Breaking the language barrier
Chip Minty's piece regarding Chinese language and OU reminded me of my medical lecture in Beijing when I was Vice Head of Neurology at OU-Tulsa in 1997.
In 1985, I had accepted a dare from a fellow physician, and, on a lark, I began studying Mandarin. In 1997, a friend insisted I accompany him on his business trip to Beijing. He joked that he wanted to see how I would get along on the streets of Beijing. A couple of months before our trip, I had discussed this China opportunity with one of my former medical students, Xing Jian, who had grown up in Beijing, and he arranged for me to deliver a headache lecture at the General Hospital of the Air Force, where Jian’s father worked.
Although I was proﬁcient in conversational Mandarin, I knew I could never deliver a scientiﬁc lecture in Chinese, so I used the services of a translator. However, after the lecture, I was escorted to a banquet in my honor, where I was comfortable putting my Chinese langue skills to use. In Mandarin I toasted to the enduring friendship of the people of our two countries. I learned that on making the toast we turned the wine goblet up and swallowed the entire contents in one gulp. Immediately on setting the wine glass down, one of the young servers rapidly reﬁlled it, always brimming to the top, never spilling a single drop.
Somehow, near the end of the dinner, the subject of ancient Chinese poetry came up. These Chinese gentlemen could not have known that my Mandarin teacher had encouraged me to learn about some of the legendary traditional Chinese poets and their work. When one of the most fabled poets, Li Bai, was mentioned, Mr. Ying asked if I knew any of his poems, so I deftly recited, in Mandarin, of course, one of Li Bai’s most famous poems, “Homesickness on a Quiet Night,” and my hosts all joined me in reciting the last two verses. Then, I spontaneously added that my favorite poem was “A Night Mooring at Maple Bridge,” one of the best-loved ancient Chinese poems, written by an otherwise obscure poet, Zhang Ji. After I ﬂawlessly recited this, all my dinner mates were visibly captivated. I had arrived at 1:15 that afternoon, an unknown American, and at 6:15 I departed in a blaze of glory. On leaving, I made a mental note of the paradoxical scene during the ride back to the hotel: it was raining lightly, but the sun was shining. Perhaps, someday, I can write a poem and capture this theme.
Harvey Blumenthal, MD
(To read Dr. Blumenthal’s complete essay from the American Headache Society magazine,Headache, on his 1997 trip to China, click here.)
1920s stadium expansion recalled
My mother, Velma Maureen Cole, graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1926 with an education degree. She made a pledge to the Oklahoma-Memorial Stadium Fund in 1925 for $50. Receipt #84 reflects her September 1925 payment, receipt #5068 of March 19, 1930, reflects a $10 payment, which I assume was the final payment. Also enclosed is her commitment of April 1, 1925, to make the pledge payments.
I think the money was used to build the last side part of the stadium. She said the University promised those paying $50 could always get free admission. When my sister, Marilyn Cole, started in 1955, Mother inquired about a free seat but by that time no one seemed to remember the promise.
My mother moved to Stigler, Okla., after graduation and taught mathematics for 40 years before retiring. She was a proud OU alumna and she enjoyed OU alumni reunions, especially her 50th. She passed away in April 1984.
My sister Marilyn graduated in 1959 and began a career in early childhood development and was director of the OU Child Development School before she married Dr. William Stavinoha, who taught at the University of Texas Medical School. Before she was married my sister worked at the Head Start program and lived on Indian reservations in South Dakota and Arizona.
My mother, then retired, joined her and greatly enjoyed the experience. Two wonderful educators of whom OU should be proud.
I graduated from Stigler High School in 1962 and was an All-State football player. I had a scholarship to OU which lasted one year—I was just not fast enough.
I graduated in 1966 with a journalism degree and was immediately drafted into the U.S. Army at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and became a Second Lieutenant. Then I spent a year in Korea as an infantry platoon leader.
I eventually settled in Houston, working for Southwestern Bell/SBC/AT&T, and retired after 40 years. I have been a lifetime member of the OU Alumni Association for 50 years.
Anyway, the purpose of this letter was to send the enclosures about my mother’s stadium expansion pledge. I know they are hard to read—but I trust you can decipher them.
’66 ba, journ
Editor’s note: Does anyone else recall contributing (or family members contributing) to the stadium expansion of the 1920s? If so, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or Editor, Sooner Magazine, 100 Timberdell Rd., Norman, OK 73019-0685.