IN RESPONSE TO his daughter’s mention of Dr. André Cournand’s World War I military service [“Living Legacies: A Coda,” Spring 2002], I would like to recount the following story, which she and your other readers might find of interest.
Andre Cournand '65hon in the Medical Corps during World War I

The occasion I describe took place in the academic year 1956–57, after Cournand had won the Nobel Prize. I was a medical intern on the III (NYU) Medical Division at Bellevue Hospital, on assignment to the I (Columbia) Division Chest Service, having previously served on the Chest Service as a medical student. (I had actually been on the Chest Service the day of the announcement of the Prize and had been part of the excited crew of students, house officers, and faculty who had cheered Drs. Cournand and Richards.)

The occasion was a case discussion in the Chest Service auditorium, under Cournand’s direction. A chest resident was describing a patient. Cournand interrupted, saying (to the total surprise of the resident and of the audience): “Do you know who Tuffier was?” The resident said that there was a chest surgical instrument called a Tuffier retractor. Cournand said, “Yes, yes, but do you know who Tuffier was?” The resident didn’t. Cournand went on: “Tuffier was the surgeon general of the French army during World War I. I was a medical student in the medical corps. He had a terrible temper. I remember one day at inspection. . . . He had a terrible temper!” At this point, Cournand inclined his head forward, covered his face with his hands, and sat, silent. The stunned audience waited. After a few moments he dropped his hands, lifted his head, and looked attentively at the resident; the resident then picked up where he’d left off, and the conference proceeded.

I can only conclude that Tuffier must have dressed down the young student in the presence of his comrades in such a painful manner that forty years, countless honors, and a Nobel Prize later, Cournand, reminded by something the resident had said, found himself forced to allude to the incident—but still could not bring himself to give the agonizing details. I have always cherished this very touching, very human insight into this wonderful physician, teacher, scientist, and gentleman.

—Saran Jonas, MD ’56P&S

I READ WITH FOND MEMORIES and mild amusement the warm tribute to Gilbert Highet offered by Michael C. Browning ’70C ’73GSAS [“Living Legacies: A Coda,” Spring 2002]. For over twenty years now I have often been called upon to locate and verify quotations of every description. At last, one that I have heard in person, and one which has been misquoted in print at least once before. Perhaps I can set the record straight on this one.

Gilbert Highet
Mr. Browning refers to Highet’s quotation to students who had occupied Philosophy Hall (note, in spring of 1969, not in 1968). I realize that memories can be deceiving, but I can say with certainty that it had nothing to do with “mustaches” or “mothers,” and so, as far as my rapidly aging brain recalls, the setting:

Spring 1969, 4 p.m. I was sitting with my classmates in Howard Porter’s Tuesday afternoon graduate class on the Iliad. Soon after we began, students rushed through the building, told us that they were occupying it, and said we were to leave immediately. We did not (Porter had standards, and we had Greek to translate). A rather anxious two hours of translation followed. The class ended at 6 p.m., and we descended en masse to the ground floor of the building in whose spacious lounge the peaceful demonstrators were sprawled, listening to various speakers.

I was standing three feet or so away from Professor Highet, who had already engaged one of their leaders of the sit-in, trying to get the doors unblocked for us to leave. When asked why he had not left when given the chance, he explained in his beautifully modulated and immediately recognizable voice that he was sitting in a doctoral defense, and as a student’s career depended on its successful conclusion, he could not very well have left. That argument fell on deaf ears. Highet continued reasoning but soon the classics department’s kindly secretary drew the student leader aside, noted that Highet was becoming red in the face, and explained that she feared for his health. At that point, after a hasty discussion among a few of the demonstrators, we were offered the option of leaving through the rather large windows of the lounge.

Highet drew himself up to his full size, looked icily at the student and declared carefully and loudly with controlled fury: “I have been a professor here for X years, and I’ll be damned if I’ll leave by any window.” (I do not remember the exact number of years, although 37 sticks in my mind.)

The barricades to the stairway that led down to the cellar of Philosophy Hall and on to the freedom of Kent were immediately opened for us all and we marched out with Highet in a rather dignified manner. Such was the power of the man. I doubt that we have many alive today who could have accomplished so much with one short statement.

—Levon Avdoyan ’72 ’85GSAS ’75PHM
Armenian and Georgian Area Specialist
The Library of Congress

Milton Smith (left), longtime chair of Columbia's theater department, and English actress and singer Gertrude Lawrence conducting a class in 1952
THE ARTICLE ON BRANDER MATTHEWS in the Spring 2002 issue mentions that Columbia’s famed Opera Workshop was housed in Brander Matthews Theatre but did not mention the School of the Theatre, where many drama majors learned their craft under Dr. Milton Smith and where Gertrude Lawrence of the Broadway theater and of world renown taught as did other luminaries. I was one of the drama majors who spent hour upon hour there.

—Frances Brocker Rolband 52GS ’54TC

Photos: Cournand: Courtesy of Marie-Claire-Cournand. Highet, Smith and Lawrence: University Archives—Columbiana Library, Columbia University.