October 24, 2007: From the Editor

Josh Billings ’33

Josh Billings ’33 at the Princeton–Harvard football game last fall. (Frank Wojciechowski)

Project 55, which has sent hundreds of students to work in public-interest jobs, recently began a program to hook Princetonians on public health, an essential yet relatively unglamorous and low-paying corner of medicine. Margarethe Petro Laurenzi ’83 tells that story, beginning on page 16.

While Project 55’s fellowship program may be the largest Princeton-related foray into public health, it is not the only one. This summer, Princeton’s PACE Center co-sponsored four students to work in clinics in poor communities in Durban, South Africa, and Oaxaca, Mexico. Premed minority students taught Trenton high school students about health disparities related to race and ethnicity. Other Princeton students have provided health-related workshops to local schoolchildren, and studied ways to prevent pregnant mothers from passing AIDS on to their children.

In Professor Katherine Newman’s class last spring on “Health, Housing, Employment: What Works for the Poor in Small Cities?” undergraduates researched asthma and lead poisoning, major problems in poor cities. The course was offered through the Community-Based Learning Initiative, in which a community-based project is the centerpiece of class work. In this case, the students presented recommendations to the Trenton community group Isles, led by Marty Johnson ’81.

Students worked even harder than they do in their regular classes, Newman noted in a report. Facing “real-world deadlines,” they met on evenings and weekends. And in the end, they had more to show for it than an A paper: Their work could help children live longer, and better.

We note with sadness the death of F. Tremaine Billings Jr. ’33, secretary of his class, on Sept. 16. “Josh” Billings — captain of the football team, Rhodes scholar, and ultimately a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University — gained the attention in 2003 of New York Times writer Andy Newman ’86, who wrote a feature article about his sensitive yet unflinching PAW reports. “For a group of men who spent their adult lives astride the world, success is defined more and more in terms of survival,” Newman wrote. Billings told it all, writing about classmates living with illness or taking joy in conversations, about classmates who remained cheerful despite hardship, and about others who did not.

His last column reports on three classmates whose news can’t compare with that of younger classes in terms of excitement, but has a poignancy all its own. Bob Goldstein is happy living near his family. Joe Upson still drives to church. Hobe Lewis sends his best wishes to all. “The Class of ’33 seems to hang in there,” Billings concludes.

In the Times article, Billings commented on marking the passing of friends and classmates: “It just seems like you hardly watch the days go by. You hardly watch the people fade away, sort of in the same way. I don’t realize I’m watching. I just realize they’re fewer now.” end of article

Marilyn H. Marks *86


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