July 2, 2003: Notebook
Emeritus means leaving the classroom, sometimes with roses, tamborines, or song
Photos: Right: A laurel-wreathed Robert Hollander 55 in his final class. (Christine Nesbitt 05/the daily princetonian) Below: Thomas Roche *58 receives an unexpected send-off. (celene chang 06/the daily princetonian)
This year 10 professors added emeritus to their titles. Below, we offer short glimpses into the lives and work of these nine men and one woman, who dedicated themselves to the life of the mind at Princeton.
For Kent Calders final class, a Woodrow Wilson School policy task force on China and the international economy, Calder and his 12 students went to Washington, D.C., for a whirlwind day presenting their research at the World Bank, the State and Commerce Departments, and to Iowa Congressman Jim Leach 64. For the first time in his 20 years at Princeton, Calder, professor of politics and international affairs, taught three courses in one semester; in addition to the task force, he taught international relations and Japanese politics. This was the first time in 13 years I did not go anywhere during the term, he said. I focused on teaching, and I really enjoyed it. These were three of the best courses Ive ever done.
Léon-François Hoffmann *59 has bridged Spanish, Latin American, and French literatures and cultures since he began teaching at Princeton in 1960. Now that he is leaving the classroom, Hoffmann said that along with his work on Haiti and its literature and culture, he plans to return to research on Balzac, focusing on his literary uses of eroticism. Hoffmann said he will miss the good students and his daily contact with his colleagues, and he already misses the times when students were more concerned with issues of politics and morality, and less concerned with professional success.
During the mid-1960s, Robert Hollander 55s course on Dantes Divine Comedy received a boost from Michael Bernstein 69, who took the course as a sophomore and urged his friends to follow suit. The next year about 50 students enrolled. That year, said Hollander, the final consisted of what we call bullshit questions, such as Many people considered the Divine Comedy an epic. Discuss. Reading the exams, Hollander said, was really depressing. I wasnt demanding that they give their very best. I had 50 very bright people who were doing very ordinary work. Since then, he has tested students on their ability to recognize and comment on 200 passages from the Divine Comedy.
I decided to go back to basics, said Hollander, Do they know the stuff or not?
Robert Jahn 51, former dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, is known as a scientist who challenges set boundaries. As a student, he designed his own engineering physics course of study. As a young faculty member, he established a research program in electric propulsion for deep space flight. And for the last 24 years, he has headed the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory, which examines the interaction of human consciousness with sensitive physical devices, or, how your mind can influence the workings of your computer and other machines. After Jahns last lecture, students gave him two softballs autographed by class members to recognize his support of Princeton athletics, in addition to yellow roses. Jahn will continue to be director of PEAR.
Ronald Kinchla has taught hundreds of students in Introduction to Psychology. What does he consider his most rewarding experience? Teaching students one-on-one in Perceptions, a small lab course about interpreting sensory experience. The only thing Ill miss is getting to know students, because they are an interesting bunch of people, said Kinchla. After 34 years of teaching in the Ivy League, Kinchla says his major claim to fame on campus is having two sons in the rock band Blues Traveler. Being a professor at Princeton was chopped liver compared to having two sons in a band. My students were more impressed by that.
During historian John Murrins final American history class, he and a chorus of his preceptors entertained the students by singing yes, singing the Constitution. The Preamble works, but it gets harder when you get to the articles, Murrin said. The group also regaled the class with a new faculty fight song they sang to the tune Bless Them All. The chorus: Flunk them all! Flunk them all! Flunk the young, the short, and the tall. And how did the students react? We eventually got all the students involved, he said, but they were hesitant at first.
Thomas Roche *58 wanted to avoid any hoopla around his last lecture so he announced in the next-to-last class that he was canceling it. But his students got wind of his plan and did not let him leave that day without an outpouring of admiration. At the end of Roches lecture, on Shakespeares The Tempest, students bombarded him with flowers and dropped banners from the balcony in McCosh 50. Others blew whistles and banged tambourines. Of course I loved it, said Roche. Students also presented him with a framed list of quotes from his lectures over the years: ridiculous, crazy things I have to admit that I did say, said Roche. To read the quotes, click here.
Barry Royce, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, hopes his students learned more than just thermodynamics, mechanics, and materials during his 43 years at Princeton. I want them to be people who may be coming a bit out of left field, but who have ideas. Who have that spark and can think out of the box, he says. Known for his entertaining lectures and booming baritone voice, Royce also opened up the world of engineering to nonengineers in a freshman seminar on human-powered transportation. The human body is as efficient as a Ford S.U.V., we just dont have the 400 horsepower, he said.
When English professor Elaine Showalter decided to retire, she hoped that her colleagues would bestow their pens upon her, as the math professors in the movie A Beautiful Mind had done to John Nash. But, she said smiling, I realized it wasnt going to happen. Nonetheless, colleagues give her credit for vast changes in English studies, including attention to contemporary culture and awareness of the roles of women, and for teaching others how to teach. In the final session of her class, Topics in American Literature: The American Short Story, she told the students, These are not the best years of your lives, suggesting they are to come.
Some of religion professor John Wilsons fondest memories come from his class Religion in American Society. It was great to explore how religion in America had become thoroughly pluralistic. Students had fun with research projects and enjoyed the broad scope of materials in the course, he said. Wilson, former dean of the Graduate School, said hes proud of his departments ability to exhibit the highest levels of scholarship and teaching while demonstrating the importance of understanding religion without being partisan. Thats a major achievement.
President Tilghman at Reunions
Photo: Mabel and Lee Weil 48, right, and George Newlin 52, second from left, listen to President Tilghman. (frank wojciechowski)
In what has become a tradition, President Tilghman held a conversation with about 350 alumni and family members Saturday morning of Reunions in Richardson Auditorium. She answered questions about the Universitys effort to diversify the faculty and student body, the upcoming increase in undergraduate enrollment, admission policies, affirmative action, and grade inflation.
One alum asked her what her biggest disappointment has been. Tilghman replied, If the economy was in better shape there would be more that we could do. But weve been able to balance the budget without the cutbacks that are happening at other universities.
Cause to celebrate
Helping inner-city kids go to summer camp
Photo: GOTO board members, from left, Daniel Salmon 99, Cameron Snaith 00, Stephen Moeller 99, Dana Deluce, and Jason Liddell 99.
Later this month, hundreds of twentysomethings will gather on the ship Peking, docked at New York Citys South Street Seaport, to dance for a cause. Gyrating to music that could wake frozen fish, these young people hope to raise $10,000 for Giving Opportunities to Others (GOTO), which sends middle school students from the Bronx to summer camp at Appel Farm Music and Arts Center in southern New Jersey. The camp offers arts enrichment in a noncompetitive environment.
The boat dance is one of several fundraising events sponsored by GOTO, an organization started in 2001 by Cameron Snaith 00. Some of Snaiths Princeton friends serve the organization, including Daniel Salmon 99, Jason Liddell 99, and Stephen Moeller 99.
Last year GOTO sent eight children to camp, and this year hopes to send 16. Within two years, Snaith said, the group wants to be able to send 30 to camp each summer.
For more information, www.thegotogroup.org.
By Ari Weinberg 99
Ari Weinberg 99 is a staff editor at Forbes.com in New York City.
Campus grapples with controversial presentations
Issues of sensitivity arise from art exhibition, poetry reading, and literature display
Three presentations this spring an art exhibition, a poetry reading, and a display of historical books have prompted campus debate about whether, and how, material that may be offensive to some should be displayed.
The concerns centered around a reading by poet Amiri Baraka, whose work has been viewed as anti-Semitic; a Woodrow Wilson School exhibition of artwork by Hunter College professor Juan Sanchez that was seen by some as disrespectful to Catholicism; and the inclusion of material considered racist in an exhibition of childrens books in Firestone Library. Professor Stanley Katz, director of Princetons Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, noted that the three cases are very different: While Barakas work was known widely to spark protests, Katz said, the disputed materials in the art and library exhibitions were part of larger educational displays, which the organizers did not expect would be controversial or offensive.
The debate illustrates some of the complexities of identity politics a fact of life over the last generation, Katz said. All we should and can do is be ever more vigilant and try to make sure we are aware and as sensitive as possible to the interests of the many groups, and I think this university does quite well with that.
Sanchezs 17-piece exhibit, which explored the experience of Puerto Ricans, seemed to fit into the Wilson Schools mission of displaying art that illuminates issues of public policy. Some viewers protested the use of sacred symbols in two works: Crucifix #2, which shows small images of a bare-chested woman arranged in the shape of a cross; and Shackles of the AIDS Virus, featuring a sacramental scapular a cloth necklace with religious medals. Matthew OBrien 03 said, I dont claim a right not to be offended, but I do claim that Catholics ought to be treated fairly and with equal respect.
To discuss the concerns, the Wilson School organized a forum attended by about 60 people, including the artist. Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter 80 said she regretted that the exhibition caused pain for some students and faculty, and that the School has proposed a committee that would advise the gallery curator on selecting exhibits. This is an exhibition that has previously been displayed without controversy in a number of highly respected museums, by an artist who has received considerable critical acclaim, she said in a statement. At least one of the controversial works had been displayed in a similar exhibit by Sanchez at St. Bonaventure University, a Catholic university, in 1999.
Baraka appeared with another poet in the Frist Campus Center as part of a conference on slavery reparations, sponsored by the Princeton Justice Project, a student group. In advertisements in the Daily Princetonian, the Center for Jewish Life and the Princeton Committee Against Terrorism took issue with Barakas statements comparing Nazi leaders with U.S. leaders, and with his poem Somebody Blew Up America, which says: Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed; Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers to stay home that day?
Not only is this statement factually incorrect, but it also implies that these Israelis failed to prevent thousands of American deaths, one ad said.
Conference organizer Robin Williams 04 said the P.J.P. stated clearly that it did not endorse Barakas views and that students did challenge Barakas points during a question-and-answer period. Williams stressed that academic institutions like Princeton should present a wide range of viewpoints. As a result of the reading, a new group, the Princeton Committee on Prejudice, formed to encourage dialogue about race and prejudice, said Dylan Tatz 06, a founder. The group already has organized fall discussions on the relationship between African-Americans and Jews, he said.
At the library, concerns centered on an illustration of Little Black Sambo in an old childrens book. The library changed the display slightly, created new information labels to provide more context, and posted a sign at the entrance to alert visitors to the material. One of the most important missions of an academic institution is to present historical materials that, while sometimes emotionally charged and painful, have a significant educational value, said Patricia Allen, a University spokeswoman.
Katz acknowledged that balancing sensitivity and educational value can be difficult. But the real threat here is that these protests inevitably have a chilling effect on expression, he said. And thats too bad. By A.D.
Photo: princeton communications
Richard Ludwig, professor emeritus of English and the former associate University librarian for rare books and special collections, died April 28, at his home in Princeton. He was 82.
An authority on American literature, Ludwig expanded the librarys special collections, particularly holdings of significant 20th-century American authors. Ludwigs students honored him in various ways. In 2001, Nobel laureate Michael Spence 66 established a Richard M. Ludwig fund for the purchase of rare books and manuscripts for the library. New York collector Leonard Milberg 53 donated major collections, one in American poetry and one in Irish poetry, in Ludwigs honor. Ludwig received his A.B. in English from the University of Michigan. After serving in World War II, he earned a doctorate at Harvard in 1950, then joined Princetons English department. In 1974 he became head of rare books at the University library. He also was the editor or coeditor of many publications and the recipient of several University awards.
Enoch J. Durbin, professor emeritus of mechanical and aerospace engineering, died May 27. He was 80. (Photo: princeton communications)
Durbin graduated from the City College of New York and earned a masters degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He joined Princeton as a researcher in 1953 and rose through the ranks until he became a professor in 1965; he retired in 1993.
Durbins most recent research focused on alternative fuels, fuel economy, and pollution control in the internal combustion engine. He published many articles on the environmental, economic, and political benefits of using natural gas as fuel.
Durbin also held a patent on a tennis racket designed to reduce elbow strain, studied new concepts in hearing aids, and examined efficient conversion of salt water to fresh water.
Jordan Ellenberg, mathematician, essayist, and now a novelist (coffee house press)
Most of what Jordan Ellenberg writes, you probably wont want to read. Papers like On the Average Number of Octahedral Modular Forms. And, On the Error Term in Dukes Estimate for the Average Special Value of L-Functions.
But this Princeton assistant math professor also has written short stories, book reviews, and magazine articles, and for several years has authored the Do the Math column for the online magazine Slate. In April Coffee House Press published his first novel, The Grasshopper King, a satire that is based at a struggling, mediocre college, and speaks to questions of love, academia, language, and knowledge.
None of his literary output appears on his résumé. Nor does his graduate work in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University; the résumé skips from his bachelors degree in math at Harvard to his doctorate at the same university. Im a mathematician, he says. Ive always wanted to be a mathematician. The time at Hopkins was kind of an experiment to see if I would miss math which I did, terribly.
Ellenberg is hardly the first mathematician or scientist to publish fiction or poetry. Lewis Carroll was really Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a mathematics lecturer at Oxford. Nobel laureate Roald Hoffmann, a chemist at Cornell University, has published two collections of poetry. Eric Temple Bell, who, like Ellenberg, was a numbers theorist, wrote science fiction novels under the pseudonym John Taine.
Indeed, there are many similarities between the pursuit of fiction and the pursuit of math or science, says Alan Lightman 70, a physicist and writer whose fourth novel, Reunion, comes out this month.
Youre looking for truth, both as a novelist and a scientist, Lightman says. For the scientist, it is truth in the physical world. For the novelist, it is emotional truth. And you are subject to experimental tests in both cases. In fiction, if you write a character or a story that doesnt ring true with the reader, then the novel will lose its power. In a sense, it has failed the experiment.
Ellenberg, 32, has experimented in both math and writing for many years. A teenage math prodigy in Maryland who won two gold medals in the International Math Olympiad, he took courses in creative writing while studying for his bachelors degree in math. After graduation, he enrolled in the writing program at Johns Hopkins; that year, he wrote the book that with some revision would become The Grasshopper King.
In Ellenbergs book, Stanley Higgs, a professor who studies the literature of the Gravine, a fictional tiny valley-nation in the Soviet Carpathians, suddenly stops speaking. Higgs is the worlds foremost expert on Henderson, a mysterious and bad poet who writes in the complicated Gravinic language. The book is narrated by a graduate student, Samuel Grapearbor, who is hired to encourage him to speak and catch Higgss next words of wisdom, and who sorts through his own relationship with his girlfriend as he observes the mute professor and the professors odd wife.
On one hand, Ellenberg says, the study of academic topics such as Gravinics, and its poet Henderson, is completely absurd but on the other, it has a real effect on people. Given that its absurd, what makes it so powerful and compelling?
Ellenberg, whose research interests are numbers theory and arithmetic algebraic geometry, still writes for a general audience occasionally. Recent columns in Slate have tackled the growing polarization of Congress, math and marriage, and grade inflation. But most of his work is hard-core math.
In case any tenure committee members are reading this, I might as well say that I am fully committed to mathematics, he told an interviewer for the online Rain Taxi Review of Books recently. The fact is, mathematics is easier and a lot less painful than writing novels. Also, you get tenure.
Helen Close McCann k1903 with grandson Trevor Upham 03 (Ricardo Barros)
The SARS outbreak in China led organizers of Princeton-in-Asia to pull its 15 interns out of China in April, two months ahead of time, and summer interns will serve only in Thailand and Japan. The outbreak also caused leaders of Princeton-in-Beijing to relocate its summer session to campus. About 50 students who had enrolled in P.i.B.s intensive Chinese language program decided not to attend after the decision was made to move it to campus, said Chih-Ping Chou, program director. Eighty students 30 of them Princetonians are enrolled. By A.D.
Helen Close McCann has donated to the University the papers of her late father, Gilbert F. Close 1903, who was Woodrow Wilson 1879s confidential secretary. The presentation took place while McCann was on campus to attend Commencement ceremonies for her grandson, Trevor Upham 03.
Elizabeth Grant Cranbrook Menzies, photographer, author, and historian, died January 12 in Princeton; she was 87. The only child of Professor and Mrs. Alan W. C. Menzies, she joined Princetons Index of Christian Art in the Department of Art and Archaeology in 1954; she retired in 1980. Over the years, a number of her photographs appeared in the pages of PAW.
Beginning this fall, freshmen will not be permitted to park cars on campus. Due to space constraints the University needs to restrict undergraduate parking, said Charles Kalmbach *72, senior vice president for administration. Until the 60s, no undergraduates were permitted to park within eight miles of campus.