Nevada Silver and BlueMake a Gift

Letters to the Editor

In response to the Spring 2007 issue

TRANSFORMING EDUCATION

Stephen Lafer’s thesis that Americans need to determine what the essential goals of schools must be (Making the Argument, Spring 2007) introduces a crucial step in prolonging this experiment in democracy that Thomas Jefferson and his visionary band established through the Constitution. Public education was created to prepare citizens to honor their responsibility to lead our nation through astute voting. 

Public schools are currently besieged by a preponderance of alliterate students (who can read but choose not to); irrelevant and unengaging curricula; 24-hour-per-day amusement opportunities that suck the time and dictate the priorities of youth; distracted parents too burdened or uninformed to monitor homework and reading development; and politicians whose reform policies are more about private gain from public coffers than addressing the academic needs of our young citizens.

Students and the taxpayers who are heavily invested in supporting their educations deserve the best school systems money can buy. Top-quality school systems will require the collaboration of concerned citizens and experts to examine our practices, clarify our goals, and motivate the whole nation to support them. The life of this democratic republic is dependent upon savvy voters. 

Dr. Dana Davis was my adviser at the University from 1964 to 1968. I have been a public school teacher 39 years. Dialoguing about ways to transform public education is a worthy honor in her name.

Carolyn A. Dondero, ‘68 (English), ’76M.Ed.
Valencia, Calif.

TELL ME HOW NEVADA WAS

In reading your Spring 2007 issue (which is the best I have seen, congratulations), I read the article on Art Smith’s torpedo practice in Pyramid Lake. Art Smith and I had an interesting series of interactions. We were both natives of Sparks and I was a few years older. A group of University of Nevada students, Tom Allard ‘47 (history), Bob Games, Pat Eaton and I, joined the Navy Aviation Cadet program in April 1942. Allard and I were assigned as flight instructors in instrument flight after receiving our commissions and Navy wings in January 1943. Art came through our flight squadron as a cadet and I was his instrument flight instructor. 

On Art’s final instrument test flight he was very nervous and performed adequately, but not perfectly. At the end of each final test flight, instructors marked on the flight schedule board in white chalk an up-pointing arrow for a pass or a down-facer for a fail. With Art nervously looking over my shoulder I sketched a skeleton Christmas tree instead of an arrow. It was more like a pass then a fail. Art was highly relieved and after the war at a U of N reunion, he credited me with “saving his flight career,” which was far beyond what I had done.
While Art was still a cadet at the naval air base in Corpus Christi, Texas, I invited him to join my wedding party at the Chase Field Air Base in Beeville, Texas. Tom Allard was my best man and Art was a groom in the party. We were all in Navy dress white uniform. The reception following the wedding was held in the Naval Officers Club on the base. Since he was a cadet and not allowed in the club, I dressed him in my Navy ensign uniform, I had since been promoted to first lieutenant. He had several hours of nervous celebration with us before taking off for his barracks.

Pat Eaton was killed in a plane crash during the war. Both Tom Allard and Art Smith have now passed on but all three of us came home and graduated from the University of Nevada.

If the Silver & Blue ever does an article on University of Nevada alums who had WWII experiences, there is a copy of my auto-biog in the U of N library titled Reflections from Choppy Waters. It may be with the oral history section as I sent it there and you have my permission to use any of that at any time.
Sincerely yours,

John Edward Cantlon ‘47 (biology)
Vice Pres Emeritus, Reseach and Graduate Studies
Michigan State University

BASKETBALL IMPACT BEYOND THE COURT

For twelve magical hours on March first, out of 336 NCAA Division I basketball programs, only one had lost just two games or less this season—the University of Nevada. Yes, later that day, Nevada lost an overtime game in Logan, Utah. Yes, they had to play in the WAC tournament in Las Cruces. And yes, they are among the 65 teams playing somebody, somewhere in the March Madness NCAA tournament, where they lost in the first round last year to Montana. But for a guy who bought his first Nevada basketball season tickets in 1993, March first was truly magic.

On March 3, when Nevada came back from their Utah State loss to beat New Mexico State, there were 11,464 fans, all wearing “white-out” Nevada shirts shouting their support for their beloved Wolf Pack for ESPN TV cameras.  Parking was blocks away and lines for restrooms almost as long. In 1993, I parked across the street from Lawlor and you could roll a bowling ball in the Lawlor hallways and not hit anyone. ESPN and TV timeouts didn’t exist. Twenty-seven wins then was an expected record for three seasons, not one, and NCAA tournament bids were forgotten by January.

Nevada’s teams then weren’t made up of student-athletes. They were itinerant junior college transfers who had proven they were either not good enough athletes to get scholarships, not good enough students to qualify for college, or both. One of the great joys of watching college basketball is watching freshmen mature into seniors, both as athletes and as people.  It’s akin to grandparenting. Who can forget the difference between the 6-foot, 9-inch, 190-pound beanpole, Kevinn Pinkney, who played as a freshman, and the 240-pound hulk of a senior who helped lead the Pack to the NCAA sweet 16 four years later.  

When UNR decided to move up to Division I in football, I had a breakfast chat with then President Joe Crowley.  I noted that to be competitive at the “D-1” level in football required 90 scholarships and stadium expansion to pay for them. Basketball could be made competitive with 12 scholarships, and a good coach.  Lawlor Events Center was an existing venue that was what other universities were trying to raise enough money from their programs to build. I opined that even though Reno was a football town with a competitive, exciting program and great coach, a competitive basketball program could fill Lawlor on Thursday nights. Last year, Nevada’s basketball program made more money than its football team.

Like building the railroad trench through downtown Reno, the whole thing took time. We lived through coaches who, when they left UNR, left coaching for good. Then we hired Trent Johnson. He left for a prestige job at Stanford with a recommendation that we hire Mark Fox. Now, the two of them could meet in the NCAA tournament. Trent recruited freshmen like Nike Fazekas and Kyle Shiloh. We got to watch them grow and make quality decisions on and off the basketball court.  All three of this year’s seniors are leaving the university with degrees. What a novel concept, putting the “student” back in “student athlete.”

As basketball legend and philosopher, Bill Russell, writes in his book, Second Wind, basketball is a team game. At the end of the game the scoreboard doesn’t say one player got more points than another one.  It says which team won. “People who don’t understand that, don’t understand the principle of the game,” Russell concludes. When All-American Nick Fazekas was injured, this team won without him. Others stepped up The current roster shows three seniors, four juniors, a sophomore and five freshmen, ranging from soon to be professional basketball millionaire Fazekas to Curry Lynch, a six-foot walk-on kid from Virginia City. This is a team.      

But, what about the big picture and why have I become a sportswriter? Just this. This basketball team has done more for this University, this town and this state than the RSCVA, Chamber of Commerce, and EDAWN put together. They have put Reno on the map. They have brought this community together in ways that were impossible to contemplate in 1993. This team has brought not just students but a variety of young professionals to downtown Reno.

When I asked current UNR President Milt Glick to comment on the impact of this basketball team, he noted several things. First, he talked about not just winning, but winning with class—a classy team, a classy coach and classy fans who know the difference between rooting for their own team and cursing at the opposition. Get a mental picture of this—the five foot and change Dr. Glick walking across campus chatting with an unnamed UNR player, all of whom range in height from over six to over seven feet. They were talking not about basketball, but the student-athlete’s future plans. Class. Values. Dr. Glick noted that although winning primarily helps raise contributions to athletic scholarship funds, it also brings alumni and friends in to chat about donations to other programs. UNR has only 49,000 alumni compared to 250,000 for many of its competitors. It needs new friends for financial support. He talked about recruiting non-athlete students, as well.  Everyone wants to belong to a winner Nevada needs to keep its best high school students in the state. It needs to attract a more diverse student body from out of state. Winning with class helps.

So, this team and its fans need to forget for now about the WAC and NCAA tournaments with their vagaries of seeding and luck. Forget about next year without Fazekas. Savor these magic moments of early March before March Madness sets in. As someone once said about happiness, it comes from enjoying one’s accomplishments as much as thinking about one’s plans.

Frank Partlow   

FAVORITE SPORTS MOMENT

My greatest sports moment at UNR, and in my top five of all time:  When Frank Hawkins broke 5,000 yards rushing at Mackay Stadium. They had to stop the game for several minutes, there was such a roar from the fans. Still gives me a chill.

Cathy Hinrichsen ‘83 (journalism)


WRITE US: Send your letters to Nevada Silver & Blue, University of Nevada, Reno, Jones Center/108, Reno, Nevada 89557-0108, online, or email us at silverblue@unr.edu. Letters may be shortened or edited.

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