June 8, 2005: From the Editor
This is our accidental theme issue on Princetonians in service. We didn’t plan it that way — generally theme issues require many months of soul-searching and careful deliberation — but in the end, “Princeton in the nation’s service” was inescapable.
The issue includes a feature article, on page 18, about Robert Massie ’78. The assignment for writer Pam Belluck ’85 was to tell the story of a man who had become known to doctors around the world for beating the odds of HIV, and is now grappling with a life-threatening illness — not AIDS, but liver disease. As Belluck learned, Massie’s approach to this challenge has been informed by his life of activism and public service in the United States and South Africa. It was a life, he says, that allowed him to witness how others face challenges and deal with difficult circumstances.
On our last page, you will find an interview with Wendy Kopp ’89, founder and president of the nonprofit organization Teach for America. The story of her organization’s birth — Kopp laid out the plan in her senior thesis — is, by now, well known. But over the years, Teach for America has been unusually effective in getting top college students — including about 8 percent of the Princeton Class of 2005, she says — to apply to commit two years of their lives to teaching children in some of America’s poorest schools. Ten years ago, Jason Kamras ’95 was among that idealistic group of new teachers; he has stuck with it and was recently named the 2005 National Teacher of the Year, a story we report on page 10.
But our accidental issue really began with our story about 10 Princeton alumni who have incorporated into their daily lives Princeton’s mantra of service. In short interviews, beginning on page 24, contributor Maria LoBiondo asks the alumni to reflect on why they do what they do — and to offer succinct advice to new graduates choosing from among different paths.
The alumni featured here don’t necessarily have the longest résumés or the most impressive titles. Some labor at their desks, doing the fund raising and putting forth the public faces that permit nonprofit organizations to function. Others get their hands dirty each day in schools, tough urban neighborhoods, and small agricultural villages. They represent many years of Princeton in service, from Jerome McHugh ’51, who with his wife is helping poor public school students achieve their college dreams, to Christoph Geiseler ’04, who upon leaving Princeton last year created a nonprofit organization aimed at teaching children about the jazz he so loves.
What ties all these alumni together is their passion about what they do and the sense that their efforts make not simply a career, but a way of life. In their advice to new graduates, most point out that satisfaction is measured by far more than high salaries and great renown. Or to paraphrase McHugh: Just do it — and be quiet about it. He and the others may prefer to remain quiet about their efforts, but we wanted to make a little noise.