Notebook - October 20, 1999

Alumni Council gets its first female director

Kathryn Taylor '74 will guide alumni into second millennium

A legacy with a love of Princeton, M. Kathryn Taylor '74 became the new director of the Alumni Council on October 4. She brings experience as a manager, teacher, and volunteer to her new position.

"I represent a different Princeton. I come from the coed Princeton," said Taylor, the first woman to head the Alumni Council. She plans to make the Alumni Council's programs attractive to a broad range of alumni partly by continuing to harness the powers of technology. Taylor succeeds Daniel N. White '65, who retired this summer after 19 years as director. With a staff of 14, the Alumni Council provides a variety of programs and services. Its volunteers serve as presidents of classes and regional associations, on committees, and in many other ways.

Taylor comes from a long line of Princetonians. The Tigers in her family include her late grandfather, James S. Taylor '10, her late father, James S. Taylor, Jr. '39, and her brothers, James S. Taylor III '67 and David B. Taylor '69. An English major, she worked in the student agencies office for four years, performed with the Triangle Club, and served as musical director of the a cappella singing group, the Tigerlilies.

After earning a master's degree in English literature and teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, Taylor joined the Girard Bank in Philadelphia, eventually becoming a vice-president.

In 1987, Taylor left banking to teach senior English at The Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She has also worked as a freelance writer and editor and has performed as a classical singer. As a Princeton volunteer, she was a member of the board of directors of the Princeton Club of Philadelphia and is a regional Annual Giving representative for her class.

Taylor, her husband, Jon Sprogell, and their children, Jay, 13, and Annie, 9, live in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania.

Sleepless in the sanctuary

An undergraduate pledge brings two alumni back to New Jersey on 9/9/99

When they were friends at Princeton, Michael J. Balaoing '89 and Talat Shah '89 made an unusual pledge-that they would meet in the University Chapel at 9:09 a.m. on 9/9/99. After graduation, the two stayed in touch for a while, but five years ago, while Balaoing was squirreled away from the world studying for the bar exam, he lost Shah's number. The two hadn't spoken since.

Yet Balaoing, who lives in California, never forgot the rendezvous, and on September 9 he arrived in New Jersey on the red-eye. "I was going to make sure that I kept my word," he says. Balaoing changed his rumpled clothes in a bathroom on campus, and, after being briefly detained by a security guard, arrived in the chapel at 8:30 a.m. "I wanted to get there early to surprise her," he says. "She'd expect me to be late." He was sitting in the ninth row when he heard footsteps coming down the aisle, and turned-only to see several photographers from the university's communications office who had heard of the reunion. "I wanted to say, 'Ain't no story,' " Balaoing recalls. "It was just me sitting there looking all sullen."

But at 9:20, Shah, who now lives in Washington, D.C., arrived. Although she had remembered the appointment, over the intervening years she had forgotten if the meeting was at 9:09 a.m. or p.m. The photographers from communications took pictures and asked some awkward questions. "They have a funny sense of humor," Balaoing says. "They kept asking if we were going to get married-this isn't the movies."

Shah and Balaoing spent the rest of the day walking around campus, and as they hope to stay in better touch, they didn't set a follow-up date. In addition to renewing an old friendship, Balaoing managed to settle another score. "I was able to pay off my U-Store bill in person," he says. "It's kind of like a clean slate. They even gave me a new card."

-Wes Tooke '98

Neurobiologist and collaborators create smarter mice

Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology Joe Z. Tsien's recent discovery of how to improve the learning and memory skills of mice has not only caught the attention of fellow scientists, it has created a media sensation. Pictures of Tsien's mice appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world, from England and Germany to India and Brazil. Even TV comedian David Letterman took note, devoting one of his show's top 10 lists to the "Top Ten Term Paper Topics Written by Genius Mice." Number one was "Rats: Just Big Mice?"

Tsien, a neurobiologist, and collaborators at MIT and Washington University, found that adding a single gene to mice significantly boosted the animals' ability to solve maze tasks, to learn from objects and sounds in their environment, and to retain that knowledge. This strain of mice, named Doogie, after the character on the television show Doogie Howser, M.D., also retained into adulthood certain brain features of juvenile mice, which, like young humans, are believed to be better than adults at grasping large amounts of new information. The scientists' work, reported in the September 2 issue of Nature, marked a breakthrough in memory research.

Tsien's research proves that the gene he used, NR2B, is a key switch that controls the brain's ability to associate one event with another. The corresponding gene exists in humans, but its enhancing effect in people is unknown.

Jonathan D. Cohen, a professor of psychology and director of Princeton's Center for the Study of Brain, Mind, and Behavior, called Tsien's finding "remarkable."

Tsien's achievement one day "far in the future" could give scientists the ability to treat brain disorders and combat memory loss, said Ira Black, professor and chairman of the department of neuroscience and cell biology at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. "This approach holds the hope of not only making animals smarter, but ultimately of having a human gene therapy for use in areas such as dementia." If Tsien's work is eventually applicable to people-which Black called "a big if"-it will be used for people with devastating brain diseases, not healthy people.

Tsien collaborated with Guosong Liu, assistant professor in MIT's department of brain and cognitive sciences, and Min Zhuo, assistant professor of neurobiology at Washington University. At Princeton he worked with postdoctoral researchers Ya-Ping Tang, Eiji Shimizu, and Claire Rampon.

-Kathryn Federici Greenwood

Firestone exhibit celebrates an American icon and his fiction

Firestone Library has on view an exhibition entitled " 'One true sentence': Hemingway and the Art of Fiction," through January 9, 2000. The exhibit focuses on the Nobel prize-winning author's fiction and his thoughts about the art of writing. Curator John M. Delaney has displayed the first several paragraphs of Hemingway's books as well as original letters from Hemingway to his editors at Charles Scribner's Sons. Charles Scribner III '73 *77 funded the exhibit in memory of his father, Charles Scribner, Jr. '43, Hemingway's last publisher.

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