In Response to: A wonderful life

Looking back after a half century, living at Butler was the most unique experience I have ever had. As an arriving married graduate student with child (now 50), I needed to find a cheap place to live and, of course, nothing beat Butler. At that time it was $52 per month. I was on the waiting list and fortunate to have been selected.

What I could never have anticipated was the extraordinary opportunity to live in a village of academics of every discipline available at Princeton. Today we take for granted that, in order to succeed in one’s research, interdisciplinary communication is essential.

Once at Princeton, I received a NASA Fellowship, which paid for my education. At that time Sputnik was a recent event and this country poured money into the graduate schools with a strong science curriculum. In addition to tuition, I received a living allowance from which I had to also buy my books and journals.

Even in the pre-inflation days of the early 1960s, $320/month was tough to live on. Those of us with scholarships from the government were paid every two months. For me that was $640. By the sixth week, we were all in trouble so we pooled our resources to make it to the next payment. The term “pot luck” might not have originated at Butler, but for me it did.

The beauty of Butler was the ongoing scene of a group of chemists, biochemists, physicists, mathematicians, engineers, etc. sitting around a table, eating and talking about their research. It was a sharing of ideas in a noncompetitive environment. It took a generation before this was common practice. The combined brainpower at the dinner table was exciting but daunting.

Have you ever lived in a town where almost every neighbor was a babysitter?

For those of us in academic poverty, there was a ton of free cultural and intellectual stuff going on at one of the finest schools in the world.

We had no money and never had it better!

Mike Axelrod *66
Mill Valley, Calif.