Quakers & Makers Podcast/April 2021

April 28, 2021

Rare disease research, lessons from Kirkbride, respect for Mungermen, artful immigration story.

Moved and Wondering

I was very moved by “Hope for Katherine Belle” [Jan|Feb 2018]. The article also left me wondering if you all were aware of the possible benefits of hypoxia treatment for mitochondrial disorders. Pre-clinical experiments in mice have shown that reducing oxygen exposure can mitigate symptoms associated with compromised mitochondria. Hypoxia treatment is a potential low-tech option that might be achievable with something as simple as an overnight breathing apparatus (Science, April 1, 2016, pp. 31-32 and 54-61).

Bethany Bechtel Gr’90, Gainesville, FL

Another Ultra-Rare Disease

You certainly have articulated just how complex and confounding rare diseases truly are, and the enormous frustrations, efforts, and costs involved in finally determining a protracted diagnosis and in working against time … and the progression of the disease. One of the ultra rare diseases referenced in the article is fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), which turns soft tissue into bone and has an incidence of 1:2,000,000. Readers may like to know that the worldwide expert in FOP, Dr. Fred Kaplan, resides within Penn’s distinguished orthopedic surgery department. I have studied this disease myself for almost 20 years, and in 1997 I funded Dr. Kaplan’s medical chair as a tribute to my parents: The Isaac and Rose Nassau Professorship in Orthopedic Molecular Medicine.

Along with Eileen Shore, the Cali and Weldon Research Professor in FOP, Kaplan codirects the only center in the world devoted entirely to work on this disease (along with another closely related one). The International Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva Association has organized the medical and scientific communities worldwide on these two rare conditions. There are currently four drugs in clinical development to treat FOP, and about half a dozen more are under preclinical investigation.

Diane Weiss, parent, Boca Raton, FL

Good Intentions + Public Indifference = Neglect & Abuse

Thank you for the article about Thomas Kirkbride and Dorothea Dix [“Of Beneficent Buildings and Bedside Manners,” Jan|Feb 2018].

Unfortunately, their good intentions eventually languished because of public indifference toward people with mental illnesses, and eventually the state mental hospitals became custodial institutions where the residents were not only neglected but abused. More like prisons than hospitals.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work in 1961, I started on a career in mental health just as the courts began to take action against incarceration without active treatment. Shortly thereafter President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Centers Act. It was a plan to establish mental health centers close to where people lived and provide services that included outpatient treatment, 24-hour emergency service, short-term inpatient hospitalization, day treatment programs, and consultation and education to others who regularly had contact with people who had mental illnesses, such as the local police. The University of Pennsylvania established such a center, known as the West Philadelphia Mental Health Consortium.

Community mental health centers were established over a great deal of the United States, and individuals formerly locked in state mental hospitals were now treated in the community, near where they lived. The need for state hospitals dwindled as a result, and many were closed.

But, again, good intentions … When politicians realized that the state no longer needed to staff and fund state hospitals and that community mental health centers were not only effective but funded in large part by the federal government, they thought their job was done. But eventually funding from both state and federal sources languished, and now people with mental illnesses very often end up in private, but state-funded, prisons where there is a paucity of treatment. Back to what the situation was prior to 1960.

S. Reid Warren III SW’61, Spring City, PA


Give Credit to Architect Isaac Holden

I read with interest the article about Dr. Kirkbride and the distinctive, echelon-shaped “Kirkbride Hospital” plan. A few observations might be useful.

The article, and particularly its reproduction of that ideal Kirkbride plan, implies that the Samuel Sloan & Kirkbride-designed Department for Males, of 1856-59, was significantly different from the original Isaac Holden-designed building of 1836-40, which later became the Department for Females. I would suggest that a comparison of the two building’s plans indicates they are far more similar than different.

In the Sloan plan the outlying buildings housing the most violent patients have been repositioned, enlarged, and made just tangent to the central building, but its organization is not radically different from that of its predecessor. A close comparison of these two plans with each other, and with the one reproduced with the article, suggests numerous similarities among their principal buildings—except for the Kirkbride plan’s chevron multiplication of its otherwise similar wing pavilions.

The article says Sloan served as a foreman during the construction of the Holden building. The building committee’s minute books refer to Sloan, beginning about a year after construction commenced, only in connection with “carpentry work,” although he was paid regularly in the last year or so. There is also one indication of their opinion of him as a potential architect at that time. In 1841, it was decided to extend the almost-completed building by the addition of the two one-story outlying pavilions intended for the most uncontrollable patients. Sloan applied for the commission, as architect, but it went to a Mr. Cairnes. Holden had left Philadelphia in 1838.

The article also mentions Kirkbride’s attention to technical questions such as heating, ventilation, and fire safety, appropriately referencing prior concerns about these issues at John Haviland’s Eastern State Penitentiary. Many of these innovations also existed in Holden’s building. It is worth noting that Holden won the hospital commission in a competition against Haviland—for whom Holden had once worked—and against William Strickland, even though both were better known and more advanced in their careers.

Just prior to Holden’s departure, and well before Kirkbride had any involvement, a contract was let to the large Philadelphia ironworks, Morris, Tasker & Morris, for five sets of iron staircases based on designs submitted by Holden. Ignoring a handful of earlier iron spiral lighthouse staircases, this iron staircase design is more technically advanced than any known in the US up to that time, including the two sets at Eastern State Penitentiary, which simply replicated in iron the form of traditional masonry “flying staircase” treads.

As was already the practice in insane asylums, Holden’s window sash and frames were of iron—to patterns drawn by him but produced by a different firm. The otherwise wide-ranging Morris, Tasker & Morris contract included everything from innovative “furnaces for heating with heated air” to iron bedsteads—as well as castings for a “railroad car” that ran on a 138-foot diameter track in the hospital’s grounds “for the amusement of the patients”!

Dennis J. Dewitt GAr’67, Brookline, MA


Learn from the Past

Great article on Thomas Kirkbride and the history of mental hospitals. In 1969, I remember Julius Jahn, my professor at the Penn School of Social Work, saying, “If you are interested in the history of social welfare institutions, Philadelphia is the place to be. Hopefully, they are not providing the same services they did back then.” However, describing the history of attitudes and treatment of persons with mental illness in the past provides useful data about how we treat or mistreat people today.

Michael J. Smith SW’70, Massapequa Park, NY


Delightful Tribute

Congratulations on a well-done—and long overdue—feature on the Mungermen [“Gazetteer,” Jan|Feb 2018]. Watching all Penn home games in person from the early 1940s on, I appreciated Coach Munger and those who played for him. Those Mungermen I know personally are a great bunch, and dedicated to the University, whose accounts of their playing days are delightful.

Franklin Brown Jr. C’56, Radnor, PA


Appreciation and Affection

I’m pleased that the story of the Mungermen was published. Dave Zeitlin captured the era and wrote a first-rate story. Dave referenced the George Munger Chair for Football and his statue on Franklin Field. The Mungermen funded the chair with a contribution of $1.5 million and also funded the statue out of appreciation and affection for Coach Munger.

The statue has been moved to outside the football locker room under the West Stands, where it is no longer in public view. Hopefully, it soon will be moved to public view again.

Richard Rosenbleeth W’54 L’57, Philadelphia

It was Mungerman Rosenbleeth who first suggested we do a story on the group’s annual gathering.—Ed.


Late Hits

I read with appreciation Dave Zeitlin’s article on George Munger and the Mungermen. I had the good fortune to have attended Penn with, and have known personally, two Mungermen, Jack Shanafelt W’54 and Walt Hynoski W’55.

It was dismaying to find how little respect, being Mungermen, Shanafelt and Hynoski received when nominated for the Penn Hall of Fame. Both men played against a big-time football schedule that included Penn State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and then-major powers Army and Navy. Shanafelt earned First Team All-American honors his senior year. Hynoski earned First Team All-East honors his senior year. Both were clearly Penn greats. Yet despite their feats, they were both repeatedly passed over for election to the Penn Hall of Fame. Hynoski was overlooked three times and Shanafelt snubbed five times.

The unfortunate tragedy in that process is that both men died the year before their eventual Hall of Fame selection. With proper and timely acknowledgment of their Mungermen accomplishments, both should have been selected on a much earlier ballot and been alive to receive and know of the honor.

Kenneth Thorn W’58, Carrboro, NC


In Praise of Mungermen—and James Logan

I thoroughly enjoyed the Jan|Feb 2018 issue with the piece on the Mungermen [“Gazetteer”]. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Ed McGinley W’50 since he and his family lived across the street in the summers of the 1960s, my sister lived in Jugtown in Villanova for years down Matlack Lane from Coach Munger, and my next-door neighbor in Princeton for years was Carol Munger Ober; it’s not hard at all to understand the depth of feelings engendered by the coach.

In “Preserving Stenton” [“Alumni Profiles”], James Logan was given credit for the wide range of his interests and involvements. However, these hardly do justice to his role in American history. While it is true that Logan was William Penn’s secretary, it is important to understand that Penn was only in the colony twice, each time for two years. In those periods of prolonged absence, Penn turned the management of the colony over to Logan, who was charged with maintaining governance in the face of rising distrust and enmity between rural and urban colonists.

But even more important is to recognize the larger role that Logan played by facilitating his cousin’s emigration from Ireland to Bucks County. She brought along her husband, William Tennant, who settled on the banks of the Neshaminy Creek to serve as a Presbyterian minister. Reverend Tennant founded what became known as the “Log College,” whose students went on to create 61 colleges throughout the colonies that were instrumental in educating young men in the nascent nation.

Logan also set in motion no fewer than four substantial waves of what we refer to as Scots-Irish migration through Philadelphia (even as he bemoaned their conduct and troublemaking); many paused only briefly along the Delaware before heading west, creating a checkerboard with the German (“Pennsylvania Dutch”) immigrants who went west alongside them. Upon reaching the Alleghenies, these immigrants headed south along the Appalachians and created a streak of stubborn, independent settlements that have influenced American society and politics from the Revolution to this day (well-described by David Hackett Fisher in Albion’s Seed). A case can be made that without the Scots-Irish, the Revolution would have ended up as a failed Rebellion in the history books.

Given the scope and scale of Logan’s many contributions (including that upon his death, his library—reputedly the largest in the colonies—became the foundation for the Free Library of Philadelphia) and the lasting nature of his influence, it is indefensible that Logan Hall no longer bears his name except for historical mention. This failure to preserve institutional memory can only be viewed as an institutional debasement and speaks poorly of our University.

Tad La Fountain WG ’77, Penhook, VA


Keep Drawing and Writing

I am troubled by all that is going on daily with immigration decisions, increased deportations, no protection for the DACA children, and the recent revoking of Temporary Protected Status from Salvadorans, Haitians, and others. So it was refreshing to read a story about a young man who managed to swim out of peril and come to America. Gloria Yuen’s article, “Invisible Spaces” [“Notes from the Undergrad,” Jan|Feb 2018], is an unusual approach to a poignant story about her father’s escape from the Cultural Revolution in China, leaving everything behind to get to the safe haven of Hong Kong and then the United States.

Yuen’s somewhat childlike but colorful drawings paint more to the story of a father caring for his daughter though having differences and a language barrier. Your father did not want you to pursue art; to me this illustrated article is evidence that you should keep drawing and writing.

Barbara Spindell Cantor Nu’58, Edgewater, MD


Message Received

I observed the alumni obituaries do not have Obituaries in the title of each page. This strikes me as weird. Notes is not displayed on each page title either. I don’t know what you call the first segment of the “Alumni” section of the book. Two pages display someone’s name. I wonder how much time was involved in making a decision about page titles. I would appreciate more information in the title than merely Alumni.

Jay Heldman W’82, Los Angeles

In response to reader comments, with this issue we’ve added headings to make it clear to readers whether they are looking at class notes or obituaries within the magazine’s “Alumni” section. The names refer to the individuals being profiled in the section’s opening pages.—Ed.


Avenue for Alumni Engagement

I read “Engagement Warriors” [“Gazetteer,” Jan|Feb 2018] with great optimism about the opportunity of higher education in service to our communities. I congratulate Ira Harkavy for creating such an important focus on community development and service at Penn, and I believe programs like the Netter Center are transforming how students think about service and the role of the University in its community.

Inspired in part by Dr. Harkavy and the Netter Center, seven years ago I founded PennPAC (Pro bono Alumni Consulting) to leverage the intellectual talents and professional skills of Penn alumni for community betterment. PennPAC engages both undergraduate and grad-school Penn alumni of all backgrounds as volunteers to apply their talents to nonprofits via socially impactful consulting projects. Reflective of Harkavy’s notion that a community-based university needs to be centered on “real problems of real people,” PennPAC effectively addresses nonprofits’ challenges in a nimble and timely manner through well-scoped projects, serving as a real agent for change.

Since inception, PennPAC has mobilized more than 600 Penn alumni, provided over 20,000 hours of service to nonprofits, and delivered in excess of $4 million in pro bono strategic consulting services. I am proud that PennPAC’s work has helped community organizations to strengthen their operations, identify new revenue streams, improve their fundraising, increase their staffing and ultimately enhance their ability to serve their clients. Through PennPAC, Penn alumni have a great avenue to fulfill the Netter Center’s mission and actualize the vision of President Gutmann’s Compact 2020 to positively impact our communities. We invite all alumni to get involved in PennPAC (www.pennpac.org).

Jackie Einstein Astrof C’93, Great Neck, NY


More Lost African American Film History

I was surprised and disappointed there was no mention in Julia Klein’s “Projecting Race” [“Gazetteer,” Jan|Feb 2018] of the Black Film Festival held in Philly in the early 1970s when I was at Penn. My friend, and well-known Philadelphian, Oliver Franklin, OBE, put this together and quite a few films more were shown. How was this missed?

M. Gordon Brown WG’76, Wauconda, IL

“Projecting Race” was a report on a current film series on campus rather than a historical overview, but this letter sent me on an internet search that led to The Daily Pennsylvanian ’s online archives and an article from December 1973, headlined “Franklin Organizes Black Film Series at Annenberg.” The article notes that Oliver Franklin, then a staffer in Penn’s Department of External Affairs, had been responsible for black film festivals “the past two summers” in Philadelphia “and both were successfully received.” Coincidentally, Borderline , a 1930 Paul Robeson-starring film that was also screened in this year’s series, had its Philadelphia premiere at that 1973 festival.—Ed.


Highly Irresponsible

I was appalled that you published “A Story from 1971” [“Letters,” Jan|Feb 2018] recounting one woman’s 40-year-old allegations against a now-deceased professor. I found it highly irresponsible and not in keeping with the supposed high standards of the Gazette. While I think many women can recount their own #MeToo moments (including myself), I would never accuse a person who is no longer able to speak for themselves. If Ms. Cannon was so traumatized by her experience at Penn, then putting her in contact with the School of Design dean for a private discussion of this matter may have been more appropriate versus printing unproven allegations against a professor who died over 10 years ago and can in no way defend himself. I have no reason to disbelieve Ms. Cannon’s accusations; however, in this country, we still abide by the presumption of innocence before proven guilty. It’s a shame the Gazette doesn’t abide by that principle.

Jane Jacknewitz-Woolard GNu’91, Silver Spring, MD


“Enormous Gap” Between Policies and Reality

I have the fervent wish (that I expect never to be granted) that Penn would look at the multiple sexual harassers they have shielded for decades. I was a graduate student beginning in 1978. It was horrible. There was a repetitive pattern in play. Since most graduate classes were held in late afternoon, the male professor would return the tests or papers except, “I think I left yours in my office. Come with me after class to get it.” In a deserted building, one would get to the elevator with the professor, no witnesses, trapped, and inappropriate behavior would occur. What to do? I still have to get my paper, and the grade for the course was subject to the subjective evaluation of the professor.

I sought the counsel of several female tenured professors I trusted, and the advice was always the same. “The official response is to go to the University ombudsman. Your complaint will be a ‘he said, she said.’ The professor has a named chair and brings in a lot of grant money and prestige to Penn. The ombudsman also works for the University. You will destroy your career and no one will serve on your dissertation committee. Just avoid him.”

The best I could do was be sure to bring another student with me if I had to go to professors’ offices. This didn’t happen one time, or with one professor, or in one department.

So, yes, I officially kept quiet and tried to avoid the multiple harassing professors. And now as a practicing clinical psychologist for four decades, I help other graduate and professional students grapple with the enormous gap between the stated university policies and the realities of academic life.

Ann Rosen Spector Gr’85, Philadelphia


Hill Was Hell

I beg to differ with all the glory, kudos, and complimentary attitude afforded this ugly, disastrous living space, having spent my sophomore year in a cell-like postage-stamp-sized dorm room with another transfer student in 1965-66 when we all called it “Hell Hall,” of which there is no mention in your article [“Hill Rises,” Nov|Dec 2017]. The cafeteria food was abysmal (“mystery meat” significantly worse than anything the Dirty Drug would serve); the common lounge space—where we religiously watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Friday nights when there was no home varsity basketball game—was cramped; and the curfew rules ridiculous (even for way back then). Hallway phone booths were crammed with pre-Post-it notes, and it was difficult to find space for studying—so we traipsed off to the Libe, where we could at least wear pants (as opposed to in class, where we could not). Though little can camouflage that this building resembles a prison, fun times were shared and friendships cemented there—since we basically had to become close in such close quarters!

Karyn L. Tasens CW’68, New York


Wrong to Judge the Past by the Present

In the Sep|Oct 2017 issue an article appeared recounting experiments done on conscientious objectors during World War II who were housed in what is now a fraternity house at Penn. The article, “Strange Brotherhood” [“Gazetteer”], criticizes those experiments and also another done in that era on mentally retarded children. The experiments on the conscientious objectors concerned viral hepatitis and were led by Dr. Joseph Stokes, the renowned head of Philadelphia’s Children’s Hospital, whereas the hepatitis experiments on children were led by Dr. Saul Krugman, an equally renowned pediatrician from New York’s Bellevue Hospital. It so happens that I knew both of those individuals, and I can testify to their consideration for the subjects in their experiments and also for their high ethical and moral values.

Of course, 70 years later those experiments arouse ethical concerns, but it is wrong to judge the past by the present. In both cases consent was obtained from the subjects or their guardians. Although the studies might not be acceptable today, attitudes change with time among people of moral standing. Louis Pasteur’s vaccination of Joseph Meister against rabies was considered unacceptable by some of his colleagues and would not have been accepted by an ethical committee today, but Pasteur hoped to save a life and the result opened the way to saving thousands of lives. Stokes also deserves great respect for what he did, even today.

Stanley A. Plotkin, faculty, Doylestown, PA

The writer is an emeritus professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine.—Ed.