President's Pages in Princeton Alumni Weekly
2001-2002: A Year of Learning and Leadership, Construction and Challenge
July 3, 2002
This final PAW for the academic year affords me an opportunity to think back over my first year as president, and again to thank the many alumni who have welcomed me so warmly and have offered so generously their counsel and support. More than anything else, this has been a year of learning, and of appreciating ever more keenly the extraordinary contributions that Princeton—and Princetonians—make to the lives of students, to the worlds of ideas and discovery, to their communities, and to the health and well-being of our global human society.
It has also, of course, been a year of unusual challenge, beginning as it did with the terrorist attacks of September 11, followed shortly thereafter by the anthrax scare that seemed to emanate from our own local post office. In the days immediately after September 11, four members of our faculty—James McPherson, Toni Morrison, Paul Muldoon and Marta Tienda—participated in a memorial service on Cannon Green for all who lost their lives that day. Later in the fall we conducted a service in the Chapel for the 13 of them who were Princeton alumni, and this summer we will begin planning a garden in their memory between Chancellor Green and Nassau Hall.
A year of learning
My year of learning has included meetings with the chairs of all the academic departments and with other faculty members to learn first-hand about their aspirations and concerns. I have spent time with undergraduates and graduate students in the classroom and the laboratory; at cultural, athletic and other extracurricular activities; over meals in the residential colleges, at many of the clubs and in other settings; at meetings of the student government; and during my regular office hours. I have witnessed again and again the exceptional dedication of members of the staff, and I have been tutored in everything it takes to administer a modern research university, from mastering the intricacies of the budget, to strengthening procedures for emergency preparedness, to making due provision for pest control.
My learning experience also has extended off campus, especially as I have traveled to meet with literally thousands of alumni in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Chicago and St. Louis, New York and Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C., and in a number of other communities. I also have had opportunities to meet with alumni on campus on many occasions, including Alumni Day and Reunions.
In every case I have been struck by your interest, your commitment, your generosity and your excellent questions. In three cities—Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington—I met with middle school and high school students in disadvantaged neighborhoods to talk about the frontiers of science and the opportunities that college can make available to them. In Chicago I visited a high school where Princeton alumni have made it possible for students to compete on a national level in robotics. In Washington I visited the nation’s first residential charter school, which owes its existence to the vision, talents and energies of Raj Vinnakota ’93 and the many other alumni who have helped him turn his vision into reality. This theme of alumni mobilizing their talents and energies to transform lives and communities was captured well in an article this spring in the PAW that profiled Princetonians who have been contributing, in a variety of ways, to the revitalization and rebuilding of Newark.
A year of achievement
There are many ways to measure the accomplishments of a particular year, and a good place to begin is with the achievements of our students and faculty. As I noted before a gathering of alumni on the Saturday morning of Reunions, our undergraduates and graduate students competed very well this year in a number of national competitions. For example, two seniors—Lillian Pierce and Katharine Buzicky—won Rhodes Scholarships. Lillian, a mathematics major from California, also was one of the winners of the Pyne Prize and this year’s valedictorian, while Katharine, an East Asian Studies major from Minnesota, earned the Army ROTC Distinguished Leadership Award in 2000. Four seniors won Marshall Scholarships, including Lillian; our other Pyne Prize recipient, Abbie Liel, a civil engineering student from Oregon; Matthew Frazier, a Woodrow Wilson School major from Atlanta; and Courtney Mills, a politics major from Indianapolis.
Looking ahead, the quality of the students we will be enrolling next fall is simply stellar. At the undergraduate level, our yield (the percentage of those admitted who accept our offers of admission) has increased to 74 percent, and the percentage of the class on financial aid is expected to be in the range of 50 percent. The changes that Princeton has made in its financial aid program in recent years, including the replacement of required loans with grants, mean that the doors of this University really are completely open, irrespective of financial circumstances. I hear frequently from students and their families about how grateful they are, and I remind them that they owe their gratitude to the generations of Princetonians whose support for financial aid has made our program possible.
Similarly, the improvements we have made in recent years in our programs of support for graduate students help us to attract some of the very best students in the world. One of our current priorities is to create additional graduate student housing so we can more fully meet the needs of these exceptional students.
We also have increased Princeton’s distinction this past year by recruiting excellent new members of the faculty. Each of them will strengthen Princeton in an important way, and will help to enhance our position of leadership in teaching and research. As I noted in one of my President’s Pages earlier this spring, it wasn’t until I became president that I fully appreciated the amount of time and effort a university expends not only recruiting, but also retaining, its faculty. But I have long known that there is nothing more important that a university does.
Like our students, our faculty members have won prestigious prizes this past year. Last fall, David Spergel ’82, a professor of astrophysical sciences, won a MacArthur Foundation “genius award” as “one of the most innovative, creative and thoughtful astrophysicists of his generation.” (Of the 23 grants made this year, four went to Princeton alumni.) This spring, a Princeton professor of civil engineering and environmental science, Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe, won the Stockholm Water Prize, an award known informally as the Nobel Prize of water. Elias Stein, a professor of mathematics, was one of 15 scientists to receive the National Medal of Science, and two of our faculty members in the humanities, Peter Brown and Alexander Nehamas, were among the first five recipients of the Andrew Mellon Foundation’s new Distinguished Achievement Awards for scholars in the humanities. Professor Brown, a historian, is credited with having created the study of the period known as late antiquity. Professor Nehamas, a professor in the humanities and in the departments of philosophy and comparative literature, has chaired the Council of the Humanities since 1994.
A year of new leadership
In addition to new faces in the student body and on the faculty, there are a number of new faces in the University’s senior administrative ranks, and in making many of these appointments I reached into the very deep pool of talent that is the Princeton alumni body. Our new senior vice president for administration, Charles Kalmbach ’68 *72, served for 30 years as his class agent for Annual Giving and played a key role on the advisory council for our School of Engineering and Applied Science. Our new vice president for development, Brian McDonald ’83, was serving as chair of the national Annual Giving committee when we persuaded him to convert his lifelong avocation as a Princeton volunteer into his more-than-full-time job. Our new dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80, a faculty member at Harvard’s Law School and its John F. Kennedy School of Government, is a second generation graduate of the Wilson School who won the Daniel M. Sachs Memorial Scholarship, one of Princeton’s top honors, in her senior year. Stan Allen *88, who earned his master of architecture degree at Princeton, returns to campus this summer as dean of the School of Architecture.
Also this year I appointed the Rev. Thomas Breidenthal as dean of religious life and promoted Peter McDonough, a member of our legal staff for 12 years, to the position of general counsel. Shortly after these pages go to press I am hoping to be able to announce both a new dean of the Graduate School and a new dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
A year of construction
We tapped another graduate alumnus, Demetri Porphyrios *80, as the architect for Princeton’s landmark Whitman College, the first residential college that Princeton will be able to create in its entirety. Made possible by a $30 million gift from Meg Whitman ’77 and her family, the college will be built north of Baker Rink in a collegiate gothic style and will house 500 undergraduates from all four classes as well as a number of graduate students and some faculty. The college is scheduled to open in the fall of 2006 when we begin to admit undergraduate classes that are about 10 percent larger than our current classes. The planning for Whitman College is part of a more comprehensive effort to assess and prepare for all of the implications of a larger student body in the classroom, in residential and extracurricular life, and in many other areas of the University.
While Whitman College is the largest construction project on our agenda, as any visitor to campus will know it is far from the only one. (The Class of 1992 chose campus construction as its 10th reunion theme, wearing construction worker outfits and featuring cranes and backhoes in the P-Rade, rather than the more conventional marching bands.) We completed several major projects this past year, including the Bobst Center for Peace and Justice in the renovated former eating club at 83 Prospect Avenue, and the Friend Center for Engineering Education, which faces both William Street and a new quadrangle that it forms with the computer science building, Mudd library, Shapiro Walk and the Princeton University Press. Made possible by a gift from Dennis Keller ’63, the building is already an extraordinary success not only in meeting the needs of engineering students, but in attracting students in the humanities and social sciences to its classrooms and library.
Projects currently under construction include the Carl C. Icahn Laboratory, which will house our new Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics. Designed by Rafael Viñoly, the architect who designed Princeton Stadium, this building will join Scully dormitory and a new dormitory now under construction in forming an ellipse along the northern perimeter of Poe and Pardee fields. The new dormitory will include an arch through which future P-Rades will march before passing the reviewing stand. Also under renovation and construction is a humanities center that will be named for Gerhard Andlinger ’52, whose gift is helping us to create it out of a substantially renovated East Pyne and Chancellor Green, Joseph Henry House and a small new building that will be constructed just to the east of Joseph Henry House. We also are completing construction on Robertson Hall, expanding our art library, and continuing our ongoing programs of dormitory renovation and landscape improvement.
Along with Whitman College, we are beginning to design another landmark project, a science library at the corner of Washington Road and Ivy Lane that has been made possible by a $60 million gift from Peter Lewis ’55. To meet the challenge of designing a building that will accommodate the ever-changing needs of 21st century students and scholars and ever-changing technologies, we have engaged the internationally acclaimed architect, Frank Gehry, whom we are confident will provide us with a building worthy of its prime site and critical mission.
With a new leadership team in place, I am looking forward this summer to thinking further about where Princeton should be five to ten years from now and what it will take to get there. In the fall, we will take a longer look into the future at a special trustee retreat that will focus on areas in which we believe Princeton can play a special leadership role, both nationally and internationally. We will continue to press forward with implementation of the recommendations in the Wythes Committee report, and we hope to make progress in a number of other areas where task forces have been hard at work, including one that has been looking at the field of international studies and another that has been developing strategies to attract and retain talented women faculty in the natural sciences and engineering. I have no doubt that it will be a full and busy summer.
I want to conclude with a final word of appreciation to all who have made this year such an extraordinary learning experience for me, and with a special word of thanks to Jane Martin ’89, who will be leaving this summer after editing the PAW with great skill and sensitivity these past two-and-a-half years. We look forward to welcoming her successor.