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Arnold says thanks again
As I was writing my recollection of Wittenberg in the late ’50s, I’d pause now and then to wonder if I was recalling things universal or unique. (If only unique, what would be their value?)
But after the article was published, I began to hear from people, some directly, some in letters to the editor like this one. All in one way or another expressed gratitude for having their own Wittenberg memories nudged.
That is what I hoped most of all would be its effect. All of us who have taken so much from Wittenberg can find it rewarding and productive to think back, to remember and appreciate.
I was delighted to hear from, among others, a former roommate, Vernon Sponseller; and my old friend, John Chowning; and from Margit Umezaki, wife of my deceased roommate, Itsuo.
May I admit I opened their letters with one eye closed: what had the article gotten wrong? But, no, what they wanted to say was thanks. Vernon has remained far more directly connected to Wittenberg than I.
His daughter graduated from Wittenberg in 1995 (taking courses — East Asia Studies and Russian, for example — that weren’t even on the radar in 1955).
When he tells of liking to visit the campus, I know just what he means: there is something lovely in just the wandering about. And we agree: the look of Wittenberg has not changed that much; it remains comfortable and familiar.
(By the way, to set the record straight, he pledged his fraternity not at the end of the first day but the first week. Too fast for me, obviously!)
Margit Umezaki wrote from a family home in Santa Fe (coincidentally where my younger daughter lives, so a reunion is highly likely).
She has two sons, Kentaro (who is a baby in Itsuo’s Christmas card of 1964, now grown into an investment banker) and Kojiro.
Kojiro is a musician and composer, and I soon had from Margit a CD of his compositions for shakuhachi, an ancient Japanese flute. His music is both sound-bending and mind-bending.
I sat listening in my living room —yes, liking what I heard — and was overcome by the long, long road down which those haunting notes had traveled to me. In the liner-notes for the CD, Kojiro thanks his music professor at Dartmouth.
At nearly the same moment I read that, I received an e-mail from John Chowning mentioning the same professor. The two are good friends, and at one point they had discovered a shared knowledge of the Umezaki name, although the generations were different.
In a subsequent letter from Margit Umezaki she told me how, once, the young Kojiro had been at a conference attended by John Chowning.
There were things Kojiro wanted to ask him, she wrote me, such as did Dr. Chowning know Itsuo at Wittenberg? (He did, of course.) But — and the image makes me smile for all of us — Kojiro then was too shy of approaching “such a celebrated man” to inquire.
Thus I also received confirmation of John Chowning’s professional standing. Knowing John as I did once, I wasn’t surprised. I also know that John wouldn’t have been too celebrated at all to tell Kojiro everything he could remember about his father.
Much has been made of the “only six degrees” that separates the humble from the mighty, the near from the far. But I am learning that where Wittenbergers are concerned most of them have already been bridged.
As those of us of a certain maturity continue to grow in age (and of course in wisdom) I think we realize in how many ways our starting-off at Wittenberg was significant. Certainly it was starting on the right foot. Thanks to all who shared!
David L. Arnold ’59
Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
Phone: (937) 327-6141 Fax: (937) 327-6112