Washington Post writer Joel Achenbach '82 moderated PAW's Reunions panel on the presidential campaign.
Washington Post writer Joel Achenbach '82 moderated PAW's Reunions panel on the presidential campaign.
Beverly Schaefer

Two of the three feature stories in this issue got their start in a long Princeton tradition: the class books published to mark major reunions. On page 34, Lanny Jones '66 explores what the books tell us about different generations of students and their times, while Christopher Connell '71 used some of the books to research his article, which begins on page 28, about the class that graduated into the tumult and uncertainty of 1968.

"The real journey back in time started with the intriguing yearbooks that Hugh Wachter '68 compiled for his class's 25th, 30th, and 35th reunions," Connell explains. "Those three volumes contained dozens of moving accounts of that turbulent spring of their senior year — my freshman year." With those personal stories in hand, Connell reached out to about two dozen '68 alumni. "It was striking how many went into the military within months of graduation, and also that several became conscientious objectors," he says. "All faced decisions that most of the rest of us were spared by virtue of being a year or two or three younger."

Of course, Princeton's Class of 1968 was not the only class to experience a senior year colored by a foreign war — and it's not the only class to think and write about it years later. The Class of 1918 devoted many pages of its reunion books to the way World War I crept onto Princeton's fields and into its classrooms.

Writing in his 50th-reunion book about one war just as students in the Class of '68 were thinking about another, J.L. Wilson '18 recalled his senior year: typhoid shots, target practice, first-aid lectures, drills in the field. "Old Major Sargent lectured to us on tactics, calling on his years of experience fighting the Sioux," he wrote. "Capt. Cornelius and the French lieutenant gave us in turn the best way to organize a trench raid and how to garrote a sentry. ... Some of our classmates took their drill and shoulder pips [insignia] very seriously." Almost 400 classmates would enlist, and nine would die. For the Class of 1918's Commencement, held June 15 in Alexander Hall, only about 30 classmates were present to receive their diplomas. "It would take many reunions for the survivors to get together again," Wilson wrote.

With this issue, PAW begins its summer break. We return Sept. 24. In the meantime, click here, for our Reunions videos and slide show and summer news. You'll also find video clips from PAW's first Reunions panel (click here), in which seven alumni journalists shared their experiences covering the presidential campaign and their insights into the candidates. Thanks go to our panelists and to the many alumni who came to hear them; apologies to those turned away when, in our initial foray into event sponsorship, we underestimated the crowd our terrific panelists would attract.