Letters and Comments from Readers

Ode to Joy

Photo by Josie Lepe.

Your story in the 2019 Fall/Winter issue about the anniversary of Beethoven’s birthday and your connection was wonderful. As a young boy my family and I lived in Berlin, Germany from 1958 to 1959, and it was a great experience. The city at that time was divided, but the wall had not yet been erected. Fast-forward 30 years to 1989, when the wall was torn down. About that time I heard a recording of Leonard Bernstein conducting Beethoven’s “Ode to Freedom.” I loved it and purchased a copy. Fast-forward another 20 years to 2009 and, at age 63, I started taking piano lessons. After the introductory etudes, along came Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” After many trials, missed notes and pauses, I finally started to recognize it. It was “Ode to Freedom!” I checked the CD liner notes and learned that it was recorded at a concert celebrating the “collapse” with musicians from both sides of the divide, East and West Germany, as suggested by Justus Frantz, then the artistic director of the Bavarian Radio Symphony. My father had heard that there were pieces of the wall available and wanted to find some for me, knowing how much I enjoyed my life there. Through a chance happening, I now have small fragments of the wall, and my cell phone ring tone is “Ode to Joy/Freedom.”—Paul A. Lang, ’69 Civil Engineering 

What’s Your Take, Professor Millner?

African American Studies Professor Emeritus Steven Millner

Photo: Thomas Sanders

I had the absolute privilege of taking several of your classes while I was an undergrad at San José State 20 years ago. I have carried the lessons I learned in your classes with me through every stage of my life since college and have often wondered what your take on different current events would be. Although I have many amazing teachers in my life, you stand above the rest. I cannot thank you enough.

—Natalye R. Brannon, ’05 Political Science

Ms. Brannon: I am heartened to get a message such as yours in these challenging times. Whenever a professor is remembered after a few years they should be humbled. As I am. That you recall some of the content of our classes is uplifting. Perhaps it is because I consistently sought to remind students that correctly studying the journey of African Americans is to confront our most difficult social challenges. Most importantly I always reminded each generation that the obstacles they face may seem to be impossible to overcome. Yet I’ve always tried to help students realize that there were once people who got through the horrors of a slave system; later others overcame the injustices of a Jim Crow Era and more recently modern citizens have surmounted the debilitating effects of a type of racism that can sometimes erode one’s personal sense of worth … yet today’s challenges are daunting. But you should take heart as we can see the tremendous breadth of all these “new ones” now “standing up” or “taking a knee.” So broadly diverse and spread out all over this land. It gives me renewed hope that we can see ongoing positive change. Rare has it been that so many have stepped forward…let us hope that Mr. Floyd’s passing may have opened a torrent that douses some of these modern plagues…that will only happen though if today’s younger adults “keep on keeping on”… it’s my hope and sincere belief… that this new generation … will also “Overcome” in today’s sometimes heartless environment.

African American Studies Professor Emeritus Steven Millner

Good Stories

Meta J. Mereday

Meta J. Mereday

Meta Mereday: 9/11 First Responder and Veteran Advocate: I would love longer stories about Meta Mereday and others. This was an excellent “taste” of the broad experiences enriching San José State. Well done—technically appealing and all are well-written. Thank you so much.

—Marilyn Bell Zelaya, ’65 Journalism

Cannery workers.

Cannery workers, c. 1940 (2004-17-338). Courtesy of History San José.

San José Fruit Cocktail: Canneries, Civil Rights and the Birth of Silicon Valley: My grandmother worked in the canneries and she would have loved to see this story told. Thank you.

—Valerie Gonzales, ’04 Sociology, ’13 MA Mass Communication

#1 Most Transformative University

#1 Most Transformative University

“While likely not surprising to the countless students whose lives & families have been improved and changed forever by the academic & personal journey they have undertaken at San José State, this tremendous honor brings pride to every member of Spartan Nation.”

—Ron Pragides



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