Letter to CLS Community on the Occasion of Reunion'99

Dear Cherry Lawn Alumni and Friends:

As you know, a monkey wrench has been thrown our way, compelling us to miss the '99 Reunion which we had arranged and so much wanted to attend, reminisce with old friends and meet new ones. Unfortunately, I have a continuing responsibility in the Balkans, and the priority could not be overcome. So allow me to greet you and briefly share a couple of dominant experiences from Cherry Lawn days with you.

It was December 1941. My sister Renee and I had arrived at Cherry Lawn in late September, lucky refugees from Nazi occupied France (and that is a story to be told in a different forum), illiterate in English, except for the long list of English irregular verbs. The day was Sunday, December 7th, and we were having dinner in the Cherry Lawn Commons. Dick Reid was going table to table, quietly making an announcement to each, followed by exclamations of surprise. When Dick came to our table, he said something about Japan having attacked Pearl Harbor. I had no idea of where was Pearl Harbor, but sensed the enormity of the event.

The next day, we assembled in Manor House to hear the speech that President Franklin Roosevelt was to make to the assembled U.S. Congress. "Yesterday, December 7th, a date which will live in infamy..." I did not understand a word of it, but I got the gist that the U.S. was declaring war on Japan. I have since listened many times to that famous declamation, perhaps to make up for my failure to fully appreciate that day, that the war we had escaped in Europe had joined us now in the United States. Some three years later I was to join the U.S. Army, although I wanted to join the Navy, but my then still heavily accented English precluded that enlistment.

Christina Staël and Boris Bogoslavsky were truly extraordinary human beings. I learned historical perspective from the first and science from the second, and both disciplines are those I follow to this day. And who can forget the introduction of news of the day at assembly with the "What are the news?" from Boris? Before coming to the U.S. I had pursued theater as an avocation, and this brought me in contact with another remarkable teacher, Basil Burwell: I played a number of small roles in his marvelous productions, but he finally decided that my English was unintelligible for the lead in "Man of Destiny", which he assigned to my friend Henry Rosowsky, who did a superb interpretation of it. Henry driving us from Cambridge to Maine, with my wife and I, visited Basil at his home and theater, and Nancy Burwell in the spring of 1996. Basil has died since, and I honor his memory. There were other unusual teachers, such as Dr. Strasser who played important roles in my development, but those reminiscences are better held for another day.

With kindest personal regards to you all,

Professor Elie A. Shneour

Dated 5-July-1999