We prepare this issue in mid-August, the time of year when it’s nearly impossible to find a professor in his or her office but University construction crews work ferociously to knock the campus into shape before students arrive. Drills tear into the road near Whig-Clio. The sound of hammering wafts through open windows at Frick Lab. A man with a brush spruces up Sir Henry Moore’s Oval with Points.
The University’s facilities department lists 25 “major construction” projects that were under way this summer, ranging from sprinkler installation and new upholstery on the seats at Richardson Auditorium, to preliminary work on the Frank Gehry-designed science library. Few projects are more meaningful than the work taking place past the guard gate and down the road from Dillon Gym. There, facing the fields that now define the southern edge of campus, stands Princeton’s new “ellipse dormitory,” home for about 220
students who will have moved in by opening day. Walk farther into campus and you will see the huge pit and the beginnings of a building that, by August 2007, will be Whitman College, which should change – and with luck, improve – the residential college system that has been in effect for 20 years.
These and other buildings are big projects, appropriate for big plans and grand ideas. The expansion of the undergraduate body by 500 students is no longer a vision but a fact punctuated by cranes and steel, full of potential and challenges.
It seemed right that one group of workers, in addition to the construction crews, was as busy as ever this summer. Orange Key guides picked their way around the building sites on the front campus, introducing expectant high school kids and their parents to Princeton, old and new.
As a graduate alumna, I do not know how the members of the Class of 2008 must be feeling at this moment in mid-August. I suspect, however, that their feelings are much like mine were when I began my graduate work at Princeton: anxiety, expectation, and gratitude. And a belief in the promise of big ideas – much like Princeton itself.
PAW enters the new academic year with some changes of its own, though none would qualify as “major construction.” In the Class Notes section, we will now run short articles about the activities of alumni groups. If your group has an unusual activity or event, please let us know. In Notebook, we are aiming to include more short reports on Princeton research. And because alumni continue to visit campus long after Commencement, we now offer a column, “Of interest,” with information on a selection of upcoming events and exhibitions.