March 21, 2007: From the Editor
In some ways, Alumni Day is the anti-Reunions reunion: It’s fairly subdued, with an emphasis on scholarship and achievement, and with orange and black popping up sedately in ties and scarves instead of jackets and buttons. This, after all, is when Princeton honors its top students, as well as alumni who have devoted their lives to service and education. You can read about those honors in our Notebook section, beginning on page 8.
Perhaps because of its focus, Alumni Day does not attract the hordes of people who return for Reunions. And so the day is more intimate. There are opportunities to remember friends who passed away and time to chat with small groups of classmates over lunch. Even talks by the alumni honorees, this year by Paul Sarbanes ’54 and Julius Coles *66, have an informal touch: At lunch, Coles recalled what it was like to come to Princeton after an education in segregated schools, while Sarbanes described how — unbeknownst to him at the time — his father, a Greek immigrant, delivered a ham to President Harold Dodds in appreciation for accepting young Paul to Princeton.
There were many personal encounters throughout the day. About 15 alumni gathered in East Pyne to discuss the challenges they face balancing kids and careers, and the high-school-age children of alumni got an insider’s view of college admissions at a talk by Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye. Later, at Wilson College, 13 juniors and seniors set up shop to explain their research projects to alumni — projects ranging from Maya Yamato ’08’s research on hearing in baleen whales to Timothy Nunan ’08’s work on “Hitler’s Indiana Jones.”
One highlight of the day was an afternoon panel on the crisis in Darfur. As Professor Gary Bass noted during the discussion, “Darfur is a huge issue for Princeton students — it occupies an enormous amount of campus activism, campus thought, campus debate.”
What’s going on? Last year the University agreed to divest from companies with interests in Darfur. One student educational group, Brother’s Keeper, is inviting speakers to give major talks and to address students at special dinners in the residential colleges; a second group, Princeton Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (known, not surprisingly, as STAND), recently hosted a screening of the documentary film Darfur Diaries, and the film’s director spoke to students at the screening and at a dinner at Rockefeller College. Shortly after Alumni Day, STAND set up a table at Frist Campus Center to collect money and raise awareness of the genocide.
Students generally are receptive, said STAND president Julia Ling ’09, but a “surprising number” of students are still unaware of what’s happening in Sudan. “It is often difficult to get already overworked students to commit their time to this cause,” she lamented. “Even after they recognize it as worthy.”