Archive for October, 2010

Getting somewhere?


I’m pretty tired, but glad to have published

an international news review:


“Women journalists break story of

hormonal breast cancer risk”

It’s on my new Chicago health examiner page.  Wrote two others in the past 24 hours.  And I haven’t even touched Purple Day for GLBQ teen suicide yet, a subject dear to my heart.

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Penn Reunion 40.  1971 may be toast, but we’re not!

May 13-16, 2011


Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed.” –Irena Peter

Whether you had a love, hate, or neutral relationship with our alma mater, one thing is clear: the times we had at Penn will never change.  But our lives, our waistlines, and certainly the campus have.

(above: Harnwell House in “Superblock,” now Hamilton Village Towers
Our new/old class song:
“Time has come today”
by the Chambers Brothers

To embark on this VERY special reunion, we’ve set up an interactive class page on facebook.  Also, several of us have come up with a few thoughts that return us to the magic, fear, and wonder we shared as the Sixties turned into the Seventies.  For example:

“Hey!  Bernie Z. and the guys were great, but let’s not forget the Penn basketball team, who went to the NCAA championships during our campus residency!”–Sandi

“Somebody had to do it. When one of the first Penn peace rallies was held in the Palestra, I was working lights with Teitz.”–Stu

October 15, 1969 march on Washington

“This red thing in the middle of Superblock was called ‘COVENANT.’       What’s COVENANT supposed to mean?”

–Many of us

We’ll all have a chance in a contest next month to turn similar memories into tangible rewards, from useful U of P objets d’art, to money-saving tickets for reunion events.  And the undersigned hope you’ll email some choice photos for the ’71 photo albums we are gathering on the facebook page.

Here’s what people are thinking about for our big alumni weekend:

*Friday night: Meet, greet, schmooze at our Class Lounge and the All-Reunion party in Houston Hall

*All weekend: All-alumni academic panels–possibly featuring some of our classmates!

*Saturday is Alumni Day!  It’s already a full one–

  • Conversation with Penn’s president, Dr. Amy Gutmann
  • Parade of 1000s down Locust Walk
  • Class of 1971 picnic on College Hall Green
  • Then-and-Now campus tours (join with others or do one on our own)
  • Arts and Culture at Penn exhibits
  • All-alumni Taste of Penn celebration (evening)
  • 1971 Reunion party (details to follow)

Sunday: All-alum pancake feast or/and free time to spend with classmates!

The Penn Alumni room block is at The Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, 1201 Market Street.  Shuttles available.  Our Alumni Weekend rate is $179/night plus tax.  Contact the Philadelphia Marriott online to book your room at http://www.alumni.upenn.edu/alumniweekend2011/marriott.html, or call 800-266-9432 and ask for a Penn Alumni Weekend room (available until 4/22).

Please add, subtract, divide, or multiply about the planned schedule.  What do YOU think our classmates might enjoy?  Everyone’s ideas are welcome.  Join us on the mystery trip on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=164358280245172&ref=ts), and look for our next class of ’71 e-update soon.

For Pennsylvania,


>>>   We have a great Penn administrative contact in Lisbeth Willis (, if you need info beyond these e-letters and facebook).  By the way, this committee’s focus is twofold: to make sure that reunion news reaches as many of the diverse and far-flung ’71 community as we can locate, and to help Penn provide us a memorable, truly “relevant” gathering.

So count on our emails and the facebook site to keep everybody in touch.  We’ll take your suggestions to the alumni office and provide you with lots of info about the planned activities.  Even if you’re not sure you can attend, please pencil the May 13-15 dates on your calendar as party time, 2011.




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New venture–please help if you are so inclined.  If you have more than one e-address, the more, the merrier.  Thanks!  —  S.

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by Sandy Dechert, Chicago Women’s Health Examiner

October 12th, 2010 5:07 pm CT

A milestone has been reached in the treatment of new injuries to the spinal cord. After positive results in treating animals with this therapy, physicians started using human embryonic stem cells yesterday to treat severe, very recent spinal injuries in people.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration licensed Geron, Inc., of Menlo Park, California, to conduct the world’s first test in humans of a therapy derived from embryonic stem cells.

These cells are the building blocks of a human being. They develop from a female egg several days after it is fertilized by sperm. Contained in the fetus, they remain within a pregnant woman until birth. The cells are in our bodies all our lives, but early stem cells can morph into every type of tissue in the body.

Dr. Richard Fessler, professor of neurological surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, leads the team in this national investigation. Fessler, an MD-PHD and graduate of University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, is a recognized expert in minimally invasive and complex spine surgeries.

Northwestern was the first of seven sites to be approved for the safety tests of the new therapy.  The Shepherd Center in Atlanta, a 132-bed spinal cord and brain injury rehab facility, began treating the first patient on October 11, 2010.

Scientists hope that stem cells may transform medicine by recoating (remyelinating) nerve cells that have lost their ability to conduct electrical impulses. One day, they may be used for reversing birth defects, repairing damaged organs, regenerating injured spines, reducing transplant risk, providing cures for diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and juvenile diabetes, and possibly even fighting cancer.

Details of the Geron study are being kept confidential because of the ethical debate on the use of human embryos, which some liken to abortion. Because Geron has done all its work with its own funding, it is not subject to the debate over federal funding of the research. Rather than obtaining the cells from aborted embryos, Fessler and his colleagues use human embryonic tissue left over from successful fertility treatments.

The late Christopher Reeve, the multiple award-winning actor who played film and comic hero Superman, was instrumental in creating a foundation for this type of research, which might have saved his own life. Almost 6 million paralyzed Americans may use their limbs again if and when this therapy is proven.

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Friends, this author has recently been quiet because she is in the midst of a new writing experiment.  It is supposed to provide wide communications potential, fame, and fortune.

Unfortunately, the fortune is just a bit elusive, and so I must ask you a huge favor.  I have now become the Chicago Women’s Health Examiner for an online magazine.  One of the ways the company pays contributors like me is by subscription.  In other words, the more subscribers I have, the more I get paid.

I’d like to enlist your help on a one-time effort for 30 seconds in this quest.  You don’t even have to read my submissions.  Just go to http://www.examiner.com/womens-health-in-chicago/sandy-dechert .  Click the “Subscribe” box under my name and title.

At this point, you can choose (1) to follow my feeble attempts at describing the state of women’s health in Chicago, or (2) to retain this subscription BUT put the mag on your spam list.  Then you won’t be bothered by it if you don’t want to read it, but I will still get credit for your subscription.

As you can see, the pay is so meager that I’m having to invent some wily strategies here.  But maybe if I get a lot of hits, they’ll promote me to National Women’s Health Advisor….

At least I’m getting new business cards out of this.

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Across from Bryn Mawr’s Suburban Hardware store, with the big white horse out front, was a place that turned Lancaster Avenue into heaven for a few hours every weekend evening.  Jeanette Orndoff Campbell, the owner, booked acts, baked gingerbread and brownies and coffee and cider, and ran the place from its opening night in a 1964 blizzard until its closing 17 years later.  She also ran a no-cost B&B for all her performers.

The Main Point provided the Philadelphia area with one of its premier venues for mid-20th-century live music.  It started as a folk-based coffeehouse.  Artists like Odetta, Doc Watson, Eric Anderson, Tom Rush, Dave Van Ronk, Gordon Bok, and Arlo Guthrie gave the Main Point its original identity.  Ricky Nelson of Ozzie and Harriet fame also took the stage.

Later on, the place came to feature more styles of music.  There were gigs by artists like James Taylor, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Bonnie Raitt, the Manhattan Transfer, Billy Joel, John Prine, Jim Croce, Jackson Browne, and Bruce Springsteen. For many of them, the venue started off platinum careers.  Usually, these musicians and singers came back for repeat appearances.  At once lively and intimate, the Main Point offered them the comforts of home and a wholly devoted group of fans in the audience.

The photo (right) of 17-year-old Michael Favinger, who opened for Jackson Browne (“Doctor my eyes”) and Chris Smithers in 1971 shows about how close this writer came to Linda Ronstadt in Bryn Mawr, 1967.  Then unknown, the versatile Arizona singer and the Stone Poneys folk-rock trio belted their Billboard 100 hit single, Mike Nesmith’s “Different Drum,” and enchanted listeners with the haunting “Evergreen” at the Main Point.  Later, the  west coast songstress broke through with the album Heart Like A Wheel, established the country rock genre.  She went on to become a 100 million record-seller with 30+ albums, an outspoken political liberal, and a national advocate for the arts.

On Halloween in 1973, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band knocked out the Main Point with a few performances that he later featured on the album “before the flood.” See ‘http://daz.com/artists/Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.html’ for a taste.  Springsteen also premiered “Thunder Road” there.

Several years later, Warren Zevon personalized his hit “Werewolves of London” to include lines like “Werewolves of Bryn Mawr” and “Werewolves of Greater Philly”  in a show that was broadcast from the Main Point.  The University of Penn’s radio station, WXPN, and counterculture headquarters WMMR often ran specials from the popular coffeehouse.

The Main Point was open only for shows, not at other times.  Seats were not reserved, and the audience would line up on Lancaster Pike long in advance of the opening of the doors.  Inside, wooden chairs were grouped together in rows, with a shelf attached to the back of each row that served as the table for the seat behind.

“The staff was real nice. It had a great social sense; it was a wonderful place to go. It was a comfortable place to hang out and hear some great music and jam sessions,” said Philadelphia Folk Festival cofounder and longtime WXPN deejay Gene Shay.

However, financial problems continually plagued the Main Point.  The fact that Ms. Campbell did not serve alcohol was probably a primary factor in the financial problems that ultimately led to its demise.  In spite of frequent benefit shows by artists who loved the place as much as the audience did, the club finally had to close in 1981.  A successor called “The Point” operated a few doors down the street from 1998 to 2005.

The Main Point made parents a little uneasy, back in the days.  Keeping kids off the streets, promoting a comfortable, booze-free, and value-centric culture, pioneering the voices of popular music, and all.  Miss it.

Much of this essay was inspired by William Kates (wkates@hotmail.com), host since July 2004 of “Music & More” (Because music has the unique power to make life better), on Blogger.  Many of the photos and graphics come from a 1974 publication called The Main Point 10 Years On…, which was a special anniversary publication.  The shot of the MP staff in front of the place was taken by Bryn Mawr’s own Ross Watson, owner of The Camera Shop just down the street.










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