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Letters – Spring 2009

Faith matters

For more than 41 years I have enjoyed reading various alumni publications from DU. I was stunned by the article “Saving Seph,” which chronicled the hopeful battle against Seph’s Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The article says of Seph’s mother, Lori: “The primary source of that hope is faith in God … Lori frequently discusses God’s power to deliver a miracle for Seph. Barring a miracle, Lori says she can accept that Seph will be in heaven if he dies before her, though she cries every time she considers it. ‘It’s a God thing,’ she says. ‘Without my faith, I would have nothing. No hope.'” For four decades I have read DU articles that have unhesitatingly (and dare I say foolishly) promulgated the typical university worldview of secularism wherein matters of faith and the importance of faith in the routine of alumni lives are virtually never mentioned (despite the Christian origin of DU). How refreshing it is to know that Seph is mothered by a woman who attacks his problem with a well-developed faith that has been integrated into the routine of her family’s life. I don’t find Lori’s perspective to be unusual. What I found unusual was that the key aspect of faith was seriously considered in the context of the article. For one, I would prefer to see more such faith deliberation in future articles (even if the object of faith turns out to be crystals or jackhammers). Everyone has faith in something or someone. As alumni, it is worth contemplating whether DU is a help or hindrance in developing a mature faith as part of a complete education. Do not grow weary of doing well!


Don Burgess (BA ’67)
Fort Worth, Texas

Korbel’s legacy

I am writing to congratulate you on the excellent article on the life and times of Professor Josef Korbel (“Remembering Joe“). He had the exceptional ability to bring the real world of international politics into the classroom. As an undergraduate at the University, my area of concentration was East Asian studies with a focus on modern China. My academic adviser, Professor Peter Van Ness, suggested that I sit in on a class titled Soviet Foreign Policy in order to gain some insights on their communist counterparts in China. Professor Korbel taught this class and graciously allowed me to join the group. His lectures and the class discussions were very interesting and sobering, considering the subject matter. One session in particular came back to me as I was reading your article. Professor Korbel was reviewing the turbulent events of 1968, culminating with the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August of that year. He was speaking in detail, and from personal experience, of the people and events that led up to this tragedy. Everyone in the class was transfixed by his presentation, for here was a man who has seen the ugly face of Soviet imperialism up close. A classroom presentation does not get more compelling. I thought about Professor Korbel when Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008 and what his analysis would be of that event.

Patrick Stanford (BA ’72, MSJA ’77)
Alamosa, Colo.


My husband, Olav Svennevik (MA ’55), received the University of Denver Magazine for a number of years and enjoyed very much being in touch with his old university. Sadly, he died in December 2007. Olav would particularly have enjoyed the issue commemorating Josef Korbel. Professor Korbel was Olav’s thesis adviser and became a friend and excellent support in many ways. They kept in touch for several years after we left Denver, and Professor Korbel kindly provided recommendations, etc., in connection with job applications. I worked as a clerk for Time-Life, but the last two months my parents in Norway provided me with funds and I attended language class with Mrs. Korbel. I remember how proud she was of her daughters! Olav had an internship in the U.N. after we left Denver. We then returned to Norway, where Olav worked for the Ministry of Social Affairs for a few years before joining the United Nations Development Programme, first as a deputy resident representative in Nigeria and Pakistan, then as a resident representative in Malta, Botswana, Somalia and Syria. Since his retirement in 1989, we lived in Norway. We have three children and seven grandchildren. I remember with the utmost pleasure the happy days we spent as newlyweds in Denver. We had hoped to return one day.

Betty Svennevik
Oslo, Norway

Online magazine

The e-version of the winter 2008 University of Denver Magazine is excellent. Keep up the good work.

Neil Sapper (BA ’63)
Austin, Texas

Renaissance Room memories

I am replying to the request in the fall 2008 magazine [Alumni Connections, page 45] to share memories of the Renaissance Room or Mary Reed Library. During the 12 months I was a graduate student, I used the Mary Reed Library — the “Ren Room” in particular — to study and complete assignments. I also worked 20 hours a week in the Ren Room, often from 8 p.m. to midnight and 8 a.m. to noon. I lived in an apartment several blocks away and walked to and from campus. I remember cooking, eating, reading and studying after my midnight shift and often going with friends to the nearby Denny’s to have coffee, talk and eat. Two particular Ren Room memories are as vivid as if they happened yesterday — one humorous and one romantic. In regard to the former, the situation was that I had worked the two shifts and fell asleep about 2 a.m. I dressed in the dark, trying not to awaken my roommate at 7:30 a.m. Soon after, I was in the Ren Room. I sat down, crossing my legs. The desk was placed by the hallway entrance, in front of the fireplace. As I looked down I was aghast to see that (in my mind, at least) my legs were deformed! Standing up to examine the problem, with feet firmly on the floor, I saw that I had put my left shoe on my right foot, and vice versa! At Denny’s when I related the incident to my friends, one kind, satirical soul took out her pen and paper napkin, quickly drew and wrote something on it, and told me to place it on the floor when dressing next time. She had sketched a pattern with two correctly placed feet and the words “left foot,” “right foot.” The romantic encounter in the Ren Room occurred near the end of the summer of 1972. A handsome male about my age asked for help in locating a journal: Picturescope. I checked the card catalog. After finding the periodical, I asked why he needed it. He explained that he was at DU attending a special summer seminar on the history of photography. This was the beginning of a short but joyous romance with Alan Miller, who returned that month to his home in Klamath Falls, Ore. I left for Dallas to begin a position as children’s librarian. This past summer I had the great pleasure of actually walking around the Ren Room again after decades. My friend, Rena Fowler, who has resettled in Denver after many years of working in other cities and states, kindly drove me to the campus after I’d flown in from Texas with my young daughters. Although it was a Saturday, the Mary Reed Building was open, as well as the Ren Room. Even though the latter had stacks of books packed in boxes all over the floor, just being there and seeing that same fireplace, the high ceilings and huge windows brought back a flood of wonderful memories. I could picture my friends studying at the long, oak tables. I had a warm, comfortable feeling because I was in a place where I had met lifelong friends and earned an excellent education for my lifelong career. You see, it was at the Mary Reed Library that I initially met Rena. Thank you for allowing me to describe my reminiscences. I must admit that I rarely took time to carefully read your magazine. But I’m so glad I did this time!

Frances “Toni” (Smardo) Dowd (MA ’72)

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