Tilghman counsels graduates to have courage to take action


Many students took their first exit through FitzRandolph Gate following the June 3 commencement ceremony, observing the Princeton tradition that to do so sooner would put their degree in jeopardy.

Princeton NJ -- Telling graduating students that "the translation of aspiration into action frequently requires courage," President Tilghman advised them to use the lessons they've learned in Princeton's nurturing environment as they face the challenges of today's complicated world.

"Courage is hard, and the times we need to draw upon it are generally not of our own choosing and frequently arise without warning," said Tilghman, speaking at the University's 256th commencement June 3.

"By fostering an intellectual and residential community where integrity, tolerance and respect for others are paramount, Princeton has tried to create safe and fertile ground for your courage to be expressed, and I am proud of the ways in which you have shown individual courage over these last years," she continued. "The challenges will be much greater and the havens will be less safe after you walk out FitzRandolph Gate, but I am confident that you will carry with you the spirit of Princeton and that it will give you courage as well as comfort in the years to come."

Tilghman told the class of 2003 that the "world moved under your feet" during the past four years.

"Without question the world you will enter in just a few minutes when you walk out those gates is a very different place from the day you arrived in Princeton," she said. "But whatever your elders have accomplished, for good or for ill, it is now your world -- and it is your turn to shape it so that the world you bequeath to the next generation is better than the one that you now inherit."

Tilghman concluded her remarks with a wish for the graduates: "I hope that you will carry with you all that this place has aspired to teach you -- the exuberance that comes from learning and discovery, the compassion to care for others less fortunate, a commitment to the highest standards of honor and integrity, the imagination to follow the unexplored path and the freedom to dream."

During the ceremony on the front lawn of Nassau Hall, the University awarded degrees to 1,108 undergraduates and 695 graduate students. It also presented honorary degrees to five individuals for their contributions in the fields of education, science, international human rights law and the humanities: Natalie Davis, historian and professor emerita of Princeton; Richard Goldstone, South African constitutional court justice; Claude Steele, social scientist and Stanford University professor; Joan Steitz, scientist and Yale University professor; and Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University.

  Peggy Ping Hsu
Peggy Ping Hsu, a molecular biology major from Bethlehem, Pa., delivered the valedictory oration. She recounted experiences -- profound, mundane and funny -- that characterized her years at Princeton, particularly emphasizing the important learning that occurred outside of the classroom. She spoke about volunteering, working in a compost heap after midnight and conducting laboratory research on yeast.

"Looking forward, my greatest hope for myself and for all of you is to be perpetually idealistic," said Hsu. "Not a naïve idealism, but an educated one. From our studies at Princeton, we should know by now that most interesting and pertinent problems have complex solutions. World peace won't be possible tomorrow, and I wonder if it will ever be. But we should all hold some ideal in our hearts, some vision for our world and our own lives."

She ended her address with a quote by Gustave Flaubert: "The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel the rise in you a challenge to life and the promise of future accomplishment."

"The beautiful times in our lives are not the times when we're at the top, but instead those times when we're at the bottom and decide to go up again," Hsu said. "Thus, commencement is itself not a glorious moment, but rather a celebration of the more glorious past moments that got us here and all the future ones that will get us to wherever we want to go."

Jesse Liebman
Salutatorian Jesse Liebman of New York City, who received a bachelor's degree in classics, addressed his classmates and their guests in Latin while wearing a garland of leaves on his head. The Latin Salutatory, which dates back to an era when the entire ceremony was conducted in Latin, began as a serious, formal address but today contains humorous tributes, recollections and a farewell to Princeton campus life.

As it does each year, Princeton honored excellence in teaching at the commencement ceremony. Four Princeton faculty members received President's Awards for Distinguished Teaching (see story ). Four outstanding secondary school teachers from across New Jersey also were recognized for their work.

Other honors for the new graduates were presented over the last few days of the academic year. The Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni honored four graduate students for excellence in teaching. Seniors were recognized at Class Day ceremonies June 2, where they also shared some laughs with comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

At the baccalaureate service on June 1, Dean of Admission Fred Hargadon, who retires this month after 15 years at Princeton, presented an address that mixed heartfelt, paternal sentiment and his typical humor. While a Princeton diploma recognizes the accomplishment of completing a demanding undergraduate program, "by no means is it meant to certify that you are now a completely educated person," Hargadon told the seniors. "Rather you should consider it as hard-earned evidence that Princeton now believes that you will be well prepared to continue to educate yourselves for decades to come."

Related articles
Four faculty members recognized for their outstanding teaching
Commencement highlights on Web
Commencement snapshots



June 16, 2003
Vol. 92, No. 29
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Summer calendar

Commencement 2003
Tilghman counsels graduates to have courage to take action
Four faculty members recognized for their outstanding teaching
Commencement highlights on Web
Commencement snapshots
By the numbers

Engineering school in good hands with Klawe
Technology center and Muldoon create online poetry initiative
New collection documents travels with President Woodrow Wilson
Tuition grant increased
University picnic

Bialek, Johnson named to endowed professorships
New faculty members appointed
Board approves 22 promotions
Faculty resignations
Three faculty members transfer to emeritus status
Professor had eclectic mix of interests
People, spotlight, briefs, retirements, obituaries

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