In Response to: A Combustible Mix 

I was very fortunate to have known Professor Jones well. I had taken “Organic Chemistry” my sophomore year with the legendary masters of “Orgo,” the acknowledged toughest graders teaching this most difficult course at Princeton, Professors Paul Schleyer and Edward Taylor. Several students in my year, having studied extremely hard, managed to ace the course and were very proud of this accomplishment. Deciding to major in the brand new field of biochemistry, I chose Professor Jones as my senior thesis adviser.

But the next year, the organic chemistry course was turned over to Professor Jones. I had warned those of my friends who now would be taking Orgo how difficult the course had been. Working on my thesis in the lab that year closely with Professor Jones and his graduate students, I wondered how his Orgo students would fare. After both the midterms and finals, my friends said how easy Prof. Jones’ course was. I was shocked. Several then showed me their exam papers and grades — most with A’s and A+’s. Looking over the exam questions, indeed the exams seemed quite easy, compared to those of Schleyer and Taylor.  

Working with Professor Jones, I had found him to be a most personable and warm teacher. So immediately, I went right into Jones’ office and chided him: How could he have given out such an easy final exam and so many easy grades? He just smiled. From then through my graduation, many times I teased him about him being such an easy grader.

After graduation and then into medical school and a career as a radiation oncologist, I kept in occasional contact with Professor Jones. He would send me follow-up bio-organic chemistry articles, which had extended the research I had done in his lab. I still appreciate his guidance as my thesis adviser.

So when I now read that NYU students complain of how hard a grader Professor Maitland Jones Jr. is, I think back to his easy exams and easy grades in the early 1970s. I laugh, wondering what today’s students would have said had they had to face Professors Schleyer or Taylor!

Gene Kopelson ’73, M.D.
Longboat Key, Fla.