It was eerily quiet when grand marshal Jean Telljohann ’81 and Daniel Lopresti *87 first walked the P-rade route on the Saturday of Reunions. At 7:30 a.m., with the sun gently peeking through the clouds, they were among a small group doing a walk-through to assess route markers and signposts. “It was lovely, deserted, and very peaceful,” recalls Lopresti, who was rehearsing for his new role as grand marshal, an honor he assumes next year — the first graduate alum to be named to the job.
By mid-afternoon, the route was packed with a blinding array of orange-and-black everything, as about 25,000 alumni and guests bearing pompoms, silly hats, witty signs, and offspring atop their shoulders transformed the route into a celebration of all things Princeton. Longtime friends embraced, spouses smiled indulgently, dogs toddled along, and children napped as the sun poured down, with temperatures hitting an uncomfortable, humid 88 degrees.
The P-rade was the centerpiece of a packed Reunions weekend, held May 28–31. Some reuners woke up early for the fifth annual Reunions Run and alumni-faculty forums on topics such as the endemic dysfunction of the federal government and the progress of Asian American studies at Princeton. Others stayed up late for the midnight Nassoons arch sing and the Questlove concert at the 25th Reunions tent.
Princeton alumni are famously dedicated to their University: Amanda Coston ’13 flew in from Seattle for her off-year reunion and stayed at a hotel in East Brunswick, more than a half-hour drive from campus. “You can’t miss this!” she said. That passionate attachment to Princeton often breeds lifelong bonds of another sort — a couple held a sign that read, “Dan ’13 plus Yi ’11 #engagedatreunions May 29, 2015.”
Other signs demonstrated that, even on a day of fun and friendship, some Princetonians had social justice on their minds. Several P-rade marchers wore T-shirts with the words “Black lives matter.” Many who graduated in the ’70s and early ’80s carried signs that recalled their campus protests against South African apartheid. Another marcher’s sign stated, “Princeton Tenured Faculty: 83 percent white, 75 percent male.”
Women were not officially invited to participate in the P-rade until 1969, when the University began admitting women as undergraduates. This year, eight women who, in 1970, were among the University’s first nine undergraduate alumnae returned to march together in the P-rade. The sight of them drew loud cheers and applause; parents pointed them out to their children. Their presence was a celebration of the way Princeton embraces traditions, and how it remakes them.