The lyrics of the Whiffenpoof's Song wafted not around New Haven, N.H., but on Madison Avenue last week:
We're poor little lambs who have lost our way
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We're little black sheep who have gone astray
Baa! Baa! Baa!
These words were sung while a group of Yale alumni gathered at the Municipal Art Society to celebrate a privately printed history of Yale and the 20th century. The book is a labor of love by architect Richard Nash Gould, Yale class of 1968, who was a creator of the temporary "Tribute In Light" memorial honoring the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Mr. Gould originally set out to chart the history of the a capella group, the Whiffenpoofs, but it grew into a current two-volume set. Volume one is entitled "Yale College Twentieth Century: A History in Present Time," with over 2,500 illustrations; the second volume is entitled "Whiffenpoofs Twentieth Century," with over 2,000 illustrations and four cds of Whiffenpoof's music from 1915 to 2002. Information on the books is available on the Internet at www.thetwentiethcenturyproject.com.
"If you really look," the dean of the Yale School of Architecture Robert Stern, told The New York Sun, "you are seeing a history of the 20th century seen through young people's eyes. No body in the book is over 21."
Whiffenpoof alumni singers - some call themselves "The Imposters"- sang other songs that evening such as "Strike Up the Band." Sarah Lawrence College chief financial officer, Dennis Cross, a Yale alumnus, joined a circle of those singing including Thomas Flournoy.
Seen watching the performance was Yale University chief research archivist Judith Ann Schiff, who said the first exhibit of the papers of Anne Morrow Lindbergh opens at the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale on June 16. Mr. Stern is co-authoring the book "New York 2000: Architecture and Urbanism from the Bicentennial to the Millennium," due out from Monacelli in November.
Meanwhile, the current Whiffenpoofs are scheduled to perform in Las Vegas tomorrow. Later in the week they perform in Los Angeles, then leave for New Zealand and Australia as part of their world tour. Mark your calendar for 2009 when the Whiffenpoofs celebrate their 100th birthday, possibly with an a capella festival.
One person at the gathering called Mr. Gould's book "a kind of illuminated manuscript of Yale in the 20th century." Edward Bass, who had traveled from Fort Worth, Texas, to be a host, said, "You can spend a lifetime getting to know this book."
BROWNING BUNCH President Stephen Downey presided at the annual meeting and lunch of the New York Browning Society, which featured Princeton professor Paul Muldoon. After a reading, Mr. Muldoon answered a question of whether poetry is in a "downward spiral." He did not think so, and praised rap music as one aspect. Pope and Dryden, he said, may have relished much of rap. Taking up the theme, the Browning Society president, Mr. Downey, said, "Since 1907 our society has never missed a beat. We are diverse and inclusive."
Earlier that afternoon, Temple University professor emeritus Glen Allan Omans presided over the presentation of the poetry award for best poems submitted by secondary school students in New York. Winners were Austin Crimmins of Fordham Preparatory School; Chiara Di Lello of Hunter College High School, and Amanda Wachtel of the Spence School.
NOBEL NACHAS At the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research 81st anniversary celebration, director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Sciences at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. Eric Kandel, presented fellow Nobelist Dr. Richard Axel with the YIVO Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Axel's work has probed how genes shape perception of the sensory environment. Dr. Kandel won his Nobel Prize for studying changes in brain cells as memories are formed.
SCHAMA SAYS The British consulgeneral in New York, Sir Philip Thomas, hosted a reception for Simon Schama's book "Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution." Calculating the number of previous books that Mr. Schama had written, HarperCollins president Jane Friedman said that he had "12 titles to his name." Mr. Schama humorously began to list them: "Professor, Mr., ..."
KNICK-KNACKS To honor the life and work of the late author and preservationist Jane Jacobs, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation is considering ideas such as renaming part of Hudson Street near where she lived or renaming a park that holds the Bleecker Playground in her honor...Literary agent Virginia Barber will offer remarks on August 13, as short story writer Alice Munro will receive the MacDowell Medal at a public ceremony in Peterborough, N.H.