Letters to the Editor
Fall 2008

Feather Ruffler

I wanted to pass along my thanks for your recent article in USD Magazine about my former high school English teacher, and now fellow USD alum, John Bowman (“Never a Dull Moment,” Spring 2008). I had the good fortune to sit in Mr. Bowman’s classrooms during two of my years at Ramona High School in the mid-80s (1983-84 and 1985-86, if my memory serves correctly). I can say without exaggeration that he continues to be one of the strongest, most enduring influences in my life to this day.

His lessons were absolutely unparalleled, and he instilled in me a love of reading as well as the motivation to do the work that it takes to become a great writer. While I’d say I’m still on the latter journey, the influences of his character and his values reached well beyond the classroom and even beyond the times when our paths last crossed.

It was a pleasure to hear that he is still doing well, and still ruffling feathers with his gruff demeanor. Someone in my class had coined this bit of advice for the new arrivals to his class each year: “When in Bome, do as the Bowmans do.”

— Paul Bain ’01 (MBA)

Bemused Again, Naturally

I just received my copy of the USD Magazine. As usual, it is excellent. I find the little dispute about the use of flora quite interesting (“Letters,” Summer 2008). Each side has a point, but the reader is left bemused, since no convincing linguistic argument is adduced for either position.

Perhaps I can shed a little light on the matter. Both flora and fauna are neo-Latin terms, created in relatively recent time for the use of biology. The two terms have classical roots, but have undergone some interesting metamorphoses. The root of fauna is Faunus, a forest deity. When biologists de-personalized this masculine proper noun to simply mean animals, the gender of the word went from masculine to neuter. Hence, the nominative plural is fauna. Similarly, the root of flora is Flora, a goddess. When de-personalized, this feminine proper noun becomes neuter, and the neuter plural nominative is flora.

Thus, both terms, from the point of view of Latin grammar, are plural. However, in common English usage, they are collective nouns, and are treated as grammatical singulars. So there you have it. You should have asked the classicist on your faculty instead of a biologist. Professor Utech’s comment, in addition to being dogmatic, is bad Latin. Oh, yes, I forgot. I have taught Latin for 25 years.

As for my teaching, I am still at it, now in my 46th year at Maryville University in St. Louis.

I have many fond memories of my days at “Charlie’s Diploma Mill” (as we used to call the Men’s College) and also of the “Foods” (as we called the Women’s College).

Ah, Time, you destroyer!

— John Wickersham, ‘62

More Than Decent

Over the intervening months since the publication of your bio of me as the new USD Board Chair (“Meet Madam Chair,” Spring 2008), I have received numerous comments, on- and off-campus, about the warmth of the piece. Of course, I’d like to think it’s because I’m a fairly decent person, but I’m afraid it has a great deal to do with the writer’s ability to capture the “human” touch, if you will. With our President Mary Lyons, I attended an AGB Institute for Presidents and Board Chairs recently, and was pleased to hear that so many people had seen the piece. USD Magazine is clearly on the radar screen with our peers; I even received kudos for the very “real” photo of yours truly. I thank you for the representation in the article and will try to live up to the standard which exists for our volunteer leadership. Brava!

— Darlene Marcos Shiley
Chair, Board of Trustees

Most Satisfying

I was privileged to have taught Jason and Amy Orlando (“Budgets Without Borders,” Summer 2008) when they were high school students. In my 36 years as a high school instructor, no two youngsters provided me more satisfaction than did these two. Both are lovely individuals, kind, considerate, honest and loyal. I could not love them more if they were my own offspring.

I rejoice in their success.

— John J. Bowman ’60