July 19, 2006: Features
Photographs by Beverly Schaefer and Frank Wojciechowski
A week before Reunions began, Carrie Ward Grabowski '81, who co-chaired the 25th reunion with Jeffrey Mitchell '81, summarized her class's history. "We've always been a very enthusiastic class," she said, "and with us, it always rains."
Grabowski was right on both counts: A record 547 members of the Class of 1981 registered in advance for Reunions, and gray skies accompanied their return, drenching the campus for much of the weekend. But unlike the rain that moved the class's Commencement to Jadwin Gym 25 years earlier, the Reunions weather cooperated long enough to give the '81 alumni their moment in the spotlight, leading the P-rade to its muddy terminus at Poe and Pardee fields.
Reunions 2006 brought about 17,000 alumni, family members, and guests to Princeton June 1–4, and the reuners took part in a variety of educational, artistic, and social events. Alumni-faculty forums, tours of the University Art Museum, community service projects, athletic team reunions, class dinners, and performances by bands at class headquarters filled the weekend schedule.
More than 2,800 people attended the 17 alumni-faculty forums, with discussions of Iraq and the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts drawing the largest audiences. Other topics on the menu included food and society, with Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser '81 participating; retirement, with a focus on baby boomers; and "Investing Today," a panel including Vanguard founder John Bogle '51.
In addition to the first rounds of forums, Friday's activities included an organ concert at the University Chapel, where more than 150 people gathered to hear the sounds of Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, and others radiate through the gothic hall. The Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni honored standout preceptors at a reception Friday evening, shortly before the group acknowledged retiring professors John Fleming *63, John Gager, and Theodore Rabb *61 with a standing ovation at an emotional "Tribute to Teaching" dinner. Later that night at the Class of 1971 headquarters, 1960s pop singer Darlene Love, sporting a dress custom-cut from the class's Reunions jacket cloth, entertained the audience with some of her memorable hits, including "He's a Rebel" and "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)."
Saturday morning brought steady rain, but the Princeton marching band played on at the Fred Fox '39 Memorial Concert on Cannon Green. A little more than an hour before the P-rade's scheduled start, the Class of 1961 gathered on the steps in front of Blair Arch for a class photo. When the call came to put the umbrellas down and smile for the camera, a 10-minute downpour descended, delaying the shoot, but reunion chairman Joe Prather '61 managed to laugh it off when he returned to the class's headquarters. Ed Stanczak '71, the Class of 1971 reunion chair, said it was "amazing how everybody copes." Of course, some coped better than others: Stanczak's class had the good fortune to include umbrellas as part of this year's costume.
The rain stopped in time for the P-rade, and centenarian Malcolm Warnock '25, recipient of the 1923 Cane for the oldest returning alumnus, settled into his golf cart near FitzRandolph Gate at the head of the Old Guard. The colorful procession featured Frisbee-flinging families from the Class of 1981 and a strong contingent from the Class of 1936, including John Paul Jones '36, a member of Princeton's undefeated 1935 football squad, who rode with a football in hand and a poster declaring his old nickname, "End Around" Jones. Tom Hargrave '46 set up a keyboard on a flatbed trailer and "played it again" for his classmates, who adopted a Casablanca theme.
Near the reviewing stand, members of the facilities staff fought a losing battle as they scattered straw to try to dry up the muddy turf. Linda Knights '77, chairwoman of the Alumni Council, offered a belated welcome to the Class of 2005 (that formality was rained out at the end of last year's P-rade), and extended a similar greeting to members of the Class of 2006, who cheered as they sloshed past. Caroline Yeager '06 said the class was too caught up in the moment to worry about the weather. "I actually got the impression that some people enjoyed the mud," she said.
President Tilghman on the hot seat
Continuing a Reunions tradition, President Tilghman spent an hour answering questions during her annual "conversation with alumni" in Richardson Auditorium. Topics ranged from the political views of the faculty (Tilghman said private political views are "not relevant to faculty work at Princeton") to admissions (there is "absolutely no difference" between the academic qualifications of male and female applicants) to finances (though Princeton is "very fiscally conservative," growth in the percentage of the budget supported by endowment funds presents "some risk"). Responding to a question about the Duke lacrosse team and problems of drinking and sexual assaults, Tilghman said, "We do not see it as a problem of varsity athletes here." She added that she is deeply concerned about the problem of binge drinking, which she said all campuses face. Tilghman said she believes "absolutely" that there is a long-term future for the eating clubs, and said the University is trying to find ways for the clubs and the new four-year colleges — which will open in fall 2007 — to work together. By W.R.O.
Overheard at Reunions
Alumni packed alumni-faculty forums on a wide variety of topics. One of the most popular focused on what is becoming a perennial Reunions subject: Iraq. Nearly 450 attended a session in which a journalist, a retired soldier, and two former government officials discussed Iraq's future. The topic also came up during an ROTC panel in which Matt Scherrer '01 spoke about his experiences leading a U.S. Army Ranger platoon in Iraq:
"I learned not to talk about Princeton. It's greatly to your benefit to ... try to relate to [the members of the platoon], and they don't relate to Princeton."
Also overheard at Reunions were these comments from those in the know:
"What you don't want is when you wake up in the morning with nothing to do, and by evening, you're halfway there."
— Retired attorney James Freund '56, at a forum on "The Retirement of the Baby Boomers."
"China is making a tremendous investment in training, education, and research and development. It will be the essence of the emerging China. ... The investment is not so visible to those in the West. But when you have that much money getting reinvested in a country that large — that's the story."
— Consultant and China expert Eva Lerner-Lam '76, at a forum on "Perspectives on an Emerging China."
"Frank Gehry's work is extremely approachable on the level of fun. ... Instead of McCosh or Blair on the cover of every college catalog, it will be Gehry's building."
— Architect Jason Gold '81, at a forum on "New Architecture at Princeton," discussing the modern design of the Peter B. Lewis ['55] Science Library under construction.
"One of the biggest mistakes we make as parents is the projections we tend to impose on our kids — the belief that what motivates us will motivate them."
— Mary Livingston Azoy '71, director of Community Education and Crisis Response at CrisisLink, a crisis, suicide, and referral hotline for the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, at a forum on "Are We Burning Out Our Kids?"
The Supreme Court
"Justice Alito [Samuel A. Alito '72] is much clearer in his ideas that Justice O'Connor had been, and he is much more engaged with doctrine. She more or less decided what's good for the country and she voted that way. ... But that's not Justice Alito's standard. I think you'll see much more coherence. But if you're looking for some sort of conservative nirvana, don't look for that either."
— Harvard law professor Charles Fried '56 at a forum on "The Roberts Court: Year One."
"Be true to yourself – that's really the essence of service. Look into your heart and what's real to you, and follow that."
— Andy Oser '76, founding executive director, the Joy of Sports Foundation, at a forum on "Passion and Profession: Bringing Service to the Nation — and the World."
"They're a great reflection of what is wrong with the financial system because they cause you to act. ... Don't do something, just stand there!"
— John Bogle '51, founder of the Vanguard Group, talking about television's investment pundits at a forum on "Investing Today."
Life after princeton
"The interaction of family life and work — not enough attention is paid to that here [at Princeton]. Both men and women would benefit from more conversations on that."
— Elizabeth Duffy '88, headmaster of the Lawrenceville School, at a forum on "If I Knew Then What I Know Now."
The big surprise in midlife
By Landon Y. Jones '66
I first began to take Princeton reunion books and class surveys seriously when the University's late recording secretary, Freddy Fox, gave me a copy of the 40th reunion book of his great Class of 1939. In contrast to today's reunionees, who typically submit personal photographs suggesting that Princeton educates its students for lives as rugged mountain-climbers and sailors, the men of '39 seemed to have been transported straight from the boardroom to the class book – virtually all wore starchy coats and ties for their 40th reunion pictures.
Thereby made aware of the potential of reunion books for forensic cultural anthropology, I co-authored an ambitious class survey for my Class of 1966 at its 25th reunion in 1991. For our 40th reunion this year, we again surveyed the class, gathering 201 responses from our full class roll of 707.
What did we learn?
Perhaps not unexpectedly, the 62-year-old men of '66 are affluent achievers. Almost 75 percent report a net worth of more than $1 million, and one-half own second homes. Two-thirds are working full time. But less expectedly, these men have become what my classmate T.R. Reid calls "millionaire liberals." We give high ratings to Bill Clinton and dismal ratings to George W. Bush; most are liberal on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion.
Still, there was an even bigger surprise in the area of personal well-being. In 1991, we presented a list of choices and asked, "Which of the following have you experienced since you turned 40?" The numbers of the then-47-year-olds who frankly acknowledged "depression/anxiety" and "loneliness" were so high that I concluded in my analysis that "Loneliness is potentially a troubling issue for Princeton '66." In 2006, we presented a similar list and asked a similar question. (The responses are on this page.)
It appears that alumni at their 40th reunion are much less worried and less anxious than at their 25th. Why? Is it because of changes in parenting responsibilities, less workplace stress, resolution of marital/relationship issues, or abatement of "sandwich-generation" pressures? Or has something subtler changed about our expectations for what life can bring us?
To understand these questions better, I talked to a '66 spouse, Barbara Goltz, who is a psychologist and a therapist. She pointed out that the decade leading up to the 25th reunion is usually the hardest decade for ambitious people. "The issue of achievement is not settled," Goltz said, "and many are still anxious to accomplish whatever it is they thought would make them feel better about themselves and their lives."
By the time we reach our 60s — and the 40th reunion survey — people realize that there is not enough time or energy left to make substantial changes in life, Goltz said. "As a result, many feel much more settled and accepting of themselves. The gift of the 15 years between the 25th and 40th reunions is more personal equanimity and calm. One of the pieces of being quieter and more satisfied in the 60s, in spite of facing more real illness and death, has to do with becoming more realistic, accepting, and compassionate with ourselves and others. This comes from surviving the bumps of life and finding out what is personally important." As a result, she said, "Being alone is less frightening and more enriching. The fact that many people survive the bumps in life and come to better terms with themselves over the years also benefits the bond in marriage."
So our 40th reunion survey brought me a reassuring message about aging. And it may even help me understand why, when asked to name their favorite all-time popular song, my classmates chose the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction."
Landon Y. Jones '66 is a former editor of PAW and of People magazine. A longer version of this article appears with the full survey in the Class of 1966 40th Reunion book.
The Class of 1966, then and now
The Alumni Council presented its Award for Service to Princeton to three alumni: Kenneth M. Bruce '83, for his work with the Princeton Prize in Race Relations Committee, the Committee to Nominate Alumni Trustees, and the Association of Black Princeton Alumni; Jon D. Hlafter '61 *63, Princeton's longtime director of physical planning and University architect since 2004, for overseeing the transformation of the campus; and Paul G. Sittenfeld '69, for his leadership within his class (he has served as class secretary and memorialist for more than 32 years) and within other Princeton groups, including the Schools Committee. James McPherson, professor of history, emeritus, received the Award for Excellence in Alumni Education. An authority on the Civil War, McPherson has been the study leader on nine Alumni Association journeys while also leading less formal trips like walking the Gettysburg battlefield.