Herb Hobler ’44 has attended every one of his reunions save for 1945, when the event wasn’t held. Twenty-two of his classmates never had the opportunity to return; they died during World War II. So Hobler, class president and reunion chairman, devoted his class’s 65th reunion May 28–31 to bringing back the memory of those men.
From a moving memorial service on Friday afternoon to a stunning P-rade procession of large black-and-white Freshman Herald photographs of the men, the lost classmates and others who served in the war were front and center throughout the weekend.
Because of Hobler’s efforts — 18 months spent in Mudd Library doing research and locating the relatives of eight of the 22 — the class broke the attendance record for a 65th reunion with about 340 people, including 53 classmates plus widows and other family members.
At the start of the memorial service Friday in Trinity Church, 22 empty chairs formed a semicircle around the altar, representing the classmates who died in the war. Hobler eulogized the men one by one, as a Princeton ROTC student held up each class member’s poster-sized Freshman Herald photograph and then placed it against an empty chair. The ceremony brought tears to people’s eyes, said Hobler, who noted that 89 percent of his classmates served during the war.
The excitement of the P-rade might belong to the 25th-reunion Class of 1984, which led the procession, but the emotion belonged to the Class of 1944: After the U.S. Army ceremonial band known as Pershing’s Own and a group of World War II re-enactors marched by, a solemn line of members of the N.J. Army National Guard, ROTC students, and relatives of class members who died carried the large photos, which were labeled with information about the soldiers’ service and deaths. Buddy Ackerman ’44 was killed in Budapest in 1944; his grandson, who closely resembles Ackerman, carried his grandfather’s placard and was accompanied by his father, who was born after Ackerman was killed, and some eight other relatives. People lining the P-rade gave steady, respectful, and loud applause as the procession snaked by. Some cried.
Reunions is a time for remembering, but it is also for reveling in the company of old friends and discovering how Princeton has changed. Alumni did just that, with about 20,600 graduates and friends converging on campus for the weekend. They flocked to alumni-faculty forums on topics ranging from investing in uncertain times to the changing landscape of higher education. More than 2,270 people attended 14 panel discussions on Friday and Saturday. “Change We Can Believe In? An Obama Report Card” — where Sen. Bill Frist ’74, Rep. John P. Sarbanes ’84, columnist George F. Will *68, and others debated the new administration — was the most popular, with 700 people in attendance in Alexander Hall.
There was standing-room only in McCosh 50 Saturday morning for the PAW-sponsored panel “Money, Greed, and the Economy: Views from the Fourth Estate,” featuring alumni journalists who debated the role the government should take in the economic meltdown and how the developments have been covered in the press. Reuners also chewed on questions raised in alumni-faculty forums titled “Is There a Post-Racial United States?” and “Can the Profit Motive Coexist with the Hippocratic Oath?” and, at an event sponsored by the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni, they learned how Galileo changed the way we see the universe and about developments in astronomy.
Alumni took advantage of a host of other activities, some athletic, some artistic, and some for kids. Thursday morning started with the Princeton Shakespeare Company’s version of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and ended with a Quipfire! Reunions show in Hamilton-Murray Theater. On Friday attendees could rock-climb in Princeton Stadium and watch magic tricks at the Class of 1969’s “Magical Mystery Tour” headquarters, while younger Tigers could take juggling lessons in the Class of 1989’s circus-themed headquarters. Other events included Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye’s discussion about navigating the college-admission process, several religious gatherings, and a “Pro-life, pro-family reunion” gathering of alumni in Butler College, with Professor Robert P. George as guest speaker. The Class of 1964 held a ceremony to induct Gen. David Petraeus *87, who later would give the Baccalaureate address to graduating seniors, as an honorary class member. Petraeus received a jacket, tie, and hat, and then thanked the Vietnam-era veterans in the class for their service.
Through the partying, panels, and pyrotechnics of the weekend, the best part of Reunions for many was reconnecting with old friends, said Juanita Duckett ’84, who was catching up with pals she had not seen in a quarter-century. “In some ways, it’s like we’ve never left,” said her friend Susan Price ’84, before the women stepped into the P-rade.
Pleasant, sunny weather seemed a perfect fit for the procession, Reunions’ most popular tradition. Many members of the Old Guard traveled the route in golf carts decorated with orange crepe paper, and got lots of hoots and hollers from the crowd. The classes brought along rock bands, bagpipes, and everything in between. They carried signs recalling news events of their time on campus, songs of the era, and humorous indignities of the aging process. Koke Kokatnur ’47 proudly carried a sign noting his flawless Reunions attendance: “I’m back for my 62nd consecutive reunion.” The Class of 1979, with its “show your stripes” theme, had the largest tiger — mounted on a float — in the procession.
All weekend, old traditions got new life. At the Old Guard luncheon Saturday in Forbes College, President Tilghman presented the silver-topped cane, awarded to the oldest alumnus returning to Reunions, to Malcolm Warnock ’25, shortly before his 104th birthday. (Warnock is believed to be Princeton’s oldest living alumnus.) This was the fifth time he carried the cane during the P-rade. Warnock accepted the cane from his seat, noting that standing would be difficult and joking that “This is a great ceremony because you don’t need to stand up — all you need to do is show up.” But moments later, when the Nassoons led the gathering in singing “Old Nassau,” Warnock rose with the audience and belted out the tune, to everyone’s delight.
Celebrating its 50th reunion, the Class of 1959 resurrected another Princeton tradition when it smashed clay pipes on the buried cannon on Cannon Green (in the past, the tradition symbolized the breaking of ties with undergraduate life). Classmates also mounted a plaque on Nassau Hall and planted a small sprig of ivy underneath it. “I’ve been walking around [Nassau Hall] for the last 50 years looking at all the other classes [with plaques] and seeing no place for ours,” said class president Tony Cotter ’59. “I wanted to leave some artifact to say ‘we were here.’”
It’s 10 o’clock Friday night at Reunions:
At the 50th-reunion tent in Mathey Courtyard, the dance floor was a mixture of young children, current Princetonians, and members of the Class of 1959 and their wives; most of the crowd congregated around the bars and tables. In the 45th-reunion tent in Holder Courtyard, members of the Class of 1964 were singing and dancing along to Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville,” followed by the live band’s remake “Marijuanaville,” which was dedicated to the Class of 2009, to loud cheers.
Nightlife did not take place at class reunion tents alone. At midnight, alumni danced at an LGBT “After the Tents” party at the Frist Campus Center. “Singles Mingle” was held for the first time in the Chancellor Green Rotunda, where alumni of all ages chatted over beer and wine. “At my 25th, almost everybody was here with their spouse and with their children, and the people who were single didn’t really fit in,” said Ashley Ellott ’80. “An event like this is an important part of serving the overall community.”
As the evening progressed, older alumni were succeeded by younger graduates ready to take on the night. At 1 a.m., partyers were arriving in droves at the fifth-reunion tent in the Pyne-1901 Courtyard, and the 25th-reunion tent still had a crowd into Sunday’s early-morning hours. “Our babysitter is probably wondering where we are,” said Susan Blackburn Griffith ’84. Her friend, Catherine Colalillo Lyman ’84, agreed: “This is later than a date night with my husband normally would be.” Yet while reuners there seemed to agree that they had moved into an era of quieter celebrating, their enjoyment was as deep as ever.
By Brian No ’10
Princeton will move ahead in key areas even as it prepares for two years of budget cuts, President Tilghman said during her annual conversation with alumni at Reunions. “We are as committed as we have ever been to sustaining and even enhancing the momentum surrounding the things that we have identified as high priorities for us to do in the next 10 years,” Tilghman told the gathering in Richardson Auditorium. “We are not letting this economic downturn essentially stop us in our tracks.” As examples, she cited the ongoing search for a director of the new Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, the continued focus on the arts, and the start of the new bridge-year program in September. Responding to questions, Tilghman said that she does not foresee the need to cut any sports teams, and that more graduating seniors were considering graduate school and nonprofit positions as financial-sector jobs have “diminished very considerably.” Asked about a possible future role by Michelle Obama ’85 in supporting Princeton, Tilghman noted that Obama’s 25th reunion will be next year and said the University has tried to signal respectfully yet clearly that it would welcome participation by the first lady.
Robert Hollander ’55 had a surprise guest at his annual Dante reunion May 29: Roberto Benigni, the Italian actor most famous in the United States for Life is Beautiful, his Oscar-winning movie about the Holocaust.
Benigni is a great promoter of Dante’s Divine Comedy, the poem that Hollander has spent his career studying, teaching, and translating, and the two men have built a friendship based on their shared love of the early-14th-century Florentine author. Benigni was in the United States for a short tour of TuttoDante, in which he gives a monologue heavy on political humor and then recites one of the cantos or chapters of the Divine Comedy, which he described as “a forest of rhymes and sounds, complicated and simple, mysterious and popular at the same time.”
Hollander appreciates the light that Benigni has brought to this forest. “It’s an extraordinary moment for me to be alive and see this, where Dante has a new and absolutely merited and deserved life among the people,” Hollander said.
At Princeton, the actor left the lecturing to Hollander, who spent almost two hours exploring the beginning of the Purgatorio. Then the actor delivered the first canto of the work in Italian before heading back to New York for a show the next night that Hollander, his wife Jean, and several of his former students planned to attend together.
By David Marcus ’92
The Alumni Association honored three alumni during Reunions for their service to Princeton:
Honoree ANDY COWHERD ’74 served as his class’s first president as a freshman, helped set a class record in 1999 as 25th-reunion Annual Giving chairman, and then returned to the presidency — a post he still holds today. Over four decades, he has performed a wide variety of other services for Princeton, from interviewing applicants, to giving career advice to students, to serving as president of the Princeton Alumni Association of Nantucket Island (PAANI).
RICHARD G. WILLIAMS *72 is retiring this year as associate dean of the college after spending 34 years in West College (he will continue to work part time). More than 35,000 undergraduates over the years passed through his spheres of influence. Williams has been adviser to the senior class for nondepartmental academic matters, athletic-eligibility officer, and secretary to the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing, among other roles. A colleague noted his unofficial duties: “chaplain, psychiatrist, emergency-room doctor, mediator, judge, and probation officer.”
ELISE P. WRIGHT ’83 was cited as an extraordinary volunteer who has taken on dozens of tasks ranging from career counseling, to leadership positions in Annual Giving, to her class presidency and leading the “often-dangerous minefield of Reunion-jacket design discussions.” Wright also has been alumni liaison to the LGBT Task Force, which led to the creation of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Center at Frist Campus Center.
RACISM IN THE AGE OF OBAMA
“We’ve entered a different phase. ... I think the category of ‘post-racial’ is kind of a lazy shorthand of trying to map that change. We’re not post-racial; we’re not post-racist; we’re just confused .”
— Eddie Glaude Jr. *97, Princeton professor of religion and African American studies
“I don’t think that racism is a major inhibitor of African-Americans and other minority groups today. Is that to say racism doesn’t exist? I don’t think that anyone of color would say racism doesn’t exist. ... [But] is that inhibiting us? Let’s look at where we are: We’re at Princeton University, an elite university that has opened amazing doors.”
— Amy Holmes ’94, CNN political contributor and conservative commentator
“It’s not that people are so much more optimistic about the future as that people are thinking that utter disaster has been averted.”
— Richard McNeil ’84, managing director, Goldman Sachs, Fixed Income, Currency, and Commodities Division, referring to the recent rally in the financial markets
AN OBAMA REPORT CARD
“I think health reform is probably the biggest test in leadership that this president will face. ... I think it’s going to be an extremely tough battle.”
— Lawrence S. Lewin ’59, executive consultant, founder of the Lewin Group health-care consulting firm
“As [economist] Milton Friedman never tired of saying, capitalism is not a profit system. It is a profit-and-loss system, and if allowed to work, it clears the ground very quickly.”
— George F. Will *68, syndicated columnist and television commentator
“Markets are usually self-correcting. ... Smallpox epidemics are also self-correcting. A third of the population dies, wages go up because there are labor shortages, some good things happen, and eventually everything stabilizes, people can have babies, and all sorts of great stuff. ... There is such a thing as market failure, and there’s a role for government to have a set of rules so that things don’t get too out of control.”
— Joshua Marshall ’91, editor and publisher of Talking Points Memo
MEDICINE AND MONEY
“Medicine’s business model is stripping the caring out of health care.”
— Shearwood McClelland ’69, director of orthopedic surgery at Harlem Hospital Center
“The best way to deal with a lot of these problems is just to chill out. The biggest danger we face today is from American overreaction to events or American overinvolvement in the world.”
— Edward Rhodes *85, political science professor at Rutgers University
“How can we do race studies today in such a way that it does not foster interracial competition and turf wars? ... If ethnic studies came about in the 1960s as a corrective to American studies, then maybe American studies today can be viewed as a corrective to ethnic studies.”
— Anne Cheng ’85, professor of English and the Center for African American Studies at Princeton
“The disconnect between society and the military is a very real dynamic. Having military officers here [at the Woodrow Wilson School] can dispel a lot of that. ... To try to bridge some of those gaps and create mutual understanding is nothing but positive.”
— Maj. John Gilliam *09, at a panel of alumni returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan and of wives of alumni in the military
“My dad had trouble understanding why he sent me to Princeton to become an Army wife.”
— Lauren Holuba Nelson ’04