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My Letter to Scott Cowen

 
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wckirby



Joined: 10 Dec 2005
Posts: 355
Location: New Orleans

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 1:43 am    Post subject: My Letter to Scott Cowen Reply with quote

President Cowen,

My name is Clay Kirby. My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather came to New Orleans in 1757. My great grandfather was the first member of my family to attend Tulane. He went on to be one of the major developers of the Carrolton area. My grandfather headed the Federal Farm Credit bank during the Great Depression. My father played at the first Jazz Fest with Pete Fountain. I grew up in the French Quarter and Uptown. I went to Lusher and Ben Franklin High School. New Orleans is a part of who I am.

Iíve been a part of the Tulane community ever since I was born. I remember going to Tulane/LSU baseball games when I was 5 years old and yelling ďLSU stinks like poo, put those tigers in the zoo!Ē I originally wanted to go to Georgia Tech or the Naval Academy for college, but I changed my mind and came to Tulane. Iím so glad I changed my mind. Iíve been happy at Tulane ever since. I love Tulane.

I will soon take my role in the city as an engineer protecting the future of this great city I call home. But first, I, along with the engineering students, faculty, alumni, and friends, will prevent Tulane from doing something that will cause as much harm to the long-term health of the city as the engineers who constructed the 17th Street Canal.

Engineering is absolutely crucial to the long-term survival of New Orleans. Without Tulane importing good engineers from across the nation, New Orleans will succumb to the natural forces of coastal erosion, subsidence, wetland loss, etc. Your decision shows a total lack of understanding and lack of respect for the forces arrayed against New Orleans. Your decision amounts to nothing less that a blow to the city of New Orleans. Tulaneís School of Engineering has a chance to become an internationally renowned center for coastal restoration, wetland restoration, and flood protection like it was when Albert Baldwin Wood graduated.

Dr. Cowen, Iíve met you several times. Iím a good friend of Dr. John Karlem ďDuckyĒ Riess, who is more of a Tulane institution than the buildings at Tulane. Iíve known Ducky since I was born. I am the one who has chaperoned Dr. Riess to commencement the last few years. Ducky was bedridden and it took me moving heaven and earth to get Ducky to the last commencement. During that ceremony, we were both touched when you threw your speech on the ground, got on one knee and held the scepter in Duckyís arms and said ďIt wouldnít be official without your blessing.Ē Ducky had tears in his eyes.

Unfortunately, Ducky passed away in the aftermath of Katrina. I had the regrettable task of telling his sister that Ducky was dead. I served as a pall-bearer at his funeral. Tulane has lost a valuable member of its community.

Thatís why I consider the cuts to the engineering school to be nothing short of a stab in the back. Itís a shame Ducky isnít with us anymore. Knowing him for almost 22 years, I can safely say that even in the bedridden state he was in just before Katrina, heíd give you unholy hell.

Fortunately, Iím just as stubborn as Dr. Riess. There is always another way and I will help you come up with alternatives. I will accept a compromise that saves the core of the engineering program, but if you continue to pursue the total gutting of the engineering school, I can assure you Dr. Cowen, you will lose. Thatís a promise.

Let me remind you that youíve only been down here for about 8 years. You understand the city of New Orleans about as well as Michael Brown understands emergency management. You may be the president, but youíre not a local and you have no idea what I have in store for you.

I will now close this letter with a story from my ministerís recent sermons.

The Southern Live Oak. Quercus virginiana. We enjoy their shade, but we donít truly appreciate them. Oaks have evolved over millions of years to resist rot, fire, wind, water, flood, and even hurricanes. Oaks are a symbol of durability. We need to also give thanks to the people that planted these trees. They never lived to enjoy the shade. It takes 50 years for an oak tree to mature. Planting an oak tree is nothing less than an act of faith in the future. Oak trees are the anti-quick fix.

Recently, Tulane has adopted a policy of not planting oak trees. Theyíre a constant headache for maintenance. They tear up sidewalks and attack foundations. But the biggest reason Tulane doesnít plant them anymore is they donít have an immediate payoff. The landscaping people would rather plant a few weed-like trees and move on.

Please, plant oak trees. And Iím not just talking about the ones made of wood.



Sincerely,


William Clay Kirby
4th generation Tulanian
11th generation New Orleanian
Mechanical Engineering Class of 2006
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Clay Kirby
11th generation New Orleanian
4th generation Tulanian
Mechanical Engineering Class of '06
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wckirby



Joined: 10 Dec 2005
Posts: 355
Location: New Orleans

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 1:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've made a lot of snarky comments on this website. I want to make it clear to people that I don't want Tulane hurt by these cuts (more than it already will be, of course). I love Tulane. I love New Orleans. Say whatever else you want about me, but those two statements are the truth.
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Clay Kirby
11th generation New Orleanian
4th generation Tulanian
Mechanical Engineering Class of '06
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wckirby



Joined: 10 Dec 2005
Posts: 355
Location: New Orleans

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 1:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh yeah, and in case anyone is curious, I had my family's home flood and a good chunk of the roof ripped off. The damage, though, was only moderate. It's a mess, but none of the damagee will be permanent and we have flood insurance. Eventually everything will get settled down and fixed up.
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Clay Kirby
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4th generation Tulanian
Mechanical Engineering Class of '06
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mollyzogirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2005
Posts: 93
Location: New Orleans

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 9:46 am    Post subject: nothing short of great Reply with quote

That was a great letter. Hopefully Cowen will pay a little more attention to it than he has a lot of the other ones. Maybe we should all sit down and tell him our stories, give him a good cry or two. Its easier to slide under the surface if you write from the heart, instead of just out of anger. Two thumbs up, Clay.


P.S. already drafting a similar tale from myself, heck I may deliver it to his office personally.
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Kays



Joined: 13 Dec 2005
Posts: 7
Location: Louisiana

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Scott and all the board members owe us to hear each and every one of us affected students' stories. If they're prepared to make a decision like this, then they ought to be prepared to listen to every sad tale and shame on them if they don't want to.
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wckirby



Joined: 10 Dec 2005
Posts: 355
Location: New Orleans

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 6:12 pm    Post subject: Context Reply with quote

There's one line in the letter that I'm told could be taken out of context. The line reads "you're not a local and you have no idea what I have in store for you." When I wrote it, I intended it to mean I've got some tricks up my sleeve. My dad, who is a writer who proofread the letter, felt the same way.. Someone could get caught up in that one line and take it out of context. That was not my intent, nor do I believe anyone who reads the whole letter can reasonably believe that was my intent. Then again, cutting engineering is pretty unreasonable.

All in all, I like the letter. It's from the heart. For every harsh comment (Mike Brown), there's a counterpoint (Cowen's actions at the last commencement). I took a hard line, but I reached out for compromise.

Just wanted to clear that up.
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Clay Kirby
11th generation New Orleanian
4th generation Tulanian
Mechanical Engineering Class of '06
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ih8scottcowen



Joined: 09 Jan 2006
Posts: 36
Location: New Orleans, LA

PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2006 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scott, or more likely his secretary, replied with a basic form letter to tell me that engineering just wasn't part of his plan moving forward. I of course mentioned Mr. Filo's contribution to the university less than a year ago and my un-willingness to donate a penny to Tulane unless engineering was re-instated. letters to that guy are useless.
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wckirby



Joined: 10 Dec 2005
Posts: 355
Location: New Orleans

PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

By the way, to anyone who knew Dr. Riess, there will be a memorial service to him next Friday at 3 PM.

Duck's Memorial Service
Friday, January 20th
3 PM
St. Charles Ave. Presbyterian Church
1545 State Street
NO, LA 70118
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Clay Kirby
11th generation New Orleanian
4th generation Tulanian
Mechanical Engineering Class of '06
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wckirby



Joined: 10 Dec 2005
Posts: 355
Location: New Orleans

PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 9:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

oops, Typo. Dr. Riess was known as Ducky because he walked like a duck. He got that nickname at Newman when he was growing up in New Orleans. I accidentally wrote Duck's memorial service.
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Clay Kirby
11th generation New Orleanian
4th generation Tulanian
Mechanical Engineering Class of '06
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