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Higher Education



     I am grateful to Professor Boyd Paulson of Civil and Environmental Engineering for his valuable comments on the posting about the U.S. News and World Report ratings of Graduate Schools. He says:
     "I will not attempt to guess why the conservative news magazine excluded the humanities and social sciences from the magazine's summary version of the longer report they published separately. They do cover these fields in the full report (available on the same news stands as the magazine). Stanford ranks very high in many departments within these fields and that also should have received attention."
     Of course I was delighted to see the overall ranking of Stanford. It was so obvious that I did not think it necessary to mention. Perhaps I should have.
     Professor Paulson misread my comments, which were intended to be complimentary. I must admit I do not suffer from euphoria, and, in addition to my daily struggle with the miseries of the global scene (which is my job), this morning I spent hours struggling vainly with my printer, which I had just paid handsomely to have repaired. That is one of the miseries.
     Professor Paulson goes on to give information about his students, who seemed to me very attractive. All are pursuing their masters degrees in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He says:
     "I was present at the photo shoot. You are correct that U.S. News did ask for some diversity in the students we asked to participate, but more important to me was the order of the replies of those who responded to my hasty e-mail message to drum up some recruits at a busy time for them. I have no second thoughts regarding the outcome because all of these students were among the leaders in our work with Habitat for Humanity. These women, in particular, were among the first to step forward and be willing to try any construction task on site, and help coordinate their fellow students. [Please praise them for their good example. RH]
     You wondered why they appear in this order? Throughout the photo shoot the photographer arranged the students in all kinds of poses, such as looking through the rungs of a ladder, looking up at them on the roof or on a scaffold, and holding the plank you saw. The only physical characteristic I remember him using in these photos was height -- as is the case in this photo -- so that the plank, ladder or whatever prop was in use would be distributed equally on their shoulders without one standing on tip toes and another crouching awkwardly. Janet Rosete, at the front of the photo, is the shortest. Matt Griffis, at the back, is the tallest. I would guess that main reason that the editors picked this photo is that the ones in the front -- in this case Kevin Simmons (middle), Kristie Wood, Buffy Thomas and Janet Rosete -- wore Stanford sweatshirts. It was a college issue after all.
     Now about the students themselves. For your benefit, I will start at the back. Matt Griffis is a graduate of the University of Santa Clara, is a CPA, and worked several years with one of the big accounting firms. He came to our program to gain engineering and construction knowledge so that he could pursue a passion, held since childhood, to build homes. Matt loves working on site, knows his tools, and is a very good person. That last sentence pretty much describes all the others in this picture. Matt will be working for a Bay Area developer in June. Next is Dan Turner, a U.S. Navy officer, and a leader in every respect. He usually is serious and for him that is quite a smile in the photo. Next we have two men who seem to concern you ("one or two of them colored"). Victor Nakano -- I guess you would call him an "oriental" -- is a U.S. Army Officer in the best "gung-ho" tradition. I suspect that if his fellow officers heard you accuse him of "goofing off" they would laugh heartily at your "joke." [I hope so. RH].
     While this photo is indeed a pose, and the students really had fun that day, Victor does not goof off. He works very hard. In June he and a fellow officer will go to teach at West Point. Next is Kevin Simmons, who is not only "colored" but a foreigner! Kevin is from Barbados and is among the select few foreign students admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy. He does have the delightful, easygoing charm and humor of many Caribbean Island people, but also has a brilliant mind and ranked so high in his Academy class that the academy commander personally wrote for him a very strong recommendation. Next is Kristie Wood, who generally is at or near the top of our classes. She is a civil engineering graduate of the University of Colorado -- top student in her class as I recall -- and will be returning to Colorado to work for a general contractor. Next is Buffy Thomas, a Georgia Tech civil engineering graduate, who is among the kindest people you could wish to meet. When I look at the photo, I see that in her face. Last, but not least, as the saying goes, is Janet Rosete, a Bay Area native. If she went to Berkeley, we may have to forgive her, but there is no reason to single her out for being an "oriental" just because part of her ancestry was from the Philippines and not Europe. She worked for Boeing before returning to graduate school. Like Buffy and all of the others, she is kind, considerate, and just the type of friend most people would like to have. She is an absolute gem of a human being.
     When I look at the nail belts around the students' waits, I see Home Depot and PMI (a Texas developer -- you misread it as QML), who, along with Cisco, Intel, Sun, other high-tech companies, contractors and suppliers, and literally thousands of others contribute generously in volunteer time, money and materials so that at least a few hard-working poor people now living in miserable conditions can have a small chance to raise their kids in decent homes. You just see QML ("never heard of that company"). Can you possibly imagine the joy that PMI executives and employees have coming up from Texas and their local office to work side by side with the families in need and help make these homes possible? I can assure you that their joy is quite real. "


     My comment: Of course. The quality I rate highest is what used to be called charity (a now demeaned word), and kindness, and these students are exemplars. I spend my life dealing with people of different ethnicity. The people who take care of me are from Tonga, and my assistant is an Indonesian of Chinese origin. I regularly invite foreign students my home, and we have delightful conversations. I would love to have Professor Paulson bring these engineering students to my house. It is an easy walk from the Quad.
     But now I must get back to work. My concern is that Latin America will blow up, and today's presidential elections in Peru may be a straw in the wind, or rather the bonfire. Latin America is not the Stanford campus, alas.

Ronald Hilton - 4/9/00


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