October 25, 2000
The "media advisory"
was cryptic; it announced only that a press conference would be
held at 3:00 on the second floor of Nassau Hall. The third line,
however, provided a clue to the mystery: "Among those in attendance
will be Princeton University President Harold Shapiro and Robert
H. Rawson, chair of the Trustee Executive Committee." It didn't
take long - a few minutes of dedicated speculation - to divine the
reason for such an unusual call to pens: President Shapiro was going
to announce his resignation.
As usual, the Prince
had more or less scooped the story. On the Wednesday before Friday's
announcement, the paper ran a front-page article headlined: "After
12 years and $1.1 billion, what's left for a president to do?"
In the article, however, former President Robert Goheen and President
Shapiro himself denied that any changes would be forthcoming, as,
of course, they had to do.
The reaction on campus
following this just-18-times-in-250-years announcement was curiously
muted. Students were more inclined to chat about the newly opened
student center than the newly lame-duck president, although the
Prince dove into the story with headlong zeal, and communications
officers were momentarily frazzled by the onslaught of interest
(which had abated already by the middle of the next week, as new
news pushed aside the old). Here at PAW our careful planning was
thrown partly out the window, as we rewrote and reorganized the
Notebook section of our last issue and quickly made plans for a
new cover on this issue.
As the news groups rushed
to size up his legacy, however, President Shapiro said that he hoped
to be remembered for the accomplishments of the faculty and students
that occurred during his tenure. Among those achievements, he might
have listed the 1990 launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. Named
for the graduate of the University of Chicago who discovered that
the universe is expanding, the Hubble was nonetheless a product
of Princeton's renowned astrophysics department, and specifically
the brainchild of legendary astronomy professor Lyman Spitzer *38.
We feature the late Professor Spitzer and his telescope in this
issue, alongside another astrophysics story about a recent cosmology
experiment that shows how Princeton's department has shaped the
research, and the researchers, in the field for more than 50 years.
Because in this President
Shapiro is right, of course. Although Princeton is indebted to its
presidents for the leadership, innovations, and management they
bring to the institution, it is in many ways the work of faculty,
as researchers and, more important, as teachers, that ensures the
lasting legacy of the university.