March 21, 2001: President's Page

Celebrating the Graduate School Centennial

One of the cornerstone programs of our celebration of the Graduate School’s Centennial has been a year-long series of public lectures by distinguished graduate alumni in a wide variety of fields. The series, appropriately named “The Frontiers of Knowledge,” has typically attracted some 300-400 people on Sunday afternoons who have been challenged to think in new ways about important topics. The series has included distinguished scholars, among whom are the following.

Paula Fredriksen *79, the Aurelio Professor of Scripture at Boston University, began the series. Her address, “Jesus, the Crucifixion and the Origins of Christianity,” offered new perspectives on Christianity.

Juan Maldacena *96, professor of physics at Harvard University, gave a lecture on “Gravity, Black Holes and Strings,” which described conceptual breakthroughs in mathematical physics. His work holds out the promise of a “grand unification” of all known physical forces.
Arthur Winfree *70, Regents Professor at the University of Arizona, spoke on his work to integrate chemistry, physiology and applied mathematics. As suggested by the title of his address, “Total Eclipse of the Heart: Electrical Vortices and Fatal Heart Attacks,” his research is increasing our understanding of the ways chemical and electrical waves underlie sudden cardiac death.

Peter Bell *64 is known for his leadership of humanitarian activities in the non-profit sector and in government. He currently is president of CARE, one of the world’s largest private international relief and development organizations. Mr. Bell spoke on “Affirming Dignity and Ending Poverty: The Search for a Better World.”
Elizabeth Bailey *72, John C. Hower Professor of Public Policy and Management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, is considered one of the country’s top experts on deregulation of the airline industry and the interface between business and government. These topics of current national concern were the subject of her talk, “A Regulatory Framework for the 21st Century.”

Lester Little *62 will complete the series on April 22 with a talk on “Monasticism in Western Society: From Marginality to the Establishment and Back.” A scholar, teacher and interpreter of Europe in the Middle Ages, Dr. Little is director of the American Academy in Rome and Dwight W. Morrow Professor of History at Smith College.
The centennial program has also included a symposium last fall in which the presidents of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, and Smith—all with special ties to Princeton—joined me in a discussion about the challenges facing higher education. Since Princeton celebrates James Madison as its first graduate student, the concurrence of Madison’s 250th birthday and the Graduate School’s 100th anniversary inspired a major Alumni Day conference on Madison and his role in developing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This spring the Graduate School is sponsoring a conference on “Critical Issues Facing Doctoral Education in the Arts and Sciences.” Off campus, alumni associations around the country and around the world have marked the centennial with programs focused on Graduate School alumni and education, including one on “Asia in 2000: Change and Tradition” that was held last November in Tokyo.

Departments and schools have also used the centennial as an opportunity to celebrate graduate education and research advances of alumni and current students of the Graduate School. “Parallel Pathways and Alternative Choices in Molecular Biology: Sequels to the Ph.D. Degree” brought back alumni to speak to current graduate students about career choices in molecular biology. Graduate students in the social sciences at Princeton teamed up with their peers at Columbia to host a joint conference on “National Identity and Public Policy in Comparative Perspective.” The students designed workshops during the conference to foster an exchange of empirical findings and theoretical ideas and to offer an opportunity for younger scholars to meet other researchers and to build a network of academic contacts. A symposium on “New Directions in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering” will be held this April to mark more than 50 years of graduate education in aerospace studies. One of the recipients of the Graduate School’s highest honor for academic achievement, the Jacobus prize, Kristine Haugen, organized a symposium on “The Dream in Western Europe 1500-1800,” which explored the diversity of early modern uses of the dream. The symposium included graduate students and faculty from other institutions and Princeton’s Humanities
Council, and Departments of English, Comparative Literature and History.

The centennial lectures and conferences are attracting large and diverse audiences of faculty and current graduate students, Graduate School alumni, undergraduates and other members of the University and local communities. In some ways, these occasions have the flavor of a homecoming, since connections established with faculty mentors and departmental colleagues often form the basis for the student’s long-term affiliation with Princeton. The centennial events also remind us that through its Graduate School alumni, Princeton plays a leadership role in many fields, and its influence is felt around the world. [A schedule of centennial activities is available at]