February 11, 2004: From the Editor


John O’Brien ’65
(Milton Hershey School)


Librarians often get a bad rap. You know the stereotype: the repressed schoolmarm, shushing up the kids who are just having a little fun.

At Princeton, it’s the librarians who have the fun. In what may become an annual tradition, library staff members last year celebrated Valentine’s Day by breaking out the chocolate-covered strawberries and searching through library collections for love letters in the University’s possession. The librarians, romantics all, then read the letters, along with background on the writers, to some winter-weary faculty, students, and staff. Some of the letters are excerpted in this issue’s cover story. Though not quite steamy, the letters do offer quick, interesting glimpses at the personalities and relationships of the writers, including an 18-year-old, pregnant, and much-in-love Mary Shelley, and a quite practical, but tender, Harold Dodds *14.

The second feature in this issue is about heart of a different kind. John O’Brien ’65 – known to friends as Johnny – recently became president of the Milton Hershey School, a private residential school founded by chocolate magnate Milton S. Hershey and his wife, Catherine, for orphan boys nearly a century ago. Few school administrators could know their institutions better: From the time he was three years old, until he left for Princeton, O’Brien was himself a student at the school.

Though O’Brien is grateful for the opportunities he received at Hershey – including a scholarship to attend Princeton – his early experiences at the school were at times brutal. He excelled at the school because of both mental and physical toughness, leaving – as writer and Princeton classmate Dan White ’65 says – with compassion and enthusiasm for other people, and for life’s challenges.

Many of O’Brien’s Princeton friends and classmates attended his Hershey inauguration in the fall, and nearly half a dozen called PAW to alert us to the event and to what O’Brien has accomplished. Each spoke about a man with extraordinary personal strength, great optimism even in dire circumstances, deep loyalty, and a willingness to do whatever work is necessary to succeed. When we read White’s story it was clear: They were right.

PAW congratulates our intern, Lucia S. Smith ’04, whose book, What Every High School Student Doesn’t Know . . . Yet: A Guide for the College Bound, was published recently by Rabbit’s Foot Press. Lucia takes on the big issues for college freshmen, including living in a dorm (pack lightly and be nice to the custodians); dealing with parents (“If you try your hardest and don’t do well, you should let them know – nicely – that their demands aren’t helping.”); socializing (suggestions for partying, and for when you’ve had enough); and studying (it’s impossible to read everything, so concentrate on the essentials). It ends with a short section for parents, including this crucial tip: Send care packages with things that are “tasty and distracting.”

At PAW, Lucia prepares many of the book summaries in Reading Room, so it’s especially gratifying to describe her book in our pages.


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