Bankers as Public Servants
“Good Fences Make Good Bankers” by William J. Quirk (Spring 2013) reminds me of an experience I had in the 1950s. A final-year law student interviewing for a position with a major bank in Ohio, I had the temerity to ask the interviewer what kind of financial future I might expect in a legal career with a bank. He paused and in measured tones told me that if I was concerned with financial success, I should not go into banking. Banking, he said earnestly, was a quasi-public-service industry, and its primary mission was to protect the funds of its depositors and assist its borrowing customers.
Can you picture a bank interviewer, with a straight face, uttering these same words to a young job applicant today?
FRED D. SHAPIRO
Pepper Pike, Ohio
William Quirk’s article prompted me to recall some of my father’s insights. As a banker in rural eastern North Carolina for about 50 years in the middle of the last century, he repeatedly asserted two beliefs:
• No bank has any business speculating with its depositors’ money.
• The purpose of a [traditional commercial] bank is to help people and businesses in a community grow and prosper—not to get them in over their heads with indebtedness they cannot support.
Wisdom, indeed, from a country banker.
CLIFFORD C. SIMPSON
Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
Repealing the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act was like drilling through watertight doors and then hitting an iceberg. Gramm-Leach-Bliley [the 1999 act that repealed much of Glass-Steagall] was an unmitigated disaster.
LEWIS C. TAISHOFF
from our website
Donald Hall’s “One Road” brought back memories of my trip to Istanbul in 1959 after a summer’s study in Bonn, Germany. My bicycle had been stolen from in front of the university I was attending, so a fellow Kalamazoo College student and I stuck out our thumbs. Somewhere in Austria, a German in a VW Beetle stopped and asked us where we were going. He was headed to Istanbul, he said, and we went along with him. The road was in better condition than Hall experienced seven years earlier, but it still yielded adventures. After a youth hostel stay in Istanbul, my companion and I returned west, not via Brindisi, Italy, as Hall did, but on the Orient Express and then a local train through Yugoslavia.
I was touched as well by Hall’s account of the stresses of professional careers on marriages at that time, when women’s expectations were beginning to expand—strains I experienced in my own marriage. Thanks to him for sharing his beautifully written adventure and triggering my memories.
JOHN N. HOWELL
Responding to the university presidents who suggested that laptop courses are antithetical to a liberal arts education (PBK Presidents Poll), I am currently taking an online course from the University of Virginia and compare it favorably to the many lecture courses I took when I went to college a long time ago. Then, we sat in a large hall, heard the professor discourse for 50 minutes (no questions taken), and repaired a few days later to a seminar on the subject.
One advantage of the online course is that you get to see the professor’s facial expressions and illustrations up close—difficult in a large lecture hall. There is also the equivalent of an online seminar: “threads” in which students discuss relevant issues back and forth, sometimes aided by university staff.
Best of all, you can replay the lecture as many times as required, until it sinks in.
New York City
Jacques Barzun read Helen Hazen’s first published article and knew she was brightly versed (Books Essay). He knew that she could write and sensed too the value of an honest voice. It speaks generously and interestingly of Hazen’s start as a writer with a most treasured mentor.
from our website
Helen Hazen—but probably not Jacques Barzun—is just wrong when she writes, “The past of careen is careered (at least when it applies to rapid forward movement).” Career and careen are verbs with slightly different meanings, and each has its own past tense. Careered is to have moved at full speed; careened is to have swerved or lurched while in motion.
Port Townsend, Washington
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