What a wonderful story! These former students deserve our deep appreciation for helping make Princeton the amazing university that it is. Put a bunch of bright students together and what do you get? If you’re not careful, you get a toxically cutthroat competitive environment. But Princeton’s tradition of pranks exemplifies its healthy institutional “sprezzatura.” That was a Renaissance ideal for courtiers. “Sprezzare” means “to disdain” in Italian. So it means to disdain working too hard to be viewed as a success.
I learned the word from my Shakespeare research. The Earl of Oxford, pseudonymous author of the works of Shakespeare, sponsored the translation of Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier, which introduced Renaissance readers to the concept of sprezzatura. (Oxford was a world-class example of an author who disdained to care whether or not he got recognition for what he wrote.)
On a personal note, Princeton’s friendly, relaxed atmosphere was exactly what this high school nerd needed to end up four years later as a better-rounded person!