October 25, 2000

From the Editor

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.