A Storyby Tobias Wolff
The rumor was true—Ayn Rand would be our next visiting writer. Some of the masters were sore enough about this to let the story of their failed protest sift down to steerage. It seemed that the chairman of the board of trustees, Hiram Dufresne, an admirer of Rand’s novels, had insisted on the invitation. Mr. Dufresne was also very rich and rained money on the school—most recently the new science building and the Wardell Memorial Hockey Rink, named in honor of his roommate here, who’d been killed in the war.
He visited often and liked to give the blessing before meals, serving up plenty of Thees and Thous and Thines; and afterward he would join us in Blaine Hall and lend his surprisingly high voice to the singing—a big, happy-looking man with an obvious orange hairpiece and a shiny round face and little square teeth like a baby’s. He once stopped me on the quad to ask where I hailed from and how I liked the school, and as I gave my gushing answers he smiled and closed his eyes like a purring cat.
The headmaster invited Ayn Rand—so the story went—only because he was about to start a drive for scholarship funds and needed Mr. Dufresne’s support. A small party of masters came to object, and Mr. Ramsey used an impertinent metaphor, at which point the headmaster blew up and sent them home with hard feelings against both him and Dean Makepeace, who’d taken his side. It was a measure of their resentment that these masters let us hear so much about this dispute.