In Response to: ‘Ever the Teacher’

I was recruited by Bill Bowen *58 (On the Campus, Dec. 7) to be the first financial vice president of his presidency. The idea of returning to Princeton, coed unlike during my undergraduate years, was irresistible, and so I signed on to my great benefit.

I have never worked for anyone of such extraordinary intelligence in diverse fields as Bill or who had Bill’s limitless supply of energy. It was not uncommon for him to devote the luncheon break to a round of tennis and then pick up where he left off into the evening. I came quickly to understand that no one understood the world of Princeton, or indeed higher education, as well as Bill. 

Above all, he knew what made Princeton great was the quality of its faculty. He made faculty believe they were personally important to him. A friend of mine on the faculty received an offer of a tenured position at Harvard. As he explained to me, before he could study it, Bill was at his door to congratulate him and also to successfully persuade him to stay at Princeton.

He also had a keen sense of where change was necessary, even if there was not immediate support for a new direction. We would talk many times about the undergraduate eating options, and I kept telling him I didn’t get the problem — I had comfortably survived the old ones. He ignored my misguided nostalgia and opened up a whole new array of living and dining opportunities, to the great benefit of the University.

Paul Firstenberg ’55
Greenwich, Conn.