December 20, 2000: From the Editor

The very first class of Princetonians met in the Elizabeth parsonage of Jonathan Dickinson, a Presbyterian minister and the College of New Jersey’s first president. The college had been organized by a group of seven Presbyterians for the express purpose of training Presbyterian clergymen, as one of the founders wrote in an early letter: “Our great intention was to erect a seminary for educating Ministers of the Gospel.” (Although he also noted that “we hope it will be useful in other learned professions -- Ornaments of the State as well as the Church.”) More than a hundred years after that first college gathering, the Class of 1896 reported in a 1901 class notes column that 16 percent of its graduates studied theology, “most of whom are now actively engaged in ministerial work in various parts of the world.”

But while Princeton has produced many ornaments of the state, here at the turn of the 21st century it’s hard to believe that many alumni would be interested in becoming ministers of the gospel. Mandatory chapel for upperclassmen was eliminated in 1935, for sophomores in 1960, and finally for freshmen, in 1964. Today’s Princeton -- which is made up of students of nearly every conceivable faith -- is decidedly secular, with many graduates entering the twin temples of Wall Street and law school.

Yet it turns out that plenty of alumni still are pursuing careers in the sacred world. One Princeton alumnus, Michael Roach ’75, is among the leaders of Tibetan Buddhism in the United States. Another, Rizwan Arastu ’98, is in Iran studying Islamic law. In addition, there are scores of alumni serving as pastors in Christian churches and rabbis in Jewish synagogues.

And so, while we often pay attention to alumni who represent Princeton’s unofficial motto of In the Nation’s Service, it seems fitting at this holiday time to take a look at a few of the alumni who represent Princeton’s official motto: Dei sub numine viget. (That’s “Under God’s power she flourishes,” not “On the eighth day God created Princeton,” for those of you rusty with your Latin.) Our story on five Princetonians who answered a higher call begins on page 14.

In the spirit of the seasons -- that is to say, holiday and basketball -- I’ll leave you with a paraphrase from a 1990 cartoon by Henry Martin ’48: “I want to wish you a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, and ‘Beat Penn’!”