Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Class of 2008 has marched in its first P-Rade and celebrated in style.

More photos can be viewed at

Photos by Dan Hayes-Patterson


P-Rade Party

Alumni from the classes of 1925 to 2007 joined the Class of 2008 in the P-Rade this afternoon as they marched down campus. The Class of 1983 led off the parade accompanied by drummers. A Class of 1938 Volvo and convertible processed along with a striped VW bug.

The old guard, especially Class of 1938, which celebrated its 70th Reunion showed up in force. One of the marchers for the Class of 1948 was marching in his 61st-consecutive P-Rade celebration.

Perhaps one of the most active years was the 45th Reunion Class of 1963, which used an Elvis theme to liven up its traditional jackets. With gold capes and sunglasses, class members paraded along with gold carts that blasted some of the King's hits.

The P-Rade also featured two unicyclists and 16 dogs who joined the procession, two of whom wore their own reunions costume, tiger leotards. An orange-and-black 1915 Model T processed with the Class of 1928.

While the classes between 1988 and 1998 were more sedate, perhaps accounting for the many young future Princetonians who joined their parents, as years approached 2008, the alumni become more and more excited.

The P-Rade wrapped up at 5:45, and despite the earlier concerns, the weather held.


P-rade: the first half

Even the rain can't stop the P-Rade from happening, and undergraduates as well as alumni have turned out in force to watch as the graduating classes from 1925 through 2008 march through FitzRandolph Gate, down Elm Street to the grandstands on Poe Field. First through were President Tilghman and her entourage, the Princeton University Marching Band and the 25th Reunion Class of 1983.

The band leads the way, from the beginning to the very end, with the banner for the Class of 1983 close behind.

The Class of 1983 sports the orange-and-black striped blazers in honor of its parent Class of 1958 and grandparent Class of 1933. As they passed the reviewing booth on Poe Field, members of the class saluted President Tilghman and gave her a traditional locomotive cheer.

Leading the Old Guard, Princeton's oldest living graduate from the Class of 1925.

Members of the Old Guard greet President Tilghman.

Members of the Class of 1958, sporting their orange and black blazers.

The 45th Reunion Class of 1963 turned out in full Elvis gear, including capes, sunglasses, sideburns, guitars and golf carts blaring some of the King's biggest hits.

Geoff Peterson '69 rocks out as he reaches Poe Field.

With the 35th Reunion class of 1973, the first female Princetonians reached Poe Field.

More photos can be viewed at

Photos by Zach Ruchman, Dan Hayes-Patterson and Diego Vargas.




Scenes from Friday night

Showing off spirited footwear.


Old Guard


Shirley Tilghman and Princeton's evolution

Richardson has that luxurious atmosphere that is simultaneously off-putting (the stone murals, the stained-glass ceilings, the dark polished woodwork) and cozy (the plush seats, the small capacity, the round surroundings, the acoustics). Music from an a cappella group wafted over softly.

But President Tilghman’s “Saturday Morning Conversation” was one of those situations that makes a college reporter feel quite out of place. Few out of the rather large gathering in Richardson Auditorium this morning were under the age of 50. The average attendee was probably about three times older than I am. You can judge by the dearth of non-grayed hair.

But Tilghman, dressed in an orange blazer gradating from light to dark orange, black slacks and what she called her “lucky orange shoes,” didn’t treat the crowd of older alums any differently from how she treats fresh-faced freshmen. She is poised, as always, conversational but not too casual. She never speaks from notes but seems to know where she’s going. There is an internal logic and structure to her remarks, however extemporaneous. I can’t say she has ever moved me to tears or made me laugh aloud, but never in my three years in watching her various addresses has she disappointed, either.

The point of the event was mainly to update alumni on the progress of the University. It was a very substantive year, and Tilghman capitalized on that. She listed several “firsts”: first year with the new four-year residential colleges, first year without Early Decision, first year the 10-year campus plan was released, first year the graduating class is debt-free, etc. From time to time, some of the audience would nod. I didn’t see any head-shaking or visible disapproval.

Former University trustee Hal Saunders ’52 asked Tilghman about the small schools with small endowments that cannot compete with the extremely generous financial aid packages from schools like Princeton. To this, Tilghman did not try to give an answer, because the problem as of yet, she said, has no answer. “We’re concerned about it,” she said, “But we’re not quite sure what the answer is,” adding that it would certainly not be right for schools like Princeton to stop offering good financial aid packages.

“It’s a thorny problem,” she admitted.

When another alumnus asked her about the proposals going through Congress to mandate endowment spending rules, Tilghman was firm. The motivation behind these rules is “deeply misleading,” she said. The net cost of going to Princeton in real dollars, she said, has declined by 25 percent in the last 10 years.

“We have no reason not to spend at the rate that promotes intergenerational equity,” she said. “I think that this notion that universities are hoarding their endowments … could not be more wrong.”

Other questions ranged from Thomas Wolf ’48, who asked that Tilghman please send reading material with bigger font to older alums in the future, to Adrian Woodhouse ’59, who was concerned that the University was not admitting enough students from his home state of Nevada. Others alums asked Tilghman to detail what the new living and dining options were, and what the new bridge-year program – which will be available for the Class of 2013 – entailed. She complied and described them patiently, though she has probably done so scores of times before.

I chatted with the alum who sat next to me after Tilghman’s address, until the Richardson ushers quietly told us we had to leave. He asked about study abroad programs, about whether any schools other than Harvard and U.Va. have joined in on eliminating early admissions and about where the “junior slums” were. He got me thinking. For all these alums, many of whom had not even attended college in the presence of female peers, how does it feel to return to a Princeton so different in composition and leadership? Indeed, as the alum said, the leadership of the majority of the Ivy League is female. He suggested that The Daily Princetonian do a piece on the “quartet.” Perhaps we shall.


Inside man

White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten ’76 appears, for all intents and purposes, a rather modest man. He rarely talks in public, especially now that he is President Bush’s right-hand man. But for his alma mater, he made an exception.

Yesterday, Bolten returned to the Wilson School to participate in a panel discussion in front of a full audience in both Bowl 016 and the simulcast room, Bowl 002. McCormick Professor of Jursiprudence Robert George – whose predecessor Walter Murphy was Bolten’s thesis adviser – introduced him, and he responded politely, candidly and in great detail to questions posed by the audience and fellow panelists: emeritus politics professor Fred Greenstein, who taught nearly 30 years’ worth of students, including Bolten; and David Lewis, an associate politics professor who will be leaving Princeton for Vanderbilt next year.

Bolten, who was president of the Class of 1976 and of the Ivy Club while at the University, said that “Whatever my dreams and aspirations were” while he was an undergraduate at the Wilson School, “I had the fortune, in the jobs I’ve stumbled into, to exceed them.”

Bolten described his job as “the best job on the planet” and offered profuse praise of President Bush. What Bush wants, Bolten said, is “someone who would help him do his job, not do his job for him,” a role for chief of staff that Bolten agreed with.

Despite his access to Secret Service protection, the White House and the president, Bolten said, “I’m a staffer … and you have to be the kind of staffer that the boss wants.”

When Lewis asked him to comment about former White House press secretary Scott McClellan, Bolten was reluctant. He joked about it lightly first, then launched into a carefully worded commentary on the decision to dismiss McClellan. There were no details on why McClellan was not in the best interest of “the institution and the presidency,” but Bolten was, as always, earnest and unflustered. He managed to distill the political controversy into a matter of personality – in line with the work of his old professor Greenstein.

Indeed, when commenting personnel decisions in general, Bolten was surprisingly introspective, even sarcastically funny. Firings, he said, are “something I’m personally ill-suited to do. But I’ve had a lot of practice.”

The discussion offered an insider’s perspective on how the dynamics of the Oval Office play out – and not just in West Wing style, either. With Bush, Bolten said, political views are supposed to be divorced from policymaking. “I’ve seen the president get very angry on policy stuff when people bring up politics,” Bolten said.

This became an issue highlighted when the Bush administration decided to relieve famed strategist Karl Rove of policymaking duties. Bolten said that Rove’s views were too strong for him to be a “neutral arbiter in the policy process.”

“He took it reasonably well,” Bolten said. What “reasonably” means, I have no idea, though Bolten did mention that the media played it up a tad too much. Alas, don’t we always?

Bolten admitted to other mistakes. Prefacing the discussion by stating that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was “smeared” in Congress, Bolten said, “I may have erred to allow Alberto stay on as long as he did and let the smearing continue.”

He skipped the part about former Treasury Secretary John Snow “resigning” but spent a lot of time talking up how he and Bush managed to get former Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson to take the job, even though Paulson had refused a couple of times before. “If you live in New York, you think the president lives and breathes fire,” Bolten joked. “He said no at least twice, but I think we played him pretty well.”

He then emphasized Paulson’s contributions. “I think the U.S. economy owes him a great deal at this point.”

Other than that, Bolten mentioned little of the economy. He did, however, list his own concerns and disappointments. He is unhappy that by the end of the Bush administration there will have been little reform on social security or immigration policy. His biggest disappointment is that the current administration has failed to quell (and perhaps has flared) the partisan divide in Washington. He is worried that there isn’t enough time between the appointment of new cabinet members and inaugurations for the outgoing White House staffers to debrief the new ones.

But he ended on a positive note, with a whimsical story. As a junior staffer in the White House on the last day of George H.W. Bush’s presidency, Bolten was the last one to leave the building. Every office was empty. “It’s a remarkable credit to our democracy that we can peaceably and orderly replace the governing structure overnight,” he said.

“As the gates had closed behind me,” Bolten said, he realized, “I could not get back if I wanted to, even if I had left my wallet.” Of course, he did return, and will leave again soon. Perhaps on his Harley-Davidson.


Reunions Performances

Princetonians are on stage all over campus this weekend. From Triangle's encore performance of its fall show to diSiac, PUP, the Nassoons and many more, Princeton's undergrads and alums are doing what they do best. Here's a brief look at just some of what's been going on in the last 12 hours.

Last night, the Wildcats all-female a cappella group had an alumni arch sing at 1879 Arch. Evie Nagy '98 appeared in a comeback performance with her old friends and current members.

Over at Blair Arch, meanwhile, the Tigerlillies were holding their own alumni arch sing. Both current undergraduates and returning alumni performed solos with the entire group.

Every morning this weekend, the Princeton Shakespeare Company has put on a show in the East Pyne courtyard. Here, Dave Holtz '10 performs in the Bard's comedy, "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

More photos can be viewed at

Photos by Zach Ruchman.


Rain, rain, go away...

As you may have noticed, the weather has taken a turn from the beautiful blue skies of Friday and Thursday. reports "Strong thunderstorms likely. Storms may produce large hail and strong winds." They expect the rain to continue until 6 p.m. and maybe as late as 9 p.m. The alumni office does not intend to allow the rain to slow the celebrations, however. Maclean House informs us that as for now the P-Rade and fireworks tonight will continue as planned.


Behind the Scenes: Dining Services

At 5 p.m. I arrived in the Foulke-Henry Courtyard wearing a white button-down and a shapeless black skirt. Over the next four hours, about 10 undergrads including me would help feed about 600 people their dinner.

Here at the 10th Reunion, we set up a special kids dinner of chicken nuggets, mac & cheese and green beans. "There's better food over there," I said to one man about to take food from the kiddie section, looking a little surprised at what his Reunions fee was buying him.

The grown-ups got a buffet dinner of steak, lemon chicken, pasta, cornbread, salad, vegetables and a whole table of cakes. During the meal, two students focused just on making sure this table was always filled with cakes.

It might seem silly to have students standing around, watching and waiting to refill buffet trays, but 600 people eat a tray of steaks pretty quickly. I was lucky to have hardworking co-workers and the Dining Services professionals helping everything run smoothly.

One of the best parts of the night was cleaning up the tables. This was by far the grossest and most annoying part of the shift. Plates full of chicken skins, half-empty cups, greasy spoons and well-used napkins all passed through my hands.

How could this be so great?

Well, more than once an alum would pause, look me in the eye and say very emphatically, "Thank you so much for doing this." Some even said, "Hey, I worked Reunions too when I was a freshman/sophomore/junior." A few went further, asking my major, residential college or hometown.

I guess that's what Reunions is all about. Even the kid cleaning the table behind the scenes is part of the community.


Beer Blog Part 4: The 5th

Everyone knows the 5th is the best reunion ever. Indeed, it's great for your top 40 faves and awkward dancing.

Too bad the only beer is "Budweiser" and "Bud Light." This is fine for the most part. We have low tolerances and high appreciation for terrible tasting Beast. But the line for beer is rather atrocious at the 5th. It's also advisable for you to feign disinterest at awkward alum-initiated conversation.

Hopefully with a solid round at each of the stations met tonight, you will have a fulfilling night. Happy P rade!


Beer Blog Part 3: 15, 10

In the tradition of elitism, the 15th is barring all who do not possess a 15th reunion wristband. My friend and I were turned away quickly alas.

However, the 10th reunion was a little better. The beer was rather dismal, just Rolling Rock, Bud, and other variations of American watery beer. The line was also long. But I was regaled by some 10th reunioners who tried to earn street cred by saying they had been living in Princeton for a while. This strategy is not advisable.

The little redeeming quality are the 10th reunion beer tumblers: "Going Back to Bowl Nassau." Although they make no sense, the bowling balls and attempt at humor are cute.

Finally my friend and I took refuge in the Prince office from where I am typing this. No guarantees of meticulous details of the 5th reunion, but I will try.


Beer Blog 2B: Things to be Wary Of

Remember what I said about the 45th's amazing Belgian beers? Apparently, you need to deal with slightly more than just the inconvenience of walking to Holder to score one of these drinks. If you're an undergrad woman, you must also deal with overly friendly 60-somethings.

They simply come out of the nowhere, introducing themselves to you, forcing you to shake their hand. At first, their intentions seem genuine. Perhaps they are simply trying to be friendly, maybe hooking you up with a toolish connection.

But then you realize their intentions are focused elsewhere when they start complimenting you on physical traits you may or may not have and introduce you to the lacrosse players manning the bar to insure that you may lead a fulfilling life. If my idea of happiness included lacrosse players, this may have been a very rewarding experience indeed. Alas, I don't trust 63-year-olds' tastes in men, so this was an unsatisfying proposition.

On to the 5th and 10th it is.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Beer Blog, Part 2: 40, 45, 50

The middle part of our evening took place in the upper part of campus at the 40th, 50th, and 45th reunions, respectively.

As we hiked to the 40th (Dod Courtyard), we passed an ambulance at the 35th where apparently a woman fell and needed help for her leg. The 40th had much dancing, but the beer was weak. The specialty was Heineken. They also had Bud on tap. At the 40th, I learned about the Nassau 13, a version of the Prospect 10 but with Reunions for the 5th through 55th. (The 13th Reunion being the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni).

Next, it was on to the 50th reunion in the Mathey Courtyard. Despite the delicious cocktails of last night, tonight was a disappointment since they were only serving to 50th reunion wristband wearers. The swing/big band music could be tantalizing to some.

The 45th Reunion outside of Holder was quiet as well. But the hike all the way up campus is well worth the fantastic Belgian beer on tap. Unfortunately, my aversion to languages has hindered my ability to remember the specific name. Though this one tastes more like Blue Moon than Hoegaarden and nothing like Stella. Rolling Rock was also served.

If I make it out to the 5th and 10th without any delays, those posts will be coming up soon...


Beer Blog, Part I: 20th, 25th, 35th

Our night started with stops at the 20th, 35th, and 25th reunions, respectively.
After passing a crowded 40th without stopping, my friend and I ventured to the 35th reunion in the nook between Brown and Cuyler. Perhaps because the location is on a slant, it was sparsely populated. Happily, more alcohol for us. They are serving Merlot, Chardonnay, and Yeungling. The Chardonnay was delish. There was a live band but only one person dancing awkwardly. Apparently for us Princeton undergrads, dance skills do not improve with age.

Next, it was on to the 20th in front of Dodge-Osborne. Things picked up here despite the lack of a dance floor. Unfortunately, they only served Yeungling and Yeungling Light to non-88's. I had a Yeungling Light, which tasted like a Miller Lite. For 88's, however, they had wine and vodka with (I presume) appropriate mixers.

Our third stop found us at the 25th reunion in the beloved Whitman courtyard. Clearly, Princeton gives its best to the most significant reunion. Indeed, the floor of the beer tent reminded me of the TI taproom on a typical Saturday. My flipflops stuck to the ground. Fortunately, it was worth the trek. For my efforts, I scored a Stella Artois. They also have a nearly full bar plus wine. The line is a little long though. But many undergrads must have foreseen the riches of the 25th since many are here. A bonus is the coffee bar off to the side, near the Whitman library (from where I am typing this).

Stay tuned for our next adventures...Get excited for the 5th and the 10th.


Kids stay out late, too!

Future Princetonians check out the Reunions scene with their parents at the 15th reunion tent. Fun was had by all involved judging by the smiles on the cubs' and alumni's faces.

More photos can be viewed at

Photos by Dan Hayes-Patterson and Jennifer Hart.


Scenes from a celebration 50 years in the making

The Class of 1958 is celebrating its 50th reunion in true New Orleans style in Mathey courtyard.

The Treme Brass Band sings and dances in the Class of 1958 tent yesterday.

Members of the Class of 1958 model their class jackets.

Paige and Sean Kenny, visiting with their grandfather, show that you are never too young for Reunions and your very own wristband.
The dining tent between Richardson Auditorium and Witherspoon waiting for the Class of 1958 and President Tilghman for Friday night dinner.
The New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra serenades the diners with traditional jazz and ragtime music Friday night.


Residential Colleges, Reviewed

This Reunions will give many alumni their first glimpse of Whitman College. But what does the expansion of the residential college system mean for Princeton?

Four speakers, German Lara ’90, Bud Grote ’08, Adrienne Rubin ’88 and German Professor Michael , who twice served as Rockefeller College master, and Whitman College Master and moderator Harvey Rosen, shared their views on the past and future of the residential college system, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

The speakers began by recalling their own experiences in the residential colleges system. Rubin, who lived in Forbes College for all four years said, “Forbes College for me became more just than a place to live … what I discovered was because it was a little bit further away from the campus, it developed an incredible community.”

Lara, who lived in Rockefeller College during his first two years, described his two years in Rockefeller as very beneficial but ultimately found himself more tied to his class than his college.

Meanwhile, Grote found that moving into Whitman after a year in upperclass housing allowed him to greatly increase the number and variety of people he interacted with.

This matched what Jennings identified as one of the key features of the residential college program. “Living in residential colleges is the most integrated and diverse perspective many of our students have ever had in their lives,” he said.

Afterwards, many raised comments on class cohesiveness versus the University or College identity and conflict between eating clubs and colleges. Alumni in the audience raised the possibility of establishing a system more like that of Cambridge or Oxford, both of which emphasize college as opposed to university identity.

Panel members generally approached the issue of divided loyalties by noting that it was possible and beneficial for Princetonians to have multiple allegiances, be it to eating clubs, student activities, residential colleges, class or the University.

The audience was divided over the expansion of the residential college system, with some in favor of the change, whether or not they had lived within residential colleges during their own time at the University, while others reserved judgment or thought it a poor plan.


Automotive Princetoniana

Princeton spirit is everywhere, and here are just two examples of how the Class of 1963, on campus for its 45th reunion, shows its love for Princeton.

Some, for instance, prefer custom license plates.

Others, on the other hand, go all out.

More photos can be viewed at

Photos by Zach Ruchman.


Tiger cubs at Reunions

Old Nassau isn't just for alumni.

Photos by staff photographer Milana Zaurova '09


Secret Formulas for Admission

Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye promised to share with alumni "everything you wanted to know about applying for college but were afraid to ask," according to the Reunions schedule.

In case you wanted to go but missed it, don’t worry, Rapelye didn’t actually reveal many secrets about how to get into Princeton. As I’ve discovered by going to my share of these discussions, the description normally leads one to expect that they will learn “everything they wanted to know,” only to find out after spending an hour at the talk that “there is no secret formula.” Drat. All I wanted to know was how to get in! If you weren't going to tell me, it's just mean to get my hopes up like that.

Though Rapelye hewed pretty closely to the “no secret formula” line, I managed to glean a few suggestions from the discussion for you to put in your book of secret formulas.

Anita Harris ’73, chair of the Alumni Council Princeton Schools Committee, delivered an informative address on the interview process. Some tips for the prospective interviewee, based on Harris’ experience, include:

-Make sure your clothing isn’t too revealing. “Don’t think it's necessary to display all your assets,” Harris said. “The only thing we want to see in your interview is your mind.”

-Don't let your itches get the better of you. “Do not scratch in inappropriate places,” Harris advised. “No matter how uncomfortable you may be – wait. Trust me, I know it’s not comfortable, but that applicant did not get in.”

-Don’t sing for your interviewer. Based on an experience with an aspiring opera singer, Harris said that “it can make the interviewer quite uncomfortable, especially if your interviewer is in an office.”

-Get a more formal e-mail address for your interview correspondence. Harris mentioned “shoppingcrazygirl” and “laziestguyaround” as bad choices of monikers.

-Harris is bothered by interviewees who chew gum.

-Grammar is important for Harris. “Especially if you are telling me you got an 800 on the grammar section, do not say you are extremely unique, very unique, the most unique. Once you are unique, that’s it.”

-Last, “don’t talk about how much you hate your mom.” Harris has apparently been through a few too many of these sessions for someone who isn’t a therapist.

Rapelye also revealed a few interesting tidbits in response to questions:

-A high school freshman from Lincoln, Neb., who was a pretty hard-hitting questioner, pressed Rapelye to abandon her “no secret formula” stance and admit that “the most important thing is your high school transcript.” “Every college and university is going to evaluate first your transcript,” Rapelye said.

-Rapelye detests college admissions camps. When an alumnus asked about hiring “professional education coaches,” she gasped loudly before replying, “I hope these kids aren’t doing these admissions camps; I’m really not a big fan of these camps at all. I think that most of you could just sit down right now and end up writing a halfway decent essay.”

-Rapelye is also apparently not a big fan of fancy community service projects, unless, of course, you actually want to do the service. “The New York Times just ran the most appalling article about students going all over the world to do community service. Some people ask how much community service does Princeton require and the answer is none,” Rapelye said, acknowledging that she “know[s] speaking out against community service is like speaking out against social security,” but it just doesn’t help your admissions chances as much as you might have thought.

-If possible, try to be a legacy applicant. Legacy candidates fared better in this year’s admissions pool. This year, 42 percent of legacies were admitted, while numbers from previous years have been in the mid-30s range.

-If you’re an international student, pursue the International Baccalaureate diploma. “If the student has the opportunity to do the IB diploma, we really value the diploma,” Rapelye advised.

-And finally, Princeton isn’t going to get rid of the SAT anytime soon. She’s “a big fan of schools making SATs optional,” but Princeton “finds the SAT a valuable tool.” “It measures critical reading and quantitative reasoning quite well,” Rapelye said.


Bringing the Beat

The Princeton University Band marched for several hours today, sending drumbeats and blares of brass across campus and helping alumni get into the Reunions spirit.

Photos by staff photographer Milana Zaurova '09.