As a new PAW reader many years ago, I was confused by the way the magazine denoted alumni. Undergrad alumni got an apostrophe before their class year. But was that symbol following the name of each graduate alum an asterisk or a star?

For a long time, you could not blame people for assuming it was an asterisk — a footnote on a campus that seemed to revolve around undergraduates. You know: the mark associated with an athlete whose record is tainted by the use of steroids, or the “magic asterisk” invented by President Reagan’s budget director to balance a budget with “future savings to be identified.” Or perhaps it was just diminutive: The word means little star, after all. Could someone with an asterisk after his or her name be a full-fledged alum?

Especially since Princeton celebrated the centennial of the graduate school in 2000-2001, the University has made a great effort to treat graduate students as full members of the community, increasing stipends, building new housing, assisting young families, and providing more time for students to finish their dissertations. Last month there was another milestone, when Princeton hosted a conference for graduate alumni from all departments (see page 33). More than 1,000 people came.

Princeton would not be Princeton without graduate alumni: five presidents and many faculty members, 13 of the 17 alumni who have won the Nobel Prize, countless others who volunteer for Princeton and their communities.

An asterisk? Graduate alumni are stars.