On the Campus
July 18, 2007:
… for now
By P.G. Sittenfeld ’07
On the first Tuesday in June, more than 1,120 undergraduates
gathered in the shadow of Nassau Hall and under dappled Front Campus
sunlight to become the 260th class to graduate from Princeton. Perhaps
we shared similar feelings with the young men of the University’s
first graduating class as we completed our undergraduate experience
as the Great Class of 2007: excitement, nervousness, nostalgia,
and gratitude for years spent here.
Graduation is an exhilarating moment because our
entire life stretches out in front of us. Graduation is a daunting
moment for the same reason. In my final On the Campus column, after
several years of this valued opportunity, I reflect on what Princeton
has meant to me and my peers and what it will mean to us into the
Our time here has felt both as long as a lifetime
and as short as a rendition of the final stanza of “Old Nassau.”
Our lives have been nomadic: moving each year from one dorm to another
and scattering each summer for various internships, jobs, and travel.
Certainly, much has happened as we have grown from
starry-eyed 18-year-olds to graduating seniors. We arrived fresh-faced
and eager to make new friends and embrace college life. We learned
the rhythms of a campus that is part East Coast pressure-cooker
and part Orange and Black Bubble utopia. We immersed ourselves in
wide-ranging studies that fully challenged our intellectual curiosity
and, blessedly, developed a few real -world skills, too. Even at
best, our academic pursuits did not provide us with all the answers,
but, instead, with the wish to continue our exploration of the most
For four years, we’ve committed ourselves to
a capella groups, community-service organizations, dance companies,
sports teams, eating clubs, and debating societies. We’ve
procrastinated enough to warrant Dean’s Date all-nighters.
We’ve stayed up until sunrise for less academic reasons as
well. We’ve produced senior theses. And now we’ve marched
out through FitzRandolph Gate and into the world beyond.
Even the most blissful Tigers acknowledge that it
hasn’t always been smooth or easy. But that’s part of
what makes these years valuable: increasing self-reliance as we
bounce back from our inevitable mistakes. What’s important
is that we made it – and for that, we should be proud. Proud
and aware of faculty, family, and friends who have stood by us and
When the time came to say goodbye, it was bittersweet
to separate from the people who defined our years here and the University
that had become our home. On graduation day, following the ceremony,
as students bid fond farewells, one classmate remarked: “I
realized that not only do I love Princeton, but that I think Princeton
might be a love of my life.”
Of course, there is a vexing world out there in need
of the best Princeton has to offer. We’ve been given much;
how will each of us now return the favor? A Princeton diploma does
not guarantee our success. Our undergraduate education here has
empowered us to do well and opened for us many doors. May the same
privileges that have come our way also motivate to us to do good.
In his Baccalaureate address to the seniors, much-admired
emeritus Professor John Fleming declared ’07 the “Class
of Destiny.” He’s given us the title; now we must breathe
life into that confidence. Ultimately, each of us will cross the
threshold of our dreams and aspirations.
Having a sister in the Class of ’02 and a father
in the Class of ’69 has given me an encouraging glimpse of
what life might offer five or 38 years ahead. And I’ve also
come to realize that our greatest asset is the same one that has
enriched our time at Princeton: one another. We have grown together:
learning, loving, agreeing, disagreeing, bickering (literally and
figuratively), hoping, dancing, drinking, and dreaming. As we disperse
across a country and a world riddled with troubling issues and yet
poised for progress, we have roles to play. We have much to give
to and to gain from each other.
One might think that watching my Old Man accumulate
overflowing files in his now-32 years as ’69’s Class
Scribe would be a dissuading experience. Apparently not. Perhaps
it’s genetic. Whatever. As ’07’s Class Secretary
for our first five years out, I look forward to chronicling the
lives of our Class. On to new adventures!
Sittenfeld ’07 is an English major from Cincinnati, Ohio.
A Marshall scholar, he plans to enroll in a new one-year master’s
program in English literature and American studies at the University
of Oxford, followed by a one-year master’s program in economic
and social history.
Photo by Hyunseok