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Your Letters

Thumbs Up for the UCAC

As a University of Utah alum who holds the honor of being the first Chicano to ever star in a U of U main stage theatrical production (The Cherry Orchard, 1999), I read the article “Opening Pathways to Access” [Spring 2009] by Kelley J.P. Lindberg with great interest.

It is comforting to know that we have in fact come a long way from the days when I was one of two students of color in the Theater Department’s Actors Training Program (ATP) and the only student of color living in the Kennecott House. The UCAC is living proof that Utah is taking active steps to capitalize on the growing pool of talent and diversity within its own borders.

My time at the U was the most powerfully forming experience in my life, coming from South Central Los Angeles to Salt Lake City: going from never seeing any white people to never seeing any people of color was an amazing, jarring, and beautiful experience. It stretched me in ways that I wish more of our students of color would be stretched today. I started my tenure at the U with a firm belief that white people were at the core ethnocentric and all had a superiority complex, and ended my tenure with the firm belief that all humans are ethnocentric and all humans at one time or another suffer from one complex or another.

I remember the sideways looks when I introduced my hard-to-pronounce name in my hard-to-understand accent. I remember the odd questions about Mariachis and Quinceañeras. The way people would click into a state of mild discomfort when I infiltrated my perspective into a conversation. But I also remember the invitations to dinner, the family home evenings, and the acceptance and love that many of the same people ended up giving me.

Since graduating from the ATP I have gone on to receive my master’s degree in theater from the University of California, San Diego. I am now the artistic director of Watts Village Theater Company, the only theater company permanently serving the disadvantaged community of Watts (my hometown). I am proud of our work in helping young people in South Los Angeles see the world from a different perspective. The work we are doing now specifically searches to find common ground between all cultures—a goal that the U had a big hand in helping me to form.

Guillermo Aviles-Rodriguez BFA’99
Director, Watts Village Theater Company
Los Angeles, Calif.

Bleeding Red in the Lone Star State

I always look forward to receiving the next Continuum. However, this Spring [2009] issue is something special because of the “Spirit” and “U”phoria conveyed in the articles regarding the Sugar Bowl, the U Singers, Swoop, and Joe Wirthlin.

Like others who have had careers away from the shadow of the U, I live, die, and bleed Utah Red for everything from the football team to women’s gymnastics. I fly my large block U from the front of my house with pride and extol the greatness of the University of Utah to anyone who wants to listen. I have even gained respect from my “Longhorn” neighbors.

Who am I, sir? A Utah Man am I ...until the day I die!

Steve Hansen BS’66
Wimberley, Texas

Another Distinguished Author

In your “Author, Author!” collection [Bookshelf, Winter 2008-09], you overlooked the distinguished scholar at Stanford Dr. Shelby Steele. His inclusion in your hall of fame would have added a little color!

I was lucky enough to take classes from Steele in 1973-’74 when he was a doctoral candidate in the English Department. He has gone on to become famous in some circles—probably infamous in others—but he has had a distinguished career. I recently read his book on Obama [A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win (Free Press, 2007)]. It’s not what you might expect.

John Rasmuson BA’68
Salt Lake City, Utah

...And More

You probably expected this, but I’d like to add a couple more names of well-known authors who were U of U graduates to the list Marcia Dibble compiled for her excellent short article, “Author, Author.” They are Vardis Fisher [BA’20], who became an important Western writer (influencing Larry McMurtry), and Phyllis McGinley [BA’24], who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1961. McGinley, along with Wallace Stegner [BA’30], was at one time editor of PEN, the university’s former literary magazine. Fisher once taught English literature at the University—something I learned from my mother, Jane Rawlins Deakin, who walked out of his classroom in the ’30s, in response to his blatant sexism, and never went back.

I mention these writers not to criticize but to add to the knowledge we have of Utah authors. Again, I enjoyed the article very much and learned a good deal from it.

David N. Wetzel BA’65 MA’67
Denver, Colo.

We’re eager to hear from you. Please send letters to editor Jason Matthew Smith,, or to 201 Presidents Circle, Room 308, Salt Lake City, UT 84112.

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