March 27, 2002: Letters

Red, white, and blue

Dean Gordon

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Red, white, and blue

I was struck by the juxtaposition, in the February 13 issue, of the beer jacket fracas (On the Campus) with the last item in the Memorials section celebrating the beautiful spirit that is “Cat” MacRae.

It is sad that the class must be so riven in its final days on campus. It seems to me that the red, white, and blue ribbon can be interpreted in a number of ways, perhaps most simply as a memorial to those Princetonians and citizens of many nations whose lives were cut short by the attack on civilization.

Surely even international students and peace activists would not object to a memorial? And if they did, they could defer their resentment until after the class came together at graduation and then burn their beer jackets.

America allows that freedom.

Bob Koch ’62
Waccabuc, N.Y.


To the members of the Class of 2002 who “did not want to think of tragedy while chugging beer”: In deciding whether to display a red, white, and blue ribbon on their beer jackets, Princeton seniors make a choice not unlike that made recently by organizers of both the Olympics and the Super Bowl – can we celebrate and cheer, while also honoring and mourning the lives lost on September 11? For me, these events demonstrated that youthful revelry and somber remembrance can and must coexist – if anything, our post-September 11 reality insists that we must continue to live passionately, while remembering the lasting horror of that day.

Although many Princetonians, myself included, might elevate Reunions to the international significance of the Olympics, I recognize that these ribbons are not really a big deal. So wear one or don’t. But if you decline, remember that these ribbons are simply a quiet acknowledgment of our shared grief. And while I pray that those who have declined the ribbon were not personally touched by the September 11 attack, many Americans — among them the families and friends of 13 Princetonians — continue to live with the painful weight of loss every day. That some cannot acknowledge them, lest it interfere with scheduled fun, saddens me enormously.

In short: remembering September 11 does not mean we put a halt to our good times. On the contrary: March in your first P-rade; jump in the fountain; revel in the Bacchanalia that is Princeton Reunions — but keep with you the memory of the many friends and strangers lost on that tragic September morning. I also ask the university to make such ribbons available to other revelers to attach to their own beer jackets – I would certainly welcome the opportunity to wear one on my own.

Taylor Sykes ’00
Raleigh, N.C.


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Dean Gordon

We want to reflect on and honor the life of Ernest Gordon, dean, emeritus, of the chapel. His recent death prompts us to give thanks for his life, for his support and encouragement of our lives, and for the model of the Judeo-Christian life that he manifested for so many members of the Princeton University community.

We first met Dean Gordon in the fall of 1965, when we were freshmen. The power of his own personal story and his experiences as a prisoner of war made him a most compelling person. Here was a man whose thoughts about life’s most important commitments had been tried and tested in a fiery crucible.

Dean Gordon was a powerful presence in the pulpit of the Chapel. He spoke about a living God. He exhorted us to take life in the world seriously. He urged us to be intelligent and mature men and women of faith.

Finally, Dean Gordon took members of the university community seriously as men and women of promise. On many occasions, he listened privately to our hopes as well as our pain and helped us to discover ways to live our own lives with integrity and grace.

As we think of the directions that our lives have taken since graduation, Dean Ernest Gordon is clearly one of the most inspiring, one of the most enduring, and one of the most stable people of this remarkable community who have influenced our lives for the good.

We give thanks for his life and for the opportunity to be under his pastoral care. We mourn his death and sense the gap that his death has created in our lives and, no doubt, in the lives of many others.

Paul G. Sittenfeld ’69
Cincinnati, Ohio

Christopher M. Thomforde ’69
Northfield, Minn.
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