Notebook - December 15, 1999

Hellenic Studies celebrates 20 years

Images of the Parthenon, Zeus, and Homer may spring to mind when you think of Greece, but what of Byzantine monasteries, El Greco, Maria Callas, and Nobel Prize-winning poets such as George Seferis? The Hellenic world's literature, art, and thought, indubitably inspired the Western world for centuries and continues to through its modern culture; Princeton's Program in Hellenic Studies, currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, embraces all of it.

"The Hellenic world is a mirror, a dark crystal, into which we tend to see our reflection, refraction, or antithesis. That's the idea behind Hellenic Studies at Princeton. We study Greek culture for its own sake, and also to seek out what's relevant in it for understanding the world at large," said Dimitri H. Gondicas '78, (on the left in picture) executive director of the program.

Given Princeton's strong tradition in Classics (which focuses on Classical Greek literature, history, art, archaeology, and philosophy), Hellenic Studies' mission is to strengthen teaching and research on the post-Classical Greek world, including the Late Antique, Byzantine, Ottoman, and modern Greek periods. Since 1979, the program has grown from two to 20 courses. It now offers an undergraduate concentration and graduate opportunities, including a Ph.D. in Classical and Hellenic Studies.

"The program . . . brings together people from different disciplines who share Hellenic interests," said vice-president and secretary Thomas H. Wright, Jr. '62, who has served as a trustee since Stanley J. Seeger, Jr. '52 *56 made the founding gift. Seeger's funding coupled with strong appointments and abundant offerings have allowed Hellenic Studies to become the premier academic program of its kind in the U.S., said Wright.

A burst of activity has accompanied this 20th anniversary. In November, the program hosted the 30th anniversary Symposium of the Modern Greek Studies. And scholars associated with the program are busy publishing: among them are Edmund L. Keeley '48 (in center, pictured above), a former program director and the Charles Barnwell Straut Class of 1923 Professor of English, Emeritus (Inventing Paradise: The Greek Journey 1937-47), program director and Edmund N. Carpenter II Class of 1943 Professor in the Humanities Alexander Nehamas *71 (The Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault, pictured above on right), and coeditors Gondicas and Bayard Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies Emeritus Charles P. Issawi (Ottoman Greeks in the Age of Nationalism).

-Maria LoBiondo

Endowment hits $6.5 billion

Princeton's pockets are bulging. As of June 30, its endowment grew to $6.5 billion, said Andrew K. Golden, president of Princeton University Investment Company (Princo). For decades, the university has had the highest endowment per student in the nation, he said. In 1998 it was $875,321, ranking first among institutions that educate undergraduates, according The Chronicle of Higher Education. Grinnel College was second ($760,484) and Harvard third ($727,522).

"Having a large endowment in and of itself isn't a mark of excellence," said Richard R. Spies *72, vice-president for finance and administration. "It's what you do with it that matters." Princeton is able to maintain a low student to faculty ratio of 8.5 to one and to afford every student the opportunity to do independent work. The endowment also allows the university to take some risks such as the reworking of the financial aid program in 1998, which made Princeton more affordable to low and middle income families.

A long history of generous alumni and smart investment management have contributed to Princeton's success in building its financial resources. The university, which spends 4 to 5 percent of the endowment, balances the need to preserve purchasing power for peretuity with the desire to spend as much as possible now, said Golden.

Last year the endowment produced a 21.7 percent return on its investment, one of the highest on record. "We did well across our portfolio, particularly in domestic and emerging markets and private equity investments, which are managed by Nassau Capital," said Golden. But he warned that you can't expect 20-percent returns in the future. In the last few years, he said, "the market has rewarded people simply for showing up." Over the last 10 years, the endowment's annual compound rate of return was 14.7 percent.

Accessing the World Wide Web without wires

This fall, many Princeton students have been spotted outdoors with computers in their laps and a faraway look in their eyes. Thanks to the Office of Computing and Information Technology (CIT), these students are communing with nature and the Internet simultaneously. Experimenting with the same technology that makes the most advanced cordless telephones possible, CIT has begun wireless computing on campus, putting Princeton several gigahertz ahead of most corporations and institutions in this technology. According to Ira H. Fuchs, vice-president for CIT, two outdoor base stations are up and running, one near the sculpture between Firestone Library and the Chapel, and another covering the area popularly designated "Alexander Beach," the lawn behind Alexander Hall. But when the cold winds started blowing, CIT added a base unit to cover Chancellor Green.

Base units, which are almost as small as cellphones, transmit radio waves that enable students to do wireless online activity, including e-mailing, checking their course Web pages, and researching on the Internet. The base units communicate with a small card inserted in the laptop. Eventually students and faculty will be able to access the Internet with their laptops almost anywhere on campus that doesn't offer a standard network hookup, said Steven M. Sather of CIT. This will alleviate crowding in the hardwired computing centers and allow students to log on even in buildings that would have been prohibitively expensive to wire without ruining the architectural aesthetics.

Student response to the new computing has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Since most incoming freshmen enter with laptops, wireless connectivity makes ultimate sense to them. What about students who don't have laptops? Now they can check them out from the library along with Homer and Dostoyevsky. And for those students who have Apple iBooks, which are designed for wireless Internet access using Apple's own technology, CIT is also working to make sure that iBooks, too, will be compatible. One note of caution, though: Professors may want to make sure that their lectures are interesting enough to prevent students from cyber chatting during class.

-Diane Krumrey

Physicists build balloon to catch solar neutrinos

It looks like a big balloon that will soar high in the sky. But it's actually a neutrino catcher that will be installed deep underground. A team of physicists led by Professor Frank P. Calaprice have built a prototype of a 28-foot diameter sphere, shown above in Jadwin Gym, that will be placed in a lab under the Gran Sasso mountains east of Rome sometime in 2001. Made of nylon film, it will be filled with trimethylbenzene, a scintillating liquid that may stop the occasional neutrino. Neutrinos are elementary particles, among the fundamental building blocks of nature. They are thought to have zero mass, are produced by the Sun during nuclear reactions, and pass through the Earth very rarely reacting with matter. Physicists have detected them from the Sun, but see too few.

With this new experiment involving scientists from Germany and Italy, researchers expect to detect about 50 neutrinos per day (a tiny fraction of the 10 billion per second per square centimeter that hit the Earth). The scientists hope to find evidence that solar neutrinos are actually produced in the Sun and oscillate to an undetectable ghost state, which would imply that nuetrinos have a non-zero mass-giving physicists a whole new world to explore. Other faculty members involved in the project are Professor of Chemical Engineering Jay B. Benziger and assistant professors of physics Marck C. Chen and Thomas A. Shutt.

The project's Website is

-Kathryn Federici Greenwood

Cookie cutters . . . Homeric gore . . . Medal of arts

William Zinsser '44, revered by writers and editors for his book On Writing Well, wrote a holiday memoir for this month's Town and Country magazine. Zinsser, in his story, titled "A Christmas Memoir," explains why he stays in New York City for the holidays, saying that "Town is what I don't want to get out of." For him, the surest sign that the holidays have arrived is when his wife asks him "to go down to 'the cage' and get the Christmas-cookie cutters. The cage is a wire enclosure in the basement of old New York apartment buildings where families store stuff they only need once a year or can't bring themselves to throw away. I remember where I left the cutters last January-shoved between some old lampshades and old end tables-and I bring the paper bag up to the kitchen." When one Princeton undergraduate, who unabashedly adores Zinsser's work, heard about his cookies, she eagerly offered her own Christmas- cookie story. "Every year I hold a holiday cookie party. Friends come over to munch cookies and watch the movie Clue." Her party isn't as fancy as the ones that Zinsser goes on to describe in his article, but holiday parties don't have to be cut from the same mold to be filled with the spirit of the season.

Recently Professor Robert Fagles, a Homeric scholar, visited Princeton High School, where he read from his acclaimed 1996 translation of The Odyssey to an audience of 300 students. According to the Princeton Packet, Fagles told the students, "I'll lay it on ya." He went on to read some of the gorier parts of the story, including the section in which Odysseus embeds a "searing hot spear" in the Cyclops' eye and the episode in which the hero returns home and slaughters the men who are courting his wife, Penelope. The Princeton High teachers, who had been using a 1937 translation of The Odyssey, are developing a Website based on Fagles's edition as part of a new curriculum.

On September 29 architecture professor Michael Graves received the National Medal of the Arts in Washington, D.C., from President Clinton. The award is given in recognition of "outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts in the United States." Graves's many projects are located around the world; his design for the scaffolding for the restoration of the Washington Monument made national news; and his home furnishings are available from high-end retailers and the mass-market store Target.

With balloons and champagne, the Annex last month celebrated 50 years at its current location. Now a favorite haunt of many a professor and student, the restaurant began as a club and became a public restaurant when Prohibition ended; in 1948, the Carnevale family bought it and in 1949 moved it to 1281/2 Nassau Street.

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