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Alexander Herzen
Alexander Herzen

Letter to the Editor
A Rice Moment

The other night I was having trouble falling asleep, and my mind went back to my Rice experiences 50 years ago. I thought: “How did Rice shape my thinking? What were the most valuable experiences I had at Rice?” I took a Russian history course taught by Professor Gale Stokes.* After all these years, I clearly remember one assignment, which was to read two biographies of Russian writer Alexander Herzen.

Our assignment was to write a 10-page paper contrasting the biographies. How were the authors’ portrayals similar, how different? Did two different pictures of Herzen emerge? I did a lot of walking around campus, a bit overwhelmed until I finally had the idea to focus on how each author presented one small episode in Herzen’s life. One writer saw Herzen in an active role — making decisions, determining paths and outcomes; the second writer saw Herzen as more reactive and passive.

This unlocked the paper and the challenge for me, and the paper flowed. What an assignment! It challenged me to read, ponder, detect critical differences and write. A Rice moment that helped shape the way I’ve thought ever since. Thanks again for your always interesting publication.  — Jerry Brodkey ’74 (Hanszen)

*Gale Stokes was the Mary Gibbs Jones Professor Emeritus of History and dean of humanities. He died in 2012.


We love our magazine in print, and we also love it online, where our stories are easily shareable. Here are the  top-read online stories from Rice Magazine’s Fall 2022 issue, according to Google Analytics.

1. “Pleased to Meet You, President DesRoches”

2. “Fresh Faces, New Spaces”

3. “We Choose to Return to the Moon”

4. “By the Numbers: Class of 2026”

5. “Who’s Behind Wikipedia?”