Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

Sept 27 , 2006:

Tiger whale

Benn Jesser ’36 *41

Perennial partyer Benn Jesser ’36 *41 with longtime organizer and honorary ’36er Betty Constable w’36. Top, the Tiger whale logo. (Courtesy Andy Cowherd ’74)

Boys (and girls, men and women) of summer

Can alumni keep their Princeton connections strong through a club that’s composed mainly of summer vacationers and hosts only one event a year? If that club is the Princeton Alumni Association of Nantucket Island, then the answer is “yes.”

On Aug. 11, PAANI held its annual gathering at Sankaty Head Beach Club, and then members bade each other farewell until next summer. “We are like Brigadoon,” explains PAANI president Andy Cowherd ’74. “We come together for one evening in the summer and then vanish into the mist.”

The idea of gathering Princeton alumni on Nantucket is credited to the late Jack Bitner ’38 and the late Bill Hewson ’33. In the summer of 1970, the first PAANI clambake was held at Ward Reighley ’41’s beach house — known locally as the “Reighley shack” – in Cisco. Hewson, who worked for the University’s development office, and a few others ferreted out Princetonians from the Nantucket phone book and yacht club directory. With additional word-of-mouth advertising, about 80 people attended.

Three incoming Princeton students were among the 105 Nantucket residents and vacationers at this year’s gathering, which has evolved from a simple clambake to a dinner with a raw bar, wine bar, and live music. Reunion attire — always appropriate for the summer gathering — now blends with clothing featuring PAANI’s distinctive Tiger whale logo.

In 1988, PAANI began raising scholarship funds; in 1990 a schools committee was established; and PAANI has sponsored three summer interns through Princeton Project ’55. Recent gatherings have featured speakers from the University (Kirk Unruh ’70, recording secretary in the development office, was the latest).

Even with a mailing list of 300 names, PAANI still tries to attract Princetonians to the event “any way we can,” Cowherd says. He’s already drumming up business for the 37th Annual Summer Gathering next August. Watch for the date.

By F.H.