Class of '69 virtual activities

Here is a summary of our extensive virtual activities, courtesy of Arthur Fergenson:


“These Zooms have been wonderful for me as I’m getting to know guys that I never interacted with while on campus.  Next reunion, I’ll actually have something to talk with them about, rather than trying to make acquaintances in a limited amount of time.”

So wrote Nanalee Raphael, one of the most faithful of participants in the Zoom events that have involved, in total, about 100 members of our Class (out of the approximately 500 for whom we have email information) over the past year or more.

The most popular of these Zoom “streams” is the Casual Conversation series.  The most recent was with Robert Santulli, M.D., Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Geisel and instructor at the College, introduced to us through huis Choate classmate, Peter Schaefer, who spoke with us about aging, and, in particular, dementia.  Among many points, he said that social isolation is associated with the risk of dementia, although it is hard to say that the former is a cause of the latter since it may be that the presence of dementia itself causes the sufferer to withdraw from society.  But whether or not the relationship is causal (in either direction), being a part of these conversations and events is one way to connect with others with whom we share a history. 

Events?  Yes.  Norman Jacobs and Dona Heller have sponsored a series of virtual wine tastings led by experts.  On May 25, Allie Nault conducted us in a marvelous taste tour of Italy, generously giving of her time and knowledge for a thoroughly delightful 90 minutes and five half bottles of excellent wines, including a stunning Zenato Amarone and an utterly delicious Caparzo Burnello.  Allie worked hard over several months to assemble this selection.  Half bottles have been scarce during the pandemic, and of this quality quite rare.  She used her contacts in the industry to pout this together, all at no cost to the Class (other than the cost of the wines).

Another event has been Saturday Night at the Movies, which uses the Watch Party function of Amazon Prime so that we can watch the movie together at a small cost.  After the movie we get together on Zoom to talk about the film.   In my programming, I have followed the philosophy of the Dartmouth Film Society when we were in school, and have focused on classic movies.  As some of you may know, Robert “Bob” Gitt, who was number two at the Film Society when we were there, went on to become one of the world’s premier film restorers and preservationists.  Next time you watch a restored or preserved classic, look for his name.  Like Long Days Journey, Becky Sharp, Night of theHunter, and A Star is Born (the first, with Janet Gaynor).  At the Film Society he programmed Long Days Journey and Night of the Hunter, years before he restored those same movies.  Although he had practice when he took a borrowed print of Intolerance from MOMA and, surreptitiously spliced in scenes from other prints.  The four hour-plus running time was worth it.

The two most recent Saturday Nights at the Movies featured the great Preston Sturges’sHail the Conquering Hero, and Raw Deal, a film noir with cinematography by John Alton and direction by Anthony Mann.  The next will be Black Narcissus from the writing and directing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger from Britain.  All of us have seen their The Red Shoes (right?).  These were remarkable filmmakers.  Each film they did was different except in quality and in the ability to delight and involve the viewer.  Join us.

Now back to the Casual Conversations.  In addition to Robert Santulli, we have recently featured classmates Ray Saginur, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and medical ethicist from Canada, to talk with us about both topics; and Peter Elias to explain how we can learn to effectively and safely intervene in public situations to deflect anger and reduce the potential for harm.

Coming up will be Dimitri Gerakaris on July 17 to talk with us about the life he has forged in art.  (Sorry (not!) for the pun.)  On August 15, Andy McLane and Paul Tuhus will talk with us about the incredible job they have done in making the dream of a restored DOC House, our Class Gift for the 50th Reunion, a reality.   In less than two months after their session, the Class will hold its first Homecoming since the restoration is complete, and several events will be at the DOC House.  Also on the horizon, Dona Heller will speak about college application process and her work in advising young men and women.  She and Norman Jacobs are also planning to get some of the 2019s to speak with us about what it has been like to be “Safe at last in the wide, wide world.”

As the Casual Conversation with Doctor Santulli illustrates, these events have broadened beyond classmates to include Dartmouth Professors.  This idea belongs to Bruce Alpert, who formed the Jewish Culture Group, open to all classmates of any or no faith. In fact, we have two regulars who have had training in Christian theology and worship.  Due to Bruce’s initiative, Jewish Studies Professor Susannah Heschel spent about 90 minutes with us discussing Jewish Studies at Dartmouth, and the work of her famous father, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who has been in the news recently focusing on his work on the Sabbath.  Before that, Bruce had the manager of Dartmouth Hillel to speak with us, along with a member of its board.

With the encouragement of classmate Tim Means, we invited English Professor James Heffernan to spend time with us.  He spoke of his love of James Joyce and of the humanities in general.  Jim started teaching when we started at Dartmouth to be taught.  During the 90 minutes we spent together, he was prompted to recite a marvelous poem that he wrote.  During the session, Tim confessed to shedding “intellectual tears.”

Also a teacher of the humanities, Professor Cecilia Gaposchkin, Chair of the History Department, spoke with us, about her own work in the study of the Middle Ages, and about her grandmother, the first woman to achieve full professorship through the regular process at Harvard, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, who revolutionized astronomy by discovering that stars were not made of the same stuff as Earth is.

Nor are we through with Dartmouth faculty.  On September 21, Jim Heffernan’s close friend, and tennis buddy, Classics Professor Edward Bradley, who is passionate about the humanities, will spend time with us.

I would be remiss not to mention the Casual Conversation under the aegis of the Jewish Culture Group, with my mother-in-law, Rose Mantelmacher, 99-years-old and a Holocaust survivor of the concentration camps.  She and five of her six siblings lived through the camps, as did her husband and all four of his.  They met and married at a DP camp in Germany and came to America where my wife was born.

Three others Zoom streams connect us.  Every month Class President Jim Staros holds an open house social hour with no set agenda.  Also, there is a play reading group.  Our last two plays were The Ascent of F6 by WH Auden and Christopher Isherwood; and Fashionby Anna Cora Mowatt.  We have read classmate Chuck Morey’s cutting of Hamlet, as well as his Count of Monte Christo, and Dorothy Parker’s moving play concerning the Lamb siblings, Charles and Mary, who wrote Tales of Shakespeare.  The next is Hogan’s Goat by William Alfred, a verse play.  In its original production Off Broadway, it starred Fay Dunaway and Ralph (“Goodnight, Pa”) Waite, with Barnard Hughes and Cliff Gorman in the cast.  Following that reading, we will be Zoom-performing The Royal Family by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber.  Please join the group: we need more players, especially women!

Finally, Peter Schaeffer and Tex Talmadge host an AA group every Sunday early evening.

So, here is the call:  What we are doing now we hope to continue doing—after all, as we age we will be less mobile and less able to join with our classmates at in-person events--but we will need your help, not only as participants but also as idea-persons.  Suggest yourselves or others in the Class, Dartmouth Professors, or “outsiders” as candidates for Casual Conversations.  Brown Professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Kertzer (with whom I went to high school and whose father was Rabbi Morris Kertzer, author of What Is a Jew?), has agreed to speak with us about his book The Pope and Mussolini, providing that we have read it beforehand.  (We have 12 committed.  We need more!)  Or new types of streams.  We had a pop-up poetry session, and are likely to have another, this time with participants sharing their own poems if they so choose.  The only rule for new groups is that everyone in the Class can join.

Also, watch your emails and go to Class website for information.  None of this could be done without the great work of Peter Elias in getting the word out about these many events.

Join us for some or all of these events.  And by “all,” I am talking about, so far, Nanalee, Tex, and the editor of this newsletter, Allen Denison, faithful across the board.  Join them!