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Letters to the Editor: Spring 2023

Making a Mountain into an O-Hill

Cover of the Winter 2022 issue, featuring the O-Hill cover story

In the 1960s the varsity cross-country course started in the Dell at Emmet Street and then proceeded to the top of O-Hill at the observatory, a vertical height rise of 315 feet. Runners, having tortuously achieved the top, then faced a precipitous downhill charge through the woods and onto a “burma road”-type gravel drive that eventually exited onto Route 250W below UVA’s new orthopedic hospital. While we had several excellent runners (the writer excluded), our squads were generally weaker than our opponents. However, when visiting teams came to our course for a meet it was not unusual to hear their “concerns” about the O-Hill climb and invariably Virginia would initially do well in attaining the summit in good fashion. Then on the downhill our practice advantage quickly disappeared.

It was good while it lasted!

Vince Derr (Engr ’68, Darden ’73)

It’s Not Easy Being Dean

Collage of past deans of students

I really enjoyed the Dean of Students article (It’s Not Easy Being Dean), particularly the reminder that Dean Robert Canevari ended Easters celebrations back in my day. As the author of the “Good Old Song” rework that appeared in the Nov. 22, 1982, Cavalier Daily, you can imagine how well that went over with the students. Not that it justified subjecting him to the slings and arrows of outrageous doggerel.

Terry Golden (Engr ’82, ’83)
Vienna, Virginia

Paul Cantor Obituary [In Memoriam]

When I read with sadness the news of Professor Paul Cantor’s passing, I reflected on the influence he and so many other faculty members at Virginia had on me. I walked into his class, my first as an undergraduate, thinking college would be an extension of high school, and that what I had applied in those four years to succeed in my English composition classes would work for these next four. I was quickly dissuaded. By the end of that first class I realized, to quote Dorothy, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Grades on my early papers were, well, not good—the red ink outweighed the paper. In office hours one day midsemester, Professor Cantor offered insights and advice, pushing me to push myself, and from there it all began to click. I was able to write home about my final grade! As a practicing lawyer and now a professor at Vanderbilt Law School, I write for a living. I trace whatever success I have had at it back to that English 101 class and Professor Cantor’s dedication, an attribute I encountered in all my wonderful professors at Virginia.

J.B. Ruhl (Col ’79, Law ’82)
Brentwood, Tennessee

That Good Old Stuff of Wahoowa [Summer/Fall 2022]

There comes a time in everyone’s life when we must consider downsizing.

Collage of alumni with their UVA memorabilia

For my wife and me, that time came recently, when we decided to leave our house on Kauai and move to a retirement community.

What to do with all our favorite things that didn’t stay with the house? Fast-forward several months. After moving to Santa Barbara, I attended a celebration of life for a former partner and reconnected with several former partners and business associates. One of them, Bill, greeted me and shortly after saying hello, uttered, “I have this recollection of a chair.”

Bill and his wife, Karen Gallivan (Nurs ’86), gave me this beloved UVA rocker as a thank-you for administering Karen’s anesthetic during the birth of their son, Stephen. Their daughter, Katherine Gallivan (Engr ’19), graduated from UVA in 2019.

It became clear this rocker should reside with the Gallivans, so I gifted it back to them. It is comforting knowing the chair will always be in the home of a ’Hoo. My hope is that Katherine will someday gift this chair to one of her children after they graduate from UVA.

Dr. Michael Diamant (Med ’70)
Santa Barbara, California

Pep Banned [Spring 2021]

Illustration of a Pep Band member

In talking with a friend about the UVA Pep Band, he got me thinking: How could the band have avoided its ultimate demise? When did script humor go too far? I concluded that jokes that ridiculed our opponents went too far. For example, at the 1974 home game against Virginia Tech, described in the Virginia Magazine article, the band went too far when it ridiculed the opposing stands by saying that they were not capable of reading an upside-down H. What probably was fair game, though, was to reference opponent characteristics that didn’t make much sense. Even in the 1970s the farm-raised turkey had a reputation for stupidity. Why then refer to your team as the Fighting Gobblers? Jokes referencing turkeys were fair game.

Away and bowl games would have been especially hazardous territory. The wisdom of Pep Band co-founder Steve Mershon should have been followed more carefully: At away games, the band should make fun of its opponent’s rival, rather than the opponent itself, as a way of winning over the crowd.

So, if I could have applied these suggestions would the Pep Band still be here? Hard to say, but I like to think that it would.

Joe Guarini (Engr ’78)
Arlington, Virginia

Send Us Your Thoughts

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We welcome your letters.

The Virginia Magazine letters section is part of the UVA Alumni Association’s broader Vox Alumni initiative, aimed at gaining greater understanding of alumni views and sharing insights. For letters intended for publication, please limit your remarks to 200 words and include your name, school, class year, city and state. We may not be able to publish all submissions, and we edit for length, clarity, style and civility. We give preference to letters that address the content of the magazine. The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Alumni Association.

Editor, Virginia Magazine
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Charlottesville, VA 22904