Photo by Max Herman. Published in the TCR Talks series of the Chicago Reporter.
Philip Nevels stands on Chicago's Jackson Boulevard Bridge downtown. The structure symbolizes the work he does with High Jump, an academic enrichment program designed to help build bridges of opportunity for local youth.
Philip Nevels grew up near the Pullman neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Thanks to his single mother and a unique academic enrichment program called High Jump, he attended a military boarding school, graduated from Princeton University, started a business, met his wife and started a family back here in Chicago.
And just this summer, Nevels assumed the role of vice chairman of High Jump’s Board of Trustees, giving back to the program that has given so much to him. He mentors new High Jump students—High Jumpers, as they are called—and helps his fellow alumni support each other professionally and personally.
“My life is basically my wife and three daughters, my professional career, and High Jump. And that's pretty much all I do,” Nevels says. “I encounter a lot of people who have achieved phenomenal success. And a lot of them forget how hard it was to get there, forget how many people it took to get them there. I haven't forgotten. And inasmuch as I can make progress easier for someone else who's 13 or 14 years old, I would like to.”
The Reporter recently met with Nevels to talk about his life and the impact of High Jump.
Written monthly for Elucidations, the University of Chicago's philosophy podcast, hosted by Dr. Matt Teichman.
This month, we discuss Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy with Greg Salmieri, who teaches at Rutgers University and Stevens Institute of Technology and is co-secretary of the American Philosophical Association’s Ayn Rand Society. Click here to listen to our conversation.
But wait: Ayn Rand is most famous for her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Where does she fit into mainstream, professional philosophy? Does she fit in at all? Salmieri encourages us to consider Rand with the perspective we afford others who have proven pivotal in philosophy: say, Descartes and Locke. In their own day, Descartes and Locke both did much else besides philosophy; but their larger critiques involved philosophy, and were deepened all the more so because they did not restrict themselves to their day’s philosophy. Those critiques have gone on to shape philosophy profoundly, so much so that today we can take their once-unique approaches for granted – and so we can take their being philosophers for granted. Perhaps we do not yet appreciate the impact Ayn Rand can ultimately have on philosophy?
Regardless of her present or future recognition as a philosopher, Salmieri unearths for us a wealth of ideas from Rand’s work. Rand did above all strive to be a novelist, especially in the romantic tradition of Victor Hugo. But as a novelist, she wrote of epic moral conflicts motivated by people passionately committed to particular values – particular moral philosophies. This broached her probing of what makes a value at once right and objective, but not impersonal or imposed. And it related to her more explicitly controversial perspectives, exemplified not least in her book titled The Virtue of Selfishness.
Join us as Greg Salmieri helps us further make sense of this and other ideas in Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy.
Published in the Viewpoints section of the Chicago Maroon, the student-run newspaper of the University of Chicago.
In an article published last week, “Chronic illness has taken the backseat in trauma center debate” (4/21/15), The Maroon broached the question: Is Chicago’s epidemic of violence more or less worthy of attention than its epidemic of chronic illness?
To which I could not help but wonder: Who are you or I to decide which of these two issues is more important to permanent residents of the South Side?
If the issue of these disparities were only a problem of their respective feasibility, then we could rely on data to inform our opinions about which issue is more practical to address.
But these health disparities are, above all, a problem of priorities. This past January, our state’s Department of Public Health found that unlike all the other medical centers on the South Side, ours can indeed secure the resources needed to sustain a top-level adult trauma center.
Thus, we need knowledge not only to quantify the problems, but also to change the priorities of medical center executives. The question is not just, “What needs to change most?” but also, “Who can actually make change happen?
Four years ago, the trauma care debate was a dead issue. Yet, as evidenced by last week’s article, this issue has been brought back to life in more recent years. This has not happened because of people with so much as a four-year degree. No, it has happened because a handful of our most marginalized neighbors—many of them young, black, and queer—know something better than almost anyone on our campus.
To be sure, they and their communities know chronic illness more than most of us ever will. But even more compellingly, they know chronic violence: As The Maroon itself cited, black youths’ risk of homicide is four times that of white youth, and 26 times that of general Chicagoans. And they know this not just through data, but experience.
Recall: Organizer, musician, and son, Damien Turner, was shot four blocks from our medical center. With no adult trauma center there, or anywhere on the South Side, he was taken 10 miles away, to the nearest of the North Side’s seven trauma centers.
There, just after midnight—four years ago and counting—Damien died, and his peers began their long march toward trauma care.
It’s clear that these youth leaders are able to have a kind of knowledge that bystanders do not, a kind of knowledge that stems from experience and loss—the type of knowledge that has motivated years of organized struggle, and makes change happen.
So before we decide what other issue this or that group should really, ideally evaluate, perhaps it’s time we ourselves raised our voices along with those youth. Perhaps it’s time we made our medical center make trauma care a priority. If we can do that, we’ll know how to make more change happen. We can take up chronic illness next.
Written for the the Calvert House, the Catholic center at the University of Chicago.
Why the Calvert House?
Why, indeed, the Church?
But first—why such hard questions? This is, after all, a newsletter; I’m just supposed to tell you about Calvert’s recent retreat.
So to recount: On a frigid Friday evening, amidst midterm exams and papers, thirty of us students gathered. We supped. We shared. We prayed. We were warmed by the food, fellowship, and faith. It was all very nice. (See the nice picture.)
Why, then, such big, hard questions?
Well, I’m writing for a newsletter, but I’m writing from Chicago. I’m writing from the school where famously, notoriously, ideas trump feelings, and ease doesn't cut it. Nor, in reflection, did that little retreat recount. For since that evening, I’ve realized that the experience was not only nice, but profound; not only relaxing, but empowering. And newsletter though this is, I submit that to understand this power, you have to understand my own larger struggle with Calvert. And to understand my struggle with Calvert, you have to understand my generation’s larger struggle with the Church.
Good afternoon, everyone! In true academic form, I shall shamelessly read my prepared remarks from a piece of paper:
On behalf of Coulter house, and particularly Natalie, my partner in crime who’s currently braving a midterm, we’re honored, heartened, and humbled by this administrative recognition.
We’re also a bit hesitant: After all, while current administrators, several in this room, have taken flack and taken action on the University’s historic challenges of identity and community, we as a house have only just begun probing the possibilities of peer-led, dorm-centered service.
Published in a newsletter of City Year Chicago, an AmeriCorps education corps.
His name is Roberto Perez, and he wants to become a doctor. Until then, he sits at the front of the room, neglecting the lesson as he studies a poster listing Chicago’s top ten high schools. “Mr. Surya, what is an ‘AP class’?” he whispers to me during Ms. Adams's gazillionth explanation of two-step equations. “How far away is North Side College Prep? When do I apply? Can I get into that school?”
His name is Roberto Perez, and his score from the North Western Evaluation Association’s Measure of Academic Progress pins him squarely alongside the average american third-grader. Equations and abstraction are not quite yet his strength. Class, taught awkwardly between seventh-grade level it’s supposed to be taught at and the far lower level his peers work at, at times tries his patience. And he, for that matter, at times tries mine.
To Whom It May Concern:
I am eighteen, about to start college, and consequently victim to everything everyone else enjoys teaching me about how I ought to carry out the rest of my days. And who better to showcase these lessons for life—these lifetimes of lessons—these speeches, self-helps, sermons, and, yes, nomination letters—than the very people who embody them?
It’s time for show and tell.
Warren Buffett tells us this! Michelle Obama tells us this! Even Lady Gaga tell us this!
But what do they show us? What do we learn from what they say, and what do we learn from what we see?
Examples of wealth, power, and celebrity are certainly lucrative, but hardly liberating. After all, what about the rest of us, who, when most ourselves, are not opulent, obeyed, or ogled at? Hopefully we all can follow our hearts to fulfillment, but heaven forbid all of us be all-stars.
Enter my savior incarnate.
Published in the opinion page of the Holland Sentinel, the newspaper of Holland, Michigan.
Holland — Life’s not fair, but watching Holland High’s commencement Monday, I thought for a moment that life had made an exception.
Lines of graduates of varying accomplishment strode in wearing identical red or white gowns. All wore the same square hats, so all looked equally silly. And on those hats ...
There life had me. Some graduates displayed multiple tassels; most had one. Some draped cords around their necks; most had none. A handful of names arose repeatedly, but most only heard their names while receiving their diploma covers.
And so it struck me that if my own two recent graduations were at all representative, the graduates who’d grown most were being recognized least.
To Whom it May Concern:
I am a compulsively judgmental person. I observe, I compare, I prod, and with minimal hesitation, I condemn. In my court, the “burden of proof” lies with affirmation.
Nonetheless, after evaluating Dr. Karen Spencer for over two years, I am forced to conclude that she is, in the words of one former Michigan Teacher of the Year, a “master educator.”
Remarks as student-body president at the 2012 commencement of Holland High School, in Holland, Michigan.
Dearest members of the ever-so esteemed Class of 2012:
The confession I am about to make will no doubt shock you. I have kept this to myself for years, in fact, but the trust we’ve developed in these past few weeks assures me that my secret will be safe with you. Here it goes: I am not really a sports person. I don’t play sports. I don’t watch sports. I don’t even know how many quarterbacks are on our soccer team.
[my name] at yahoo dot com