For motorcycle enthusiasts and ’71 classmates Geoff Smith, John Drummond, and Brad O’Brien, the 4,600-mile journey — with detours — from Southern California back to their 45th reunion made for great memories: navigating a narrow strip of highway high above the Colorado River, coasting on the Natchez Trace Parkway through Mississippi, and twisting along rain-soaked roads in the Great Smoky Mountains. It was, in O’Brien’s words, “totally epic.”
“It was wonderful to ride into Princeton, but knowing that this ride was almost over — it was one of the only bad moments there was,” Drummond said with a wistful smile.
They joined about 26,000 alumni and guests who returned to campus wearing all things orange and black for Reunions May 26–29. As usual, the P-rade was the highlight for many alums — despite the 90-degree heat. Joseph Schein ’37, at 101 the oldest returning alumnus from the earliest class represented at Reunions, led the procession with the silver-tipped Class of 1923 cane in hand, walking the entire way. Several signs carried in the P-rade took a serious tone, including some referring to racism and the 2014 killing by police of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Some alumni toted signs asking for support for sprint football, which Princeton is ending. But others were more lighthearted, combining references to Princeton’s past with wry humor about the passing years. The signs of the “palindrome Class of 1991” — keeping with the “Tiger Regit” theme — drew on classmates’ wordplay skills, such as: “Lager, sir, is regal,” “Yale delay,” “Campus Motto: Bottoms up, Mac!”
Between Saturday morning’s 5K Reunions Run and the late-night arch sings, Princetonians turned out in droves to attend more than two dozen alumni-faculty forums on topics including relations between the United States and China, climate change, and free speech on campus. Performances by student groups, gatherings of alumni-affinity groups, and receptions sponsored by academic departments and programs added to the mix. The weekend saw some unplanned events as well, including a marriage proposal by Will Kain ’11 to Jacquelyn Nestor ’12 in front of Nassau Hall. (She said yes.)
For Max Krance ’01, a former baseball player, the chance to see an informal game played by members of the 2016 Ivy League Championship Series-winning Princeton baseball team was a highlight of the weekend. Jim Lyon ’75, who worked at the computer-center help desk as an undergraduate, especially enjoyed a gathering of former help-desk employees. “There was a lot of reminiscing about the old days of computers, when Princeton had just one big mainframe computer and people still used punch cards — it was a very different time!” Lyon said.
But for many alumni, just catching up with old and new friends was the best part of Reunions weekend. “The people are the same, but they all have kids now!” exclaimed Timothy Hsia ’06.
The Class of 1996’s inflatable obstacle course and ’80s arcade-style Pac-Man and Donkey Kong Jr. games were a hit among some of the youngest Tigers in attendance, while performances by Creedence Clearwater, Mike Love h’71 of the Beach Boys, and Kool and the Gang were popular among their parents. Events like the Battle of the Alumni Bands and a comedy show co-hosted by the grandfather/grandchild classes of 1966 and 2016 brought together Princetonians young and old.
“I’ve been to maybe five reunions, and this one is the best,” said Richard Raskin ’66. “I think the energy is getting better with each reunion — and we’ve had a lot of practice!”