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Sankar Suryanarayan remarks at installation of President Eisgruber

By Sankar Suryanarayan, Princeton University counsel

Sept. 22, 2013

It is my privilege to represent the staff of Princeton University here today as we welcome our new President Chris Eisgruber. I want to start by describing the staff of Princeton: who are we? We are a talented, committed, diverse group who take pride in our work — and pride in our University. We seek to provide an environment where our students and our faculty can thrive, and simply put, we try to take care of the place. We work on matters ranging from Admission to Zoning – and everything in between. Some examples of what we do:

  • The Departments of Public Safety and Environment Health and Safety, they protect us.
  • University Services houses us.
  • Dining Services feeds us.
  • Facilities keeps us warm.
  • McCosh keeps us healthy.
  • Athletics keeps us fit.
  • Communications keeps us informed.
  • Our Alumni office keeps us connected.
  • The Art Museum and Library keep our mind and spirit nourished.
  • Our Treasurer’s office makes sure we are financially sound.
  • Development and Princo make sure we are well resourced.
  • Human Resources and the Dean of the Faculty’s Office make sure we are good colleagues.
  • Our federal, state and community relations offices make sure we are good citizens and good neighbors.
  • The Offices of the Deans of the College, Undergraduate Students and Graduate School make sure our students have everything they need . . . and more.

And I could go on.

At the same time, we staff members know Princeton is not about us. We know Princeton, at its core, is about our students, our faculty and our alumni. We know that no student or faculty member has ever said, "you know, I think I will come to Princeton because they have a terrific staff." And we know that the US News and World Report rankings do not measure or take into account the staff. We know all this, and we’re good with it. We are good with it because we are comfortable in our role of supporting Princeton — and doing what we can to keep it one of the finest universities in the world.

Many of the staff have devoted their careers to Princeton — and a good number have been working here for several decades. Still, most of us are not Princeton graduates, and therefore we are not always thought of as Princetonians. We are reminded of this fact quite often, every time we see that our names are not followed by an apostrophe and two digits. While we are not always thought of as Princetonians, today is special. As we are all gathered here — in this picture-perfect setting — with a nod to John F. Kennedy and his Berlin speech 50 years ago — today, each staff member can and should say: "Ich bin ein Princetonian."

We the staff have had the privilege of working with Provost Eisgruber for the last nine years, and we look forward to working with President Eisgruber for many years to come. If there is one thing we have learned from our experiences with Chris it is that he cares about the staff. When working with us, Chris has been honest and direct — and we feel he strives to do what is right. He also expects a lot from us, and he holds us accountable, and these are good things. This makes us bring our A-game — an A-game with no grade inflation. And this is what Princeton deserves.

We also know Chris has our back. And that makes all the difference to us. When a President supports us, that makes us excited to come to work everyday, and makes us give our very best. And Chris, I am here to say, we the staff appreciate that — and you should know, we have your back.

Today marks the formal transition from Princeton’s 19th President to its 20th President. And we the staff would be remiss if we did not take this opportunity to thank our 19th President Shirley Tilghman, who, with her "straight talk" and her engaging style, holds a special place in our hearts. Perhaps how we feel about the transition is best captured in lyrics sung by the great American vocalist – Meat Loaf, albeit it in a very different context. From Shirley to Chris: "Ain’t no doubt about it, we’ve been doubly-blessed."

Thank you Shirley, and welcome Chris.

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