A Penn Alumnus Remembers

Author: Lynn Carroll, C’93

Most Penn students arrive for their freshman year at the tender age of eighteen. They are questioning, seeking—naïve in some ways perhaps, often idealistic.

When Aaron Heller arrived at Penn he was twenty-two, like many students of his time. He had spent the past three years overseas, part of the enormous clash of humanity that was World War II. They were a different kind of student—more serious in some ways, better able to put life into perspective—but still seeking, and determined to take advantage of the GI Bill to get a good education.

Today, Aaron asserts that he is still seeking. He and his wife Rita (CW’48), voracious readers and lifetime learners, have traveled the world to see works of art that they read about in Proust. He has also become a painter as was his older brother, Samuel.

The following excerpt is from an essay entitled “Coming Home” which Aaron wrote his freshman year at Penn, nearly sixty-five years ago:

He was short in build, this overseas returnee, and his face was flushed. His hat was sitting at an indeterminate angle. His overcoat was unbuttoned and flapped disturbingly as he ran to the ticket window.

The scene in the railroad station became indelibly imprinted in the mind. Fur coats, arms and legs, natural and man-made hues gradually resolved themselves into an intelligible impression. The complacent fat jowl above the camel-hair overcoat pierced the scene and sickened him.

“How much to Philadelphia?” he asked the ticket seller.

“Two dollars and thirty cents.” The voice that spoke was monotonous and unconcerned. It disturbed him even more when he could find no moral reason to attach to his disturbance.

Every eye was watching him and his face flushed. He was clumsy while he placed his baggage on the rack and stammered apologies to an indifferent woman. His mind slowly perceived that this woman with wrinkled face and arthritic legs was in her own petty world. He looked at the other passengers to discover that they dwelt in a circle that used the width of the body as a diameter.

You can read the entire essay here

World War II veterans at Penn, Veteran's Club, group portrait


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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Campus Life, Historical, Lynn Carroll, Memories of Penn

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