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Jenny & Me: The Next Few Years
Compiled April 2020


Correspondence between my college friend Jennifer Wagner and me became less frequent after 1970.

She was in graduate school at Northwestern University.  Therefore, my Christmas present to her had been a $5.00 subscription to The American Scholar, a quarterly collection of essays.

I was in television, namely the cable TV system in the small city of Marion, Ohio, where I produced local shows on TV-3.

I did write her 17 times over the next few years, and she often replied.  The concluding chapter of our correspondence is below:  highlights of our letters, hers in blue and mine in red.

In the olden days, a writer might mention several topics (1a 1b 1c) before taking the letter to the post office.  A week or two later, the recipient might respond to those topics (2a 2b 2c).  Nowadays we're used to more immediate feedback.  Therefore, as you can tell from the discontinuities in the marginal dates, I've chopped up parts of this collection to bring topics and replies together (1a 2a, 1b 2b, 1c 2c).

If you don't care about radio and TV, broadcasting subjects are set off by gold brackets in the margin.  A peridot is a link to additional explanation.  And for privacy, a few names have been disguised as two-digit numbers.







Moving On in 1970


The Next Few Years


T1971 Sun 2.14


Sunday evening, February 14, 1971

Christmas is the peak season for the merchants who advertise on TV-3, while January through March is the slack season.  We've cut back our programming in an effort not to lose any more money than necessary.  Several shows have been dropped, leaving us with only 12¾ hours of programming a week.  During the week of December 21-25, we put on two and a half times as much.

Hopefully, things will start rolling a little better again when spring comes.  But the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that it's practically impossible for a CATV system with 7,000 subscribers to make a profit on program origination.  We just can't charge enough for our spots to cover our costs.

We finally gave up on program origination three years later.


J1971 Sat 3.13

Saturday, March 13, 2:30 pm

Yes, I know I haven't written since September.  I am sorry.

Right now, I'm being paid to answer the telephone at the Skokie Park District.  However, it is not ringing.  I've finished the typing they left for me and there's really nothing else to do.  I always feel guilty when I get paid for nothing.

Let me tell you what's going on in my life in this letter — then, maybe, if you're lucky, and if you forgive me for not writing for so long (please) ...then I'll write another letter.

Adlai Stevenson III is now a Senator.  I worked very hard on his campaign in the northern suburbs.

WEXI-FM changed format to MOR early in October.  It's sounding better now, I guess.  I quit working at WEXI the end of January.   Not enough money, unfriendly atmosphere, etc.

13 & 67's wedding was interesting.  I drove to Fort Wayne all by myself.  Fun.

My application for the MAT program at Northwestern is being processed.  They sound very encouraging.

72 called me long distance sometime in January.  He hasn't changed at all, I guess.  He's owed me a letter (actually, two) since July.

Kay Roberts and I are reading Greek & Latin.  I'm also reviewing calculus.

Time's up.  I'm going home now.  But I promise I'll finish this soon.


J1971 Mon 3.15

Monday 8:30 am 

The second issue of The American Scholar came last week.  I haven't finished the first one yet, but it's really interesting.  Thank you.  Incidentally, I know your birthday is in February (I think), but I don't know when — so, happy Belated Birthday!!

The most interesting thing I've done since September was visit Oberlin for a weekend, February 19-21.

I drove, with Kay Roberts, Leslie Crapsey, Ginny Freschel, and a girl who didn't go to Oberlin.

It was fun, disillusioning, a nice place to live but I wouldn't want to visit, etc.


T1971 Sun 3.21


I think I know what you mean.  I kind of doubt I'll go back to Oberlin again.

Having seen WOBC's new console last October, my life is complete.  Any further visits would be, as you say, disillusioning.  The old guard has almost disappeared form the station, and the students have changed at least twice since I first went there nearly six years ago. 


J1971 Mon 3.15

They've repainted WOBC again — indescribably ugly.  The colors (moss green, dark blue, orange) were selected by B&G.

Hank Dolmatch's sidekick, Warren Leon, is the new station director.  Randy has a show, but hardly ever does anything there besides that.  Larry & Gary never go up there.  It will never be the same.

I have to go to work soon, so good-bye for now.  I will write again someday.

Love, Jennifer

P.S.  The Sunday Tribune had a great big article about Cable TV.  I think I understand how it works.  Looks like Chicago will be getting it this spring (or at least the beginnings).  Interesting!


T1971 Sun 3.21

A lot of newspaper articles talk about two-way cable TV, dozens of channels of special programming, shopping services, and facsimile newspapers.  Practically all of that is several years in the future.  Some of it may never come to pass, depending on what the FCC decides the future of cable should be.  In Marion, we have a one-way cable that carries 12 television channels and nothing more.  Eleven channels are various TV stations in northern and central Ohio, and the twelfth is my local TV-3.

I'm a mite weary this weekend.  We cablecast three games in the Ohio high-school basketball tournament.    One team won on both Friday and Saturday, so now they go to the state finals.  We'll probably be telecasting their next game this coming Thursday, and if they win that one, the state championship game on Saturday.

And I won't even get to rest.  On Sunday I'm supposed to play the piano for the National Honor Society at the local high school.  They're having their annual induction of new members.


T1971 Sun 6.13

News item from our local paper, April 30, 1971:

OBERLIN, Ohio (AP) --- Student apathy has left Oberlin College without a student government body and without funds for student organizations.

Only 893 or 37 per cent of the 2,480 students voted Thursday on a referendum to reactivate student government, invalidating the election since at least 50 per cent of the students had to vote.

Student government had been eliminated April 19 by a similar invalidation when only 39 per cent voted in the student senate elections.

Unless further action is taken by the general faculty or student life committee, monies for student activities will be frozen as of July 5 and student organizations will not receive funds next year.

The old alma mater will never be the same....


J1971 Mon 7.26

Monday, July 26, 1971

Please excuse the paper and general sloppiness.  Honestly, I haven't forgotten you!  I always think that I'm too busy to write letters.  But, considering the amount of time I waste, that's ridiculous.  I almost tried to call you one night about two weeks ago, but decided you were probably at work, and I had no idea what to say to your parents.  If you ever take a vacation, come to Skokie!  I never say all I want to in a letter.

The MAT program is nice, which really means nothing.  Student teaching has been fun (just 3 more days). 

Classes are basically no work (for me as a student or as a teacher).  The program has 74 students, only 17 guys.  Oh well.

Social life has been really fun though.  My two closest friends (Ann & John) are really neat.  Ann went to U. of Michigan in English.  She's a real extrovert, very intelligent and very funny.  John went to Stanford in English.  He (very definitely) has a girl friend who lives in Hawaii and will be at Michigan in the fall.  The three of us do a lot together, or in pairs.  Ann and John have been student teaching at the elementary school I went to, so we have something in common.

One weekend we all went to a super Italian restaurant for dinner.  The next weekend we spent 15 hours together (consecutively) at the Museum of Science and Industry, a great Japanese restaurant, and the movie Woodstock.

Ann went to Vermont this past weekend and John and I went to Summer of '42 on Friday, a concert in Grant Park (concert version of Weber's Der Freischütz) on Saturday, and to see the Temptations and Gladys Knight and the Pips last night.  Fantastic weekend!

John and I get along really well, but he definitely has a girl friend.  But we have a lot of fun.  (I'm really exhausted today.  The concert didn't start 'til 10:30, I got to bed at 2:30 and got up at 6:30 to teach....)

At this point in the letter, I've discussed everything in the proper perspective and I should stop.  However, I still have some time, so everything after this will be out of perspective somehow.  I think.

I'm really enjoying my new "life-style."  I'm so accustomed to being a poor student (money-wise).  I've spent an incredible amount of money in the last month, and it's fun!


J1971 Tue 7.27

July 27, 6 AM

There was a fire drill (actually a false alarm) yesterday in the middle of this letter, so now it's even less coherent.  Sorry.

Saying anything else would become too complicated.  I want to get this mailed today.

Have fun!  (I mean this quite seriously.)

Love, Jennifer


T1971 Sun 12.12

Sunday evening, December 12, 1971 

Dear Jennifer,

Unlike the fellow described in the enclosed clipping, I'm sending you only one Christmas gift this year, and it's quite inanimate.

The clipping apparently told of someone who tried to give a partridge in a pear tree plus everything else enumerated in the song.

The object I sent was a crystal starfish paperweight that looked like this.

As a matter of fact, you should have received the object already.

If so, and if you're wondering why I sent it (as there was no indication of purpose enclosed with the box), the answer is simple:  Merry Christmas!


J1972 Sun 1.2

Sunday, January 2, 1972

Dear Tom,

Yes, I did receive the starfish.  It's really beautiful and it looks lovely on my desk.  But you really shouldn't have!


T1972 Sun 1.9

Sunday night, January 9, 1972 

Dear Jennifer,

It's good to hear from you again!  We really ought to write to each other more often.  Your letter happened to arrive at a time when I was feeling a bit lonely/depressed, so it was much appreciated.

Not that things are going badly for me.  On the contrary, I just got a promotion at the start of the year, which carries with it a $100-a-month raise and a new title, Director of Program Operations.    I also got my picture in the paper.

Also new at Marion CATV:  We now have a 24-hour news service, which we carry on our Channel 3 whenever we're not doing our own programming.    This service is the same thing that I understand Chicago's Channel 44 programs during the daytime.  It's a UPI teletype wire which prints out the news on the TV screen.  We can sell the commercial time on the bottom three lines and make a profit on the thing.  We'll guarantee the sponsor 50 messages a day and give him maybe 87.  This is because we can't have a guy sitting there 24 hours a day staring at the screen and keeping a log of the commercials.


J1972 Sun 1.2

You are absolutely correct.  We should write more.  It's one of my New Year's resolutions.

I think I wrote you a letter that you didn't get.  Maybe I never mailed it.  Anyway, I'll fill you in on what's happened since the summer.

I'm in the MAT program at Northwestern, in Math.

My internship is in 8th grade at Marie Murphy Junior High in Wilmette.  The kids are about half Jewish, 75% very wealthy, 25% conservative WASP, 80% above 110 IQ.  Interesting.  We're team teaching.  I don't have specific classes; sometimes I have three groups of 30, sometimes two groups of 45, or nine groups of 10.

The key to success is flexibility, in both teachers and students.  I'm not sure it's the best way to start a teaching career, but I really don't have much choice.


T1972 Sun 1.9

I have a friend from high school who was a seventh-grade math teacher; he didn't like it very well, and now he's a high-school chemistry and physics teacher.  Part of the difference was in the neighborhoods, too. 

I imagine that no matter where you are, though, teaching junior-high math can be frustrating.  You spend a week teaching the students something they're supposed to know already, like how to add fractions with dissimilar denominators — something that seems ridiculously simple to you — and then you give them a test on it and half of them flunk.  Oh, well.


J1972 Sun 1.2

My classes at Northwestern so far haven't been too exciting.  Mostly in Education.  However, my six grades (for two quarters) are five A's and one B — somewhat of a change from my undergraduate grades!

Last October, 17 got married to 87, a guy she met at college a year ago.  They have both dropped out of school (one year for each of them).  87 has a job in the service department of Friden Calculators.  17 works part time at McDonald's.  Incredible.  Very depressing if you stop to think about it.  But they're happy.


T1972 Sun 1.9

Are their jobs menial?  I recall the trouble I had during the first semester of my senior year at Oberlin, when I began to realize that I didn't really want to go on to graduate work in my major, physics.  What I was really interested in was radio.  But being a disk jockey or a sportscaster or something seemed so far beneath me.  I was afraid that if I didn't become a research physicist in some big laboratory somewhere, I'd be wasting my intelligence.

But I finally decided to do what I wanted to do; and now I'm very happy in what I'm doing.  As a matter of fact, this job takes every bit of whatever intelligence I have.  Running that control room singlehandedly requires an enormous amount of concentration, inventiveness, and presence of mind.

And I'm sure 87's job does too.  He's probably a better-then-average Friden calculator repairman.  (And she might be an exceptionally efficient McDonald's waitress, too!)


J1972 Sun 1.2

13 and 67 seem to be very happy.  I hear from them fairly often.  15 is at grad school at Columbia (I think) in Business (or Econ) (I think).  15 hates to write letters.

What are you doing these days?  Do you ever get a vacation?  Come to Chicago.  We have lots of room for company.  Consider this a formal invitation!

Today is the last day of my vacation and I still have thousands of papers to grade.




T1972 Sun 4.30

Sunday night, April 30, 1972 

Dear Jennifer,

With the exception of the fact that my boss is leaving Marion this weekend  to begin a new job tomorrow as the manager of the cable TV system in Kankakee, Illinois, 70 miles south of you, there's really not too much to report.




J1973 Tue 10.16

October 16, 1973 (on lined filler paper)

Dear Tom,

Sorry about the lack of stationery.  I am babysitting with a computer (which isn't doing what it's supposed to) and I didn't plan on writing.  The computer is at Northwestern. 

Two things you probably won't believe (but they are true).

1. This is about the thousandth time I've started to write you.  Somehow I never finish.

2. You actually owed me a letter (until you sent me a birthday card; thank you).  Perhaps my last letter (eons ago) got lost in the mail.

Of a more believable nature:  Not much has changed in my life.  I am not married, I don't have six kids, I have not been to Europe, I am (sort of) living at home. The "sort of" means that I have a separate apartment (including door, kitchen, and bath) in my parents' house.  I go for days (sometimes) without seeing them.

By the way of consolation:  I've owed Shira a letter since January and I haven't written yet.  Shame on me.


T1973 Sat 10.20

Saturday morning, October 20, 1973

Dear Jennifer,   

Hey, it really is good to hear from you again!  None of us keep up with our old acquaintances as much as we'd like.  You and Jan Olson are the only people I met during my five years of college and grad school with whom I maintained correspondence more than a few months.  Basically, that part of life is past.


J1973 Tue 10.16

I am working on a PhD in mathematics education here (part-time now) and teaching high school math 47 miles away (really).  I think that the last you heard I was working at (now defunct) WEXI.  Long long ago, I quit there, got an MAT degree at NU, and started teaching.  Dull.

Teaching is exhausting and dull.  If things turn out as planned, I'll be at NU full-time starting next fall.  By the way, since everyone always asks, with a PhD in math ed, one teaches teachers to teach.  Got it?

Socially, life continues.  Apparently, nothing serious is going on now.  Possibilities exist.  13 and 67 moved to Evanston in August.  I've seen them a couple of times.  Kay Roberts (Oberlin '70 — big in women's lib there, but not here) and I have become close friends.  More later if I get around to it.

Random thoughts:  It's so hard to know where to start.  Apparently Randy is doing something in radio/TV at some place in New York State.  I don't really know.

John Heckenlively is a resident in ophthalmology in Lexington, Ky.  67 is in law school at NU (smooth talker that he is).  13 is teaching emotionally disturbed junior high.  (No, I don't think the whole junior high is disturbed.  Maybe).


T1973 Sat 10.20

In hearing about what everybody else is doing, I'm beginning to feel undereducated.  Here I am with a three-year-old master's degree, while people younger than I are getting doctorates.    My job has changed and evolved but not really advanced.  I'm an important and respected member of the team where I work, getting to do pretty much what I want in the way I want.  Yet I have the feeling I ought to move on to a new world and conquer it.

T1973 Thu 8.16

Since I wrote you last, Marion CATV has had four different managers, and during that time there was a period of a month or two during which we had no manager at all! 

There was some talk earlier in the year about building a new studio in Middletown, Ohio, and some talk about moving me down there.  If another year passes and there's still no studio in Middletown, I may start looking for another company to work for.  Anyhow, I've probably lived at home about long enough.

Enough complaints about my employers.  (If they discover what I've written, and on company letterhead even, I may be looking for another company to work for tomorrow!)


J1973 Tue 10.16

Your letter (or note) sounded unhappy.  Are you?  Maybe it's time for a change.  (How can I say that?  I really don't think that change for the sake of changes is a "viable alternative."  Besides, I don't know what your problem is.)  Do you ever take vacations?  Why don't you come to the Big City — that would be a change.


T1973 Sat 10.20


Lately I haven't had much time to be dissatisfied with my work.  And even that is looking up; on each of two Saturdays in the next month, there'll be an all-afternoon charity TV show, and then there are the elections and all sorts of other special programs.


J1973 Tue 10.16

I have promised myself that I'll mail this, so whenever I stop writing, it's going into an envelope.  Even if I'm in the middle of a  parg  paragraph.  (Obviously, it's past my bedtime.  No wonder my computer doesn't function.)

Right now (as I skip from subject to subject), I'm rather unhappy.  Saturday night I spent 2 hours on the phone with a male friend.  He's married, his wife was out of town, you can guess the rest.  I did not follow his wishes.

But it does make me wonder about marriage.  No one seems to be doing it right.  In fact, hardly anyone seems to be living right.

Kay keeps telling me to go out more, to worry about my social life more, to have an affair, etc.  I don't think I need that kind of advice.  I go out, I have a lot of friends, and I don't want to get involved.  Usually after I say something like that, I get involved.  Maybe it's a subconscious denial of my real feelings.

Actually, there is a guy I'd like to get involved with.  However, he's a very close friend of Kay's and our relationship (which is practically non-existent) is turning into a 3-way gossip session.  Just like the Oberlin fishbowl, everyone knows and wants to know everything.  Not good.

Thank you again for the birthday card.  I don't deserve such a thoughtful friend.

Good night.


T1973 Sat 10.27

On Saturday, October 27, the custodian at the First United Methodist Church of Richwood, Ohio, had replaced the belt on the pipe organ's air compressor down in the basement.  Now the florists were delivering decorations, and I planned to do a little rehearsing on the organ.  That afternoon I would be playing for the 14th wedding of my career, as my high-school classmate Barbara Bugg married Mike Brake.

This time, instead of merely typing a letter to Jennifer, I began recording a 15-minute audio cassette.  And of course, I kept a low-fidelity copy of the tape.  Here are links to that audio, in seven segments.

Audio Link


I explain my intent.  I'll be playing from a 1960 collection of wedding music, tunes that were old classics even then.

Audio Link


At the console, I demonstrate the noises from the tracker-action keyboard and pedalboard, then switch on the blower.

Audio Link


I play "Sérénade," an 1857 song by Charles Gounod.

Audio Link


I go over some spots where I stumbled and note that not all the pipes are sounding properly.

Audio Link


Moving the microphone a little farther away, I try another piece.

Audio Link


I segue into "Morning Hymn," a song by Georg Henschel (1850-1934). 

Audio Link


Epilogue:  after the wedding, I wrap up my audio letter.

And then, less than four months later, I moved away from home.


T1974 Sat 2.16

Saturday, February 16, 1974

Just to keep the records straight, I thought I'd better write to tell you that I now have a new job (as you can tell from the letterhead).  I'm the program director here in Washington, Pennsylvania.    Washington is a town a little smaller than Marion, Ohio.  It's about 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.

As you probably surmised from my letters over the last year or two, I was getting dissatisfied at Marion, but was still hanging on.  However, around Christmas the regional office indicated they were planning on cutting off all studio programs at Marion as of March 1.

I haven't heard from you for a while; why not fill me in on what's happening out west in Chicagoland?


J1974 Sat 12.28

Saturday, 28 December 1974 (on lined filler paper)

Dear Tom,

Once again you are allowed to sample my exquisite stationery!  Once again I apologize.  For some reason, inspiration to communicate with you never hits me when it should (i.e., at home, near a typewriter).  I'm in my office.  Oh, you probably have no idea what I'd doing these days.  Actually, considering my penmanship and general level of coherence, you'll probably have no idea what I'm doing when you're through reading this.

I am a full-time student at Northwestern, working toward a PhD in Mathematics Education (I have the feeling I've told you that before, because I think I remember your response).  Also specializing in Computer Assisted Instruction.  It's great fun.  I frequently work for/with people from other departments and/or other universities, so I'm meeting relatively interesting people most of the time.

After more thought and general introspection that you probably think I'm capable of, I have decided that what I really enjoy is meeting people.  Sometimes I enjoy getting to know them well, but usually my interest completely disappears when I come to know people well.  Unfortunately I still act like I want to know people better.  In time I may get this all straightened out.

By way of explanation, I write letters when either society absolutely demands it or I'm trying to think through something.  Good grief, my grammar has deteriorated completely!!! Sorry.  At any rate, this letter falls in the latter category and will no doubt be unintelligible to you.

The reason that I didn't write to you for so long was related to an experiment in behavior modification.  When we corresponded, you sent me Christmas presents, although I told you not to.  So I quit writing.  It doesn't sound very rational, does it?  Tom, I really enjoy hearing from you, but I'd certainly prefer to receive only letters.  Now that this paragraph is stuck in here, I'll probably never finish this or mail it.  It sounds ridiculous.  I guess I'm trying to clear up everything before the new year starts and I begin with a new set of resolutions.  (By the way, each of the presents you have sent me is in use in, or decorating, my apartment.  I certainly don't want to sound like I threw them out.  In fact, they are some of my favorite things.  But STOP.)  This is a very long paragraph because that (this?) has been bothering me a lot for a long time.  I came very close to calling you a while ago, but my rational, conservative nature won out again.

This is definitely the most absurd letter I've ever written.


T1975 Sun 1.5

I can't say for sure whether that was "definitely the most absurd letter" you've ever written.  But it has to rank right up there!

On the matter of the Christmas presents:  I'm sorry, Jennifer, but I really didn't realize you felt strongly about the matter.  I'll admit you told me to stop and I didn't stop; I have your letter right here in the "W" file, dated January 2, 1972.  (It always helps to keep complete records.)  To me, you don't sound all that insistent.  "...But you really shouldn't have!"

I fear I simply didn't believe you.  And since you never mentioned the matter again, I never gave it any more thought.  When you didn't write, I assumed it was for other reasons, so I sent you something else to try to induce you to write.

Perhaps I'm also guilty of not making myself understood.  I was sending you presents for only one reason:  the pleasure I got from picking out some object I thought might make you happy.  I was just saying thank you for being a friend.

But now, if it's just letters you want, just letters you will receive.  I don't want to give you another excuse for not writing!


J1975 Sun 1.12

You are no doubt correct about the number of times you received letters from me requesting you to cease sending gifts.  But I wrote many more times.  Unmailed letters don't count, I suppose.  — As you say, I'm not easy to understand.


J1974 Sat 12.28

28 December 1974

Enough of this.  The problem that I'm trying to work out, which has absolutely nothing to do with you, is "the age-old interpersonal relationship thing," as well as "the age-old marriage thing."  I'm tired of married men chasing me.  (I am being honest, although it sounds almost conceited, not to mention crude.)

Actually the reason I'm writing to you of all people is because I know exactly where you stand on this issue.    Believe it or not, you and Shira stand in exactly the same place.  Maybe I'll write to her too.


J1974 Mon 12.30

30 December

My mind is all straightened out.  At least I think it is.  You can ignore most of the preceding letter.  I'm sending it because I'm too lazy to recopy the interesting and/or coherent parts.

It's amazing how 24 hours can resolve situations.  What's really amazing is how Oberlin people can carry on at great length about almost anything, and then eventually, out of the clear-blue-sky, something clicks and everything makes sense.

If I don't mail this very soon, I'll be writing another disclaimer and this ridiculous thing will continue.

Very happily,



T1975 Sun 1.5

Forgive me if I've misinterpreted things, but it sounds as though one of the married men you've met in your PhD work wanted to become more than just a colleague.  You were pretty well convinced you didn't want to get involved, but you weren't sure what you should do about it.

The fact that I'd sent you a Christmas card reminded you of me and of "exactly where I stand on this issue."  In trying to think through the situation, you felt that my spirit might somehow be helpful as a participant in the mental discussion you were having with yourself.  So you decided to conjure up that spirit by writing to me.

This move produced no immediate results; but within 24 hours, possibly with the help of conversations with other Oberlinians, you did arrive at a new perspective on the situation.  Now you know what you want to do, and you're very happy.


J1975 Sun 1.12

12 January 75

Dear Tom,

Once again you have shown amazing insight.  Your interpretation of my letter was essentially correct.

You are a good friend.


T1975 Sat 1.18

I've been happily living in my own modern little apartment right here a few blocks from downtown Washington.  I really do enjoy living alone.  Ten years from now I may change my mind, but for now I'm convinced that I don't want to let a wife into my home, much less children.

If someone else were living here too, I'd never be able to relax, because I'd always be worrying about offending my roommates.    But when I'm by myself, I can eat when I feel like it, let the dishes accumulate an extra day if I don't have the inclination to wash them, get up and go where I want to be when I want to, and not feel in the least lonesome.

The only problem is that sometimes I lack the incentive to finish a project I've started.  No one's around to criticize me for my laziness.  For example, I now have lying on my desk a shorthand textbook.  I've been planning to teach myself shorthand, which should come in handy in my present work or in some future job.  I know I can learn it easily enough, if I can only discipline myself to spend the necessary study time.  (You see, I've gotten out of practice in the past 4½ years in regard to studying.)  You wouldn't care to do a little yelling at me, would you?


J1975 Sun 1.12

You sound quite happy about your job and life in general.  I know so few people who are happy — that I'm inclined to feel guilty about my happiness.  I too enjoy being alone (and neglecting partially-begun projects).

So far my classes this quarter are going well.  I'm starting to get involved in an instructional media project/course.  I'll let you know what that means when I find out.  Linguistics and computers are still my main non-math interests.  Oh yes — one of my linguistics professors is an expert on 18th-century shorthand systems.  (Do you respond to subtlety ... or shall I really yell?  You may retaliate by mentioning tropical fish, French, or varnish.)

The social situation to which I referred in my last letter is resolving itself.  It has been useful in that it has been a vehicle to meet and get to know several good people.  Rather Oberlin-ish — talking, talking, talking about people/situation, analyzing, re-analyzing, on and on...  However, I am still (or again, since there were moments...) in control of my behavior and life.  Actually, that's all I need to be happy.

Although it seems contradictory, I frequently do (or attempt to do) two things at once, like watching TV and writing letters.  The coherence of this letter is related to the PBS series The Ascent of Man.

I'm being distracted by a computer terminal with a skull on it.

If you haven't seen the program, you ought to.   It's fascinating.  Mathematicians are a very strange breed.


T1975 Sat 1.18

Yes, I have seen The Ascent of Man — with your fellow mathematician, the late Dr. Bronowski — and the Australopithecus-skull episode which you were watching when you wrote.

Another PBS series (Nova) had an episode recently about circadian rhythms.  I enjoy watching Nova because of the rapidity with which the viewer can follow through an investigation.  The program presents a puzzle, such as how do homing pigeons home, and then shows a series of experiments that have the puzzle mostly solved by the end of the show.  Very satisfying.


J1974 Mon 12.30

Monday, January 30

How is your "new" job?  Happy New Year.  (And Merry Christmas, too.  I didn't send cards, but thank you for yours.)


T1975 Sun 1.5

Here in Washington, the past eleven months on my "new" job have gone rather well.  The company isn't making any more money than when I came, but at least the programs look more professional. 


T1975 Sat 1.18

Today's mail brought a letter to the Class of 1969, Oberlin College, from our president, Bernie Arons.  Plans are starting to be made for the joint reunion of the classes of 1969, 1970, and 1971, which will be held May 23-25, 1975.

I may just take Friday the 23rd off so that I can attend this affair.  I haven't been back to the old alma mater for over four years now, and a visit might be a good idea.  (I can't imagine a stereo WOBC!)


T1975 Sun 6.1

Sunday, June 1, 1975

Dear Jennifer,

Well, as I indicated in January I might, I attended the Oberlin reunion of the Classes of 1969-1970-1971 last weekend.  Had a fairly good time, too. 

Among other activities, I attended a standing-room-only recital at Warner Concert Hall on Saturday night, featuring seven student performers:  three pianists, a soprano, a cellist, a trumpeter, and an organist.



The new Flentrop organ in the hall is a fine Baroque instrument, but unfortunately that's all it is.  There are many post-Baroque types of tone which it can't produce.

Another complaint I had was that the organist is completely hidden from view by the pipes, so that you can't see anybody at all during an organ solo performance, just the big assemblage of metal pipes with their gold and red decoration.

This past week back here at Washington has been a busy one, since both major local high schools decided to hold their commencements on the same night.  We really had to scramble to cover them both, but we did it. 

Next week will also be busy, as I prepare for my one-week vacation the week of June 9.  That week, my parents and I are planning to wander around Pennsylvania and upstate New York, visiting places like Hershey, Lancaster, Philadelphia, and Syracuse, where my other alma mater is located.

So what's going on in your life?  Anything interesting happen in the last five months?  Please write and let me know.  I'd like to hear from you.



However, I never did hear from Jennifer again.



The rest of what I know about her is gleaned from the Internet.


In 1976, she earned her PhD degree in Mathematics Education from Northwestern University.


In 1981, Dr. Wagner became an Assistant Professor in the MBA Program at Roosevelt University.  That's located on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.

According to an Oberlin alumni directory, she now lived in an apartment on the edge of Lincoln Park, 2½ miles north of the Loop, and she had a second job as a management consultant for A.T. Kearney Inc.



In 1987, in the abstract of a paper about shared software, she wrote the following (which I've condensed):

Unauthorized duplication of microcomputer software is apparently commonplace.  Recent decisions by major software publishers to drop “copy protection” may well result in even more unauthorized duplication. This paper addresses the impact on publishers' profits.

Software “clubs” of the type suggested by Buchanan (1965) are posited as providing a mechanism whereby software publishers can indirectly appropriate revenue for unauthorized copies.  It is shown that, under certain conditions,  publishers' profits may actually increase when users can make unauthorized copies.




By 1988, Jenny had moved to the banks of the Fox River, in McHenry, Illinois, 50 miles northwest of Chicago.  I know because of an event that March on the Oberlin campus which precipitated one last letter from me to her.

T1988 Sun 3.13

Dear Jennifer,

Hi there!  As you may have heard, over forty of us got together last weekend for the first-ever WOBC reunion.   Your address was on a list of people who couldn't make it, so I thought I'd write and let you know how things went. 

As usual, there are problems with finding enough money to upgrade the equipment, which is, as usual, falling apart.  We alumni spontaneously began thinking of ways to help.  This struck me as remarkable at first, because no one had asked for help.  But then I realized that all of us at the reunion still have a soft spot in our hearts for WOBC.

Eventually, an informal committee was formed.  So be expecting a "would you like to contribute" letter someday.

From your address, 'twould appear that you're dwelling amongst the scenic lakes and glacial moraines of almost-Wisconsin.  Aside from that, what's happening?  Write if you get a chance.


I received no reply.  By then, Jenny must have outgrown her carefree early-twenties life.



In 1989, she moved up from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor at Roosevelt, where she directed the University's Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) program.


In 1991, she chaired a session of the International Conference of the Information Resources Management Association.  “The MIS manager,” she wrote, “must possess up-to-date technical knowledge of both hardware and software to maintain efficient computer-based resources.  Management expertise in communication, forecasting, and personnel is also of great importance.  The MSIS curriculum serves the current needs of employers in our information-dependent corporate environment, while also providing a basis for future strategic development.”


She also was a member of the International Association for Business and Society, serving for a time as an editor of its journal.  Among her research papers were five with Harry C. Benham.  For example, here's a portion of one abstract.

Career paths in Information Systems:
a longitudinal analysis
(December 1992)

Individual careers of 405 persons in Information Systems professions were studied for the 1972-1986 period.  Wage level, starting age, and field of study (college major) were found to be significantly related to their tenure.


Another paper with Benham, which I've color-coded for easier comprehension, seems to be a warning to fellow professors researching ethical standards in their field.  They shouldn't take the shortcut of merely surveying the college juniors and seniors in their classes.

A comparative study of ethical attitudes
among MIS students and professionals
(June 1995)

Approximately 120 subjects were drawn from two populations:  full-time undergraduate business students and full-time MIS employees who were also studying part-time for a Masters in MIS.  The subjects read twenty Information Systems-based scenarios and classified the 31 behaviors described in them as Unacceptable, Questionable, or Acceptable.  The results were compared to each other, as well as to prior studies using the same instrument which showed South African students to be more “ethically lenient” than corresponding American students.

The hypothesis — that the MIS professionals would demonstrate a greater sensitivity to MIS ethical issues than either the undergraduate business or Information Systems majors — is supported.  Although earlier researchers have used undergraduates as substitutes for Information Systems personnel in many ethics studies, these two population groups do, in fact, differ.



In 1997, Jenny became a full Professor at Roosevelt.



But then, only six years later, an obituary announcement appeared in the Chicago Tribune:

Jennifer L. Wagner, Ph.D.;  Alyce DeCosta Professor, Management and Information Systems at Roosevelt University;  beloved daughter of Richard L. and Alice D. Wagner;  loving sister of Martha (Donald) Pollak;  devoted aunt of David and Rebecca Pollak;  dear niece, cousin and friend of many.  At rest April 28, 2003.

She was 53 years old.  Here are some of the online tributes, the first of which implies that she died of cancer.

Suzan Spitzberg, Des Plaines, IL
Teacher, mentor, friend, boss, and more... First she was my teacher at RU. (She was the reason I chose Roosevelt; we hit it off the first time we met.)  She then became my friend.  After I got my degree, she hired me to teach in her program.  Last year she gave me a hefty donation when I walked in the Avon Breast Cancer Awareness walk.  I am walking again this June.  It will now be in her memory.  I will miss her.

Steven Seidenberg, Wheeling, IL
Jennifer was my second teacher at Roosevelt and the only teacher I wanted after having her.  She was my teacher, mentor, and most of all my friend.  No matter what was going on, Jennifer always found time to listen and advise, always with a warm friendly smile on her face.  I will miss her greatly and only wish I had met her 10 years earlier.  They say that an apple never falls far from the tree and after talking with her dad, I know where she learned about how to care and treat other human beings.

Judy Ebenhoeh, Schaumburg, IL
I had known Jennifer for 24 years, first as an instructor, then a co-worker, and finally and foremost, as a friend.  She was a generous and caring person, and always ready to share her wit, wisdom, humor, and opinions.  I will miss our discussions, and the help she was always ready to offer a friend and colleague.

Cheryl Shapiro, Atlanta, GA
Jennifer was my longest and dearest friend.  She gave me years of wisdom, joy and humor.  Her strength, courage and optimism was her final lesson to me.  I wish my kids had been able to learn from her too.  I send my love to Jennifer's family.  They gave her everything and she treasured them.

Jill (Borgman) Redder, Holland, MI
First my friend and mentor, later an employer and teacher, Jennifer touched my life with her caring, courage and eternal optimism.

Simona Mihai, Hanover Park, IL 
Special teacher and mentor, Prof Wagner will always be in my thoughts.

We really miss you, Jenny.


. . . End of 4th Chapter







Moving On in 1970


The Next Few Years




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