November 22, 2000
file: Existential enigmas
return on investment high: Nassau Capital folded back into Princo
center dedicated: Alumni return for weekend of celebration
says Ellen Chances *72, "asks all the big questions: Why are
we here? What is the meaning of life? How can one live an ethical
life? Why is there suffering in the world?
"These are the questions
I find compelling."
Professor Chances, a
specialist in Russian, Soviet, and post-Soviet literature and culture,
earned her Ph.D. at Princeton in Slavic languages. Intense, energetic,
and expressive, she is also a published poet, essayist, short-story
writer, and film critic. The varied aspects of her creative self
are inseparable, she says, from her scholarly identity: "Teaching
Russian literature takes on new dimensions from the other writing
I do," she says, "and living in the workshop of these
Russian writers inspires my own writing." It is impossible,
she believes, "to divorce scholarship from writing, from teaching,
from the issues we must all face in our own lives."
Lecturing on Dostoyevsky,
Chekhov, Gogol, Lermontov, Pushkin, or Tolstoy, she conveys a sense
of their work as "organic." Most literary works, she points
out, "are the result of interdependent connections - connections
within the work itself, connections to the writer, to his or her
life, to history." She urges her students to "search with
the authors, to inquire, along with them, into the meaning of life."
with existential enigmas guides her current research: She continues
to study contemporary novelist Andrei Bitov, "who is in the
tradition of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, but deals with our 21st-century
world." (Her book, Andrei Bitov: The Ecology of Inspiration
[Cambridge University Press, 1993] was the first book in any language
on Bitov.) She is also preparing a book on "the ethical dimensions
of contemporary Russian cinema."
By Caroline Moseley
return on investment high
Nassau Capital folded back into Princo
endowment earned a striking 35.5 percent return on investment for
the fiscal year ended June 30, nearly five times as much as the
Standard & Poor's 500 Index.
Many major university
endowments posted enviable results. Among the 18 largest reporting
their numbers to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Princeton ranked
ninth. Duke led with a 58.8 percent return; Harvard earned 32.2
percent, Yale 41 percent, and Dartmouth 46 percent.
The Chronicle attributed
the results to "the exceptional performance of venture capital,"
which benefited from a hot market in initial public offerings. Venture
capital certainly stoked Princeton's returns. These investments
grew more than 200 percent last year and have averaged 82.5 percent
annually over five years.
Given this performance,
it may seem surprising that Princeton is now changing how it manages
venture capital and other "private equity" investments
like leveraged buyouts. Since 1995, these investments - totaling
$1.6 billion, or one-fifth of the endowment's current value - have
been controlled by Nassau Capital, a partnership started by Randall
Hack '69. In May, a committee headed by trustee John H. Scully '66
completed a year-long review of Nassau Capital's performance and
its relationship with the Princeton University Investment Co. (Princo),
which oversees the university's investments for the trustees.
Scully, managing director
of SPO Partners & Co., a California merchant bank, says the
committee found that Nassau Capital had performed "extraordinarily
well," creating a "gold standard" private-equity
portfolio "second to none." In the future, however, the
committee saw potential for conflicts between Princo and Nassau
Capital that could be "quite troubling."
For example, if the trustees
took a bearish view of the investment environment in the decade
ahead, Princo might batten down the hatches by becoming more conservative.
Meanwhile, Nassau Capital might see the world more bullishly and
press ahead with new investment risks.
Under the old structure,
there was no "grand arbiter," in Scully's words, for resolving
such conflicts. And the people running the two organizations, who
now work hand-in-glove to harmonize their policies, will inevitably
change with time, making coordination potentially more difficult.
As a result, the trustees
decided to "repatriate" $1.3 billion from Nassau Capital,
bringing these investments back under Princo's control. The assets
involved were all invested in private-equity funds run by outside
managers. Meanwhile, Princeton has given Nassau Capital, which Hack
and cofounder John Quigley will continue to operate, an additional
$100 million to invest in private companies directly. It now has
stakes in 39 companies with a cost basis of some $300 million.
By Allan Demaree '58
Allan Demaree is a former
executive editor of Forbes magazine.
performance of wealthiest 10 Universities
Institution 2000 1999
U. of Texas $10.00
U. of California $5.06
Washington U. $4.30 $3.76
Texas A&M $4.48
* in billions Source:
The Chronicle of higher education
The New Jersey Department
of Transportation (DOT) released on October 17 its environmental
assessment (EA) of the Millstone Bypass, a reconfiguration of Washington
Road designed to alleviate congestion on Route 1. The next step
is a public hearing and public comment. The Federal Highway Administration
will review the EA and the public comment and will decide if more
evaluation needs to be done. If not, then the final design process
can begin. With no significant hurdles to overcome, construction
could start in 2004. The new road, as planned, will swing from Harrison
Street and Route 1, cross university property as it heads toward
Lake Carnegie, and meet up with Washington Road close to the lake.
The elm allée on the current Washington Road would remain
open and provide an entrance to Route 1, but without a traffic signal.
The new configuration would eliminate three signals on Route 1 and
ease traffic on both Route 1 and Washington Road, said DOT officials.
University administrators support the plan, saying it also allows
for the effective utilization of university lands for future educational
endeavors. University administrators and consultants are now reviewing
the EA. For releases, maps, and enhanced photos of the proposed
alignment, go to www.state.nj.us/
Alumni return for weekend of celebration
the word for the weekend of October 20. For the duration of the
Anniversary Campaign for Princeton, which raised $1.14 billion,
the slogan was "With One Accord," and development officers
have been waiting for five years to finish the phrase from the song
And rejoice they did,
with three days of activities for the 1,500 alumni, donors, and
friends of Princeton who attended. On Thursday, Wallace Hall, the
new social sciences building, was dedicated, as was the McGraw Center
for Teaching and Learning. On Friday, the Frist Campus Center was
dedicated, followed by a luncheon on the grassy sward between the
center and Guyot Hall and a dinner that night in a decorated Jadwin
Gym. (Unfortunately, a number of people became ill after the dinner,
complaining of flu-like symptoms, but food service personnel were
not at fault, said Don Robasser, university sanitarian, who said
it might have been a viral or bacterial infection.)
In between dedications
and dinners the university hosted numerous lectures and panels,
drawing on luminaries from the alumni ranks and faculty to speak.
The Frist center, designed
by Robert Venturi '47 *50, brings to fruition the century-long desire
of successive presidents to have a central place for university
members to congregate.
At the dedication of
the campus center, U.S. Senator William H. Frist '74, whose family
- in particular his brother, physician Thomas F. Frist, Jr. p'91,
p'93 - provided a $25 million gift for the center, spoke, as did
his brother. Both expressed pleasure in being able to create the
building. Thomas Frist singled out President Shapiro for his fire
and passion, and Venturi and Thomas H. Wright '62, vice president
of the university, for their good stewardship.
Tucked in on the third
floor of the center is the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning,
paid for by publisher Harold W. McGraw, Jr. '40, who said on Friday
that the center was founded on a simple principle: Good teaching
can and needs to be learned, and good learning can and needs to
be taught. The teaching and learning center will be a laboratory
for new ideas across departments and disciplines.
This Alexander Calder
sculpture, Model for Five Disks: One Empty, given by the artist
in honor of Alfred H. Barr, Jr. '22, is part of an exhibit at the
Art Museum called Material Language: Small-Scale Sculpture After
1950. The exhibit is being shown in complement with the large-scale
sculptures on campus, notably Richard Serra's The Hedgehog and the
Fox, which is located near Princeton Stadium. The show ends December
The university received
last month $15 million from BP and $5 million from Ford Motor Company
to fund research in greenhouse warming. This is the largest corporate
gift in Princeton's history, and will fund the Carbon Mitigation
Initiative. The principal researchers, Stephen Pacala, professor
in ecology and evolutionary biology, and Robert Socolow,
professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, will investigate
several technologies for capturing the carbon in fossil fuels and
sequestering it in underground formations.
On October 20, the Class
of 1942 presented to Librarian Karen Trainer a copy of its
book The Princeton Class of 1942 During World War II: The Individual
Stories. On hand for the presentation were, from left, Damon
Carter '42, Charlie Blackmar '42, Trainer, and Jack Guthrie
The Best of PAW, an anthology
of articles taken from the Princeton Alumni Weekly, is available.
Edited by former PAW editor Jim Merritt '66, the book illuminates
the history of Princeton through the eyes of journalists and contributors
to PAW. For ordering information, please phone 609-258-2107. An
interview with Merritt and the book's table of contents are online
When Professor John
Fleming was asked by editors at Maxim magazine to work with
them on an editorial, he had no idea that accepting the offer would
mean posing as a model for the September issue. Fleming, a medievalist
in the university's English department, had never heard of Maxim
before being asked to participate in its "Rebellious Behavior"
photo series. The series, which juxtaposes gothic (punk) fashion
and Gothic architecture, opens with Fleming sitting in an East Pyne
classroom. Dressed in a wool suit, cashmere vest, silk bow tie,
and platinum-wire glasses, the "professor" is in sharp
contrast with the "students," three black-clad youths
sporting tattoos and piercings. "I suppose that was their theory
of what a professor looks like," said Fleming, "though
I've never seen any professor dressed in clothes like that."
In looking for a faculty member to portray the quintessential Ivy
League professor, Maxim called Fleming on the recommendation of
its editor-in-chief, Keith Blanchard '88, who had taken Fleming's
Chaucer course. The shoot took two hours, much of which was spent
in changing from outfit to outfit. As for the results, Fleming was
pleased. "It's given me tremendous cachet with my children,
who can now see their square old dad featured in a sex magazine."
For a lighter look at Fleming's modeling career, go to www.princeton.edu/~paw.