President's Pages in Princeton Alumni Weekly
The Multifaceted Class of 2005
June 8, 2005
I have said on a number of occasions that I regret the fact that Reunions—the time when most alumni return to Old Nassau—occur after the semester is over and the majority of students have left our campus. What you miss in May is the chance to witness the extraordinary vitality and accomplishments of Princeton’s students. They give an entirely new meaning to the phrase “multi-tasking”! From the classroom and laboratory to the playing field, debating arena, and stage, they always impress me with their ability to integrate their academic pursuits with other talents and interests in creative ways and to excel in multiple spheres of activity simultaneously.
To illustrate this point, I thought I would introduce you to three members of the graduating Class of 2005 who have left a truly multifaceted mark on our University community. There are many other students like them who have excelled academically while managing to juggle a host of extracurricular activities.
Jen Elliott, who is majoring in art and archaeology with a concentration in art history, approaches her studies with a winning combination of engagement, originality, and enthusiasm. As one of her professors put it, “she lights up the place.” Her senior thesis is a perceptive exploration of new conceptions of religious landscapes that emerged in the Netherlands in the 16th century. Unlike many students, Jen chose to focus on paintings she could study “in the flesh,” including one that hangs in our Art Museum. She forms an instinctive connection with works of art that enables her to understand them both as intellectual constructs and material objects. In a word, she loves museums, and has interned with the Art Museum’s registrar and volunteered as a docent on weekend afternoons. This semester she played a central role in mounting an exhibit of 17th-century etchings, and she has served on a task force that has helped to shape the direction of the Art Museum as a whole.
Jen’s artistic interests have not prevented her from shining on Princeton’s playing fields. A tenacious field hockey player, Jen has started in 56 of her 68 games, helping her team secure three Ivy League Championships and three trips to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I Tournament. She is a fine example of the scholar-athlete, winning Academic All-America honors four years running and Academic All-Ivy honors for the last three.
Sara Mayeux is a history major who has taken many courses in the Department of French and Italian, as well as in the Program in Creative Writing, where she has turned her hand to both fiction and non-fiction. She is an outstanding scholar who has won the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence on two occasions and whose interest in Italian culture has prompted her to spend two of the last three summers in Italy, honing her language skills and gathering material for her senior thesis. The intellectual and creative power behind her pen has won high praise from her professors, but she has not confined herself to academic subjects.
On the contrary, Sara has embraced the written word in contexts ranging from the Princeton Alumni Weekly, where she has authored “On the Campus” columns, to the editor-in-chief’s chair at the Nassau Weekly, to the Daily Princetonian, where, as a freshman and sophomore, she covered a wide range of sports. Her colorful reportage enlivened the pages of the Prince —the next best thing to being at the game or meet itself.
Like so many of our students, Sara has shared her talents with others, serving as a tutor at Princeton’s Writing Center, as a peer academic adviser at Rockefeller College, and, during her first two years at Princeton, as a member of the Student Volunteers Council’s one-on-one weekly tutoring program, which serves local Hispanic girls in grades two through eight. She has even found time to coach youth basketball for the Princeton Borough and Township’s Recreation Department.
Matt Shapiro is among the most academically accomplished members of his class, twice earning the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence (and not because of his name!) as well as a Keasbey Memorial Foundation Scholarship that will take him to the University of Oxford to study political theory. A major in the Woodrow Wilson School, Matt has impressed his professors with his willingness to chart an intellectual course that is at once demanding and original. While his academic work reflects a deep interest in political morality and the applicability of natural law to issues of moral import, Matt is much more than a gifted theorist.
An ardent and thoughtful foe of racial injustice, he played a critical part in designing and interpreting the Undergraduate Student Government’s eye-opening survey on race and campus life. In addition, Matt has been a moderator in Sustained Dialogue, a movement designed to foster interracial and interethnic understanding through intimate group discussions. His commitment to building bridges among his fellow students can also be seen in his efforts as a resident adviser at Mathey College, but his concern for others is not restricted to Princeton. Throughout his time here he has served as a tutor and, latterly, as the project coordinator for Esperanza, an after-school tutoring program for disadvantaged children in Trenton sponsored by the Student Volunteers Council.
As if Matt’s waking hours were not sufficiently full, he runs five miles a day, six days a week, and performs as a baritone with the Princeton University Glee Club.
If you are not exhausted from just thinking about what these students have accomplished in four years, I hope you come away with admiration for their achievements, as well as a sense of pride in the fact that Princeton continues to attract such talented and dedicated students. They are the lifeblood of this place.