THE SOUNDTRACK OF REUNIONS spanned generations, from the feel-good vibes of the Beach Boys, performing Friday night for the classes of 1961 and 1971, to the bumping rhythm of Naughty by Nature, the hip-hop headliner at the Class of 2001 tent. At every turn, music kept alumni on their toes: jazz and big-band hits at the 55th reunion; jam sessions at the Battle of the Alumni Bands; 1980s pop tunes at the 25th; and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” on repeat, for a zombie-dancing P-rade contingent from the Class of 2006’s Halloween-themed fifth.
As a cappella groups made the rounds at luncheons and receptions, the Princeton University Band played its traditional role, performing at the Frederic Fox ’39 Memorial Concert on Cannon Green Saturday morning before cycling through the P-rade several times. When the Class of 2011 prepared for its dash onto Poe-Pardee Field, the band rallied the graduates with its version of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.” In the evening, the University Orchestra took center stage for its annual concert, followed by fireworks launched from the banks of Lake Carnegie.
About 24,000 alumni, family members, and friends returned to campus for Reunions, according to the Alumni Council, outpacing attendance from the last five years.
Tina Young works at the retirement home in Maplewood, N.J., where Warnock lives. Her daughter, Nana, is a rising senior. Tina said Warnock has known about her daughter for several years, beginning when she was in high school and considering where to attend college. He and another resident, a Yale alum, would debate which of their alma maters was a better choice. When Warnock was informed that Nana would stop by the Old Guard dinner Friday night, Warnock said, “I definitely want to meet her.”
Warnock was 85 years old when Nana Young was born, but there they sat, the Class of 1925 chatting animatedly with the Class of 2012, united by their tie to Princeton. Warnock, who turned 106 on June 21, is not much of a talker, Tina Young says: “The only way to get him to make conversation is to mention Princeton.”
A retired lawyer, Warnock won the Class of 1923 Cane as the oldest returning alumnus for the seventh time. It is believed to be the first time any Princeton alumnus has celebrated an 86th reunion. Warnock spent the weekend in one of the dorm rooms at Forbes College.
Although the oldest alumnus to appear in the P-rade is accorded a special honor, a big cheer also goes up for the oldest alumnus to walk the route. That distinction went to Frederick “Fritz” Hummel ’36, who proudly led his classmates. Seven ’36 classmates returned — a record turnout for a 75th reunion.
Hummel, 96, who marched with his son, Karl ’67, pooh-poohed the fuss over his accomplishment. He walks the route every year, he explains, and says that he does not bother with exercise. “I don’t even believe in it. It’s just a matter of heredity, I guess.”
Each Reunions weekend is a major one for the Class of 1923 Cane, awarded to the oldest returning alumnus, and 2011 marked an anniversary as well: The distinctive prize was first presented 60 years ago, before the 1951 P-rade.
The ebony cane stands about 36 inches tall and is capped by a solid silver crouching tiger. Adlai Stevenson Hardin ’23, known to his classmates as “Jim,” sculpted the handle and designed the shaft, which displays on six silver bands (soon to be seven) the names of the 29 men who have carried the cane. Each summer, a New York-based craftsman engraves the latest addition, by hand. The cane then is returned to a trophy case in the library of Maclean House, home of the Alumni Council.
Malcolm Warnock ’25 received the cane for a record-tying seventh time at this year’s Old Guard luncheon. “I’ve always enjoyed carrying the cane,” said Warnock, the oldest winner, as he surveyed the engraved names. “It’s a lot of fun.”
CLASS THEMES DREW INSPIRATION from many sources, including trucker slang (1991’s “What’s your 20?”); the periodic table of elements (1996’s “Back in Our Element,” which noted that “P,” phosphorus, has an atomic number of 15); the International Year of Chemistry (the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni’s “Princetonium” weekend); and the glory years of Tiger football (2001’s “’01st and 10,” which featured the same type of long-sleeved jerseys once worn by Dick Kazmaier ’52 and his teammates).
The Class of 1961 flipped Frisbees into the crowd while spinning hit music for its rock ’n’ roll 50th, and the Class of 1966, long known as the “overall class,” celebrated its “vintage” with a bacchanalia that included placards advertising custom wine labels like “Chateau Hip Nouveau” and “Premier Cru(de).”
But the theme that drew the most attention was from the fifth reunion: “’06 Feet Under.” A few alumni thought the idea sounded morbid, but according to Catie Cambria ’06, one of the class reunion chairs, the inspiration came from Halloween parades, not funeral processions. “Our colors are orange and black,” Cambria said. “Why not have a Halloween theme?”
TIGERS SET THE BAR HIGH FOR fanatical commitment to Princeton, but few have more to brag about than two members of the Class of 1947, Robert Tritsch and Arvind “Koke” Kokatnur, both of whom have made it back for all 64 of their class’s reunions.
Tritsch, who started at Princeton in the summer of 1943, was sent to Officer Candidate School during the Korean War, in which he worked in counterintelligence. His one assignment overseas, to Austria, ended in time for him to return to Princeton that spring. Now retired after a career as a business lawyer, Tritsch lives in New Rochelle, N.Y. When his wife, Sue, points out that Kokatnur’s streak is more impressive, considering that he lives in California and has a greater distance to travel, Tritsch is quick to jump in. “He didn’t live in California when this started,” he points out. “He lived in New Jersey.”
As for her husband’s dedication, Kokatnur’s wife, Sylvia, jokes that if she died on the Friday of Reunions weekend, “nothing would happen until he got back on Monday.”
One of the few who can outdo this pair is John Scott ’41, who was back for his class’s 70th reunion and his 65th consecutive P-rade. If his attendance since graduation is not quite perfect, cut him a little slack: Scott missed the first five reunions because he was serving in the Navy during World War II. His streak began with the famous Victory Reunions of 1946, the first after the war’s end.
SATURDAY EVENING, PROCTORS Joe Keane and Charlie Brown sat at the empty bar in the fifth-reunion courtyard and waited for things to get busy.
Keane prefers working the fifth reunion, which usually is the busiest and noisiest, because “it makes the time go faster.” Brown likes fifth-reunion duty because he sometimes sees alumni he remembers from their undergraduate days.
Both proctors said things had been quiet so far, the chief problem being a few local high school students who tried to gain access to the courtyard with fake wristbands. On Friday night, however, they had to break up a group of young alumni playing a game in which two people grabbed a third by the ankles and dunked him headfirst into a bucket of ice water to see how long he could stand it.
Other workers enjoying the fifth-reunion courtyard, located between Pyne and 1901 Halls, were members of the undergraduate Reunions crew. The crew had been hard at work since Tuesday, setting up tables and chairs, moving bedding, manning the registration table, handing out costumes, fetching ice, refilling sodas, pouring beers, and generally doing whatever needed to be done. Crew members were up until 4 a.m. Saturday and expected another late night ahead, says one, who prefers to be identified only by his first name, Joe.
One of their jobs is to screen out anyone trying to get a beer who is not yet 21. That’s a bit tricky because the crew, all juniors, are not yet of legal drinking age themselves. So they can serve beer, just not drink any of it?
“Yeah,” says Joe. “Let’s go with that.”
THIS YEAR’S P-RADE SPANNED A full century of Princeton classes — in clothing, at least. For his 60th reunion, Bill Bardsley ’51 donned the 10th-reunion toreador outfit once worn by his father, William W. Bardsley 1911, and marched past another Class of ’11, sporting its new beer jackets. While the P-rade may be the best-known Reunions ritual, it is part of a long list of events — old and new, formal and informal — that seems to grow each year. Who knows which of the new events will become old standards?
Hosted by Joel Achenbach ’82
“ Since I graduated from Princeton, I’ve been to 57 weddings. Fifty-seven. That’s like 17½ miles of ‘Electric Slide.’ ” — Matt Iseman ’93, on being single
“ I used to be able to do that bit so easily. I can’t believe I’m still doing it. But then I realized – I don’t do it for me. I do it for all my single ladies. ” — Joe Hernandez-Kolski ’96, catching his breath after a two-minute Beyoncé dance routine
“ I keep waiting for my supervisor to come into the lab and say, ‘All right, here’s the situation: All we’ve got are 10 plastic drinking straws and a yard of Scotch tape. We’ve got to build a device to drop this egg from a third-story window, or they won’t renew our NSF grant!’ ” — Adam Ruben ’01, on the events that inspired him to become a scientist — and what life as a molecular biologist is really like
“ You cannot hide from the Alumni Weekly. The Alumni Weekly will track you to the ends of the Earth. I swear, if Osama Bin Laden went to Princeton, we would have caught him Sept. 12. ” — Jeff Kreisler ’95, on the perks of being an alum
“ The absolute, most spectacular failure of all mascots must be Harvard ... . The Harvard Crimson. A color? ... I guess when they were choosing, it seemed better than The Fibonacci Sequence and The Concept of Time. ” — Peter Wicks *02, on Princeton’s rival in Cambridge
“ Economic theory can explain a lot of things. My birth, for example: I was born at the intersection point of my father’s supply and my mother’s demand. ” — Jason Gilbert ’09, on being the son of two economists
P-RADE, PARTIES, AND ... PANELS! Many of this year’s panels and lectures focused on raging national concerns, such as health care and foreign policy. Here are some comments you might have missed:
“ Little kids – boys and girls – are natural scientists and engineers. They love figuring out things; they’re asking ‘Why?’ all the time. ... And then we educate it out of them. ” — Yvonne Ng ’91, assistant professor of engineering and computer science at St. Catherine University
“ All the business incentives in journalism right now point us toward aggregating because it has lower cost than actually going out and getting the information yourself. ... I’m really worried that one morning we’re going to wake up and we’ll all be aggregating each other’s aggregations. ” — Richard Just ’01, editor of The New Republic
“ If you think that your argument can stand on the merits of its elements, then make your argument. But if you’re going to say that there are some arguments so threatening and so disturbing we’re not going to let people even utter them, I suggest that’s a problem. ” — Walter Weber ’81 of the American Center on Law and Justice, defending those who speak in favor of conservative viewpoints
“ [Woodrow] Wilson would do today pretty much what Obama is doing. Both are thoughtful men. Obama is the most intellectual president since Wilson. ” — John Milton Cooper Jr. ’61, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, on how Wilson would wield American power
“ When I’m looking to hire someone, I feel that if they have played a sport, that has already done some of the work for me. I feel that I know what I’m going to get from those guys. ” — Joe Baker ’91, linebackers coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
“ Is the Internet today really doing what we hoped it would do? I think not. And although we enjoy shopping and socializing and tweeting, making reservations and checking in at restaurants and being mayors, I think the real impact of technology – the deep impact on our lives – is yet to come. ” — Frank Moss ’71, professor at the MIT Media Lab and co-founder of Bluefin Labs Inc.
“ I think this is a period of tremendous innovation and there are groups all around the country making amazing art – they’re just not getting funding. ” — Susan Jonas ’81, dramaturge and producer
“ [Education] reform can’t occur in the milieu we find ourselves in today, when people are casting aspersions on each other, when we can’t sit down and discuss our common goals. ”
After temporarily slowing the University’s growth following the global financial crisis, Princeton has picked up its pace, President Tilghman told about 250 alumni and guests at her annual town-hall meeting the Saturday of Reunions.
Thanks to strong endowment returns and generous support from donors, Tilghman said, two high-priority projects are moving forward. Steel girders are in place at the new Neuroscience Institute and psychology complex, near Poe-Pardee Field, and the University expects to break ground on the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, on the site of the former Osborn Clubhouse, before alumni return for Reunions in 2012.
Tilghman also spoke about a new home for the Lewis Center for the Arts, which the University hopes to build on University Place near McCarter Theatre. Part of that plan — moving the Dinky station 460 feet south — has encountered opposition from local residents. Tilghman said she plans to keep pushing the plan forward.
Fielding questions from alumni, Tilghman discussed the cost of private colleges, the role of study abroad, disparities in American K-12 education, and Princeton’s decision to reinstate early admission.
The Classes of 1971 and 1996 helped to distribute produce to families in need at the Crisis Ministry farmer’s market in Trenton. The Class of 1986 raised money for two groups, Princeton Young Achievers and Water for Haiti, through Saturday morning’s Princeton University Reunions Run. Other projects of note included the Spirit of Service ’76, which sponsored a panel that discussed inventive solutions to environmental problems, and a Class of 2001 program in which classmates pledged to perform 2,001 hours of service in their home communities.
THE ALUMNI COUNCIL’S AWARDS for Service to Princeton this year went to one of the University’s most active class volunteers, the leader of the alumni committee that interviews Princeton applicants, and an alumna who has made sure students from her home state get a warm welcome on campus.
GEORGE BRAKELEY III ’61 was honored for a record of class volunteer work that began in 1965 and has included service as class reunion chairman, president, and class secretary. In addition to volunteering for his department (history), and on the Annual Giving Committee and the Alumni Council Committee on Class Affairs, he founded Friends of Princeton Swimming and served in other alumni and University projects. PAW readers likely know Brakeley for preparing class notes for other classes temporarily lacking a secretary.
The council honored GEORGE L. BUSTIN ’70 for his long involvement with the Alumni Schools Committee. Bustin now leads the committee, which has more than 8,000 alumni interviewers in 80 countries. Under his leadership, the volunteers interviewed more than 26,000 applicants for the 2010 deadline and more than 27,000 for 2011, reaching more than 99 percent of all Princeton applicants both years. At the same time, Bustin has been an active volunteer with Alumni Giving, in the Princeton Area Alumni Association, and in other activities.
VALERIE KELLY ’84
PAW ASKED alumni to share their favorite images from Reunions, and you responded. These photos and others, as well as videos from the P-rade, are now online here.