Santa Clara Mag Blog

Santa Clara Magazine's blog, updated whenever the writing goblin visits the editorial staff of the magazine.

  •  Black, White, and Fed All Over

    Monday, Nov. 28, 2011

    Saying goodbye to a familiar friend on campus

     If you have had lunch at the Adobe Lodge, then you know BW (short for Black and White)—although maybe not by that name.  

    You might have called her Adobe or The Jesuit Cat. The staff at the Lodge named her Bus Tub, after the containers that leftovers are swept into. Maybe you just knew of the friendly longhaired, black and white cat that staked out the entrance of the Adobe Lodge daily. But those who knew her best, called her BW.  

    Michelle Towers official title with Santa Clara is administrative associate in the president’s office, but she’s unofficially the chair of SCU’s department of cat care. According to Towers, BW first appeared on campus about six years ago, large enough that most observers assumed she was pregnant. After two frowned upon forays into the restaurant, BW established her familiar post on the wooden chest near the entrance. Vet trips were surprisingly easy; some tuna or fresh chicken was all the bait required.  

    BW’s temperament bordered on fearless, as she was something of a socialite. She was known to weave between the crowds at Vintage Santa Clara and open houses and even attended a Board of Trustees outdoor lunch one day. “One event that she joined, that is remembered by many, was Father Locatelli's memorial outside in the Mission Garden,” recalls Towers. “There was an aisle that led from the statue of St. Joseph up to the stage, which was in front of St. Joseph hall. BW came into sight, walked up the aisle, turned around near the statue and sat—as if watching the event as well.”  

    In October, Towers noticed that BW had gone missing. The cat no longer waited for her morning meal at the St. Joseph statue and at her lunchtime post at Adobe. Over the next few weeks Towers asked her cat network if they had seen her, and they in turn asked others. She kept an eye on the Humane Society’s found pets page. Sure enough, a picture of BW was posted by someone who had been on the campus, thought BW was lost, and took her home for a few days.     

    Towers followed up with the local Humane Society. They called the person who found her and learned that BW was dropped off at another local shelter on October 20 when there had been no response to the posting. The staff reviewed her condition, and due to her age (around 12) and health problems (thyroid and kidney issues) she was put down.  

    “I hope there is an Adobe Lodge in cat heaven for her,” Towers says. “Heaven help them if the food is not to her liking.”

  •  The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

    Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011

    Thanksgiving memories of turkey, football, and revolutions that changed the world

    Thanksgiving 1989 was a cold one in the Midwest: a couple feet of snow blanketed the fields and forests of Chicagoland. It was a year that we came home—all five of us kids—to the big white house where my family had moved the year I went away to college. We came with significant others in tow for the Thanksgiving inspection. It was the last Thanksgiving with my grandfather Henry, born in 1900, and it was the year the Russians came to play football.

    Stanislav was 15 years old and he was staying with our family. He was one of 10 high-schoolers (five boys, five girls, one teacher) from Leningrad. (It would be two years before the city reclaimed its original name of St. Petersburg, but people who called that fabled city home were already talking about the restoration as a matter of course.) Stas was sandy-haired, slight of build, and generally a quiet kid, at least around anyone older than he was. He shared my younger brother’s room and the two of them went to school together every day for six weeks. My mother packed their lunches and on Stas’ sandwich of sliced turkey or ham or roast beef she always put extra lettuce. His request.

    You see, in the fading days of the Soviet Union, fresh vegetables year ’round were not widely available. The problems with food distribution were emblematic of a system that was broken in so many ways. A friend of mine who was in Leningrad recounted seeing two women in a state store fighting over a single carrot.

    A different country
    But it was clear things were changing: the perestroika and glasnost were reshaping the U.S.S.R., and in Central and Eastern Europe it was the year of revolutions. Gorbachev had led the Soviet Union for four years already, but the Russian kids visiting us weren’t, for the most part, big fans. Less talk, more action is what they wanted. Also weighing on their minds was this fact: The Baltic Republics were still part of the Soviet Union but had declared a desire for independence.

    The Russian students arrived in Chicagoland just after Halloween. On Nov. 9, the Berlin Wall was toppled. Stas watched the event on television with my family. “I think I’m going home to a different country,” he told my mother.

    A week later, riot police suppressed a peaceful demonstration in Prague. The ensuing protests throughout the country became the Velvet Revolution that ended communism in Czechoslovakia. On the day before Thanksgiving, the space shuttle Discovery was launched. My mother woke Stas and my brother early for the occasion, so they could watch it live. At Camp David, in a Thanksgiving eve message, President George H.W. Bush described Eastern Europeans as “new pilgrims … on a voyage of freedom.”

    Table set
    On Thanksgiving Day in our warm kitchen there was turkey in the oven and potatoes (mashed and sweet) and stuffing in pans and casserole dishes and cranberry relish spooned into cut crystal bowls. There must have been 20 people at the house that day—too many to fit around the dining table. So in addition to the table in the dining room, the cherry dining set that had been my grandfather’s was put in the living room as the kids’ table—where Grandpa Hank also sat, much to his delight. He had never been to Russia. Once upon a time he was scheduled to take the next ship across the Atlantic to drive a tank in the Great War in Europe, but he liked to joke that the Kaiser heard that Henry was coming and called it quits.

    So what were the Russian boys doing in the suburbs of Chicago? They came on an exchange program begun, with fits and starts, during the Reagan presidency. But this was the first year that a proper, organized exchange took place. In the fall, a small group of high school kids from the Soviet Union came to the United States. The following March, an equal number of American students who were studying Russian in school—including my brother—lived for some weeks with host families in Leningrad.

    Why was this suburban high school teaching Russian? There was no native Russian population in our town to speak of. This was not Chicago proper; our town of 10,000 was never home to masses of immigrants from the lands of the Slavs. This was a WASPy suburb, far enough up the Chicago-Northwestern line that there was a rookery for great blue herons just outside of town and, a little bit further north, a lake popular with hunters. It was simply that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as language offerings were expanded at the school, Russian language—and a young, dynamic teacher—became part of the mix. The teacher rode a motorcycle and listened to the Doobie Brothers and kids loved him. There were even those who weren’t studying Russian who would hang around the Russian club.

    Forward pass
    While the big bird roasted in the oven, we went out on our parcel of land where the suburbs meet the farmlands under the wide-open Midwestern sky—blue and fragile like porcelain with the sun shining down on brilliant, sparkling snow—and we taught the Russians how to play football. The teams were six-on-seven. There was Stas and his friend Anton from Leningrad and the twins Anton was staying with. There was my high school buddy Joe and his brother and my brother and two of his friends and a future brother-in-law. We offered up tips as we struggled through knee-deep powder for an end run: forward pass and lateral and tackle the receiver before he scores.

    Stas took that last lesson to heart. He didn’t wait for Joe to catch the pass. He saw him high-stepping it into the clear so he ran after him and wrapped his arms around Joe’s waist and took him down. Anton piled on. We refined the lessons about rules over the course of the game. Winning wasn’t really the point, was it? The point was more to share the exuberance of being alive to run and throw and play. The point was the conversation that my younger brother and Stas had in a quieter time: about how absurd it seemed that they might ever be fighting one another in a war.

    One of the reasons that this Thanksgiving is so memorable to me is that it offers a reminder. There are these things that we do right. There is good that can be done in the world. Bringing people together face to face across continents and histories. Undoing the injustices of decades of history. So act.

    Does this sound too simple? No doubt. But I’ll say it nonetheless because it is also easy to forget. Sometimes all we can notice is that today we roll the stone up the hill and the damn thing rolls right back down again. The forces of gravity conspire against us. Why even try? But that’s hardly the spirit of Thanksgiving. No, the spirit of Thanksgiving is in counting blessings. Start with those of the past year. Start with articulating hopes and aspirations and dreams.


    As a postscript, I should note that soon after the breakup of the Soviet Union, some folks tried to kill the Russian language program at our high school. The families that had participated in the exchange with Leningrad rallied to save the program, but only for a few years. They stopped teaching Russian a while back. French, German, Spanish, and Latin are still on the schedule. As is Chinese I, II, and III. That’s not surprising; it seems in keeping with the turning of political and economic wheels. And across the street from the school is the Gator Aid Sports Science Institute, the testing lab for the most researched sports drink on the planet, they say. But that’s another story.

    Keep the faith,

    Steven Boyd Saum



  •  The Class of '45: The boys who went away

    Friday, Nov. 11, 2011

    The new and old: A photograph of Santa Clara today and how it looked with the arrival of soldiers in 1943. Photo by Robert Boscacci '14 and from the Archives of SCU.


    On this Veterans Day, we're providing an excerpt from a letter that will appear in the Winter 2012 issue of Santa Clara Magazine. Thomas E. Gebhardt '45 was among the freshmen entering the university in 1941.

    "We were freshmen in 1941, eager to begin our college life ... [but] the attack on Pearl Harbor would change the life of each student of Santa Clara University. The years that followed became the war years, with students leaving to enter the service. It was a slow process, as students would wait for their orders. By the end of 1943, all eligible candidates had entered the service. A handful of the Class of 1945 would remain. The Tom Dowlings [a fellow football player] and the Chris Christiansons [also a football player] were lost in some far-away place, fighting for our country. It was ironic that our class started in 1941, the year World War II began and ended in 1945, the same year the war ended.

    As the war ended, many of our class would return to Santa Clara—a new class, a new graduating year. The Class of 1945 was lost in the pages of time. It was a new beginning."


  •  Memorial service planned for Prof. William Yabroff

    Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011









    Professor William Yabrof, who co-founded the graduate counseling psychology department at SCU, died on Oct. 6, 2011. He was a beloved professor for over 25 years, teaching numerous courses, and specializing in the therapeutic use of imagery and symbol. He is survived by his daughter, Clare (Wendy) Yabroff '85. A memorial service is being held on November 19th at 4 p.m. at the Ananda Church, 2171 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306. For more information, please call 503-616-6628.