March 26, 2003: From the Editor

This issue reports on Alumni Day, with stories on Senator Bill Frist ’74 and Peter Bell *64, who received Princeton’s top alumni honors; student award winners; and the many activities enjoyed by those who were willing to slosh through one of Princeton’s wettest, dreariest days and take part.

For me, the most meaningful part of the day was one that rarely receives attention in the press. It’s not news; it happens every year. But the somber Service of Remembrance in the University Chapel says a world about what it means to be part of Princeton.

With great dignity, Princeton pays respects to all members of the community – alumni, students, faculty, and staff – who died during the past year. A memorial procession with representatives of the undergraduate classes, the Graduate School, and the university faculty and staff passes down the aisle, two by two; each person carries a white carnation, which is placed on a wreath at the front of the chapel. An address is given by a member of the 25th-reunion class; this year, it was by the Reverend Kenneth P. Jasko.

The service is, in one way, not unlike the raucous and festive P-rade – a deeply touching march of Princeton history passing before your eyes. The program listed the names of 736 Princetonians added to the university’s memorial roll last year, beginning with Ernest Gordon h’16, the longtime

dean of the chapel, who died in January 2002; continuing with unstated sadness through the names of members of the Classes of 1998, 1999, and 2000, and ending with that of Professor David Wilkinson, who joined Princeton as a physics instructor 40 years ago and went on to help shape the study of cosmology.

The memorial procession began with Alan E. Mayers ’54, representing the Class of 1927, which lost four members in 2002. William H. Scheide ’36, the well-known Princeton bibliophile, musicologist, and university benefactor, leaned on two canes as he walked down the long aisle, his face radiating both determination and pride. The appearance of Deborah A. Tegarden ’71, the first woman in the line, marked Princeton’s embrace of the new, even while it grasped the most moving traditions of the old.

When I became editor of PAW last fall, I began to read the memorials more closely than ever before. Months later, many things about these pages continue to strike me. I am moved when a memorialist allows a classmate’s humor, and occasionally sadness or regret, to filter through the story of an accomplished life. The strength of a Princeton bond continues to amaze, as I see memorialists recount the lives of classmates who left the university after a semester or a year, and endeavor to restore the memories of those who fell out of touch long ago.

During the Service of Remembrance I was sitting in the chapel next to two men from classes in the ’40s, and their wives. They counted aloud the number of classmates they had lost, and remarked upon the lives of those they had known. Listening, I thought it strange that hearing about these men’s lives had touched me so – the lives of people I did not know, and with whom I probably had little in common.

We shared one thing, of course. And on this stormy day in February, that was more than enough.


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