More Mawrters running Harvard

I am a member of the Class of 1982 and read every issue of the Alumnae Bulletin from cover to cover. I appreciate all the work that you and the other members of the staff do to keep us informed and up-to-date on the College. Thank you!

I have an addition to the piece entitled "Bryn Mawr taking over Harvard?" in the Winter 2000 edition, page 25. Catherine DuBeau ’80 and I are both faculty members at Harvard Medical School, and I am director of the Fellowship in Geriatrics there. We are indeed taking over!


Tribute to Gregory Dickerson

It was with sadness that I heard of the retirement of Greg Dickerson from the Greek department. My first encounter with Greg was when I took his Herodotus class. I didn’t do very well, for two reasons. The first was that I just wasn’t very good at Greek. The second was that I lacked confidence—even when I did know the answer, I just didn’t believe I could have it right. I went to see Greg before the exam, to go over some of the material, and it was one of the very few times I’ve ever seen him angry. He was angry at himself, because he couldn’t break that block in my mind. When I left I knew I couldn’t face him without a good grade on the exam, so I went out and memorized just about every word Herodotus ever wrote, and turned in a blazing final. Greg was delighted, and for the rest of my time at Bryn Mawr, whenever he’d come across me in the Great Hall frantically studying for something, he’d come over and say firmly, "Okay, Shepard, you did it for me—I know you can do it for this." And he’s been saying that ever since. To me, his attitude epitomizes everything that Bryn Mawr ought to be to its students.

I think I can safely say that I have more experience of the genus "Teacher" than most. Both my parents were professors, as were most of their friends. I’ve had all the usual education, plus more degrees than any rational person needs. I’ve even done some teaching myself. And I can honestly say than I have never met an educator who was a finer, more skilled, more dedicated teacher, a more appalling correspondent (well, you can’t have everything!), or a better friend.

Nothing can change the fondness I have for Bryn Mawr, and I am already looking forward eagerly to my next reunion in 2004. But my visits will lose half their meaning when they no longer begin or end with Greg’s affectionate greeting. And I think that you who have lost the chance of his care will all be much poorer.

Anassa kata, Greg.



In reference to: "Labyrinths or more properly, mazes" on p. 3 of the Winter 2000 Bulletin—I’m sorry, no. A maze is a puzzle, replete with blind alleys and cul de sacs. A labyrinth, by contrast, is a single path in and out of a circle, a path so certain you need not pay attention to it, you can count on being led in and then led back out.

It’s a key difference in the intent of the designers. A labyrinth is a means of meditation, restoration, an expression of religious experience with few parallels. A maze is a series of tricks, an elaborate game meant to tire and deflate. For those of us who thrive on the power of the labyrinth, the error is immense.

The labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral was the inspiration for the Rev. Lauren Artress, of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, to undertake the Labyrinth Project, which she spearheads throughout the world, carrying information and "seed kits" which contain all the dimensions of the labyrinth so that others may duplicate this wondrous shape on grass, terrazzo, carpet, tile, or whatever other surface.


Editor’s note:The writer is correct in distinguishing between "labyrinth" and "maze" for many modern spiritual uses. But labyrinths, found in all cultures dating back 5,000 years, can also be mazes. According to Greek myth, a labyrinth was built as a prison for the Minotaur at the Palace of Knossos in Crete; it was described as "having many a winding turn that shut off the secret outward way." "Labyrinth" apparently means "place of the ax," in reference to the labrys or double-bladed ax, a Minoan decor ative motif. The sprawling palace with its seemingly haphazard layout may have inspired the Greek myth.

It was good to see mention of labyrinths in your article on religious diversity. Readers who would like to know more about the iconography of labyrinths (including the Chartres labyrinth mentioned) may read my history of art doctoral dissertation "Error labyrinthi: A Study of the Iconography of Medieval Labyrinths."

The evocative symbol of the labyrinth seems to invite specious symbology claims, which my dissertation sought to, ahem, untangle. The iconography that can be documented is compelling enough: The labyrinth was both place (and as such, a symbol of confusion, complexity, the world, the underworld, evil) and path (and as such, order, the Way, the path of righteousness). That it today speaks to people of all persuasions demonstrates that it is as profound a symbol as any we have inherited. The more one learns of it, the more meaningful it becomes. Enjoy!


Religious life at Bryn Mawr

The Winter 2000 Bulletin… reminds me of our very pleasant interview when you were asking me of my memories about Bryn Mawr in the 1930s, wondering whether or not religion, churchgoing or individual seeking was in any way view as a responsibility of the college.

As you noted in a part of your overview, while I am a birthright Friend and deeply committed to my own faith, I was pleased not to have the founding faith of the college highlighted in any way nor did I feel that the college saw itself as encouraging church attendance or even searching for one’s own spirituality. We were all liberated to search, weigh and explore on our own if we were indeed led to do so.

I sense in the responses of others you talked to that in later years, Bryn Mawr appeared indifferent or even as priding itself in having no role in helping students in such a search. For me this was never a role that we expected the college to assume. In fact their lack of action still strikes me as quite appropriate. I will be very interested in the responses you get but perhaps only those who felt Bryn Mawr had filed them will write!

At the age of 84, I am still active in my Quaker Meeting. One of its strengths is that we do not all agree, that we speak from the insight that comes out of the quiet, that we find the way that is right for us and gain inner and outer support along the way. This has been my journey. I did not look to Bryn Mawr for encouragement or enlightenment. What Bryn Mawr did give me can never be defined by mere words not can I be adequately grateful. …


What a lovely article! I can’t remember a time when religion at Bryn Mawr was so well covered. My own experience with religious organizations on campus went as follows:

Bertie Dawes, head of the Chapel Committee, to Katherine McBride: The (a national student religious organization) would like to have a branch on campus. How could we arrange that? Katharine McBride, president of the College, to Bertie: There is no reason to have such an organization on this campus.

That squelch was so definite that it simplified my life, rather than complicating it as serious discussion might have done. Policies do change with the times. In this case, it seems probable that policies changed with individual leadership, rather than with "the times." It might be interesting to see who brought about the drastic changes during the last half century.

Anyway, thanks for your contribution, which to me was real news!


I am pleased to note the interest of Bryn Mawr in the study of religions. Years ago I submitted a request to the Stanford Alumni Summer Seminars program, asking them to develop a program focusing on religion, culture and governments worldwide. We did have an excellent program with an overview of the world’s religious beliefs. It did not extend to the impact on culture and governments which I wish someone would develop.

I have felt for some time that most of us in the United States view other countries from a Judeo-Christian ethic as being the only guiding force to great cultures, and good government, which leads us to assumptions about the points of view in many countries that can be quite different from the realities we face there.

I spent the late 1970s-80s traveling abroad as a leader for newspaper publisher study missions. My work involved studying the countries and the topics with which we would primarily be engaged during our intensive interviewing schedules. I then planned our itinerary, requested meetings with persons abroad who could contribute most to our understanding of the topics under study, arranged travel, etc.

Whenever we traveled to countries whose religions were diverse, I tried to set up seminars here which would cover the background of the country to which we were embarking. Relig-ious topics and authorities in that field were most helpful in laying out the groundwork for comprehension of our topics from a cultural-governmental perspective.

I have wondered for years why we don’t emphasize the study of religion which takes us into the field from an "understanding" perspective. I understand the reasons behind our constitutional protections and fully support them. However we have cloaked ourselves in ignorance because we have failed to understand the difference between learning about religion and accepting religious beliefs personally. ...


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