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May 27, 1999


Pitt alum's son a victim at Columbine

To members of the Pitt community:

I am writing this letter to remember and to pay tribute to Pitt graduate Tom Mauser and his son Daniel, who was killed at Columbine High School. I knew Tom when he was a friend and classmate of my brother Frank, from junior high through graduate school.

Tom grew up in Finleyville, Pa., and graduated from Ringgold High School in 1970. Tom received his bachelor's degree from Pitt's College of Arts and Sciences in 1974, and his master's degree from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GS PIA) in 1976. His mom still lives in the area where Tom grew up. Tom's friends remember him as quiet, intelligent, fun-loving, and as a good and decent person. Tom had always dreamed of living in Colorado, and moved there after graduation from GSPIA.

I got to know Daniel through the media, after his death. Photographs showed a fair-haired, fresh-faced, handsome young man, reminiscent of Tom at that age. Time magazine described how Daniel, age 15, "liked a challenge. He excelled at the sciences, but took cross-country (to push himself) and debate (to overcome his shyness)."

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Tom found himself in the media spotlight: once at the anti-National Rifle Association rally, and on at least one other occasion, in an interview on National Public Radio. On these occasions, despite his grief, Tom's commen ts were articulate and thoughtful. He spoke about the complexity of the issues we face, for example with gun control and the entertainment industry, and about the necessity of endeavoring to make changes to prevent future tragedies. To the gathering at the anti-NRA rally, he said, "It is time for the NRA and us to change our agendas."

Tom has my deepest sympathy, and also my respect and admiration. Life delivered him to the center of a terrible tragedy. Although deeply bereaved, he has responded with courage, determination, intelligence and with the same decency people remember in him from many years ago, in the hope that some good might come, even from such a horrible event. And I think that Tom might help to bring about some change for the good, just not in a way anyone could have imagined when he was a young man, studying public policy at Pitt and dreaming of living in Colorado.

Those who would like to contact Tom Mauser or families of other victims, with notes or memorial contributions, can do so at:

Message for Columbine

Community Services

Jefferson County

Public Schools

P.O. Box 4001

Golden CO 80401-0001

Maria Magone

Research Associate

Learning Research and Development Center


The unexamined past can't be our sole guide for the future

To the editor:

Professor T. David Burleigh's letter in the May 13, 1999, issue of the University Times raises a series of issues about the implications of same-sex partner medical benefits. Professor Burleigh is quite correct that corporate employers do not give benefit s to be nice, but to be competitive. That is why nearly 150 American colleges and universities, including every Ivy institution, offer full same-sex partner benefits to their employees. So do hundreds of successful U.S.-based businesses, including AT&T, IBM, Fannie Mae, Proctor and Gamble, and Mobil Oil — to list only some of those in the top decile of the Fortune 500.

Allow me to remark on Professor Burleigh's comments about marriage. First, it is not true that "The reason all sexual partners don't get married is that consciously or subconsciously they recognize the uniqueness of marriage." Same-sex partners cannot legally marry. However, the growing number of same-sex commitment ceremonies suggests that many who cannot marry would nonetheless like to share in this singular tradition. Secondly, Professor Burleigh is very nearly correct, or correct within loose definitions (can "marriage" exist, in his understanding, within cultures that sanction non-monogamy or polygamy?) that "The institution of marriage transcends all nations, all cultures, all religions, and all history." Well, so does male social and political domination of women that deprives half of humanity of power, status, opportunity and dignity. So, to a very large extent, does chattel slavery. On these very institutions of patriarchy and slavery was built the civilization of classical Greece modern Westerners praise, often uncritically, as the ancestor of our own democratic societies.

History and tradition are not meaningless; I'd be out of a job if that were so. But when the unexamined past (or present) is our sole guide to the future, we are in dire trouble. Savvy employers know that. Every scientist and every humanist should, too.

Bruce L. Venarde

Assistant Professor

Department of History

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

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