Much has changed among the Old Guard contingent at Reunions this year. With the death of Malcolm Warnock ’25 last fall at age 107, there was no one to represent the 1920s — that fabled decade now belongs to history. The Class of 1947 became part of the Old Guard, joining the proud gathering at Forbes College.
There was also a new recipient of the Class of 1923 Cane: 98-year-old Hugh Sweeny Jr. ’35 — known as Jim — of Redding, Conn.; Warnock had held the silver-headed prize a record eight times. Sweeny received the cane as the oldest member of the earliest class represented at Reunions, but he was not the oldest alum to participate. That distinction went to Bill Scheide ’36, born Jan. 6, 1914, eight months before Sweeny. (Scheide, a philanthropist whose renowned collection of rare books and manuscripts is housed at Firestone Library, already has received a high award from Princeton: an honorary doctorate in humanities, in 1994.)
In the depths of the Depression in 1931, Sweeny enrolled at Princeton after a fluke encounter with an alumnus at Plainfield High. He struggled to support himself as a dining hall waiter and “trying to sell magazines to some of those rich kids — I just barely managed.” He lived at 26 North Edwards for a cut-rate $78 a year and could not afford to join an eating club.
Sweeny’s ROTC training led to his early entry into the Army, in November 1940; eventually he served in a combat unit in Germany, “meeting the Russians on the Elbe.” His subsequent career was with Junior Achievement, from which he retired 35 years ago. “Princeton made my life,” Sweeny says.
The third-oldest alumnus on hand was Joseph Schein ’37, renowned as a fencer in undergraduate days. Waiting beneath front-campus elms for the P-rade to begin, he reminisced about having organized Jewish worship services on Friday nights in Murray-Dodge Hall. They were meant for students, but Albert Einstein liked to attend, and Schein regularly walked with the eminent scientist from his Mercer Street home to campus.
No doubt Schein spoke for many Old Guard when he said fondly of his alma mater: “I would live here now — if they would let me.”