Letters from alumni about Shirley Tilghman
To those who have quoted "Princeton in the service of the nation" as a sacred reason for appointing an American as president, I would like to point out that Princeton's motto is actually "Princeton in the service of all nations." Shirley Tighlman may not have a Princeton degree, but I would bet that she is more in tune with the university's current mission than some of its alumni.
Evelin Southwick 98
When I read Stephen Dartt 72s letter several weeks ago I envisioned the letters editors sharing knowing looks on deciding to publish it. The response was predictable, all seething disbelief and indignation, and self-congratulatory to boot. I am reminded of a lead "investigational" article in the "New England Journal of Medicine" many years ago; it described a small cohort of young women with pelvic inflammatory disease who had been treated with much higher-than-recommended doses of an antibiotic. The study had been performed in Arkansas with all black women; a number had died. The "Journal"s reason for publishing the "investigation" was clear, the response was vociferous, appropriate, and certainly predictable but had nothing to do with science.
One always hopes that the Letters section of PAW would be a true forum; there are still, I feel, cogent arguments for wishing the president of Princeton to be a Princetonian, an American ("Princeton in the nations service"), a nonatheist, as well as one schooled in the humanities. In fact, I suspect various Princetonians have written marshalling arguments on each issue. One wonders, in this political climate, who the real bigots are.
Stephen Nagy, Jr. 60
I should like to respond, affirmatively, to John Gagosian 91's letter (October 24) in which he expresses mild concern over President Tilghman's indication that she is an atheist. There are probably a number of alumni, I among them, who would have a similar concern.
Two comments: First, the off-hand way in which she is reported as having given the information suggests that she is not making any particular point of it. She seems to have drifted into that stance after she became disaffected from the Church as a teenager. Lots of teenagers drift away from the Church; many return later when they begin to think about fundamental values. In her case, her life seems to have been so filled with research, committee work, teaching, single-parenting, that she hasn't had time for anything else.
Second, to have an atheist in the president's seat is the next logical step in the increasingly secular trend of the university in the past, say, 70 years. This can be seen in the backgrounds and education of successive presidents since John Grier Hibben, 1912-32, who was a Presbyterian minister. Wilson, before Hibben, was an attorney, but Francis Patton before Wilson was also a Presbyterian minister. Similarly, the Chapel was openly a Christian house of worship in the 30s and later when Robert Weeks and then Ernest Gordon were deans of the Chapel. They, too, were Presbyterian ministers.
After Gordon retired, the Chapel became a sort of generic faith center - in the name of inclusivity. At present there is no office of "Dean of the Chapel." The November 7 PAW reports the appointment of a new dean of religious life, the Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal, to begin work January 1. This is not to impugn the secular quality and effectiveness of the post-1932 presidents. I expect that President Tilghman will do as well. She certainly will be hard working and probably innovative. I commend her for her concern for a family life, and wish her well in the job ahead. She ended her installation address on September 28 by a reference to "our motto" as, "Princeton in the nation's service, and in the service of all nations." Funny, I thought our motto was, "Dei sub numine viget".
Joseph E. Upson 33
I have read your informative biographical sketch of our new president (cover story, October 12). One quote in particular drew my attention, i.e., her statement that she disbelieves in God. I believe in freedom of religion and choice. Ms. Tilghman is certainly entitled to her belief (or lack thereof)). But I also believe that the president of Princeton should be held to a very high standard. What ever happened to "Dei Sub Numine Viget"? Perhaps, along with so many of our traditions, it has become "irrelevant."
John E. Newman 50
I enjoyed reading the numerous and passionate responses to my letter expressing my concerns about the selection of Shirley Tilghman as Princetons president. I very much appreciate everyone taking my letter so seriously and agreeing with the accuracy of all my statements. My only disappointment was in reading how little value and importance so many graduates place in their Princeton degree. I certainly do not share that view, which is why I felt compelled to express my concerns. Being a graduate of Princeton does not make me better than anyone else, but it does make me different from almost everyone else including Shirley Tilghman. I am proud of my degree and how hard I had to work to get it. And I am proud of Princetons heritage.
Stephen R. Dartt 72
Please excuse my late response to an earlier letter by Stephen Dartt 72 questioning Princetons choice of Shirley Tilghman as its 19th president (September12). Unlike many alumni of my era I do know Shirley Tilghman as a fellow molecular biologist and colleague. My response to Stephen Dartt is based upon that knowledge and upon tradition.
It is interesting that Mr. Dartts conclusions were supposedly based upon "Princeton tradition." My response to learning of Dr. Tilghmans appointment as Princetons 19th president was also based upon tradition. The tradition I remember is that of Princeton choosing a leader from "its own," from the ranks of its faculty. This tradition in the past has often picked a talented faculty member who had never prepared for, nor considered, any role in administration, a person from the very core of the institution. How refreshing in this age where the CEOs of many corporations are expert "managers" but do not have a clue as to the actual business or technology of that corporation, that Princeton reached back to the "traditional" way and appointed an incredible scholar and teacher as its 19th president.
After all, Princeton is a great university and should be run by a great scholar and teacher. Dr. Shirley Tilghman is definitely a great scholar and teacher. In responding to her appointment I can never remember thinking about the fact that she was a woman. Perhaps, from one who knows her and her work, this speaks volumes about her stature as scholar and teacher.
Thomas E. Wagner 64
I read the address by President Tilghman at her installation ceremony from the mailing which I received. The address was excellent except for one thing. It failed to mention the need for a moral and spiritual force to capture the minds and hearts of the Princeton University students, alumni, faculty, and associates. This disturbed me very much. Then I read in the letter by John Gagosian 91 (October 24) that President Tilghman is an atheist. With all her talent I feel certain that God must gave been guiding her along the way. If not, I pray that some incident or sign will convince her without any doubt that God is good to her and for her and the university.
John R. van Dyke 34
I noted with interest the comments of other alumni on the appointment of Shirley Tilghman as Princeton's 19th president.
These comments seem to center on her non-U.S. background, her lack of an undergraduate degree from the university, and her involvement with the presidential search committee. They are undoubtedly legitimate criticisms but they certainly do not detract from her obvious fitness for the position.
My comment is drawn from a different perspective and is in part one of gender qualifications.
Having been a part of the university community for many years, I am impressed with Princeton's ability to grow and change with the times in meeting the challenges of contemporary society. But as a member of an ever-shrinking band of pre-coeducational alumni classes, it seems to me that something magical has vanished from university life, something essentially male in nature and unique in appeal, with the appointment of a female president.
I became aware of that magic when our class foregathered in Alexander Hall for the pre-P-rade at our 50th reunion. At the conclusion of the program we stood and sang "Old Nassau," in unison, a sea of orange jackets and 400 strong voices raised in the song beloved of all Princetonians. It was truly a magic moment, bringing tears to all eyes, classmates, and family members alike. Somehow I do not see Professor Tilghman in the midst of us, joining in our rendition. It will not be quite the same.
William Spencer 45
Princeton's constant broadening of the talent pool for its top leadership is commendable and probably overdue, and Ms. Tilghman brings a decidedly fresh and different look to the office. After most of an inaugural century during which Princeton was headed by ministers of the cloth, we finally have a prexy who is neither a minister, nor a practitioner of that faith, nor a male, but hold your hats a scientist! Fasten your seatbelts, folks, for an interesting ride, with new ideas, new perspectives, new mandates. I also hope that, whenever Ms. Tilghman finally retires, the bean-counters won't feel obliged to discount strong future candidates who might be males, ministers, or any other category that has filled the bill in the past. The post should be open to anyone best qualified, with integrity and strong leadership credentials. One thing is certain: Princeton won't be quite the same in the Tilghman era, which is launching the Third Millennium AD. Nor should it be!
Paul Hertelendy 53
When I first started reading the letters in PAW shortly after my graduation, I was alarmed by the notion that I might hold a degree from a lunatic asylum. Indeed, based on the Letters section, it seemed that large numbers of Princeton alumni were misogynists, jingoists, 17th-century Puritans, and extremists of every possible persuasion. After some reflection, I realized that PAWs letters section was simply dominated by a few alumni who had convinced their holders to allow them to have Magic Markers with which to scrawl their latest musings on higher education, architecture, student-body diversity, and a host of other topics.
The latest discussion over Professor Shirley Tilghman's appointment as Princeton's president has certainly shaken out the padded-cell contingent of alumni. Personally, I do not know President Tilghman. Nor did I see her application for the position, and I was assuredly not present at any of the many interviews she had prior to her appointment. As such, I am in the same position of considerable ignorance of her prospective strengths and weaknesses as Princeton president as almost all other alumni. This ignorance has not, of course, prevented a number of alumni from commenting acerbically on her qualifications for the Princeton presidency. All that can really be said is that Princeton has had an outstanding track record of finding superb scholars who became extraordinarily effective university presidents. I have no reason to suspect that a historically almost-flawless process has suddenly gone awry, and I expect the best from Professor Tilghman in her new office.
I would comment on one special skill that she must have shown in abundance during her interviews. At many points during her tenure, she will come face-to-face with alumni like Stephen Dartt 72 (Letters, 9/12/01). Her response is easy to predict. She will shake their hand, smile, say a few soothing words, and move on. The ability to be diplomatic in the face of hostile idiocy is a difficult skill that is incredibly uncommon among excellent scholars (the vast majority of whom do not tolerate fools gladly). It is, however, absolutely required of a Princeton president. My own conclusion is that, in addition to her scholarship, Professor Tilghman must have an extraordinary and possibly unique temperament, and I suspect we probably need look no further for why she is Princeton's new president. Kudos to all involved in her appointment!
Quentin Williams 83
Re: Three letters in the September 12 issue on the appointment of Shirley Tilghman as president.
Its good to see that at least three Princeton alumni have such good sense. Ill bet you had to choose those letters carefully for their accuracy, clarity, and civility. How could Princeton appoint a President that is a) a woman, b) a Canadian, c) a non-alum? Well, at least Princeton gave them a good education anyway, because they know that a place called Canada exists. Lets see, I seem to recall that Shapiro was a Canadian. Oh well, thats only one strike out of three.
J.C.D. Milton *51
Deep River, Ontario
PS The high school in Winnipeg that Shirley Tilghman attended was Kelvin, not Kelbin. The school was named after the famous scientist Lord Kelvin, who was neither a woman, nor a Canadian, nor a Princeton alum.
I send hearty congratulations to the Board of Trustees for its wise choice of Shirley Tilghman to lead Princeton in challenging times. Letters from nostalgic alumni suggesting that the president of Princeton ought to be a man, because Princeton's presidents always have been, or that the president ought to be an alumnus to assure understanding of the Princeton experience, would glibly rule out most of the qualified candidates.
Princeton has experienced significant change in every decade since my graduation. Male alumni much younger than I am would, if selected to lead Princeton, have to become acquainted with the university anew, appreciative of both preservation and change. Dr. Tilghman, with a 15-year Princeton record as a brilliant scholar, and empathetic and inspiring teacher, and an effective administrator, was able to hit the ground running. Those of us privileged to be Princeton alumni can be proud both of her and of our university.
Clark McK. Simms 53
In response to Stephen R. Dart's letter: Next thing you know we'll be wanting the vote!
Helen Levy *98
President Tilghman has the spirit and loyalty of a true Princetonian. However, some have expressed concern that she cannot comprehend the student experience at Princeton since she attended college elsewhere. As a former student of hers, please let me reassure you that she is a special case.
She knows exactly where we are coming from as if she had been there herself. She always takes time to get to know students personally and is warm and approachable. She welcomes questions after lectures. Her office door is open to teach, or advise. And, she really listens. You will find her in the labs with the students, advising student activities, leading roundtable discussions in Rocky or Wilson, and advising upperclassmen while eating dinner at faculty appreciation night.
She inspires students and they love, respect, and trust her. The students need these qualities in a president. I am proud to be from Princeton, a university devoted to undergraduate education. President Tilghman is a natural choice she has given so much to students that I propose we adopt her into our Princeton family as an honorary member of the Class of 1997. She has more than proven her worth. Clearly, she is the best person for the job. Princeton should be congratulated in its choice of Shirley Tilghman as President.
Naomi I. Hayashi 97
I increasingly have been irritated by the letters to PAW suggesting that President Tilghman is in some way flawed by virtue of not being a Princetonian.
Obviously, anyone who is not a Princetonian is flawed in some subtle and difficult-to-describe way. But then, anyone who is a Princetonian is pretty fundamentally flawed also - just ask the spouse of any alumnus or alumna!
Let's get serious. Any Princetonian old enough to be a serious candidate for President Tilghman's job is at least 20 years beyond graduation, and more likely 30. Who is going to know more about the Princeton of today: some long-ago grad who has been to a few Reunions and remembers the Princeton of his or her youth, or a distinguished 15-year faculty member with a child in attendance? The answer is pitifully obvious.
Bravo to Bob Rawson '66 and his search committee! Shirley Tilghman sounds like an extraordinary person, and I, no doubt among the vast majority of Princetonians, am thrilled to have alma mater in her hands.
Jonathan S. Holman '66
Several alumni have expressed concern that President Tilghman is not a Princeton graduate and, therefore, not qualified for the position to which she has been named. I am dismayed by their reaction!
Professor Tilghman graduated from Queen's University in 1968. Princeton decided to allow the enrollment of women in 1969, thus she did not have the option even of applying Princeton. As a Princeton professor and the mother of a Princeton student, Tilghman has a much greater appreciation of undergraduate life at Princeton TODAY than has a graduate of the all-male Princeton who's only been back on campus for Reunions!
I applaud the selection of Shirley Tilghman as president. Yes, I am pleased that after only three decades of coeducation a woman is accepted as the face that represents the university. But I am even more pleased that, for the first time, Princeton has selected a scientist to be its president. To me that indicates a recognition of the important place of the sciences in the fabric of Princeton.
Tilghman knows firsthand what it takes to maintain a world-class research institution. And I have no doubt she will be able to apply her scientific problem-solving to the questions that Princeton will confront in the years ahead.
Caroline Kilbourne Stahle
I don't know Shirley Tilghman, and I am not qualified to judge whether she was a good choice for university president. However, Stephen Dartt '72's reasons for why Tilghman was a bad choice for president are groundless and disturbing (Letters, September 12).
First, Dartt says he's "distressed" in part because "a female president is out of place with the lengthy male traditions of the university." By saying so, Dartt by implication endorses such traditions, which I suppose is his (outmoded, pigheaded) right. Dartt must also believe that any black, Jewish, Muslim, Asian, Catholic and/or non-agrarian president would similarly be out of place, thereby greatly reducing the pool of candidates.
Second, Dartt bemoans the fact that Tilghman is not an American citizen and wasn't educated in the U.S. Egads those crazy Canadians! What this has to do with running an American university Dartt never makes clear (President Shapiro seemed to figure it out), but I imagine Dartt would also argue that Peter Jennings is not qualified to report on American news, Michael J. Fox is not qualified to act in an American sitcom, and Mario Lemieux is not qualified to skate in an American rink.
Third, Dartt trots out the tired theory that Tilghman "cannot ever fully comprehend the student experience at Princeton," one of the "essentialÖqualifications of a Princeton University president." What the heck is the "student experience at Princeton" anyway? I doubt that my own experience was very much like Dartt's, or, for that matter, most of the folks in my freshman year Holder Hall entryway. Indeed, I suspect that Tilghman after teaching at Princeton for 15 years and having an undergraduate for a daughter is a lot more in touch with today's campus than the vast majority of alums.
Fourth, Dartt questions the ethics of both Tilghman and the presidential search committee because Tilghman initially was a member of the committee. If a group of administrators, professors, alums and students who presumably care deeply about the university believe that the woman sitting across the table may be best suited for the job (and have arrived at that conclusion without her knowledge), not asking her to be a candidate would be a violation of their duties to the university, not the other way around.
The most problematic aspect of Dartt's letter, however, is his statement that "I know of many graduates of Princeton who are much more qualified than [Tilghman] is." Really? If so, I certainly hope that Dartt forwarded their names to the search committee when it was formed. If he didn't, it's the rest of the Princeton family that should be "distressed."
Brett T. Goodman '90
I am embarrassed to think that someone outside the Princeton community might have read Stephen R. Dartt '72's letter in the September 12 issue of PAW. In view of the prejudices that he expressed, it is apparent that he failed to benefit from the wide diversity of ideas, experiences, cultures, and philosophies inherent in a Princeton education.
In the selection of a university president, I cannot imagine that gender, race, national origin, or where one was educated should be considered as qualifications for the position.
The search committee obviously looked for the person most capable of handling the responsibilities demanded of the president of Princeton University. Had the committee been limited by the "standards" espoused by Mr. Dartt, undoubtedly some very qualified candidates would have been eliminated.
His "most disturbing thing" that Dr. Tilghman was a member of the original search committee is rubbish. She didn't select herself. The other committee members asked her to resign so that they could consider her as a candidate.
I was a student at Princeton during the "lengthy male traditions of the university."
Those traditions are now history along with many other traditions of which we are justifiably proud. But that is not the Princeton of 2001.
I applaud the committee's decision and wish our new President many years of success in guiding my university to even greater heights.
Arthur Strasburger '61
Our new president does not believe in God? Search Committee, what have you done to our beloved university?
Paul D. Loser '48
I share the concerns of a number of other alumni who have expressed their distress at the appointment of Professor Tilghman as Princeton's 19th president. Their concerns, however, pale in comparison with my dismay that the search Committee should have labored and ended by choosing a self-professed athiest to head our university.
David S. Masland '46
I do not know Shirley Tilghman from Adam, but I have read of her devotion to her students and her passion for Princeton. This, her profile in the university community, and her international reputation as a molecular biologist would seem to qualify her as leader of a great research university, particularly one that stresses the education of undergraduates. I am thus bemused by recent letters in the PAW that impeach her credentials.
Yes, President Tilghman did not go to Princeton, and is Canadian to boot. Who cares? This university was founded by six Yalies and a Harvard man. At least two of our presidents were (egad!) born in Scotland.
Yes, President Tilghman was originally (gadzooks!) on the search committee. So what? Dick Cheney actually ran the Republican search for a vice-presidential candidate, and look where he wound up. Does that undermine his bona fides?
Aha, but she is (gasp!) a woman. How dare those trustees! What do they think this is, the Twenty-first Century? Sheer outrage! Next thing you know, we'll have a woman as national security adviser, and the Pope will be Polish.
I expect such churlishness to pour forth from that generation of aging, conservative, hopelessly cantankerous alumni to which I most shamelessly belong. That some of your writers are young enough to be my children startles me. Can't they suppress their peckishness until they can at least blame it on their gout?
Perhaps the onset of senility has clouded my judgment, but I do not merely accept Shirley Tilghman's accession to the presidency I embrace it. When she arrived at Princeton more than 15 years ago, President Tilghman did not just join our university, but wrapped herself up in it with gusto. That makes her Princetonian enough for this old Tiger. A locomotive for her, and one for the horse she rode in on.
J. Regan Kerney, '68
I applaud Princeton for daring to choose a president who does not fit the mold of so many who preceded her.
Shirley Tilghman's gender, her birthplace, and her lack of a Princeton degree will not hinder her performance; in fact, they may even be assets.
However, one aspect of her profile does trouble me to some degree. I hesitate to speak of it, since the issue is so intensely personal. Probably, it is an issue that the search committee could not have broached ethically. Nevertheless, I have reservations about the naming of an atheist to the presidency of Princeton University.
I confess that I have no knowledge of the religious leanings of recent Princeton presidents. However, religion has always been an important aspect of university life. The issue goes beyond Princeton's beautiful University Chapel, its Department of Religion, and its proximity to a great seminary. Our university was created by Presbyterians who believed that education was foundational in understanding God's Word and interpreting His call to the faithful. Of course, during the last 254 years, Princeton has moved gloriously beyond its initial mission: It has grown to welcome students, faculty, and staff of every religion, and it has evolved into our nation's greatest educational institution. Nevertheless, issues of faith are just as important today as they ever were.
The moral and ethical issues raised by recent scientific advances - most notably in biology and genetics - have led many people to re-examine their faith. It is absolutely essential that religious people at Princeton continue to feel supported as they wrestle with these issues. President Tilghman's intelligence, curiosity, and "people skills" lead me to believe that she recognizes this. I expect her conduct as president to reflect a sensitivity to religious issues and respect for all communities of faith. In the aftermath of the Peter Singer controversy, this will be of the greatest importance.
I have never met Dr. Tilghman, but I owe her my trust during these early stages, as she seeks to establish a course for Princeton during her first year on the job. Many readers of PAW will likely believe my concerns to be unfounded. I hope (and pray) that they are.
John Gagosian '91
In response to the letters of Peter Moyers '00 and Steven M. Warshawsky '90 regarding the trustees' selection of a president lacking the Princeton undergraduate experience, I would like to point out that Dr. Shirley M. Tilghman could not have attended Princeton as an undergraduate.
Princeton admitted its first class of women in 1969 and graduated this class in 1973. President Tilghman received her undergraduate degree in 1968, missing Princeton's first class of women by five years.
In order to select an alumna who is at least 50 years old, the trustees have a pool of exactly 166 women to choose from. While Peter's critique may be valid at some point in the future, as it stands now it merely negates the fact that for 220 years Princeton was a largely homogenous, all-male university.
Peter is right, Princeton's undergraduate experience is indeed unique, but it is important to remember that it has only been in the last 30 of its over 250 years as a university that women have been allowed this Princeton experience.
Teresa Méndez '00
I read with interest Peter Moyers '00's letter in the July 4th PAW regretting the trustees' choice of Shirley M. Tilghman as Princeton's 19th president because she lacks experience as a Princeton undergraduate. Amazing, I thought on first glance at his class numerals, that there's still someone living from the Class of 1900! Then I realized that Mr. Moyers had graduated barely a year ago.
None of Princeton's first six presidents were graduates of it. The first to claim that distinction was Samuel Stanhope Smith 1773, who took office in 1795. Six of the 12 presidents who followed him were alumni of the college and three of the graduate school (one, Robert F. Goheen '40 *48, had degrees from both). Since the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson 1879, in 1902, only three of Princeton's seven presidents have been undergraduate alumni. Among those lacking a degree from the college was the venerated Harold Willis Dodds *14, who served from 1933 to 1957.
With the exception of Harold T. Shapiro *64 (1988-2001), every Princeton president of the last 113 years eight in all has come from the faculty, so has entered office thoroughly familiar with Princeton's culture, including (albeit at second hand) its undergraduate culture. By no means is faculty experience an essential criterion for choosing a president, but it's probably at least as important as having an apostrophe after one's name.
J.I. Merritt '66
I believe that, since Princeton is an institution devoted to undergradute education, it would have been most fitting for the next university president to have been an undergraduate alum.
At the very minimum, the president should hold a Princeton degree. The last time Harvard had a non-Harvard educated president was 1672. Apparently the Harvard trustees think more highly of their university than the Princeton trustees think of ours.
Steven M. Warshawsky '90
President Tilghman's personal life, and why she and her husband "split-up" when their children were infants, is certainly none of my business. But to headline that unfortunate event as a point of pride and evidence of her accomplishment is, in my opinion, wrongheaded and screwy. When Shapiro became president, I do not recall PAW praising him in its headline for making his marriage and family work.
Donald W. Fish, Jr. '90
Why did I not see a quiz in PAW regarding Shirley Tilghman? What other Ivies have had a woman president?
What other Canadians have served as Ivy presidents?
Name the other non-alum PU presidents.How many past incoming PU presidents have been single?
What year did John Fleming learn the word 'mensch'?
Ira Kaplan '83
I was distressed to read that Shirley Tilghman was named Princeton's 19th president. My distress came not just from the fact that a female president is out of place with the lengthy male traditions of the university, but primarily from several other factors. After all a qualified, ethical female should make a qualified, ethical president. And that is what everyone should want. It is certainly what I want.
Shirley Tilghman is not a native U.S. citizen. She was not educated in the U.S. Furthermore, she is not a graduate of Princeton and thus cannot ever fully comprehend the student experience at Princeton something which is essential to the qualifications of a Princeton University president. Being a professor is not the same as being a student.
I have read the background information on Shirley Tilghman and fail to find anything that qualifies her as a candidate for president of Princeton. She may be an outstanding researcher and/or professor, but being a professor does not qualify her for this office. I know of many graduates of Princeton who are much more qualified than she is, and they are not qualified for this position either.
However, the most disturbing thing about her appointment is the fact that she was a member of the original Presidential Search Committee. It seems at the least to be unethical for a committee that was formed to find qualified candidates for some position to recommend one of its member as a candidate for that position. And if the member who was recommended is an ethical individual, that individual should decline the recommendation, not resign from the committee in order to be a candidate.
Stephen R. Dartt 72
With its selection of Dr. Shirley M. Tilghman as its first female president, my graduate school alma mater once again demonstrates that it earns its motto of "In the nation's service."
However, as one who went to Princeton's engineering graduate school during a time which saw the university "agonizing" in alumni magazine articles whether to admit women officially as students while my undergraduate alma mater The Stevens Institute of Technology put out a press release that in "matter of fact" manner just stated that the class entering in the 196970 era would have the Institute's first female science and engineering students, I say "three cheers" for Princeton as well as for Stevens, whose motto of "To the stars through aspirations" also seems to aptly fit this outstanding pioneer in efforts to map the human genome.
Ronald M. Eng *68
In my view, what makes Princeton such a special place (and what accounts for its outstanding per-capita alumni contribution figures) is its unique undergraduate experience. To understand Princeton, I contend, requires a deep understanding of the undergraduate experience and undergraduate daily life. Again, and again regrettably, the trustees have chosen a president without this undergraduate experience.
My concern is that President Tilghman, lacking this experience, will not have the understanding and sensitivity to campus life issues that an undergraduate alumnus or alumna would. How am I to trust her as a custodian of Princeton's unique undergraduate life and its issues if she has never lived in a Princeton dorm, never been in a residential college, never been a member of an eating club, never played in the band, never debated in Whig-Clio, never represented Princeton in a sporting contest, and never enjoyed those four wonderful years that tie all alumni to Princeton so intimately? Surely an equally qualified undergraduate alumnus or alumna for the position exists, and, to my mind, would have made a superior choice.
Peter Moyers '00
I applaud the appointment of Dr. Shirley Tilghman as the 19th president of Princeton. Dr. Tilghman is a true Tiger; she epitomizes the qualities that those close to Princeton hold dear. She truly loves Princeton and its diverse academic and social environment. She has already taken steps to integrate Princeton's academic disciplines through the development of Princeton's genomics institute. Most importantly, Dr. Tilghman cares passionately for the students of the university.
I first met Dr. Tilghman as a confused sophomore in search of academic direction. At the suggestion of President Shapiro, I approached her with an idea for an independent major in bioethics. Dr. Tilghman quickly became interested in my multidisciplinary proposal. On top of her responsibilities as head of the genomics institute, a researcher, and a professor and adviser in the molecular biology department, Dr. Tilghman agreed to sign on to my program as both a junior-paper and senior-thesis adviser. Together we designed the first independent concentration in bioethics at Princeton. During my work with Dr. Tilghman, she pushed me to engage the most important questions in bioethics from all angles of science and the humanities. During countless exchanges about the definitions of health and disease in the modern world my senior year, Dr. Tilghman responded to my questions with new questions aimed at stimulating innovative thought. Dr. Tilghman engaged my projects with great passion and devotion; she was a true mentor during my years at Princeton.
I know that Dr. Tilghman will bring this same passion to the office of president. Princeton will grow stronger both academically and socially under her leadership. I am sure all of you will join me in looking forward to the development and prosperity that will occur during her presidency.
Mike Hehir '99
I've just been reading through Professor Tilghman's bio, and I'm as pleased and impressed as I'm sure the Board of Trustees were. It is thoroughly appropriate, as we enter the new millennium, that The Best Old Place of All should choose a leader who is an outstanding teacher, scientist, and administrator who happens to be a woman.
I applauded when Princeton made the decision, unfortunately after my time, to go coed. I was impressed with the rationale, and even more impressed with the methodology. The decision to jump directly to having 25 percent of the undergraduates be female was absolutely correct. I had visited friends at Cornell, and knew about the strain which the 10-percent female undergraduate population there placed on both the guys and the girls. It was obvious at the time that Princeton had chosen the high road.
Now Princeton has come full circle and closed the loop by choosing a woman to lead the university forward. I had not expected it, but I am ineffably pleased. Kudos to all concerned!
P. Burr Loomis '61
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