Photo: Allison Sullivan
Forgive me if I get sentimental in this column. After 282 issues — beginning Nov. 6, 2002 — this is my last note in PAW. I’m retiring in August. 

It’s been nearly 40 years since I first marveled at Procter Hall in the Graduate College. I grew up in Philadelphia, less than an hour’s drive from campus, yet I had never visited before I became a student. Then, it was hard to believe that I would ever feel at home in a place that had a castle for a dining hall. Now, Princeton — both gown and town — is home: the place where my husband and I raised a daughter; the place where we buried my dad just after Reunions four years ago. 

In those two decades, PAW has changed along with Princeton. The topics and people we write about are more diverse. The polarization often seen in our national conversation has seeped into our letters pages. The language and cultural references have changed, too — which has not always been easy for someone who came of age in the 1970s. 

What remains the same is Princeton’s perpetual embrace. I admit that I didn’t understand the significance of PAW’s memorials when I took this job; now they connect me to unique personalities in a different time. I didn’t understand the value of tradition — why, for example, a magazine that publishes 11 times a year is still known as “the Weekly,” or why older alumni might view shortening the Class Notes columns as sacrilege. The challenge for PAW has been how to push boundaries while respecting the past. 

PAW is produced by a team — truly one of the best on campus. Special thanks go to Brett Tomlinson, our managing editor, and Ray Ollwerther ’71, who filled that role before Brett. Both have been extraordinary partners — brimming with ideas, patient beyond what anyone should expect, willing to set me straight when needed. Others contributed many years of their lives to the magazine — publisher Nancy MacMillan recently retired after 32 years; art director Marianne Nelson after 21 — during which they came to know Princeton as well as any alum. Our terrific new hires are picking up where they left off. I’ve been lucky to work with some of Princeton’s best freelancers, some of whom began a relationship with PAW when they were students. Our magazine would not be the same without the regular contributions of Elyse Graham ’07, for example. And Merrell Noden ’78 was a frequent and witty presence in our pages until he died, at 59, of cancer in 2015. The last story he wrote, when he was quite ill, was for PAW. 

Throughout my tenure, PAW has received tremendous support from its board, particularly the journalists who have served as board chair: Todd Purdum ’82, Joel Achenbach ’82, Annalyn Swan ’73, Richard Just ’01, Sandra Sobieraj Westfall ’89, and Marc Fisher ’80. No one has worked harder to safeguard PAW’s editorial independence than Marc, our current chair. 

As I write this, the incoming editor has not been named. I know it will be someone good. Like many of you, I’ll be a loyal PAW reader and will attempt to restrain myself from writing cranky letters to the editor. The tie to Princeton will remain: If I move, I’m sure that PAW, and Princeton, will find me. Just as I’ve found Princeton.