A voice from the chorus remembers Omar Paxson '48, and a disenchanted Tiger laments the state of the endowment
A Voice From the Chorus
I never attended Occidental, but performed (usually in the chorus) in several productions in Oxy's Summer Theater program. My first year participating was in 1978, when I was all of 20. I was in the chorus of The Robber Bridegroom, the men's chorus of H.M.S. Pinafore, and played Corin the shepherd in As You Like It (directed by Alan Freeman '66 M'67). Omar Paxson '48 did not participate that year (I believe he was out of the country), but I kept hearing people mention him, saying "I wish that Omar was here!" whenever things weren't going well.
I met him the next summer, when I was in the chorus of Brigadoon. I immediately loved Omar, and realized why everyone had missed him that previous year. In 1983, I sang alongside Omar in the men's chorus of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Sorcerer, and had the small role of Burt Dinwitty, the villain's sidekick, in another show directed by Omar, Dark of the Moon, about a human girl who falls in love with a witch boy.
In the 30-some years since then, I have thought of Omar from time to time, as well as others I had met during those years: Alan, Kathie Freeman '65, Josie Dapar '59, Tom Flynn '80, Gary Davis '68 M'69, and many more. But I pretty much assumed that Omar had passed away until, on a whim, I Googled the terms "Occidental College" and "summer theater," and one of the first pages listed was the article "Forever Omar" in the Winter edition of Occidental Magazine.
So, thanks for the article. It saddened me, but it was great to see that he had lasted so long, and that there had been such a tribute to the man and to his legacy.
Leaky Math and the Endowment
In the article on water ("Thinking Outside the Bottle," Winter), Convocation speaker Charles Fishman reportedly said that "poorly maintained water mains leak away a whole day's drinking water for every seven days of water they provide" and "Imagine if Apple threw away one out of every seven iPhones." Wouldn't the correct example be Apple throwing away one in every eight? (That is, seven delivered plus one leaked away is a total of one lost for eight from the source.)
On a more serious note, I read with sadness about the state of the endowment ("After the Perfect Storm," Winter). I used to be a regular donor but, due to an unbelievable dialogue with then-President Ted Mitchell, I stopped. Prior to that time, I had heard from several different sources that anti-Semitism was growing on the campus. I was quite surprised to hear this and, frankly, didn't believe it. Then, I received mail indicating that a known anti-Israel, anti-Semite had been invited to give a speech about the current state of affairs in the Middle East.
I contacted President Mitchell to see what could be done. Could a neutral speaker be invited instead? No. Could another speaker be added to lend balance? No. As my wife was on bed rest during a difficult pregnancy, I couldn't travel from Arizona to attend the event. Could I get a recording or transcript? No. I was told that discourse was at the heart of the liberal education. I pointed out that a speech was not discourse. No change. At that point, I decided that Oxy was no longer going to receive my donations which, since that time, have not only grown substantially with my income, but have gone elsewhere.
Please think about the reaction if a white supremacist, no matter how popular, was invited to the College to talk about race relations and the direction in which the country should go. Would the Oxy community embrace that or react with disgust?
After years had passed, I decided to give Oxy another chance. As one president had convinced me that anti-Semitism would be tolerated, I wanted to hear from the current president that things had changed. So I called and left a message. Somebody else called me back, and I explained again that I wanted to speak to the president and why. We had quite a long conversation, and I left off by saying that I needed to hear it from the president. I never received a call.
Oxy will not be receiving any more of my donations, which brings me great sadness, as I freely admit that much of my success is due to my Oxy education.