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For immediate release: May 28, 2002

Contact: Marilyn Marks, 609-258-3601 or mmarks@princeton.edu 

Lillian Pierce, mathematician and musician, to be Princeton valedictorian

Latin salutatorian address to be given by Josephine Dru

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Lillian Pierce, an accomplished violinist who has won many of Princeton University's top honors and will study mathematics as a Rhodes Scholar next fall, has been named valedictorian for Princeton's 2002 Commencement June 4. The salutatorian will be Josephine Dru, a classics scholar who loves the study of languages and will give her address in Latin, following Princeton tradition.


(A photo is available at http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pictures/l-r/pierce/.)

Lillian Pierce, from Fallbrook, Calif., has excelled in her two passions: mathematics and music. As a mathematician, she researched problems relating to the Riemann hypothesis, one of the great unsolved problems of mathematics. As a musician, she has served as co-concertmaster of the Princeton University Orchestra, founder and first violinist of the Nassau String Quartet and soloist with professional orchestras. Her thesis adviser, Elias Stein, the Albert Baldwin Dod Professor of Mathematics, called her "truly a modern embodiment of the 'Renaissance man' ideal."

Awarded both the Rhodes and the Marshall scholarships -- she accepted the Rhodes -- Pierce has earned many honors since her freshman year at Princeton. She won the President's Award for Academic Achievement following her freshman and sophomore years and the Freshman First Honor Prize. She was co-winner of the Class of 1939 Princeton Scholar Award, given to the student entering senior year with the highest overall academic standing. She was named a Barry Goldwater Scholar in 2001 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Earlier this year, she was named the co-winner of the Moses Taylor Pyne Honor Prize, the highest general distinction conferred on a Princeton undergraduate. She has received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and was recognized last year by USA Today as a member of its All-USA College Academic First Team and by Glamour Magazine as one of its top 10 college women.

"It is simply impossible to imagine a person better qualified to represent the class of 2002 and the University as this year's valedictorian," said Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel.

Pierce has participated in summer research in theoretical chemistry at Princeton, in molecular biology at the California Institute of Technology and in mathematics at the National Security Agency. In addition, she has been a nurse's assistant at McCosh Infirmary, a tutor in math and organic chemistry and a mentor to young women with an interest in mathematics.

For her thesis, she focused on the pair correlation of the zeroes of the Riemann zeta function, an area on the frontier of research on the interrelations between analysis and number theory. The work whetted her appetite for research, and she will use her Rhodes Scholarship to conduct research in pure mathematics at Oxford University. After her two years at Oxford, Pierce plans to return to the United States to pursue a doctorate in mathematics and to become a university faculty member.

Looking back over her four years at Princeton, Pierce said she is "trying not to forget how terribly hard I had to work. People think I've done it very easily. That's not true -- it's been very difficult. But it's all been fun, too, because I love learning. I love that kind of work."

The daughter of Michael and Elizabeth Pierce, Pierce is not the first in her family to be Princeton's valedictorian. Her brother, Niles, an assistant professor of applied and computational mathematics at the California Institute of Technology and a former Rhodes Scholar, gave the valedictory address nine years ago. Officials believe it is the first time in University history that a second member of one family has been chosen for the Commencement honor.


(A photo is available at http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pictures/a-f/dru/.)

Josephine Dru, from Lansdale, Pa., got her start as a classics scholar when her eighth-grade history teacher introduced his subject during the first class of the year. "He talked about how knowledge of the past is really valuable to knowledge of the present," Dru recalled.

That observation -- and four years of studying Latin in high school -- has shaped Dru's interest in the classics department since she arrived at Princeton four years ago. In her senior year of high school, Dru won the National Latin Exam Scholarship, which required her to continue with classical languages at Princeton. She began by taking Greek, which she loved, and studied the language for two and a half years. She added Chinese in her second year, returned to Latin in her third, and began German in her fourth. And this summer she will begin a three-semester intensive program in biblical Hebrew at the Westminster Theological Seminary. Next year, she plans to study the Scriptures in Greek and Hebrew on her own.

"During the year I hope to develop a more thorough reading knowledge of several languages I have studied but am still far from mastering: first Greek and Hebrew, then Latin and German," she said. "I also hope to continue deepening relationships with my parents and sisters and learn practical lessons of serving at home and in the wider community."

Dru, the daughter of James and Jocelyn Dru, is considering attending graduate school, but did not apply this year because "I didn't know which direction to go in. But I've realized that whatever I do will have to do with biblical texts and biblical languages," she said.

Dru credits the strong Christian community at Princeton with making a large contribution to her undergraduate experience. She has been active in Bible studies and prayer meetings with the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship, and served as its secretary last year. She also has been involved with the Student Volunteers Council as a tutor, as a helper at a soup kitchen in Philadelphia and as a pianist in a program that brings music to the elderly.

She was awarded the President's Award for Academic Achievement in 1999 and 2000, and for the last four years was chosen as a Bakke Scholar by the Mustard Seed Foundation, which provides scholarships to Christians pursuing advanced education.

Her thesis examined the metaphor of clothing in two sets of New Testament readings, the epistles of Paul and the Apocalypse of John. She described the process of selecting her thesis topic as a combination of "prayer and blundering. After you try certain methods of working and discover scholars have already made the same mistakes, there's a sense of comfort and regret. But then you realize it wasn't really a waste. You've moved from your starting point to a clearer perspective," she said.

Fritz Graf, the Andrew Fleming West Professor of Classics, served as Dru's thesis adviser. He was impressed by her perceptive selection of a topic, her keen insights and her hard work. "She has a terribly patient eye for details, and she took something that nobody had seen and made observations that turned out to be highly relevant and interesting," he said.

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