Web Exclusives: Rally 'Round the Cannon -- Princeton history
by Gregg Lange '70
From Robert Goheen ’40 *48,
the meaning of Princeton and Reunions
By Gregg Lange ’70
Up near the top of thankless tasks I’d rather
not ever have is the mysterious position of grand marshal of the
Reunions P-rade. Not only the moral but physical equivalent of herding
20,000 cats (in this instance, Tigers), it puts one at the complete
mercy of May thunderstorms, the entire American brewing industry,
the Baby Stroller Mafia and many thousands of years of misspent
law-school classes. All this in a simple attempt to provide warm
memories for a wildly diverse amalgamation of ages, genders, attitudes,
and sobriety from across the globe, all trying to walk a single
straight line. Fat chance.
Anyway, my Class of ’70 pith helmet is off
to Charles Plohn ’66, who recently inherited that questionable
honor from Charlie Rose ’50, and is admirably optimistic in
his duties given that he appears to be otherwise sane. Just before
this year’s P-rade, he mentioned to me a fact that may broaden
your view of Reunions a tad.
Malcolm Warnock ’25 won the Class of ’23
cane for the senior returning alumnus to the P-rade this year for
the fourth time. His elder classmate, Leonard Ernst, who has won
the cane five times himself and still lives happy and healthy in
Arizona at age 103, makes it a record total of nine wins so far
for ’25, a daunting challenge to future geriatricians. What
Plohn mentioned to me was that, when Warnock and Ernst were seniors
(the seniors didn’t march in the P-rade back then –
they only observed, too rowdy) the eldest marching alumnus was from
the Class of 1865. They personally have seen well over half of Princeton’s
262 years parade before them.
Now, very few of us can come to terms with Reunions
on that exalted a level. Most of us need our own little touchpoints,
modest comfortable anchors that keep us level and upbeat when we
go back. I like to listen to the organ in the Chapel. I like to
wander through Holder courtyard at least once. I really have enjoyed
seeing Bob Goheen ’40 *48 with his class in the P-rade. On
the rare occasion he has been elsewhere, I always felt cheated a
little; now that he’s gone, my weekend somehow seems more
It turns out he made allowance for that.
Bob Goheen, God bless him, organized his own memorial
service in the thoughtful and judicious way he did most things in
life. When it was held April 27 in the Chapel, his selections reflected
him so well that he seemed to be in the room. Many of the elements
were overtly clear. Here was Lloyd Stone’s lyric to “Finlandia”:
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine…
giving voice to the global vision of an American
soldier raised in India. Here was Duke Ellington’s “It’s
Freedom,” recalling Goheen’s firm, methodical effort
to offer Princeton’s treasures to those who never before had
hoped to be admitted to them. I must admit I was puzzled by the
inclusion of John Newton’s “Glorious Things of You Are
Spoken,” which has always struck me as faintly jingoistic:
Glorious things of you are spoken
Zion, City of our God;
One whose word can not be broken
Formed you for a blest abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
What can shake your sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
You may smile at all your foes.
until I realized I was too narrowly focusing on the wrong passage.
The hymn continues:
See! The streams of living waters
Springing from eternal Love,
Well supply your sons and daughters,
And all fear of want remove.
Who can faint while such a river
Ever will their thirst assuage:
Grace which, like our God, the Giver,
Never fails from age to age?
The holy city of Zion with its streams of living waters, to Bob
Goheen, is Princeton.
Fading is all worldly pleasure,
All earth’s boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasures
None but Zion’s children know.
My class, the Great, Turbulent Class of 1970, probably
robbed Goheen of a few valuable years of contemplative life. Girls,
cars, bicker, Vietnam, racism, academic freedom, academic calendars,
dorm assignments, free speech, course requirements, the FitzRandolph
Gate, ecology, Commons food, young alumni trustees, Walter Hickel,
faculty selection – you name it, we bitched about it. We weren’t
ever wrong (ahem), but it still must have been telling on his nerves,
not that you would ever know. There was probably as much guilt as
respect in our offer of honorary class membership to him some years
after our (merciful) departure, but his ready acceptance was as
classy as any gesture there ever was. It’s probably the most
moral thing we’ve ever done, and among his most magnanimous.
And here in his memorial service he’s explaining (via St.
Francis) his approach to us reprobates:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there
is hatred, let us sow love, where there is injury, pardon; where
there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there
is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is
sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled
as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as
As a bonus, may I note that this is the actual justification
for Reunions? It’s not for drinking, marching, couture (heaven
help us), dating, fundraising, dancing, fireworks, or pride; those
can’t begin to justify decades of hard work by folks like
Plohn and Rose. Reunions actually are for hope, joy, consolation,
and understanding. Goheen’s beloved Sophocles called it “the
noblest home on earth.” I’d wager the classes of 1925
and 1865 would agree.
Two years ago Bob Goheen sat for a PAW cover photograph
honoring his 70 years at Princeton. If you look very carefully,
you’ll notice a tiny lapel pin on his typical tweed jacket,
adjacent to his usual bowtie. It’s the Itty Bitty Bug pin
of his honorary Class of 1970. Lord, Lord, we will miss that man.
Lange ’70 is a member of the Princetoniana Committee and the
Alumni Council Committee on Reunions, an Alumni Schools Committee
volunteer, and a trustee of WPRB radio.