February 13, 2002: Notebook

Faculty File
Picture perfect

Art and business
The two come together in PrincetonÍs new vice president

New professors named

In Brief


Faculty File
Picture perfect

Were you to offer a course based on a database of Roman architecture, would your subject be databases or Roman architecture? For art and architecture professor John Pinto, the answer is both.

This fall, Pinto taught Art History and Technology, a freshman seminar based on the database, or electronic catalog, he uses to teach graduate, undergraduate, and alumni online courses on the architecture of the city of Rome (www.princeton.edu/almagest/nollimap.html). Pinto focuses on the architecture. Kirk Alexander ’72 *75 and Rafael Alvarado, both directors in the Educational Tech-nologies Center, lecture on databases.

Pinto wants his students to view databases critically rather than use them mindlessly. “Our society takes it for granted that our young people need to become critical readers,” he says. “We devote absolutely zero time to having them become critical viewers. We have a responsibility to start training these people to use visual technologies.”

In addition to learning about the Eternal City, freshmen learn how databases are built. For their final projects, the students each choose a monument in Rome, research it, collect images of it, and produce a record to add to the database.

Many art historians avoid such examination of technology, Pinto says. “There are a lot of people who teach who don’t feel technology has anything to offer.”

Alexander’s career illustrates the kind of synthesis at which the course aims. His own thesis was a photographic book. He later earned a master’s degree in civil engineering. He’s worked at the technology lab since 1975.

“We didn’t feel you could teach the technology separate from the content,” Alexander says of his involvement in the course. “It’s like applied computer science.”

By David Marcus ’92

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Art and business
The two come together in PrincetonÍs new vice president

Photo by Ricardo Barros

For the past five years, Princeton’s new vice president for development has been working as a self-supporting wood sculptor out of his studio in a red barn on his property in Princeton Township. Brian McDonald ’83, who this month replaced Van Zandt Williams ’65 as the university’s chief fundraiser, now dresses up each day and reports to work at Nassau Hall.

McDonald, who long has been a volunteer both for his class and for Princeton, began his professional career as an investment banker. He then turned to the restaurant business, then to managing musicians. Asked why he changed jobs every couple of years, McDonald says, “There is less change than is apparent. If you look at what I’ve done, I was in investment banking for five years, three years with the restaurant, five years working with musicians, and now five years as a sculptor. In all cases,” he points out, “there was a corporate structure with employees.”

McDonald, 42, has an engaging smile, a forthright manner, and a measured and thoughtful way of speaking. He loves the university and is eager to take on the job filled by Williams, who held the position for the past 22 years.

Why does McDonald like Princeton so much? The answers, he admits, are the usual ones: “The architecture, the faculty, the students. It was a perfect place for me.” McDonald, who was admitted early decision with the Class of 1982, grew up in Edgemont, New York, in Westchester County. His parents divorced when he was a freshman. “It was a real surprise to me, and in a way Princeton became my family and embraced me at a time when my life was difficult.” He took the following year off to help his mother and to train for the 1980 Olympic swim trials, which became an honorary event because the U.S. did not participate in the Olympics that year.

Coming into the job after Williams, who, among many achievements, spearheaded a record-breaking Anniversary Campaign that raised $1.14 billion, McDonald’s first order of business is addressing the priorities outlined by the president, the provost, and the trustees, which include raising millions of dollars for the new sixth residential college. Reluctant to be more specific about other needs, McDonald does say that one goal is more funding for undergraduate and graduate scholarships. “We’d like to secure permanent endowment funds to ensure that Princeton’s financial aid will be funded in perpetuity and will be able to maintain need-blind admissions.” A new major campaign is not in the plans for the near future, he says, but adds, “I’m sure in the next 20 years it may be appropriate to consider a major campaign that would embrace and energize a new generation of donors.” He pauses, then smiles and says, “It’s not going to take 20 years.”

McDonald, who now oversees 120 employees in eight offices on campus, expects to travel a week a month in the upcoming year but plans to keep his art studio open. “Art has become an avocation now,” he says. “Other people play golf.” McDonald and his wife, Leahbeth, have two children, a five-year-old girl, Campbell, and a boy, Eamonn, 3.

By L.O.

 

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New professors named

Nine new professors joined Princeton’s faculty this year. They are: William Bialek, professor of physics; Marina Brownlee *78, professor of Spanish and Portuguese languages and cultures; Benjamin Elman, professor of East Asian studies and history; Bjorn Engquist, the Michael Henry Strater University Professor of Mathematics and Applied and Computational Mathematics; David Gabai *80, professor of mathematics; Philip Pettit, professor of politics; Ricardo Piglia, the Walter Carpenter Professor of Language, Literature and Civilization of Spain and professor of Spanish and Portuguese languages and cultures; Valerie Smith, the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature and professor of English; and David Tank, professor of molecular biology and physics.

Bialek’s research focuses on the interface between physics and biology, broadly interpreted. A central theme of that research is an appreciation for how well things “work” in biological systems. He received his A.B. and Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Brownlee earned her Ph.D. at Princeton, and her fields of interests are medieval and golden-age Spanish literature and medieval and Renaissance comparative literature. She earned her B.A. at Smith College.

Elman’s field of specialization is pre-modern Chinese history. Elman received his B.A. from Hamilton College and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Engquist received his B.S. and doctorate from Uppsala University. His research interests are numerical analysis, scientific computing, and applied differential equations.

Gabai earned his doctorate at Princeton in 1980. His field of interest is low-dimensional topology and geometry. He received his B.S. degree from MIT.

Pettit, who comes later this year, is interested in social and political theory and philosophy. He received his B.A. degree from the National University of Ireland and his Ph.D. from Queen’s University of Belfast.

Piglia was educated at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata in Argentina. He is the author of four collections of short stories, two books of essays, and three novels. Three of his works have been translated into English: Artificial Respiration, Assumed Name, and The Absent City. Several of his works have been adapted as films.

Smith, who was a Princeton faculty member from 1980 to 1989 before moving to UCLA, is interested in African-American literature. Smith earned her B.A. degree from Bates College and her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.

Tank’s field of interest is computational neurobiology. Tank received his B.S. degree from Case Western Reserve University and his Ph.D. from Cornell University.

 
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In Brief

With 45 pages of writing due at 5 p.m. on January 15, Zach Augustine ’03 sprinted through McCosh Courtyard and encountered Princeton’s newest spectator sport: Reading Period Theater.

At 4:30 nearly 100 students congregated to watch the madness of their classmates running to meet the Dean’s Date deadline, cheering as friends and strangers tore by and hurrying the stragglers along with a countdown.

“It was a thrill,” said Augustine. “The crowd propelled me the remaining distance to Wallace, where I caught my preceptor at 5:01 and turned in my paper.”

Rakesh Satyal ’02 started “RPT” four years ago to relieve the heavy pall of finishing a semester’s work at the last minute. “It’s great to see people bonding and cheering each other on,” he said, “and I love that this event has come to mean something special to a lot of hardworking students.” Although he had 30 pages due himself this year, he always sets his mental deadline at 4:30 so he won’t miss the rush.

Although Satyal is graduating this year, underclassmen have pledged to continue the biannual “RPT” tradition. “I’m already preparing for the spring edition,” said Zach Goldstein ’05. By Elizabeth Greenberg ’02

Former dean of the chapel Ernest Gordon died January 16 in Princeton after a long illness. He was 85.

Gordon, who came to Princeton in 1954 as a Presbyterian chaplain, became dean of the chapel the next year. He remained at Princeton until 1981, when he retired.

Gordon was born and raised in Scotland, and served his country in World War II as an army officer. In 1942 he and many others who were serving in Singapore were taken as prisoners by the Japanese and were sent to Thailand, where the Japanese were building a bridge over the Kwai River. There, Gordon, who, along with the others, suffered unspeakable horrors at the hands of his captors, found a life-sustaining faith in God. The fact that he survived with the help of fellow captives and a guard “inspired him and convinced him of humankind’s basic nobility,” reported the New York Times in his obituary. After the war and the recovery of his health, Gordon studied for the ministry and was ordained in Scotland in 1950, shortly after which he came to the U.S.

As Princeton’s dean of the chapel, he spoke out on contemporary social issues, including McCarthyism, civil rights, the Vietnam War, and the Soviet Union.

In 1962, Gordon wrote a book about his captivity, Through the Valley of the Kwai, which has been made into a movie to be released this spring. Gordon traveled in 2000 to Thailand, where he played a cameo role in the movie.

A memorial service will take place in the chapel Saturday, February 16 at 2 p.m.

 
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