Later On

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Archive for December 26th, 2022

A Harvard Law professor broke the rules to let in WWII vets. They made ‘the best class there ever was.’

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Joshua Prager reports in the Boston Globe:

Robert Drucker was somewhere in the Philippines, an ensign on a ship built in his home state of Illinois, when, in early 1945, he learned that a professor was helping American servicemen get into Harvard Law School. Drucker had always wanted to attend. His father was an alum. The son had emulated him all his 20 years, no less after Harry Drucker died in a car crash in 1932. And so, Drucker wrote to the professor, a man named Warren Seavey, asking for guidance on how to apply.

“I’m overseas,” Drucker recalls writing from his cabin on the ship. “As soon as the war is over and we’ve won, what shall I do?”

Seavey responded immediately. “Settle down on your ship,” Drucker, now 97, remembers Seavey advising. “When you come back, let me know and you’re admitted.”

The words were a balm to Drucker. But they were confusing, too.

How could he be admitted if he hadn’t even applied?

Drucker was hardly the only serviceman who wrote to Harvard Law in the waning days of World War II. Thousands of letters arrived at the school from “young men in warships, atolls, and Army camps who had thoughts of studying law,” recalled professor Zechariah Chafee, who joined the admissions committee in 1945. The servicemen, whose educations had been disrupted by the war, wondered if they could get in.

It was not, until that point, all that difficult to do so. But returning veterans would soon drive application numbers to record heights at colleges and graduate schools all across the country, in part because of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the GI Bill, which promised to pay their tuition in gratitude for their service. As applications far outstripped capacity, Harvard Law School became increasingly selective, relying more on college transcripts, and eventually tests such as the GRE and LSAT.

Warren Seavey, however, believed that men returning from war were more than the sum of their test scores. And starting in late 1944, when the admissions committee named him a liaison to returning servicemen, he went rogue — making promises he had no authority to make.

“When he received a letter from a veteran,” the law school dean later recalled, “he would answer: ‘I am glad you want to come to law school. You are just the sort of man we want. When you are released from the service, come to Cambridge and we will be glad to take you in, no matter when you come.’”

Seavey, a legal authority on agency and torts, knew well that his letters promising admission prevented — or, in legal parlance, estopped — the law school from rejecting the servicemen who received them. The dean, Erwin Griswold, estimated the number of these men at a few hundred. He named them “Seavey estoppels.”

Three-quarters of a century later, the story of the estoppels is all but unknown, absent from the official histories of Harvard Law. But the last of those servicemen who are still living are eager to tell it. It is a story that has much to say to us today — about patriotism and opportunity, about the value of life experience over credentials, about just who belongs.

Warren Abner Seavey was born in 1880 in Charlestown, the oldest neighborhood in Boston. American history was alive to the boy. His family lived where the Battle of Bunker Hill had been fought during the Revolutionary War 105 years before. The Civil War had just ended in 1865 when the third of Seavey’s four older siblings was born.

Seavey began college at Harvard at 18, walking daily to and from its campus. He got on well with people but loved to debate, and his father, who supported the family selling produce in Boston’s market district, suggested that he become a lawyer. Seavey agreed and, after completing college in three years, entered Harvard Law. There, for hours every night, he happily sparred with his roommate, a fellow from Iowa who would fondly recall Seavey as a young man who smoked a pipe, played the mandolin, and could “do more work in an hour than most would accomplish in two.”

Seavey graduated from law school in 1904, and took a job as a clerk at a Boston law firm. Two years later, after he was let go amid budget cuts, he resolved to teach, and traveled by train, steamer, and rickshaw to the coastal city of Tianjin in Northern China, where he spent the next five years establishing a law school.

Seavey distinguished himself. And in 1911, his former law professor Joseph Beale invited him to teach for a year back at Harvard. Seavey did so — answering questions with questions as he had seen Beale do. The technique suited him. “There is no greater master of the dialectic method,” a colleague of Seavey later observed, “the fine art of telling a man nothing whatever, but driving him as sheep are driven by a shrewd old dog to work out the conclusion for himself.”

The professor honed his technique at law schools in Oklahoma — where he arrived on a Flying Merkel motorcycle — Louisiana, and Indiana. But outside the classroom, he made his own beliefs clear. He called for justice when a Black man in Oklahoma was lynched. And, in 1917, soon after the US entered World War I, he joined officer training school, even though as a new husband and father he was exempt from military service.

Seavey was soon commissioned a captain, in . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 December 2022 at 1:42 pm

A happy Boxing Day to all!

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We’re back from a family Christmas at Shawnigan Lake, a small town up-island. A warm(ish) rain (about 47ºF), light but steady, had cleared the roads. We ran into a patch of fog, but arrived safely and sent a wonderful day. We stayed overnight in Cowichan Bay rather than drive home in darkness, and this morning awakened to a power outage but easily coped and returned.

This time, between Christmas and New Year’s, has always seemed a good time to reflect on the lessons learned from the past year and make some plans for the coming year.

A table showing averages of my fasting blood glucose levels in mmol/L:

7 day average 5.7
14 day average 5.8
30 day average 5.8
90 day average 5.9

One lesson learned is to stick strictly to a whole-food plant-based diet and eat modest portions. (Full disclosure: I don’t hew strictly to a plant-based diet for major holidays — Christmas, for example, or Thanksgiving.) You can see the results in the chart of my fasting blood-glucose levels at right. The US prefers to use nonstandard units of measure, and among them, blood glucose is measured in mg/dL instead of mmol/L. So in the US, the average of the past 7 days would be 103 — a little high, since “normal” is less than 100, but still not bad. The key is the trend.

Another lesson learned (again) is the importance of regular aerobic exercise, and I’m looking forward to when the weather will allow me to resume Nordic walking. 

I plan to do more reading of books in the coming year. I have made a habit of a trick I learned from TYD: when I read about a book that intrigues me, I download a sample copy from Amazon onto my Kindle to serve as a reminder (and to postpone the actual purchase — and I’ve noticed that surprisingly often, downloading the sample suffices). 

Recently I got from the Chrome Web Store a browser extension called Library Extension. Now, when I look at a book on Amazon, this extension tells me whether my library has the book (and surprisingly often, it does). If the library does have the book, the extension allows me to place a hold on it (so I can pick it up at my local branch, three blocks away) or even download it on Libby if it’s an ebook.

I don’t have any big plans for the new year. Travel is increasingly fraught for me, so I will not be taking trips. I plan on a restful and interesting year — but the future is notoriously difficult to predict (if you want accurate predictions).

Looking back, though, I can see that I learned a lot during the past year that resulted in adjustments in behavior. For example, my cooking has improved in its focus on a whole-food plant-based diet. I started fermenting vegetables right at the end of 2021, and during 2022 have advanced in range and experience. My tempeh production efforts now go smoothly and I generally have tempeh on hand.

Getting a pacemaker during the year cleared up several mysterious health issues, and that has been . Alnd as I review my budget/spending spreadsheets for the year, I also can see continued improvement in my budgeting skills, building upon the ideas in this post. Skills in general improve with exercise. 

So it’s been a good year, and I look forward to the coming year. 

Best wishes to all my readers for a good new year. 

Written by Leisureguy

26 December 2022 at 11:52 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

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