Reuners couldn’t have asked for a more picture-perfect weekend to celebrate Reunions 2023. The weather machine was definitely working. Roughly 25,000 alumni, family, guests, faculty, staff, and graduates gathered at Princeton May 25-28 for music, panels, parties, and more — including a sea of orange and black outfits for the P-rade.
This year held special significance as it marked the 50th for the Class of 1973, the first four-year undergraduate class of women. “There was so much palpable energy that was so incredibly positive,” said Robin Resch *03, who designed the cover art for this year’s Reunions schedule of events.
Weaved throughout the celebration were continued calls from alumni and student groups for the University to address social issues, construction zones as a sign of Princeton’s expansion goals, and more.
PAW was there to capture your favorite moments and document the ones you may have missed:
The One and Only P-rade
From alums dressed as tigers to a variety of clever costumes showcasing Princeton’s colors and spirit — there was orange and black everywhere. Standout themes included Blink-2013, where the class dressed in punk-rock-themed attire; the ultra-sparkly sequin tiger jackets worn by the Class of 2018; and the Class of 1963’s “It’s Twistin’ Time” theme complete with prescription pill bottle-shaped signs.
Relive the best of the P-rade by viewing PAW’s photo gallery here.
Where Am I?
It may have been difficult to recognize long-lost classmates at Reunions, but the bigger surprise for many returning alumni was how different the campus looks.
“I don’t even recognize the place” was a common refrain. Just you wait.
While there have been new buildings opened in the past 10-20 years, the biggest changes are yet to come with current construction projects including the Art Museum, the Dillon Gym fitness center, Hobson College, the Environmental Studies and School of Engineering and Applied Science complex, and the Lake Campus. Or maybe alumni didn’t notice all the work around campus. Yes, doubtful.
Even President Christopher Eisgruber ’83, during his annual address to alumni on Saturday, couldn’t resist a dig at all the digging.
“There was a lot more community and less distancing, but also more fences as you’ve seen on campus,” he said while speaking in Richardson Auditorium. “So COVID wasn’t keeping us apart; occasionally, fences do. And you may have run into one or two of those as we were taking what used to be your favorite path across campus and suddenly found that it was obstructed by a construction site.”
And after Reunions had ended, Gavin LaPlace ’23 reminded everybody how disruptive the construction has been for students, joking during Class Day: “I’m starting to wonder if the board is only divesting from fossil fuels because they think there’s oil under Whitman.” By P.B.
The Fight for Women’s Equality Continues
As Princeton celebrated 50 years since coeducation began, two alumnae drew an overflow crowd for a Friday discussion about motherhood and careers, titled “Women Wanting More.” Attendees lined the aisles with some sitting right at the panelists’ feet.
Former SPIA dean Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80 questioned Majka Burhardt ’98, a professional rock and ice climber who recently published a memoir, titled More, about the experience of having twins. Slaughter has become a prominent voice in the discussion around women and work, having drawn criticism and praise for her 2012 Atlantic article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”
“We’re so accustomed to setting this up as men vs. women or work vs. family,” Slaughter said. “Whereas, as far as I’m concerned, people who work for me, who are able to care for their families when they need to, are better workers. They’re more fulfilled in their work, they’re more fulfilled in their family.”
Burhardt said that on the day she had her twins, she also bought a house and the nonprofit organization she had started got a huge grant. “For me there was never the question of what do I stop doing, it was how do I do all of this? And how do I do all of this and not go crazy?” she said.
“That’s also about being the kind of mom I want to be. Because I didn’t want to give anything up. I wanted to find a way where I could do it. And that meant this whole other journey around balance — which I don’t really believe in — around how you keep making your life more complex but you’re also humble and gentle to yourself and the people around you.” By E.H.D.
Joe Schein ’37 Leads the P-rade
For the seventh year in a row, Dr. Joe Schein ’37 led the P-rade and carried the Class of 1923 Cane. The award honors the oldest returning alum from the earliest class in the P-rade, but Schein, who turned 108 on Feb. 23, is the University’s oldest alumnus, period. Schein said he’s always treasured his time at Princeton. “I am embarrassed to say it, but I will say it — I worshipped the time that I was there,” he said. “I always felt that I will never, ever have another opportunity to live and think and grow in a place like Princeton.” While he hasn’t been to every P-rade since graduating from the University, the chances he has gotten to celebrate with all the classes have been extremely special. “I get a tremendous kick out of it,” he said. By M.F.B. ’83
The Class of 2023 Debuts Jacket
Michael Tran ’23 began drafting ideas for his Senior Jacket during his junior year. The B.S.E. major from Bridge City, Texas, has had a passion for art for as long as he can remember, and designed a handful of T-shirts and logos for different Princeton groups and programs throughout his time on campus.
The Class of 2023 jacket is black and features orange linework that depicts a tiger using an Asian-art style down the right sleeve and ivy creeping around the left shoulder. A nod to the prominent stripes featured on past jackets, it includes asymmetrical orange and white stripes on the back that trail diagonally from the top right shoulder. The University shield sits on the left sleeve. On the back is a big orange circle with the class year that includes an outline of Nassau Hall, and the word “Princeton” at the bottom.
Tran said he looked at past jackets for inspiration. “I was just picking stuff up that I liked,” he said. It was also a collaborative effort, he noted. He asked many classmates what they hoped to see on the jacket, and consulted friends as he updated the design. For example, one friend suggested the jacket needed to be a little tacky to really embrace the spirit behind the attire, and that’s when the large orange circle was added to the back. “Everything was hand-drawn on an iPad,” Tran added.
He put the project down for months and began to doubt whether it was worth submitting the design to the class jacket contest. At the last minute he decided “Why not?”
The Class donned the new jackets throughout Reunions weekend, and Tran said many alumni complimented his work. “It’s pretty surreal, and it’s really validating,” he said.
The success has even inspired a change of heart for his post-graduation plans. “I majored in computer science for financial security reasons. I do like it to some extent and I think I’m pretty decent at it, but I don’t love it and I’m not passionate about it. Art is something I’ve enjoyed doing my whole life, but I’ve never let myself get formal experience in it.”
Winning the contest has “helped me make the decision to try to at least lean into something creative-related career wise,” he added. By C.S.
Change Princeton, Change the World
Since 2020, the Concerned Black Alumni of Princeton (CBAP) have advocated for the University to add an applied research center devoted to combatting and eradicating racism. At the independent group’s Reunions panel this year, organizers invited collaboration from alumni affinity groups including the Association of Black Princeton Alumni, the Asian American Alumni Association of Princeton, the Association of Latino Princeton Alumni, and Native Alumni of Princeton.
Panelists — both in person and joining via Zoom — were enthusiastic about the chance to support new scholarship that could, in the words of Manuel del Valle ’71, “change the discourse” on matters of race and ethnicity and promote liberty and equality. They discussed potential areas of study, from medical racism to mass incarceration, as well as the practical matter of funding a new center. CBAP has set an ambitious $1 million fundraising target but only has commitments for a small fraction of that goal.
Ideas for making Princeton more diverse and inclusive were also on the agenda at a Saturday morning Alumni-Faculty Forum titled “Breaking Down Barriers: Intergenerational Perspectives on Social Issues.” Each generation puts its own stamp on the University, sometimes without realizing it, said David Addams ’78, citing his class’s sit-in at Nassau Hall and the campaign to have Princeton divest from South Africa during apartheid. By B.T.
Divest Princeton Continues Call for Action
At what Rob Nixon, professor of English and of the High Meadows Environmental Institute, called “a historic gathering at this historic moment in the Divest movement,” more than 70 attendees gathered on Friday morning in McCosh 28 to hear an update on the group’s goals and a discussion of strategies to combat climate change.
Nixon, who moderated the discussion, first gave a Divest Princeton update since the University’s board of trustees voted in September to divest and dissociate from fossil fuel companies. The group is still calling upon the University to end its $700 million in private equity fossil fuel investments and all partnerships with fossil fuel companies. Nixon also thanked the Divest Princeton team, saying their work led to “a slow growing movement that is now a tidal wave.”
Panelist Tom Taylor *21, a policy analyst at Atlas Public Policy, said, “It is our work to hold these companies accountable for what they have done and what they are doing.” He pushed for continued education and research that will help shape the climate narrative, which he says has been influenced by oil and gas companies.
Fellow panelist Claire Kaufman *23 said, “these companies are businesses, and expecting them to do anything but support their bottom line is fantasy.” She urged neutrality in climate studies, as governments rely upon them when determining policies.
“There’s really no reason why Princeton’s endowment needs to invest in fossil fuels,” added Tibita Kaneene ’03, vice president of NY Green Bank. He said that Princeton could instead take advantage of tax credits from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) bill.
Meanwhile, Tina Eonemto Stege ’97, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, provided the perspective of those on the frontlines of the crisis, pointing out that her country, the Marshall Islands, are only six to eight feet above sea level. She said the worsening crisis threatens, “not just the loss of our lands, but the culture that is tied to that land.”
When an audience member asked what action the attendees should take, Stege said “talk to the most vulnerable,” because there’s a lot to learn from them. By J.B.
And Now, a Different Perspective on Climate Change
At the other end of the climate change conversation, a panel titled “Climate Change is NOT an Emergency,” sponsored by the Conservative Princeton Association, featured speakers arguing that the media and policymakers are pushing a narrative laden with misinformation and fear.
Moderator Alex Zarechnak ’68, formerly of the engineering group MPR Associates, said demands are rising for climate solutions that would overhaul infrastructure and society in a way that will harm the world’s poorest people. “There is a different perspective that you don’t hear very much about,” he said.
“We are at one of the coldest periods in Earth’s history now,” Moore said, and while the Earth is indeed warming, we don’t know why.
William Happer *64, an emeritus professor of physics at Princeton, said you can’t “dial” the Earth’s temperature up and down using carbon dioxide levels. And Bruce Everett ’69, a former ExxonMobil executive, listed myths about climate economics, including that renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels and that research and development will inevitably improve solar and wind power.
If natural gas plants keep getting shut down, Everett said, “what we’re going to end up with is an unstable, unreliable, and more expensive power system.”
A few people in the standing-room-only audience tensely questioned the three panelists, all of whom work with the nonprofit CO2 Coalition. Princeton professor Forrest Meggers, who is working on Princeton’s efforts to go zero-carbon, challenged their understanding of the climate discussion, noting “it’s easy to pick and choose the science.”
While Happer was speaking, the panel was Zoom-bombed: The N-word and a doodle of male genitalia suddenly appeared on the screen over his slides. The technical staff immediately shut down the event on Zoom, but it continued in person.
University spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss said of the disturbance: “We regret that the online component of this alumni-organized event was disrupted and strongly condemn the language and imagery used by the perpetrator. The alumni organizers of the event did not use the University's Zoom account; the University urges event sponsors to follow best practices, but no precautions are foolproof. "
Honoring ’58’s Support of Prison Tutors
The Petey Greene Program, a Princeton-based nonprofit that sends volunteer tutors from colleges to prisons around the country, celebrated its 15th anniversary at Reunions and honored the contributions of members of the Class of 1958, including founder Charlie Puttkammer and his wife, Cordie, and former executive director Jim Farrin.
More than 3,500 Petey Greene volunteers have worked with incarcerated students, and according to CEO Jeffrey Abramowitz, the program enables college students “to see the humanity of the people behind the walls.” The Rev. Erich Kussman, a Lutheran pastor in Trenton, New Jersey, was one of the first students tutored by Petey Greene volunteers, and years after his release from prison, when he graduated from the Princeton Theological Seminary, Farrin was there to congratulate him. “Without your guidance and without your selfless love,” Kussman told Farrin at the Reunions event, “I wouldn’t be able to do the work I do in the city of Trenton, which serves hundreds of folks daily.” By B.T.
Volleyball’s Pioneering Coach
In the early 1970s, men’s volleyball was a club sport at Princeton, coached by students, and Susana Occhi was at the University of Delaware, helping to launch women’s teams at the dawn of the Title IX era. But Merrily Dean Baker, Princeton’s first administrator for women’s sports, offered the young coach a new opportunity: to lead the Princeton men in their transition to varsity status. “Volleyball is volleyball,” Occhi recalled thinking. “I’ll make the adjustment as sure as these guys will.”
“I think it’s pretty remarkable that we went from essentially not having a team in 1970 to having a varsity team in ’73,” said Rob Reifsnyder ’75, who helped round up players for the reunion. Both programs are still going strong, under the direction of coaches Sabrina King ’01 and Sam Shweisky: The women shared the Ivy League title with Yale this year, and the men finished second in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association. By B.T.