Back in the early 1970s, as freelance editor of the Villanova University Alumni Magazine, I published an issue with a feature story called “Black Villanova.” This was the cover.
As you might imagine, in those days of “Black Power,” a raised black fist wearing a VU ring was pretty controversial. Indeed, this was the most controversial issue I ever published, as the rest of the contents included a trio of articles on the nation’s education crisis by Bill Jones ’57, then Director of Information Services for the Philadelphia School District; my brother Ken Curtin, ’65, a Vista lawyer, and Ron Javers, ’67, then a teacher in Philadelphia, later editor of Philadelphia Magazine and later than that one of the journalists wounded at Jonestown, plus an excerpt from The Arab-Israeli Dilemma, a book by Prof. Fred J. Khouri of the Political Science Department, which provide an Arab perspective on the Middle East.
My cover story was not by-lined and was introduced by a poem written by black student activist Steve Francis, ’72. When a meeting of the Alumni Board was called by some members who were upset by the story, I realized just how fully I had captured what I intended as I learned that several of them were convinced the story itself had been written by Francis. “This is just some black kid with a chip on his shoulder,” one member told me.
I doubt I would have been censured or fired but, as it turned out, that was the day of one of the great upsets ever in the Eastern NCAA Regional Basketball Finals, as 10-loss Villanova blew away undefeated and third-ranked University of Pennsylvania, 90-47, and the meeting fell apart in the ensuing wave of good will and making arrangements to go to Houston. Villanova played UCLA in the finals and lost by the smallest margin of any team which faced John Wooten’s machine in the finals of it its fantastic multi-year NCAA run.
All of which is a very long buildup to noting that one of the people who inspired my story, Larry James, died yesterday. He was a wonderful human being.