Ivy Oration at the Class of 1960's Fiftieth Reunion
Fifty years ago we gathered near here on Cannon Green to celebrate Class Day in a ceremony which ended with the dashing of our clay pipes against the cannon in the Green’s center. For many of you, as for me, it seems as if it took place just a few blinks of an eye ago.
Today we gather near that spot to acknowledge this stone which bears our Class numerals and to plant ivy beneath it which will be nourished by the sun and rain and grow to mingle with the many other vines which grace the hallowed walls of this historic building.
It was traditional for many years that this ceremony take place at the time of a Class’ graduation from Princeton. The orations of years past, and I have studied those of four Classes which range from 1869 through 1907, were full of the hope of young men whose college years were coming to a close and for whom the challenges, duties and responsibilities of adulthood lay ahead. They are full of gratitude, hope and joyful anticipation.
For us, however, we stand here today having lived our adult lives, having achieved the Biblical allotment of three score years and ten, having borne the burdens and celebrated the joys of careers, families, relationships, having lived lives of service to others as teachers, tutors, mentors, and as professionals, businessmen, and of many diverse pursuits.
What, then, do we make of this ceremony? I suggest it is not so different for us now, than from those who had their adult lives ahead of them. For the ivy we plant today is still the symbol of the friendships that we shared here as they did before us. These ever green leaves and wreathing vines will still represent the friendships we formed here which have and will endure for all our lives.
The ivy covered walls of this magnificent building, itself a prominent marker in our nation’s history, have long been celebrated in songs sung each year by seniors on its historic steps. Booth Tarkington, Class of 1893, wrote these words as the first verse of the song “Princeton Days”:
Softly the ivies enwrap the old walls,
Softly descending the elm shadow falls.
Storm and sward in leafy way
Slumb’ring in the summer day.
Still are the shades where once battle rolled
Fair is Princeton, hale and old.
Another song, Orange Moon, written shortly after 1915, begins:
The orange moon now softly shines
O’er sable lace of stately trees,
And Nassau Hall is bright with vines
Of ivy whisp’ring in the breeze.
The ivy whispers to the moon
Of olden days when Age was Youth,
And life ran smoothly as a tune
That sang of Friendship’s lasting truth
The ivy we plant today, however, is very, very special. It symbolizes not only the lasting bond of our friendship. For it comes not from some local greenhouse but all the way from Worcester College, Oxford, England, which one of our distinguished classmates attended after our graduation. You know that I speak of Dan Sachs, Rhodes Scholar, distinguished student and athlete who left us all too soon. As this ivy takes root and grows to intermingle with the vines planted by so many other Princeton classes, it will symbolize the ever growing relationship that not just Dan, but that the entire Class of 1960 has forged and continues to forge with Worcester College, Oxford.
A number of Classmates have generously supported Princeton with scholarships and with donations resulting in imprint of their names followed by our Class numerals. But there is no other place on this campus where our Class numerals only are visible than on this stone. There is no dormitory, walk or building which identifies the Class of 1960 as its source and sustainer. Rather, this stone and this ivy symbolize our bond with Nassau Hall and with Old Nassau. And, in my view, our greatest gift to Princeton is not bricks and mortar, but the Daniel M. Sachs Class of 1960 Graduating Senior Scholarship, one of the most coveted prizes for Princeton seniors, as coveted as the Rhodes and Marshalls and others. This is our permanent memorial at this great university, and it is adequately embodied in this stone and this ivy. As a Class, we need no bricks and mortar to further make our statement to Princeton and the world of our devotion and fealty.
So we return to Princeton as a Class, not nearly as large in number as we were fifty years ago, as we acknowledged so poignantly this morning at the Class Memorial Service. We return to share once more in the bonds of friendship and to celebrate not just what Princeton was but what it now is – a university committed as no other to undergraduate teaching and scholarship, a place where students live together to forge the deepest of bonds of respect and friendship, and commitment to a life of service to this and to all nations.
And we leave behind us this marker and this ivy as symbols of our commitment to encourage and support the best among these superb young people in their ongoing education begun so well at Princeton University.
Richard B. McGlynn
Princeton University, May 28, 2010