January 17th, 2012 | University

Directed Studies for life might really be for life

Over the holidays, Directed Studies for Life alum Andrew Lipka '78 sent out the above card, featuring a photo of the DSers taken during the program.
Over the holidays, Directed Studies for Life alum Andrew Lipka '78 sent out the above card, featuring a photo of the DSers taken during the program. Photo by Norma Thompson.

True to their name, the 15 participants in Yale’s first-ever “Directed Studies for Life” are keeping in touch.

Andrew Lipka ’78 recently sent a holiday card (see above photo) to participants and faculty in the program, which last summer brought alumni, their spouses and parents of Yale students back to campus to study the classics. The card contained the following poem, adapted from “The Iliad” by Alex Troy ’81. Troy originally presented it at the conclusion of the summer DS program — some of those present were reportedly moved to tears.

The full text of the poem is below. We suggest you stage a dramatic reading in true Homeric tradition, or, in true DS tradition, look for allusions to Homer and his pals:

Rage? Goddess, you misheard. Sing of age, not rage.

Tell how Dean Miller summoned splendid scholars,

the fifteen finest, culled from class ’45 to ’99.

How to Eli they returned, to DS and Yale’s narrow beds.

Begin Muse, with how the deathless gods

now live atop East Rock, their Olympian summit

seized when Greece went bust.

How Zeus and family for Yale work

serving Directed Studies, immortal but untenured,

so that when Dean Miller, wily as Odysseus,

conceived DS for Life, Athena she dispatched.

“Tap fifteen,” the dean directed.

The grey eyed goddess sped to earth

and just as the Bones selects the supreme,

so Athena chose this company of the curious,

lovers of learning, let me list them now:

George, first in years and wisdom,

old Nestor spoke not half so well.

Swift footed Steve, the only one

Time had not yet tagged.

Nick, Asclepius’ helper, he

hurls questions bright as thunderbolts.

John H, father of three sturdy sons,

tall as Yale elms, rowers of swift boats.

Fred, whose black Amex shielded us from shame

when Ibiza tendered the tapas fattened bill.

White-armed Ann, who joined us

from across the salt sea.

Andrea, teacher of Torah, Miriam’s mom,

her questions always sound like song.

Sunny Carmen, eager to test her new-won wisdom

on young Quinn, her sturdy son.

Andy, who sharpens the sights of others,

always sharpened ours.

Karen and Harry — who could not be moved to see

their heads bent close, each holding half of Homer,

one book binding two souls.

Marshall, consistent as a comet, does DS every fifty years.

May the Fates decree we join him when Haley reappears.

John R, more traveled than Odysseus, knows the wine dark sea,

and John B, like Nestor, has counseled leaders and kings.

Sing now, goddess of their brave deeds,

of how they grappled with the Greeks:

When they finished Homer, wiped away the gore

struggled they with slippery Socrates

swallowing his snide style as sweet Norma

assured he’d grow on us as once he did on her;

Aristotle next, so fond of “if’s” and “when’s,”

his chapters lacked beginnings, middles, ends;

Thucydides, like Yertle, piled up clause on clause

so never did we learn that war’s cause.

Yet this we know: Athens is O and one.

Shipmates, our journey is now complete.

We heroes head for home,

taking with us our memories and our deeds.

May it be the deathless gods unshakable vow

that we all reconvene with Marshall fifty years from now.