Jeffersonian Republican.  At one point he changed boarding houses as a result.  Not re-elected after a single term, he returned to New Hampshire and twice was elected governor as a Jeffersonian Republican.  A lawyer early in his career, he spent his later years engaged in literary pursuits and became the first president of the new Hampshire Historical Society.

Reviewers are all over the map about director Baz Luhrmann’s latest attempt to bring F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” to the big screen. Rolling Stone gave it a single star, calling it the biggest disappointment of the year so far, while the Post-Trib’s Richard Roeper thought it merited three and a half stars.  Leonardo DiCaprio was a wise choice to play Gatsby, but having Jay-Z do the soundtrack seems like quite a stretch.  Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan is dazzling in a nuanced role.

Becca finally got to play Annie in her school production, held at Edison High School in Lake Station.  James had the dual role of Burt Healy and Mr. Bundles.  Years ago, I played tennis there on Sundays with Dave, Ken Gunia, Bruce Sawochka, and various fourths, including Phil when he was in town.  Phil and Dave played bitty basketball there, and in January 1981, I left the gym at halftime to check on how the Eagles were doing against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC championship.  Led by Ron Jaworski and Wilbert Montgomery, they prevailed to advance to the Superbowl, won by Oakland.

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