The first group was the Class of 1983, marching at the head of the P-rade in brand-new Reunions blazers. The second was the Class of 1958, back for its 50th reunion and wearing the same pattern. (The Class of 1933, which originated those familiar vertical stripes, was not represented in the P-rade, but two widows of class members were on hand at the Old Guard luncheon to celebrate '33's 75th.)
There was a sense of symmetry in the Class of '83's choice to duplicate the jacket of its parent and grandparent classes, according to Steve Simcox '83, co-chairman of his class's reunion. When Simcox saw the scores of '58 classmates marching in 1983, he was awestruck. "Now we're the 25th-year class, leading the P-rade, and the Class of 2008 will be thinking, 'Wow,'" he said, pausing to laugh for a moment, " 'You guys are old.'"
Yes, the P-rade marks a passage of time, but Reunions weekend also can dial back the years, as classmates catch up on each others' lives, spend an hour or two in a familiar lecture hall, or visit the dormitories in which they once shared rooms. From May 29 to June 1, more than 20,000 alumni, family members, and friends returned to campus to enjoy some of the simple pleasures of Reunions and attend a full slate of social and educational events.
Reunions 2008 began Thursday with a few meetings and other gatherings, including a well-attended memorial service for Robert Fagles, the Arthur W. Marks '19 Professor of Comparative Literature, emeritus. On Friday, alumni took to the classrooms for alumni-faculty forums that aimed to answer questions such as "Do We Take Our Infrastructure for Granted?," "What Will Technology Look Like in 2018?," and "Is There an Honor Code in Sports?" A forum on health-care reform, led by Professor Uwe Reinhardt, was the most popular panel, drawing more than 375 people. About 2,200 alumni and guests attended the 16 forums, held Friday and Saturday, according to the Alumni Council.
Other popular events included two with links to politics and government: a Friday-afternoon panel discussion on the presidency, featuring White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten '76 and sponsored by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions; and PAW's first Reunions panel, "PAW-litics 101," in which alumni journalists shared their observations of this year's presidential campaign. On Saturday morning, about 250 people came to the Class of '58's headquarters near Blair Hall to listen to music and stories from New Orleans musicians who were affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Before lunch on Saturday, the major reunion classes gathered for photos, forming bright human tapestries of orange and black on the University's stone and marble stairways. While walking to his class photo at Clio Hall, Mike Coccaro '73, chairman of the 35th reunion, explained the class's new shirts and hats, which incorporated short phrases from the more than 300 undergraduate memories submitted by classmates. The fabric featured rows of words like "The Snowball Riots" (precursor of the Nude Olympics), "Alyea's explosions" (a nod to the in-class demonstrations of chemistry professor Hubert Alyea '24 *28), and "Nude Drawing 201" (a course favored by thesis-writing seniors).
Shortly after noon on Saturday, a thunderstorm soaked the campus, sending reuners under tents and — when lightning was sighted — into nearby buildings. But alumni seemed unfazed. After getting the all-clear to return to lunch in the graduate-alumni tent, Dan Lopresti *87, outgoing president of the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni, gave a lesson on the locomotive cheer, which the revelers then practiced several times, with gusto. At the Old Guard luncheon in Forbes College, Malcolm Warnock '25 received the Class of 1923 Cane as the oldest returning alumnus (for the fourth time), three weeks shy of his 103rd birthday. President Tilghman, before presenting the cane and a commemorative porcelain dish to Warnock, recounted his long-standing involvement with Princeton and his love of tennis — a game he played until he was 99. By the time Warnock and his Old Guard-mates boarded shuttle buses to the P-rade staging area, the skies had cleared. The scattered rain would not interrupt the day's major event — the P-rade — or prevent the evening's orchestra concert and fireworks from proceeding on schedule.
In the P-rade, reuners dressed as cowboys and cowgirls (Class of 1988), beach-goers (Class of 1993), bowlers (Class of 1998), and Las Vegas hipsters (Class of 2003). But the most memorable costume may have been the gold-collared capes and dark sunglasses with attached sideburns worn by hundreds of Elvises in the Class of 1963. Inflatable guitars helped to complete the look.
Princeton's no-loan financial-aid policy is "really paying dividends" because graduates can choose options such as public-service internships and working for Teach for America — positions they might have passed over if they had to repay loans, President Tilghman said in her annual conversation with alumni during Reunions. But while she agreed with a questioner that the generous aid policies of some elite schools are "putting real pressure on less well-endowed colleges," she said Princeton doesn't have the answer to what she termed a thorny problem.
Tilghman touched on a number of topics during her hour-long talk in Richardson Auditorium, including the first year of the four-year residential colleges, the role of the campus as a laboratory for environmentally sound practices, and the need to renovate Firestone Library in a way that balances its roles as a repository of books and a place "full of students and faculty." She said the first year of admissions after the termination of early decision "went marvelously well," including the recruiting of athletes; her only disappointment was that other elite schools did not follow the lead of Princeton, Harvard, and the University of Virginia "and do the right thing."
The president took issue with the idea, heard in national debates, that well-endowed universities are "hoarding" their endowments, saying that Princeton has demonstrated "an extraordinary increase in endowment spending" in the last 10 to 15 years. From 1997–98 to 2007–08, Tilghman said, the average undergraduate tuition paid by the student body as a whole declined 25 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars, because "very modest increases in tuition have been overmatched by increases in financial aid."
By William R. Ollwerther '71
Across campus Friday and Saturday, about 2,200 people attended panel discussions and other forums where alumni and faculty experts discussed topics ranging from sports to the Supreme Court to college admissions. Talks on current events, including the war in Iraq, the presidential campaign, and the legacy of George W. Bush, were especially popular. Here's a glimpse of what participants had to say:
"There's no question that being a woman has hurt her [Hillary Clinton] and has helped her; that being the wife of Bill Clinton has helped her and has hurt her. ... Being the first woman with a serious shot at becoming president has cut both ways."
— Kathy Kiely '77, reporter for USA Today, on whether media coverage was fair to Hillary Clinton
FOREIGN POLICY — TAKE ONE:
"We have developed a negative-based foreign policy — where we've been very clear about what we won't do and who we won't talk to — and much of the world is just moving on without us. ... We've become in a sense a large boulder in the middle of the stream: They can't move us, they can't dislodge us, and so they're learning how to go around us."
— Barbara Bodine, ambassador-in-residence at the Woodrow Wilson School, and former U.S. ambassador to Yemen
FOREIGN POLICY — TAKE TWO:
"A wise person once said that Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib are self-afflicted asymmetric attacks on the United States."
— Walter Slocombe '63, former undersecretary of defense for policy
"[Karl Rove's] views are interesting and typically well-informed but never dispositive of the president. Now, Karl's voice on political issues was pretty darn important, but one thing I'm very proud of in this administration is that for better or worse, policy decisions have not been based on politics, and I think we have the approval ratings to prove it."
— White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten '76
"One of the struggles that I have is ... in telling Asian-American stories ... because it hasn't been done that much before, because there's this idea that there isn't an audience for it. But that's something that's a passion of mine."
— Mora Stephens '98, director and co-founder, Hyphenate Films
THE MILITARY AND ACADEME:
"I think that one of the most important things we can do at an elite institution like Princeton is to reinforce a strong relationship between civil society and the military. Some people are suspicious of that relationship ... but it's very important to reinforce that in a democracy."
— Maj. Greg Mitchell, graduate student in the Department of Near Eastern Studies
"I've decided to choose one word to describe the current Supreme Court, and the word I've chosen is 'scary.' ... I think some of the justices have a kind of tin ear for justice."
— Lisa Heinzerling '83, professor, Georgetown University Law Center
SUPREME COURT — TAKE TWO:
"This administration has made two stellar appointments [John Roberts and Samuel Alito '72]. They're both inspired choices. Stellar. How did this happen? A fluke, I might say."
— Orin Kerr '93, professor, George Washington University School of Law
"It's going to be one smartphone per child, not one laptop per child, that will bring technology to the developing world."
— Alex Halderman '03, computer-science Ph.D. student
"The present trade definitely is in China's favor, but if it's one-way traffic, it won't last. Therefore, the proper thing is to encourage more Chinese purchases from America. ... [American companies should] cater to what they want."
— Gordon Wu '58, chairman, Hopewell Holdings Ltd.
RACE AND CLASS:
"It's irrelevant to the taxi driver that I went to Princeton and Harvard, when I'm waiting for a cab and it's sunset. Then I need to get a white friend to get the cab."
— Lawyer and author Lawrence Otis Graham '83
SPORTS AND HONOR — TAKE ONE:
"The culture has changed. There's suspicion about any good performance now. ... I think there are some people who will justify taking [performance-enhancing drugs] just to be on a level playing field."
— Triathlete Karen Smyers '83
SPORTS AND HONOR — TAKE TWO:
"It's the people, as with anything in life. Some people will do things the right way, others won't."
— Georgetown men's basketball coach John Thompson III '88
Three alumni volunteers received crystal tigers as they were honored during Reunions with the Alumni Council Award for Service to Princeton. CAROL BARASH *89 has helped to transform the role of graduate alumni in everything from the P-rade to Annual Giving; as the Graduate School chairwoman of Annual Giving, she increased the ranks of grad-alum volunteers from six to 100. She's been a committed member of the Princeton Alumni Association of Essex County (N.J.), the Alumni Schools Committee, and her local Princeton Prize in Race Relations Committee, and has held leadership roles in numerous other alumni groups.
MELVIN R. McCRAY JR. '74 was honored for more than a decade of service in which he produced an award-winning video documentary on the history of African-American students at Princeton (among other videos about the University) and taught classes in journalism and African-American studies. In September 2006, McCray was a leading participant in the "Coming Back and Looking Forward" conference for black alumni: He gave the opening address, videotaped the conference for public access on the Alumni Association's Web site, and produced a DVD about the weekend.
The award also went to DUNCAN W. VAN DUSEN '58, who has interviewed prospective Princeton students as an Alumni Schools Committee member for more than 50 years, helping his local ASC club, Philadelphia, to become one of the first "large-city" clubs to interview all the area's applicants — a success rate that continues. He also has served as a Career Services volunteer, class secretary, P-rade marshal, and officer and tireless organizer for the Princeton Club of Philadelphia.