During intersession last week, President Eisgruber â83 traveled west to speak at alumni forums in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Alumni journalists covered two of the three events for PAW and filed these brief reports.San Francisco, Jan. 29
The ballroom of San Franciscoâs Palace Hotel was overflowing with orange and black on Wednesday. Some 1,300 alumni, spouses, and parents turned out to hear President Eisgruber â83 in conversation with bestselling author Michael Lewis â82.
âIn the spirit of Princeton precepts, Iâd like to wing it here,â Lewis began, amid laughter from the audience. What followed was a relaxed but thoughtful conversation between the former classmates, on topics ranging from Princetonâs responsibilities toward its students and the world at large to how the Indiana-born Eisgruber ended up as a Princeton student. (He didnât get into Stanford, his first choice, âwhich turned out to be the best thing that happened to me,â he insisted, to which Lewis retorted, âGet used to saying that.â)
As a dedicated academic and legal scholar who was taken by surprise by the invitation to become provost in 2004, Eisgruber now sees this as part of the Universityâs strength, being a place that âhas filled its administration with people who care deeply about teaching. At Princeton, we look for teachers and scholars to put into these roles.â
Speaking about the tremendous effect that universities can have in increasing levels of economic and social mobility during this time of great inequality, and considering the broad implications of Princeton in the nationâs service, Eisgruber noted, âOne of the things I think about as I interact with our extraordinary students is that weâre investing a tremendous amount in that human capital. We have to get all our students thinking thoughtfully about how theyâre going use this Princeton education, and live a meaningful life connected to a larger purpose.â
âI think we did something very good when we expanded the student body over the last decade,â he continued. âI think we would do better if we took more students, and we can do that, in my opinion, while maintaining all the characteristics that have made Princeton so special.â
When Lewis asked him if current students look at him the same way that he and Eisgruber looked at President Bill Bowen *58, Eisgruber seemed caught slightly off guard.
âWow,â Eisgruber said, after aÂ pause. âYes. And thatâs so surprising to me. But a great joy of the job is that the students seem to find it very easy to talk to me, easier than they would when I was a faculty member. Iâm the face of the institution. There are times when they want to say something to Princeton, and if they want to say something to Princeton, they want to say something to me.â
â By Stephanie Rosenbaum â90Los Angeles, Jan. 30
Online courses, growing the student body, and the Lewis Center for the Arts were among the topics President Eisgruber â83 addressed in a conversation with writer A. Scott Berg â71 in front of several hundred Princeton alumni at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel Thursday night.
Eisgruber said that âmy thoughts are coalescing around a few themesâ for his presidency, including âservice,â interpreted broadly. He also stressed his goal to up the socioeconomic diversity of the student body and potentially expand the number of undergraduates, a plan heâs floated previously.
Berg noted that when a top-tier liberal arts education is as scarce as it is today, âThereâs almost a moral imperative to grow classes by a little, and yet youâve got the constant problem of maintaining the intimacy that Princeton really prides itself on.â Eisgruber responded by praising the way that the University has added 125 students per class in recent years.
The issue of offering education to more people extended to a discussion of MOOCs â massive, open online courses â which Princeton has started to offer. Eisgruber said MOOCs can be beneficial if used correctly, and that they arenât as revolutionary as they seem. âThere are these older things called BOOKsâ â pronounced to rhyme with MOOCs â âor books,â he said, which also spread a professorâs teachings.
Eisgruber also offered biographical details, such as the fact that he graduated from Princeton with $17,000 debt in todayâs dollars, far higher than the average in todayâs no-loan era. Berg, whose latest biography is of Woodrow Wilson 1879, mentioned that Wilsonâs wife was famous for serving tea while her husband was Princetonâs president, and asked if Eisgruberâs wife â whom he met at the University of Chicago Law School â would continue the tradition. Eisgruber responded, âShe excuses me from the duties of a law firm partnerâs spouse and I excuse her from the duties of a presidentâs spouse.â
Eisgruber also praised the planned Lewis Center for the Arts, and alluded to to studentsâ fears that the center would eliminate the Wawa, which his predecessor Shirley Tilghman dismissed, he recalled, by stating, âThe Wawa is eternal.â
âWe have plans for one of the most beautiful Wawas in the history of merchandising,â Eisgruber said. âI remain committed to the Wawa.â The audience laughed and cheered. âThat got my biggest applause on the West Coast,â he said.
â By Zachary Pincus-Roth â02