Letters to the Editor

Bookmark and Share

G. Harris Daggett: Three Views

The letter from Wallace Goddard '48 accuses G. Harris Daggett of being a "sparkplug" of "seditious activity" in "recruiting staff and students" into the Communist Party. This is an unfortunate and inaccurate interpretation of Daggett's espousal of critical and open discussion, freedom of speech and Constitutional guarantees, principles which Mr. Goddard no doubt gallantly defended in World War II: it also implies a level of "successful" Communist Party activity at UNH which is highly misleading.

I took a course with Gwynne Daggett my senior year, and as an alumnus, fellow local resident, and eventual faculty colleague, had considerable contact with him. My direct and indirect knowledge over that 18-year period of his values and motivations could well lead me to describe him with the same glowing language that Mr. Goddard applies to the other Prof. Daggett, with whom I was also acquainted.

When funds were being raised in 1971 for a memorial scholarship in G. Harris Daggett's name, it was stated that, "He was always a center of controversy, and yet, at the time of his death in August 1969, there was perhaps no other person in the university in whom so many had such unreserved confidence." This statement was affirmed by the fact that he had just been chosen to chair the new University Senate, a most unusual unicameral body embracing faculty, students and administrators in a freshly cooperative spirit.

Gwynne Daggett was a threat neither to my Americanism nor to my Catholicism; on the contrary he was a catalyst to my mature understanding of both. Perhaps Mr. Goddard can take solace in the realization that Dr. G. Harris Daggett himself would have resisted the "beatification" which my fellow alumnus so deplores.

The harsh letter impugning G. Harris Daggett's patriotism and loyalty should not go unanswered. Professor Daggett was most assuredly not some Communist Party sympathizer, nor did he ever indulge in seditious speech in any of the many lectures I heard him deliver. That said, he certainly does not deserve the unstinting, uncritical praise heaped upon him by his admirers that so nettles Mr. Goddard. As one who has been in the teaching profession for 46 years, perhaps I am in a position to provide balanced perspective.

I took Daggett's modern American literature course my sophomore year. His reputation as a teacher bordered on hero-worship. The class was jammed to capacity. At first he did not disappoint. He was alive and alert. He poked fun at sundry establishments, and his irreverence was infectious. After a time, his pithy reflections more and more seemed to be doctrinaire platitudes and poor substitutes for muscular reflection. He had the backbone to invite Paul Sweezy of the Progressive Party to his class, incurring the wrath of the McCarthyists, but he would never have thought to invite a conservative. I was a conventional liberal student, so I didn't much ponder the matter.

In retrospect, I give Professor Daggett credit for not boring me and for taking teaching seriously. But compared to a handful of his UNH peers, he comes off as second-tier. All in all, Daggett emerges as one of a long line of left-leaning professors who couldn't care less about the fact that half their students don't share their values, and don't enroll in their course to hear them reconceptualize the world according to the canons of liberal ideology. That he did so with verve and color should not constitute the final accounting.

This letter is a rebuttal to Wallace Goddard's letter in the Fall 2008 issue of UNH Magazine on the subject of G. Harris Daggett.

I was a student in Daggett's humanities class in 1960 and 1961 during the upheaval involving Gov. Wesley Powell, Attorney General Louis Wyman '38 and Manchester Union Leader publisher William Loeb. Daggett was a distinguished professor who never once preached Communist doctrine in my class. What he did do was expose the dangers of McCarthyism, which still reverberated even after Sen. McCarthy's death in 1957.

I learned several valuable lessons from Professor Daggett. First, he taught us to observe points of view in newspapers and to question authority. He taught us to stand up for one's beliefs. I even learned a great deal about New Hampshire politics in his class. But most of all, he was the professor who first introduced me to opera, the world of art and the classics of western literature. For all his inspiring lectures, I am most grateful.

Daggett, Gibson Johnson in history, Carleton Menge in education and Charles Leighton in foreign languages all made me what I am today. After being exposed to these men--not saints--I was able to distance myself from my cloistered provincial past and open a window to enlightenment.

PBDEs Are Everywhere

The research being done by Gale Carey and Rebecca Dunn regarding PBDEs (Fall 2008) is extremely important and I'm proud that some of this work is taking place at UNH. The article stated it is unclear how high PBDE levels in breastmilk have to be before there is cause for concern. Please be more thorough in your reporting. It is crucial that people understand why breastmilk is tested (it's easier to test than blood, less expensive, and frankly, it alarms people and gets them to pay attention). Breastmilk levels of any environmental substance reflect what is found in a community, not just in breastfeeding women.

As the program coordinator for the Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington, I think it's crucial for the public to know that in spite of contamination, research shows that breastmilk is the optimal food for babies. Babies who are breastfed are healthier and breastfeeding may lessen the negative effects of some environmental chemicals. We have the right to feed our children breastmilk that is free from harmful chemicals. We should all be angry about this issue.

It Fits to a T

Here is a picture of me in my Hunter Hall T-shirt. And in fact, there were two T-shirts, the "griffin" model ('78-'79) and the "I survived" ('79-'80). I designed them both for the dorm.

I graduated from UNH with a degree in environmental conservation. I have taught middle school science for 25 years in Hampton, N.H. I have also coached varsity soccer for 28 years at Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, and was recently inducted into the New Hampshire Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame. My wife, Mary, and I have two children. I have maintained my artwork with a cartoon called "Off Track" in the Carriage Towne News.

Unmasking the Noses

Re. the photo of the 1979 Devine Hunter Homecoming parade in the fall issue, from the perspective of some of my photos from that day, I was riding on the truck behind the Hunter-Devine group. I was wearing a light-blue Levi corduroy jacket, with a sunglasses case in my left pocket, and was wearing sun-sensing glasses and "the nose." (No one else should recognize me!)

Editor's note: Alert readers Allen Brown '81, Donna Eldridge '82 and Bill Fokas '82 received Groucho noses for helping to identify the men and women behind the noses. For e-mailing a photo of not one but two authentic Hunter Hall T-shirts, Al Magnusson '81 received kudos and a Marx brothers poster.

AND THE NOSES ARE: (1) Allen Brown '81, (2) Gary Azarian '80, (3) Frank Monteiro '82, (4) Denise Sprankle Barack '82, (5) Ed Hanley '83, (6) Deborah Kustes Eastman '82, (7) Sue Cahow Barrett '83, (8) Dave "Goods" Goodwin '80, (9) Al Schwartz '83, (10) A.J. DeFusco '83, (11) Robert Walk '82 or Bob Marchewka '81, (12) Tom Torr '82 or Rich Haggerty '82, (13) Mark Duhamel '93, (14) John "JL" LeFebvre '81, (15) Gerry Neiman '81, (16) Phil Anthony '81, (17) Jim "Jimbo" Giallombardo '81, (18) Randy Hall '82 and (19) Bill Fokas '82.
blog comments powered by Disqus