Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Robert Lipsyte as a nerdy son of Trilling and Barzun

I went to Columbia in the 1950s, a school with a determinedly dowdy sports tradition that made us proud. One of my classmates, 5-foot 7-inch Chet Forte, was not only a consensus all-American, but as a senior was voted college player of the year, beating out the 7-foot Wilt Chamberlain of Kansas (#1 East this year). But the best part for us nerdy sons of Lionel Trilling and Jacques Barzun had come a year earlier when Chet the Jet was suspended from the team toward the end of the season for academic shortcomings. It probably cost Columbia the Ivy title. But our school's priorities were clear. Then.
— Robert Lipsyte, Descent into March Madness (alternative link).

— Barzun 100 —

And I noticed these in the March/April 2007 issue of Columbia College Today:

The Gift of Learning

Next month I will be 81, and soon I will celebrate the 60th anniversary of my graduation from Columbia College. What does an 81-year-old do often? He remembers or reminisces. I can still see the young faces of Lionel Trilling [’25 ], Meyer Schapiro [’24], Jacques Barzun [’27] and Theodosius Dob­z­hansky. But what I remember most is the immersion into a world of high culture, which deepened and enriched my life.

How else could I say with assurance that the three most profound expressions of the human condition are Homer’s Iliad, Dante’s Divine Comedy and Shakespeare’s opus. Not to omit Goethe, Cervantes and so forth. I have read hundreds of marvelous books since graduation, books of science, history, philosophy and art, but my capacity to read and properly evaluate them was established at Columbia. Even my abiding love of music (especially opera and chamber music) was deepened at Columbia.

My experience at Columbia College gifted me with the capacity to live deeply and intensely — a life is not measured quantitatively. And so my memory constantly drifts back to that 16-year-old awestruck freshman ready and willing to absorb the gift of learning that Columbia was ready to bestow upon him.

Anson K. Kessler ’47
Hendersonville, N.C.

By its very nature, athletics provides a lasting tie. There are the values of teamwork, the commitment to a common goal and to making the sacrifices necessary to achieve, or compete for, that goal. Another tie is the College’s academic excellence. I love when alumni of a certain age share their recollections of Columbia icons such as Moses Hadas, Mark Van Doren, Lionel Trilling ’25, Jacques Barzun ’27 and so many more. This is not unique to older alumni. Columbia’s outstanding faculty, then and now, has provided memorable experiences — in many cases, life-altering experiences — for many of us.
— Alex Sachare, Ties That Bind

“I began to realize while I was there that Columbia was really going through a golden age. My freshman history was with Stephen Marcus. I studied with Trilling, Bentley, Barzun, Van Doren . . . I had an incredible education at Columbia.”
— Terrence McNally, quoted in Laura Butchy, Terrence McNally ’60 Prepares for Another Broadway Opening