Current Issue

July 7, 2010

Vol. 110, No. 16

Reunions 2010

Reunions 2010

Goin’ back: By plane, train, car, or ... kayak

By Katherine Federici Greenwood; Photographs by Beverly Schaefer and Frank Wojciechowski
Published in the July 7, 2010, issue

Jim Farrin ’58 asks President Tilghman a question during her annual Reunions conversation.
Jim Farrin ’58 asks President Tilghman a question during her annual Reunions conversation.

State of the University

President Tilghman gave an upbeat picture during her annual conversation with alumni at Reunions, praising the new bridge-year program and saying that she is “feeling very good about where we are financially” and that the new Center for African American Studies is “working brilliantly.” She said that after deciding to make “an enormous investment” in turning around a chemistry department that was one of Princeton’s “least-strong” departments, the construction of a new chemistry building and successful faculty recruiting have made chemistry “a top-five department.”

Tilghman urged alumni to read the report of the Eating Club Task Force, released in May, describing it as a historic document that reinforces the clubs “as integral to the fabric of this University” and the beginning of a conversation to ensure that the clubs will “act in ways that serve the best interests of our students.” Asked by Tad LaFountain ’72 about the “black-box nature of Princeton’s finances” and liquidity concerns following the collapse in the financial markets, Tilghman said that in December 2008 the University “did face a liquidity challenge” and chose to borrow $1 billion to avoid liquidating endowment assets at depressed prices. Time has shown that the decision was “extremely prudent,” she said, and “there was nothing secret about what we had done in that case.”  

By W.R.O.

Heard at Reunions

Panel discussions and lectures drew crowds Friday and Saturday. Here’s a smattering of comments heard at events across campus.  

The Obama folks are so concerned to not be George Bush that it colors the way they deal with things, and there may have been in some cases an overcorrection. You see it particularly in the way Obama handles crises. — Richard Just ’01, executive editor at The New Republic, in PAW’s panel on POLITICS  

If you can’t call Bill O’Reilly ‘strident,’ then what is the purpose of words at all? Washington Post writer Joel Achenbach ’82, commenting on whether TV personality O’REILLY had been characterized fairly, at PAW’ s politics panel

The lowly sitcom is actually the most effective art form in the way of bringing ­issues into our home and opening a discussion. — Robin Epstein ’95, situation-comedy writer and instructor at New York University, in a panel about the IMPACT OF POPULAR CULTURE on young children

In the past year, of those 9 million books [in the New York Public Library’s research collection], about 600,000 have been accessed by ­people in person at the library ... ­During that same 12 months, the 300,000 books searchable through Google have been accessed by 6 million people around the world. That’s powerful. David ­Offensend ’75, chief operating officer of the New York Public Library, in a panel about the IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY on cultural institutions

I don’t see despair at Princeton. There’s a lot of earnestness. In the nation’s service, in the service of all nations. There’s a strenuous commitment to making the world a better place here. ... But I rarely come across a genuine idealist in our classrooms today. — Professor
Eric Gregory, speak­ing about PRINCETON ­CULTURE in a talk on “Augustine, Niebuhr, Oba­ma: Realism in an Age of Hope?”

[Presidents] do everything possible to retain as much power in the executive branch as possible ... Checks and balances are supposed to be the primary mechanism of securing liberties. But that system is on life support because of the fact that Congress is essentially lying down on the job. — Michael Vatis ’85, an ­attorney who worked in the Clinton White House, during a discussion on CIVIL ­LIBERTIES in the Obama administration

The Bush administration, say whatever you will about it, succeeded, largely, in preventing any repeat terrorist attacks for a long time. If they had not succeeded in that we would have seen a whole lot more pressure on civil liberties than we have seen. What’s going to be a huge threat to civil liberties, it’s not if Congress and the president wake up tomorrow with a bad idea. It’s going to be if there’s a huge attack tomorrow, and then they react. National Journal and Newsweek columnist Stuart Taylor ’70, during the CIVIL LIBERTIES discussion  

Many U.S. states are basically Greece without the Parthenon. — William Heyman ’70, vice chairman of Freebase and a director of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, in a panel on INVESTMENT TRENDS  

Gold. — John Rogers ’80, chairman and CEO of Ariel Investments, in response to a question during the INVESTMENT panel about what the next asset bubble
will be  

There’s no question that in the case of baseball, there was a spike in television ratings and media consumption generally during the ‘Steroids Era.’ People love to see home runs, people love to see records broken ... — David Sternberg ’90, CEO of Universal Sports, in a discussion about the SPORTS INDUSTRY

One of the things that I learned at Princeton is that constraint really does breed creativity. Alexander Macgillivray ’95, general counsel at Twitter, speaking about Twitter’s 140-character limit in a discussion about SOCIAL MEDIA

People talk about rationing [in health-care proposals]. There’s a lot of rationing in our health-care system now, and anyone who doesn’t think so is deceiving himself. The question is whether we’re going to have an honest conversation about it. — Ben Sommers ’00, clinical fellow, Harvard Medical School/Brigham & Women’s Hospital, in a panel discussion about the HEALTH-CARE DEBATE

One of the myths that’s going around right now is that long-form journalism is dead, and that is utterly false. ... I was a student in this building [McCosh Hall], and one of the things that we were always told is that storytelling is very, very old, and no matter how many technological changes come about, that storytelling in some form will always survive. Ian Shapira ’00, enterprise reporter, The Washington Post, during a panel on JOURNALISM today

A commander’s stress is more related to decision-making and every day trying to make the right decisions to accomplish the mission and preserve the lives of your soldiers. ... You know that the decisions you make place men and women in harm’s way and could get them killed or hurt. That is constantly on your mind. — Brig. Gen. Mark Milley ’80, at a panel of ALUMNI RETURNING FROM SERVICE in Iraq and Afghanistan 

We underestimate the ideological commitment of the Taliban at our peril. ... The Taliban can’t beat us militarily, but we can lose. Newsweek ­managing editor Nisid Hajari ’90, in a discussion about AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ

The fact that we can now ­travel anywhere in the world very rapidly allows new microbes to also travel very rapidly. ... That’s created ­ecological niches that have allowed microbes that exist in one area, where populations might be immune to them, to travel quickly and affect others who have never seen [the microbes]. Of course, that’s what happened when Europeans came to the New World for the first time. They brought things like smallpox. Robert Klitzman ’80, director of a graduate-level bioethics program at Columbia University, in a ­discussion about the NEXT ­PANDEMIC

Self-regulation is a farce, is a joke. It just doesn’t work. — Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer ’81, speaking about the ECONOMIC CRISIS 

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