Web Exclusives: On the Campus

July 19, 2006:

Rites of passage

By Amy Sennett ’06

Aside from the throngs of parents lining Elm Drive during the P-rade, no one was more proud to see the Class of 2006 join this year’s procession than Aaron Prescott ’06. The mechanical and aerospace engineering concentrator from Derry, N.H., designed the beer jackets for the recently graduated class.

Prescott sketched his design by hand while procrastinating on an assignment one evening this spring. He said he was striving for a traditional Princeton theme that was “tacky but not horrendously tacky.”

Prescott had less-than-rave reviews for the jackets of recent classes. “I think the last few years have been kind of ugly, and people always complain,” he said. “I wanted this year to be really bold, because it is hard to see the year on some [jackets of past years] until you’re up really close.”

His winning design, which was chosen in a class vote, is based on the chevron shape of the University shield. He said he wanted the design to have “the feel of a varsity sports jacket”; when worn en masse, the jackets create a dramatic graphic effect.

“It was really cool seeing 1,200 people wearing my jacket at the P-Rade and on Class Day,” Prescott said.

He said he was somewhat disappointed that former president Bill Clinton, Class Day speaker and honorary member of the Class of 2006, did not don the jacket when he was inducted into the class. “But he did go to Yale,” Prescott reasoned. “That may have something to do with it.”


FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, the thought of parents at the senior prom conjures up dread over the embarrassment of chaperones and picture taking. But for Princetonians, the senior prom, held in Jadwin Gym, is a highlight of graduation weekend and a chance to celebrate with families and friends.

Gretchen Tonnesen, senior class secretary and a member of the Prom Committee, said planning an event of this magnitude requires more than a few hours blowing up balloons.

“I was nervous because prom is the highest-attended and most expensive event surrounding Commencement,” Tonnesen said. “There were likely to be 6,000 people attending, and that is a lot of critical eyes and ears. Also, there were so many vendors, and hundreds of small details had to come together if prom were to turn out as we had imagined.”

This year’s prom was themed “Rising Stars,” in recognition of the Class of 2006’s ascent into the wider world after graduation. Huge blue-and-white-balloon arrangements arched across the gym, and star-shaped lights floated in the air. Guests danced the night away to the sounds of the Right On! Band, whose mixture of ’70s and funk music appealed to young and old alike.

“One of my favorite moments was when the band invited a bunch of girls on stage to sing a slow version of ‘Proud Mary’ and then sped it up,” Tonnesen said. “Everyone looked like they were having so much fun.”

Tonnesen and her three co-chairs, who spent the entire year preparing, proclaimed the event a success.

“I think it’s hard not to have a great time when there’s free music, food, and alcohol, plus your family and friends there,” she said. “After prom was over, I realized that it would have been hard to screw up a mixture like that.”


LESS THAN 24 HOURS LATER, the same parents and siblings were hard at work emptying dorm rooms of bed frames, futons, and other furniture. When space in the back of the family station wagon or SUV is filled, most of these items are abandoned on lawns outside the dormitories. Fortunately, as undergraduates leave campus, graduate students remain – uniquely poised to benefit from this annual “garage sale.”

The Graduate Student Government collects unwanted items and organizes a yearly furniture drive to the benefit of both graduate students and several worthy charities in Trenton – Home Front, Tender Heart, Trenton Outreach Center, and the Rescue Mission of Trenton – that assist those facing homelessness and poverty. Items are either given to local charities or sold to graduate students, with proceeds benefiting the organizations.

By late Tuesday on the day of graduation, tents behind Pyne Hall and Dod Hall were overflowing with bookshelves, armchairs, and coffee tables. But the most notable item donated this year was a stuffed animal named “Fluffy,” according to Alex Ntelekos, a Ph.D. student in the civil and environmental engineering department who was working at the furniture drive.

“When I asked the girl why she was not taking Fluffy with her, she smiled and told me that it was a long story and that she wanted someone else to take care of him,” said Ntelekos. “Needless to say, Fluffy was claimed in a matter of seconds.”

Amy Sennett ’06 majored in the Woodrow Wilson School.