April 23, 2008: Notebook
Robert F. Goheen ’40 *48, president of Princeton from 1957 to 1972, died March 31 at the University Medical Center at Princeton. He was 88. Following is an appreciation by Merrell Noden ’78, a freelance writer and frequent PAW contributor, who spoke with Goheen for a Nov. 8, 2006, story marking the 70th anniversary of Goheen’s arrival on the Princeton campus. was not sure what to expect back in the fall of 2006, as I walked through Robertson Hall on my way to meet Bob Goheen ’40 *48 for the first time. I came to Princeton in 1974, two years after Goheen had stepped down following 15 momentous years as University president. It’s hard to imagine how that time could have been more eventful: Goheen had welcomed minority students in real numbers, overseen the transition to coeducation, and transformed Prince-ton from an excellent undergraduate school into a world-class research university. To accomplish all that at any time would be an awesome achievement, but to do at a time of widespread paranoia, violence, and uneasiness about change was testament to the deep trust Goheen inspired in faculty and students alike. I knew the legacy but not the man.
Goheen’s secretary offered to take me to his office. We rounded a corner and there, walking slowly before us, was Bob Goheen. Sensing that it would be ungracious to catch him, we slowed down to give him time to reach his office. A few moments later he stood up to shake my hand and then sat down, slightly breathless. His hair was rumpled, and he was not wearing his trademark bowtie. There was no self-importance or vanity about him.
In my preliminary interviews with Goheen’s colleagues and friends, I’d been told that he was, above all else, a straight talker, willing to speak his mind even when he knew his words would be unpopular. This was not because he believed he was always right — he most certainly didn’t — but because he believed that frank, respectful talk was essential to learning and human progress. They were the foundation of the enlightenment values he held so dear.
Goheen had demonstrated his faith in the power of honest talk in the spring of 1970, soon after U.S. troops had crossed the border from Vietnam into Cambodia and all hell was breaking loose on campuses around the country. At that most precarious of times, Goheen’s response had not been to silence his opposition but to invite all members of the University to Jadwin Gym to speak their minds. Four thousand showed up to sound off. “I think it was a healthy airing of frustration and anger,” Goheen told me.
And that was how I found him to be on the day we met: modest, plain-spoken, and unafraid of his own opinions. When I noted that of all Princeton presidents he seemed to be uniquely beloved by Princeton alumni, he snorted and said, “By some of them.” He told me of his deep disappointment upon learning that Woodrow Wilson 1879 was a “Southern racist.” It was not hard to hear how much it had hurt to reach that conclusion about someone he’d once so admired. Still, his most scathing remarks were saved for the current occupant of the White House. “This administration’s so bad, it’s shocking,” he said with a vehemence that made me fear for his health. He said he was particularly disappointed to find Princeton graduates among those who led us into the Iraq war. He’d been reading a lot of books on recent foreign policy and was convinced that we needed an entirely different approach to foreign policy, one that did more than just pay lip service to the feelings of other nations. “We Westerners are really not very empathetic toward non-Western people,” he said.
Goheen came by his empathy at an early age. He grew up in Vengurla, India, where his parents were serving as medical missionaries, treating wealthy Portuguese settlers partly in order to raise money to build a leprosarium and a sanitarium for patients with tuberculosis. Until he left India for the Lawrenceville School as a high school junior, he would spend half the year with them and the other half at a boarding school in the Palani Hills of southwestern India run by fellow missionaries. Most of his family’s friends were Indian, and that early experience of being a minority, though certainly a privileged one, seemed to give him a lasting empathy for the powerless.
Bill Bowen *58, who would succeed him as president, had the most telling story about Goheen’s faith in the power of honest talk. When Goheen asked him to consider becoming provost, Bowen hesitated, reminding Goheen that they disagreed on a fundamental issue, coeducation (Goheen originally opposed it). Bowen worried that their disagreement would hinder their working together.
Goheen’s answer was a model of open-mindedness. “I’m happy to have you hold your own views,” he told Bowen. “You should! Do your best to persuade me. Let’s go forward together.”
We all know who won in the debate over coeducation: Princeton. “And of course,” says Bowen, “it was Bob who had the hard job — I had the easy job — which was changing his mind. And he did that. How many people are open-minded enough, willing enough to be persuaded, interested in evidence, to do that?”
Goheen had been a pretty fair soccer player as a Princeton undergrad and remained a sports fan. He met Bowen on the Grad College tennis courts. When I asked Goheen about his old friend’s research on college sports and his finding that recruited athletes didn’t perform at the same academic level as the student body, he said, “Bill is my best friend, but I think he exaggerates the problem.” That is a quintessentially Goheenian observation, revealing, as it does, both his deep affection for a friend as well as a readiness to disagree with him. This, Goheen’s example tells us, is what civilized people do to become better.
Modest to his core, Goheen always saw himself as the recipient of more than his share of good fortune. The old Greek scholar in him liked to cite the Greek concept of tuche, or fortune, to explain his own success. “At critical times in my life things have just broken my way that I wouldn’t have expected to go my way,” he said. Still, there’s no doubt that when the Board of Trustees unexpectedly chose a 37-year-old classics professor to lead the University through the stormy times to come, the real good fortune was Princeton’s.
“With the passage of time, it becomes more and more clear that Bob Goheen was one of the great presidents of Princeton history. He demonstrated remarkable courage in all he did, from introducing coeducation and increasing the diversity of the student body to strengthening the faculty and leading the University successfully through a time of societal upheaval in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was greatly admired and respected for his leadership and vision and attentiveness to the views of others, and widely beloved among Princetonians for the values and personal qualities that were evident from the day he arrived on campus as a freshman and throughout his life.”
Getting into Princeton continues to get harder: The University has offered admission to 1,976 students, a record-low 9.25 percent of the 21,369 applicants for the Class of 2012.
“Our admit rate this year was the most selective in Princeton’s history,” said Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye. “We faced tougher decisions than we have ever had to make.”
This year’s admission process has been watched closely to determine the impact of Princeton’s move to a single application deadline, giving up its early-admission program.
“The size and strength of the pool was quite reassuring,” Rapelye said. About 7,000 applicants had a cumulative 4.0 GPA; about 11,000 had a combined score of 2100 or higher on the SAT.
Some facts about those admitted:
• Reflecting a jump in the number of female applicants, an equal number of men and women have been admitted for the first time in Princeton’s history.
• The number of legacies is “virtually the same” as last year, when 214 were admitted, Rapelye said. “We had an incredibly strong group of [legacy] candidates,” she said.
• The proportion of U.S. minority students increased slightly from last year, to 44.8 percent; the percentage of international students decreased slightly, to 10.2 percent.
• The wait list has been increased to 1,526. “We don’t know how the yield will be affected by the end of early decision, so we may have an opportunity to use the wait list,” Rapelye said.
• About 52 percent received offers of need-based financial aid.
The University expects to enroll about 1,240 students in the incoming freshman class. Students have until May 1 to make their decision.
A number of schools reported record-low acceptance rates this year, including Harvard (7.1 percent) and Yale (8.3 percent).
Andy Chen has been running a business for a little over a year. He manages a budget, he deals with clients, and he oversees a team of 24 graphic artists proficient in print advertising and Web design. He goes to bed at three, and wakes up at seven. He’s a busy guy.
It just so happens that Chen, along with all of his employees, is a full-time student. And the financial backer for his operation, the Student Design Agency, just happens to be the University.
Since 1911, Princeton Student Agencies (PSA) has been providing the Princeton community with a variety of services and giving student managers the chance to run individual businesses under the PSA umbrella. Today more than 250 students are employed by 19 agencies, whose products and services range from shipping and packing to special occasions, parking to publicity, and facebooks to food delivery.
“The agency program provides a venue for students at Princeton to run a business and to do it with the help and support of the University,” PSA director Sean Weaver said. “They don’t need to put themselves at risk financially, so if a manager makes a mistake and their agency goes in the hole, they don’t have to pay out of pocket, and we don’t go to their parents.” With about 13,000 customers per year, the agencies bring in more than $1 million in annual sales.
The newest addition to PSA is the Student Design Agency, which launched in January 2007, thanks to the efforts of Chen ’09 and co-founder Tiffany Wei ’07.
“There is a huge demand for design on campus,” Chen said. “Most professional sources are way too expensive, so a lot of times the campus was covered with pretty ugly posters. It’s a very practical thing, and we’re really cost-effective.” While the agency charges $27 per poster, major competitors would charge $60, he said.
“It’s also an opportunity for students to learn about design and provides a forum for communication and the exchange of ideas,” said Chen, who organized the University’s first graphic-design conference. The March 1 event attracted design professionals and more than 100 college students.
“We had been looking for someone to take this agency on for years,” Weaver said. Chen had to submit a budget proposal and a business plan detailing how the design agency would operate, which is standard procedure for agency managers.
Most managers have little or no prior experience, Weaver said. “There may have been one or two managers who ran their own business when they were in high school, a lawn-care service or something like that,” he said. “But primarily they have worked for businesses, have a real desire to run an agency, and have a feel for hiring, managing, and playing a leadership role.”
Traditional links between certain teams or affiliations often play a part in students’ applications to PSA. An enduring aspect of the Moving and Storing Agency is its affiliation with the Princeton hockey team.
“Of about 20 employees, the majority of them are on the team,” said hockey player Kyle Hagel ’08, one of the co-managers of the agency. “We have an open-door policy, but normally ordinary students quit after a day. They’re not used to working 16 to 18 hours.”
Formal Services manager Salone Loney ’10, hired last spring as a freshman, had never worked for a student agency before. “Originally, I was just looking for a job,” Loney said, “but I saw they were also hiring managers, so I figured I’d skip the remedial step and go right to the high-paying ones.”
One of the newer agencies, Formal Services was born two years ago from the combination of the Bartending Agency, which supplies student bartenders to staff and alumni events on campus, with the Tuxedo Agency, which distributes rental tuxes before winter formals and houseparties. The bartending course offered each year makes this one of the most popular and profitable student agencies.
“We continuously harp on our managers to make sure they know that we are not content with an agency just doing same thing year after year,” Weaver said. Microfridges have been a popular addition to the Rental Agency’s offerings, he said.
“For years, students were asking for microfridges, and now we can’t keep them on the shelves,” Weaver said. Not all additions have been a success, however — the Rental Agency also tested out surround sound and personal dishwashers, but both had to be scrapped due to problems with equipment.
Surf-gear sales and a Princeton version of Monopoly are just some of the ideas that never made it off the ground, although there have been 260 successful agencies over the years.
The Newspaper Agency, one of the oldest on campus, closed last year due to an inability to find enough students to deliver papers. With Princeton’s financial-aid opportunities increasing all the time, fewer students need the income, Weaver said, and it is more difficult to find students willing to take on time-consuming jobs. There are about 100 fewer students working this year than five years ago, he said, and PSA is increasing its advertising campaign.
Still, PSA isn’t planning on going anywhere. One of the oldest businesses on campus, the Laundry Agency remains popular, while parents use the Special Occasions Agency to deliver care packages, flowers, and balloons. Three of the busiest agencies are Moving and Storage, Yearbook, and Facebook, because they have an audience on campus that really won’t go anywhere else. “In a technical sense, they have a monopoly,” Weaver said. “But we make sure they work as hard as everyone else.”
By Claire Abramowitz ’10
Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat urged young artists to “create dangerously for people who read dangerously” during a talk March 25 about the need for art in the face of political oppression. Danticat, a two-time National Book Award finalist, told how a Haitian book group secretly staged a production of Camus’ “Caligula” in 1964 in response to political executions carried out by the government of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Danticat told the audience of about 300 in Richardson Auditorium that young Haitians who had been forced to witness the executions needed “convincing that art could still be created in their circumstances — especially in their circumstances,” and she described the group’s impact on her own work. Comparing the risk taken by politically repressed performers and audience members to that taken by Eve in the Garden of Eden, Danticat asked: “How does she find the courage to take the bite, open the book?” “She finds it,” continued Danticat, “in the writer’s courage.” The talk, the second annual Toni Morrison Lecture, was sponsored jointly by the Center for African American Studies and Princeton University Press.
By Peter Walkingshaw ’10
Robert Fagles, the Arthur Marks ’19 Professor of Comparative Literature
emeritus and a renowned translator of Greek classics, died March 26 in
Princeton of prostate cancer. He was 74. Fagles was a member of the faculty
from 1960 until 2002. He was director of the Program in Comparative Literature
starting in 1966 and, after it became a department in 1975, served as
department chairman until 1994. He was best known for his translations
of The Iliad and The Odyssey. Poet C.K. Williams, lecturer with the rank
of professor in creative writing, said Fagles was “the most widely
read and widely celebrated poet translator of his time, indeed of any
The University has taken steps to better ventilate five dorms — Bloomberg, Henry, Blair, Edwards, and Forbes College — after detecting ELEVATED LEVELS OF RADON. All have been remediated, Princeton’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety said in a statement, and there is “no evidence of significant additional long-term health risk from short-term exposure to the elevated levels found in the dormitory phase of radon testing.” The University began air-quality testing in all undergraduate residence halls last summer after students taking a physics lab course found elevated levels at their test sites in May 2007. Radon levels will be measured in all campus administrative buildings and all University-owned housing over the next year.
President Tilghman met with government and education officials and prominent alumni during a TRIP TO ASIA March 10–16. The trip included visits to a biomedical research center in Singapore and to Fudan University in Shanghai, as well as a kickoff event for the University’s fundraising campaign, Aspire, in Hong Kong. It was Tilghman’s second trip to Asia as University president.
Kenneth Fockele ’06 and Mateusz Plucinski ’08 are among 45 U.S. winners of GATES CAMBRIDGE SCHOLARSHIPS to pursue graduate studies at Cambridge University. Fockele, of Gainesville, Ga., majored in Germanic languages and literatures and plans to study European literature and culture at Cambridge. Plucinski, a native of Warsaw, Poland, who now lives in Glen Dale, W.Va., is majoring in operations research and financial engineering. He plans to study computational biology at Cambridge.
Scientists have been working on a cure for malaria for more than 100 years, but the disease continues to vex those who live in the world’s tropical regions. It affects at least a half-billion people each year, according to the World Health Organization, and more than 1 million die — mostly children. Plasmodium, the single-celled parasite that causes malaria, has become resistant to many of the drugs currently used to treat it.
But not all the news is grim for malaria researchers, says Manuel Llinás, an assistant professor of molecular biology and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics. The genome sequence for Plasmodium, completed in 2002, revealed that about 2,500 genes — nearly half of its entire genome — never had been seen in another organism. Those unique genes could provide attractive targets for new drugs, since attacking them would be unlikely to affect human genes.
Plasmodia are able to survive in multiple types of cells — “not a trivial task” for single-celled organisms, Llinás says. An infection begins when a mosquito bites a human host and passes parasites into the bloodstream. The parasite travels to the liver, where it infects a single liver cell and produces thousands of new parasites that then infect red blood cells. The disease then follows a 48-hour cycle in which the parasites multiply and invade more red blood cells.
Llinás aims to find ways to disrupt that cycle and prevent the parasite from spreading. Much of his lab’s work focuses on understanding specific proteins called transcription factors, which help to regulate the parasite’s life cycle. Llinás has found that Plasmodium regulators are parasite-specific, encoded in the parasite’s DNA. “It’s opening up a whole new field in malaria research,” he explains, “because we’ve never actually understood how you control the way the genes are being used by the parasite.”
In another project with Josh Rabinowitz, an assistant professor of chemistry and colleague at the Lewis-Sigler Institute, Llinás is taking a closer look at how malaria parasites consume metabolites, the amino acids, sugars, and other small molecules the human body needs. The hope is to identify unique chemical products made by the parasite, figure out how those chemical products are made, and then work on ways to inhibit the production process.
Both projects delve into areas that malaria researchers do not know much about, and Llinás believes those are the avenues where the modern tools of genomics and metabolomics can make a significant impact. The National Institutes of Health gave a nod of agreement last year, recognizing Llinás as one of 29 recipients of the NIH New Innovators Award and providing $1.5 million in research funding over a five-year period.
In a field that often focuses researchers on highly specific mechanisms, Llinás likes knowing that his work addresses a global health need. “Studying this disease makes me want to get up in the morning,” he says, “because there is the potential that some day, I’m going to be able to help a lot of people.”