Mine Ener: How Should She Be Remembered After She Did an Awful Thing?

Historians in the News

Robin Wilson, in the Chronicle of Higher Education (3-14-05):

Mine Ener would have liked the Oriental rug and the two copper end tables. They have the kind of international flair the late professor admired. That's why her Villanova University colleagues, still saddened by her death in 2003, chose them when they furnished a student lounge in her honor. They placed them in a corner of the lounge, along with a few chairs and wrought-iron lamps. The gesture, they thought, might help the campus remember the well-liked professor of Middle Eastern history.

On a cold morning this January, 50 people gathered to dedicate the memorial and a large bronze plaque."This Study Area Is Dedicated to the Memory of Dr. Mine Ener," it said."Scholar, Teacher, Mentor, Friend."

But outside the study lounge, in the foyer of the campus library, a handful of people silently protested. They were upset because of what the plaque didn't say: A year and a half ago, Mine Ener (pronounced Minn-uh Eh-nuhr) suffocated herself. But even more horrifying, three weeks before that, she killed her baby.

As soon as the plaque went up, alumni of this Roman Catholic university began flooding administrators with complaints. Honoring Ms. Ener, they said, mocked the church's stance on the sanctity of life. Parents of children who -- like Ms. Ener's baby -- were born with Down syndrome were angry too.

After two local talk-radio hosts and Fox News's Bill O'Reilly entered the fray, Villanova received nearly 1,000 calls, e-mail messages, and letters.

Troy S. Memis, who co-owns an auto-restoration shop in nearby Philadelphia, heard about the memorial on the radio. He waited in the library foyer that January morning with his 2-year-old son, J.T., who has Down syndrome. A psychiatrist had determined that Ms. Ener had been suffering from postpartum psychosis when she killed her baby. Mr. Memis knows that, and he doesn't want to demonize her, he says, but"someone needs to stick up for the child."

The torrent of criticism immediately put Villanova on the defensive. University officials, some of whom agreed that Ms. Ener deserved a memorial, agonized over what to do. Should they take down the plaque and appease the critics? Or wait, hoping that the controversy would blow over? ...

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

G. Kurt Reimer - 4/24/2005

Progressivly debilitating conditions such as Alzheimers and other forms of Age-Related Dementia often go undiagnosed for months or even years. In retrospect, it is an arguable position that the an-Contra mess swirled up all around former president Reagan while the old duffer was doddering about the Oval Office, perhaps trying in vain to remembner which drawer held the presidential pen.

In as much as the Iran Contra Scandal led to the funding of Central American death squads (who killed people, ultimately in yours and my names (sometimes *slitting their throats* (maybe even TWICE in cases))), the same logic that led to the dismantling of the memorial to Dr. Mine Ener requires that we remove all traces of the Reagan name from his presidential library, and devote the facility towards a cause more properly refelecting a spirit of atonement for the "Awful Thing" he did. Perhaps an assisted living facility for Alzheimers victims?

Or should SOME people's heroes be given a pass for an ignominious denouement, and remembered for the bulk of their achievements, while OTHER people's heroes be judged strictly on their worst moments?